Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Godfather III

"He was magic.”

Kirk Douglas recalled that he was mesmerized by “this guy, this young actor” while watching The Indian Wants the Bronx eons ago and remembered going backstage and telling : “'Mr. Pacino, you're going to be a star.' That was 45 years ago. What took you so long, Al?"

Al Pacino in his speech acknowledged that The Godfather made him a household name and a star and showed gratitude to his Director, Francis Ford Coppola whom he admitted he haven’t seen in a long time and thanked him profusely for standing pat on his choice of the actor that will portray the coveted role of Michael Corleone"

"I hardly ever see him anymore," he said. "Francis didn't just put me in the Godfather. He fought for me. Even when I no longer wanted to be in it. I wouldn't be here without him."

Francis Ford Coppola in his videotaped tribute in turn revealed that while reading the book, The Godfather by Mario Puzo , the only face that he could picture to portray Michael Corleone was Al Pacino and thereby pursued him rabidly against the odds (Paramount Pictures Executives and all).

Come to think of it, it would have been a great loss for all cinema fanatics had Coppola wavered and Pacino had passed on the role. But as they always say, he was destined to be Don Vito Corleone's fair-haired boy.

Michael Mann, who directed Pacino with another equally very talented actor Robert De Niro in Heat as well as in the thriller The Insider, confirmed that the actor "doesn't fear. He's willing to go out on a live wire without a net."

The method actor in Al Pacino made him choose some roles that were really quite risky and unconventional. He was never afraid to experiment with his choices that sometimes made his stars plummet and lose some of its luster.

Like in several instances after the success of the first installment of The Godfather Trilogy, he starred in some mediocre flicks and made some daring career moves that alienated his fan base and shunned away from his movies.

It was an open book that he was down on his luck for a time starring in one box office flop after another when the script that will bring back the life in his career dropped into his lap just like that--impressed by his talent and charisma Brian de Palma and Oliver Stone want him to be their Tony Montana in Scarface and so he went to Miami to film the said movie determined to get out of his rut.

And he did get out of his funk and just like that as the old cliché goes that “you cannot put a good actor down,” his career was revitalized and he went on to be the toast of tinseltown, acknowledged by peers and critics alike as one of the best actor of his generation if not of all time.

The record speaks for itself--

He was a two-time Tony Award winner and although he was snubbed by the Academy Awards too many times (7x), he finally bagged the coveted acting plum for his role as Lt. Col. Frank Slade in the 1992 film "Scent of a Woman."

He was also honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996 by the Independent Feature Project and The Hollywood Foreign Press Association presented him with its prestigious Cecil B. De Mille Award at the Golden Globes in 2001.

Andy Garcia could have not said it better when he referred to him not only as an artist but a poet and a clown as he praised him deeply and he shared his experiences with the actor and the man:

“The depth of your artistry is only more overwhelmed by the generosity of your spirit and your warmth."

"You're Van Gogh. You're Modigliani. That's who you are."

For all the success and accolades that he received in his career, Mr. Pacino never forgot his roots and showed us the “ordinary” human side of him when after receiving the award from Sean Penn, he was almost speechless for a moment and made light of his nervousness, "I don't have a character tonight."

"I see my life in movies. I have one question. Why aren't I in rehab?" in answer to Andy Garcia roasting him earlier.

He went on with his speech and honored his acting mentors Charlie Laughton and Lee Strasberg for helping him of what he has become today. He said that he studied with them and they gave him the world in return.

He recalled one particular instance where Mr. Strasberg after watching him doing a scene told the class afterwards “you see we take all kinds here” to the delight of the crowd.

He also confessed on “looking at my reflections at subway doors” and telling himself, “hey you’re an actor!”

He added that "Charlie and his beautiful wife" took him in their home at "44th Street and 19th Avenue" when he was a teenager in Manhattan and their home became his home away from the South Bronx.

He mentioned producer Marty Bregman who coaxed him to go to Los Angeles and audition for the The Godfather and Signore Coppola for their roles in shaping his acting and movie career.

And he also thanked Lady- luck for smiling on him.

Surely Al Pacino being well- respected and admired in the world of show business not to mention the clout and the perks that goes with it, is one lucky guy indeed.

So, say hello to my little friend no more, he’s been a GIANT from the very first moment he painted his face into the silver screen.

Let’s watch Andy Garcia do an Al Pacino impersonation and ritual before takes…

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Godfather Part II

The American Film Institute (AFI) is a non- profit organization that was created in 1967 to preserve America’s Film Heritage and train future filmmakers which was made possible when then President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the legislation creating the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in 1965 whose Board of Trustees in turn established the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1973.

The AFI Life Achievement Award is recognized and considered to be the highest honor given to a career in film. Stars like Robert De Niro, Tom Hanks, and Meryl Streep as well as Directors Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese just to name a few were all recipients of the prestigious award.

This year’s honoree Al Pacino will be very much at home in their company, all giants of the silver screen and talented actors/actresses in their own right.

One touching moment in the show was when Hollywood’s Nanogenarian Icon and Mr. Spartacus himself, Kirk Douglas, who survived a stroke in 1996 which left him partially impaired valiantly walked to the center of the stage to honor Mr. Pacino.

In his husky, halting and slurry speech he proceeded to say that it is magic when an “actor can convince us that he is blind with his eyes open” and “he is blind but can dance the Tango like Al Pacino” did in Scent of a Woman.

“I know where he gets his magic” he said and stopped abruptly with his speech and spitted a powerful, “hoo-ah!” to the delight of the crowd. ("Hoo-ah" is the often used expression by Mr. Pacino's character Frank Slade)

He then cajoled them to say the magic word together as he counted from 1-2-3 and the Kodak Theater reverberated with a loud chorus of “Hoo-ah!” followed by thunderous laughter and applause.

It was magic indeed seeing Kirk Douglas doing "Hoo-ah!" on stage and still a trooper in his advanced age and state.

Kevin Spacey stated that Al Pacino who has two Tonys under his belt “never used theater as a stepping stone for movies and left” for despite his success in film he remained true to his roots by doing stage from in between and also films that are based on plays like the acclaimed Glengarry Glenn Ross for which he earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor the same year that he got his Best Actor trophy from the Academy making him as the first and only (?) male actor to be nominated for two different films in the same year.

Samuel L. Jackson narrated his experience with Pacino as well as his bit role in the movie Sea of Love during his early years in the business which he goes on to say that in the credits he was named only as “Black Guy” after being promoted to a “talking” part from a “clip board guy #2” role.

Then came Mexican- American Comedian George Lopez’ turn who made a raucous but funny impersonation of Cuban Tony Montana complete with the accent as well as poking fun at various Hollywood personalities and parodies of some famous films' immortal lines.

Mr. Lopez proclaimed that “Tony Montana was the Lindsay Lohan of the 80s” and that in his films there are a lot of “eating, non-stop drug use, sucking and drinking. It shows you how life is unfair when Al Pacino got an AFI while Paris Hilton is in jail!”

He also revealed that contrary to popular belief it was not Tony Montana who said the famous line “when you got the money, you got the power; when you got power, you got the woman” and asked the crowd, “you know who said it first? Rosie o’ Donnell!”

George Lopez further explained that Scarface transcends film genre and generation and backed up his claim by quoting famous lines from--Jerry Maguire ("You had me at fuck you!”), Wizard of Oz (“Toto we’re not in fucking Kansas anymore!”) and Gone with the Wind (“Frankly, my dear I don’t give a fuck!”) in obvious reference to the movies record use of the F- word which many people say that if you remove all the cuss words in Scarface you won’t understand the movie at all.

He ended his one- man show by quoting Tony Montana, “You need people like me so that you can point a finger on me and say, that is the bad guy…. or the waiter!” a potshot to the stereotyping of Hispanics in the movies then.

And just before he exited the stage, he got something in his pocket and wipe it on his face and when he looked up again, he was transformed into a Tony Montana’s Coke- smeared face!

Let's watch Lt. Col. Frank Slade once again do the Tango and look closely to Ms. Anwar's lovely face err head as she move and dance to the sensual music and tell me what you noticed...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Godfather

AL PACINO: Man of the Hour

“Say Hello To My little Friend!”

If you don’t know that line you probably don't know who Tony Montana was nor you have not seen Al Pacino at his wicked- best. And I would probably say that you missed one of the best "bleep" movie of all “bleep’ time!

Those were the words that cocaine- powered Tony Montana in the movie Scarface hurled to his enemies behind the door before unleashing the M- 203 grenade launcher at them in one of the highlights of the brutal and savage film by Brian de Palma and script written by Oliver Stone in the early 80’s.

Last night, his colleagues at the American Film Institute (AFI) and his legions of fans have once again said hello to this diminutive man by Hollywood standards but a giant one in stature both in life and on the screen by presenting him the 35th AFI Life Achievement Award reserved only for the silver screen’s elite. The televised show was actually held at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles days earlier.

I’ve watched the show on USA Network amused, enlightened and in awe of the actor as his friends and colleagues recalled their various encounters and moments with one of Hollywood’s foremost icon who sat and watch from his seat applauding and sometimes teary- eyed and exclaimed in the end that he “needs a character” in reference to his having been at a loss for words for the first time in his life.

Al Pacino is one lucky guy indeed in the dog-eat-dog world of show business having figured and acted prominently in many of the most thought- provoking and influential films of all time.

He is one actor who put his life into every character that he plays down to the minute details that gained him the respect of his peers and fans alike. His talent, versatility, hard work and dedication that he put in every role make him a very good role model for new actors learning their chops.

The list of his great movies is quite long but here’s a few that will surely find their way into any movie fanatic’s list of must- haves--The Godfather Trilogy, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Carlito’s Way and of course, Scent of A Woman where he finally won an Oscar for Best Actor in 1992 after years of being snubbed by the Academy by playing the role of the blind Lt. Colonel Frank Slade and in the process danced with the lithe and beautiful Gabrielle Anwar.

The power and influence of a man as they say can be measured by the respect that his peers have for and had given him. If so, what I witnessed last night as they gave an endless parade of tributes and accolades to the Man of the Hour was a fitting witness to his immense talent and pull among Hollywood’s best and brightest stars.

The show opened with Robin Williams acknowledging the night’s Honoree’s looming presence in the crowd and said that “ you put Robert de Niro in a dryer and you got Al Pacino” and proceeded to raise a glass of wine for him.

Sir Sean Connery lamented that they have “known each other for 30 years and never worked together which was my loss.” He added that “ I was in that chair last year and I know how it feels--there’s nowhere to hide!” that elicited laughter from the audience.

Then they showed clips from Serpico showing him with a beard, his character's unorthodox ways and such that in those days was a big no- no for a normal clean- shaven policeman and Dog Day Afternoon where he played the role of Sonny Wortzik wherein he was shown ranting outside a bank he’s trying to rob so that his “gay” lover can have a sex- change operation, a controversial role which was a major risk at that time for any actor who value his money and star power.

On a side note, a thought occurred to me that, that kind of standoff which lasted 13 hours while holding 11 people hostage will never happen in the Philippines for the moment he steps out of the bank, he will be dead meat from some trigger- happy policemen who were only too willing to get the job done and end the situation asap and go home. Ha-ha.

“Are you sober, could you read the script again?” showed how persistence can pay off and in this case for Frank Pierson (the scriptwriter won an Oscar for the movie) by getting a reluctant but talented actor to star in the sensitive film.

It was also said that Al Pacino turned down the script seven times before finally agreeing to do the film and once again defied the norm and helped change our outlook of what a film should be.

Jamie Foxx who starred with Al in Any Given Sunday thanked him, “ for allowing a young African- American for getting this thing on” and proceeded to tell about his experiences with the man--“no ego, played chess together in his trailer” wherein addressing Al and confessing, “ I let you win because I need to hear more stories…”

He went on with his story wherein in one of his scenes with the esteemed actor, “ I tasted you, I noticed wetness flying on my face! What do you call that mouth moisture? I said to myself, this is the greatest actor in the world but I need a squeegee!” that brought the house down.

Jamie then addressed the crowd as he mimicked Al Pacino, “Your Juiciness, I got Al Pacino almost in my mouth…I took the juice, I took the DNA inside of me and the next thing you know I won an Oscar!”

Oliver Stone for his part shared three things about the lessons and influence of Scarface: “That every dog has his day” and that “if you can swallow the poison and live, everyday above ground is a good day” and finally, “no matter how many scripts I write, I think 'fuck you' and 'say hello to my little friend' as my contribution to the culture.”

And added that with Pacino's Tony Montana, you can finally say “goodnight to the bad guy, you’ll never see a guy this bad again.”

Scent of a Woman co- star Chris O’ Donnell shared some insights of Mr. Pacino’s funny side. He was surprised one day that he got a letter from him stating, “I couldn’t tell what you’re doing because I sort of never saw you but I heard you’re outstanding! ” Of course we all know that he played a blind military man in the movie.

Two lovely ladies who I haven’t seen on film in a long time also paid their respect to the Man--

Gabrielle Anwar who as a teenager danced the sensual tango with Mr. Pacino on the way to the latter's only Academy Award joked that “dancing with Al Pacino is something I haven’t recovered yet” which she quickly added the reference to her big toe to the laughter of the crowd. She still looks lovely if you ask me.

Troubled actress Winona Ryder, another lovely lady and starred with him in his directorial debut in Looking for Richard made a rare appearance and admitted that he “ wooed me and he won me and he utterly seduced me…Not only as Lady Anne to his Richard…Still completely and utterly seduced. “

And looking straight into Mr. Pacino’s large dark eyes uttered seductively, “And I would give my kingdom, my kingdom to be wooed by you again.”

(To Be Continued Tomorrow)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Of Beauty Queens and Thieves

What do former Philipppine First Lady Imelda Romualdez- Marcos and US- born Fil-Am student Christa Olandria have in common?

Both are obviously beautiful Filipinas who at some point in their lives have reigned as beauty queens; Imelda being a one- time Miss Manila courtesy of the late Manila Mayor Arsenio "Arsenic" Lacson (who was once rumored to be Imee's father) and Christa as the reigning Miss Rutgers University, that State University in New Jersey whose women's NCAA basketball team brought the downfall of colorful radio personality, the "racist" Don Imus months earlier.

Both have held elective positions with Imelda being a one- time Governor, Assemblyman and Congressman in the Philippines and Christa as the Rutgers Livingston College Class President of 2007 on the other side of the globe.

And both are being accused of robbery and facing charges in court although their similarities end there--

For Imelda is the Mother of All Thieves; she shared the infamous distinction with her husband, the late Philippine Dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos as the biggest klepto in the Guinness Book of World Records while Christa is a small- time crook having been arrested with her boyfriend stealing students laptops, iPods and what have you from the Rutgers Dormitory lockers.

But unlike Christa who will be facing jail time for sure, the Filipina Iron Butterfly is still flying high having beaten another case in court just a few days ago that was reported in all the major news channels all over the world.

That’s one less case for her in dozens and dozens of similar cases that she’s been facing all these years which also reminds me that she has been once convicted by the Sandiganbayan and sentenced to 12+ years in prison in the 1990s but that conviction was subsequently overturned.

So seeing her in a prison "terno" remains an elusive dream for many Filipinos who suffered and continue to suffer until today as a result of the more than 20- years of Conjugal Dictatorships that she and her husband authored.

And there lies the injustice…

When will this charade of going after the Marcoses and their cronies’ human rights abuses and ill- gotten wealth in Philippine Courts end?

It’s just a waste of taxpayers money prosecuting them knowing that with their power, influence and money they could easily buy their way out of spending a single day in jail. These cases against them will only go nowhere.

The justice system in our country was made and designed only to prosecute and persecute the small, poor and lowly Filipinos like you and me. It is a given that justice in the Philippines only works in favor of the rich and powerful.

To put it simply, the justice system in the Philippines sucks!

It’s about time to stop this Moro- moro and save every peso that the government is paying for the inept lawyers and corrupt partisan judges not to mention the high costs of manpower and hours lost in the litigation of these cases in our vain effort in trying to show the world that we are pursuing the cases against the plunderers of our nation no matter what.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the sad truth though. We already know what will be the end/result of these pseudo- attempts to run after them anyway. It is time to re- examine our approach and position with regards to these problems and save us from further shame and embarrassment as a race and people.

I say, let bygones be bygones…

Let us bury the ghosts of those who perished in the fight against the dictatorship into oblivion.

Let us forget their names and desecrate their memories by dragging the cases pending in courts for eternity against the persons responsible for the Philippines’ darkest hours.

Let Imelda Marcos and her ilk live their lives and flaunt their wealth right in our faces and preach to us their kind of justice.

Let Imelda Marcos and her ilk teach everyone one of us how to plunder the government's coffer, trample the rights of one’s fellowmen with impunity, get away with it and live happily ever after.

God Bless Us All.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


Most people are encumbered by the choices in front of them.

In this particular case and situation, many will have a dilemma but in my case I have a great “trilemma” on what to watch on TV tonight.

You see, there are three shows that I really need to watch and I don’t have Tivo and there lies the rub.

Anyway, I’ll do what I am expected to do. I have mastered this discipline a long, long time ago and I am an expert now in this undertaking and with it I like my chances in my calloused fingers.

In case you're wondering wtf I am talking about- the art of channel surfing, that is.

I will just relax and enjoy the whole thing while having an ice- cold Belgian White Ale in my hand and some unsalted mixed nuts to munch on for the night.

Sing No Sad Song for The Sopranos

"So, Whadaya know? This sh*t is finally done."

Tonight will be the final episode of the highly- acclaimed TV Show The Sopranos that has caught the average viewer’s fancy for the last 8 years about the dysfunctional Jersey mob family headed by its big boss, Tony Soprano whose fate has been debated and speculated in various internet sites, radio forums, TV talk shows and casual conversations for the past months, a phenomenon that mirrors the pull and popularity of the show considered by many to be one of the best and most popular crime- drama TV shows of all time..

We are always fascinated by crime and the people who commit them, more so the allure of organized crime like the Cosa Nostra or more popularly known as the Mafia.

Ever since Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather which romanticized the Corleone family in the 70s and the subsequent and more violent Goodfellas by Martin Scorsese our fascination with them only grows as time goes by.

For the past two weeks I have been having my own The Sopranos marathon on my laptop courtesy of the internet and I did not regret it one bit.

The show is violent alright with whacking here and there and cuss words after cuss words being uttered faster than the major characters can reload their favored 9mm Glocks but it is well-written, witty and done with great eye for details and through the years have provided us with a lot of stuff about how organized crime works and make their bones in this world and of course, entertainment.

The Sopranos’ family of Tony, Carmela, Meadow and AJ as well as the guy’s inner circle of Silvio Dante, Christopher Moltisanti, Bobby Bacala and Paulie Walnuts with their Italian cum New Jersey accents have become household names. We shared their grief, happiness, eccentricities and peculiarities. In a way, they have become Friends of Ours.

But like they always say, all good show must come to an end so tonight The Sopranos will have their Swan Song and this thing of ours,of being a part of the great run will always be with us no matter what happens to Tony in the end.

And in this case, it is really true that “once you’re part of the family, there’s no getting out.”

So, will Tony be whacked tonight or will he quietly fade into the sunset?

Your guess is as good as mine.


The Boy who would be King

I first saw Lebron James on TV years ago as this 6- 8 man-child and high school phenomenon on the hard court playing for St. Vincent- St. Mary High School out of Akron, Ohio.

Even then you could already tell the enormous talent and the great future of this kid playing ball.

It is only fitting that the Cleveland Cavaliers have picked him, being an Ohio native as No. 1 in the draft among a star- studded cast that have Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh among others that is now known as the Class of 2003.

This year Lebron have carried the Cavs’ franchise on his broad shoulders to its best record in the National Basketball Association (NBA) in years.

He showed maturity in his game beyond his age of 22 years especially in the Eastern Conference Finals where being down 0-2 to the perennial powerhouse Detroit Pistons and overcome the deficit that was highlighted by his ferocious show of heart and power in Game 4 wherein he single- handedly authored the Cavs comeback and scored the last 29 of the Cavalier’s 30 points in a 91- 87 double- overtime thriller at the hallowed ground of the Palace of Auburn Hills in Michigan that broke the Pistons’ vaunted will and resilience and as they went on to become the Best in the East.

We are all Witness to the Jordanesque kind of performance that he dished out that fateful night to say the least which further solidified his standing among basketball gurus' mind as the real heir apparent to his Airness, Michael Jordan. Not Kobe or Melo or T-Mac or D-Wade but Lebron as the chosen one.

Tonight will be Game 2 of the NBA Finals and they are once again down 0- 1 to the physical San Antonio Spurs, a situation that he and his team are no longer strangers. They've been into this kind of hole before but were able to get out and win.

But man-for- man, Lebron and company is in a huge disadvantage here. Experience- wise they are way below Coach Greg Popovich’s team plus the fact that the Spurs have the mechanically- efficient Two -Time Season NBA/Three- Time NBA Finals MVP Tim Duncan in the team.

Add to the fact that the San Antonio Spurs plays like a well- oiled machine and have been there and done that in three separate trips to the finals. It is not an easy task for the casual observer.

But this is the NBA where everything is never certain until the final buzzer sounded or not until the fat lady err the referee blows his final whistle and Lebron will have to prove his mettle against one of the best- defensive teams in the game if he is really fit to be crowned King of the Basketball- dom and not just a pretender to the throne in the eyes of the hoop skeptics.

So, will this year be his coronation or another year of frustration?

Frankly, many people don’t give a damn for in the hearts and minds of the people of Cleveland and the millions of fans who truly love an exciting and explosive game and unparalleled showmanship--

He’s now King James, the one and true King of Basketball.

Tony or not Tony

Tonight, tonight….will be the star- studded Tony Awards Night at the Radio City Music Hall which will be beamed live by CBS at 8 p.m.!

The 61st year where the Antoinette Perry Trophy will be given to the best and the brightest stars of the Great White Way although this year’s productions pales in comparison to the previous years where great and epic productions were the norm.

Although you can’t find a production that can equal Broadway’s past and present treasures like Cats, Chicago, Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera or even The Producers, this year’s nominees are neither lacking in star- power nor spunk that very well suit the discriminating taste of the average theatergoer.

Besides, it is always fun watching real thespians having a great time and getting their “moments” on primetime TV for a change. And unlike before there is no clear- cut favorite in this year’s edition that makes it even more exciting. Do I hear Spring Awakening?

I am rooting for Eve Best though for her riveting performance as Josie opposite Kevin Spacey’s James Tyrone, Jr. of Eugene O’Neill’s play A Moon for the Misbegotten. The play also stars Colm Meaney as Phil Hogan and directed by Howard Davies.

But she’s up against a formidable cast of equally talented actresses in Vanessa Redgrave, Angela Lansbury, Julie White and Swoosie Kurtz though and whoever will take home the Tony certainly deserves it.

Call me biased in this case but I happened to watch the said play on its third day in its limited Broadway run and boy I was floored not to mention I was able to get Kevin Spacey ‘s autograph on my Playbill program.

Incidentally, Moon will have its last show today at the Brooks Atkinson Theater.

Tony Award- winning actor Liev Schrieber as Barry Champlain in playwright Eric Bogosian’s Talk Radio is equally impressive. gave me a discount that was hard to resist so I ended up listening to him. He cast a really huge shadow on the smoke-filled stage of the Longacre Theater, actually bigger than himself as he rants his way to the bank and hopefully to a second Tony.

It will not be easy road though for in his way will be veteran actor Christopher Plummer in Inherit the Wind, Boyd Gaines in Journey’s End, Brian F. O’Byrne in The Coast of Utopia and Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon.

I can’t say anything nor give my two- cents worth about this year's nominees for the musicals, for truth be told I haven’t watched a single one of them yet and I am of the habit of not writing anything on subjects that I have neither experienced nor seen/heard with my own eyes and ears.

And I don’t swallow whatever the critics say for that’s what they are paid for-- to find loopholes on and about anything. Most of the time they're not correct anyway. Mine will always be a first- hand account of my experiences. Hah-hah.

And let me end this post with a quote from Barry Champlain,

“Everything’s screwed up and you liked it that way, don’t you? You’re fascinated by the gory details. You’re mesmerized by your own fear! You revel in floods and car accidents and unstoppable diseases. You’re happiest when others are in pain! And that’s where I come in, isn’t it?”

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Broadway Stars in the Alley

Yesterday Lea Salonga performed in the 21st Stars in the Alley an annual free concert by Broadway’s biggest stars in the historic Shubert Alley.

She sang I Dreamed a Dream and despite the wind (for unknown reasons it's always windy in there or at least during the time that I was there), noise, bad audio and distractions gave the audience an “earful” of what Fantine should really sound which is a lot better than her predecessor in the current revival of Les Miserables.

Daphne Rubin- Vega's...

"My Right Shoe and Shubert Alley"

The Alley on W. 44th St and W. 45th St. at Seventh Avenue is the place where aspiring actors congregate hoping for a chance to land a part in theater baron Sam S. Shubert's production in the old days.

Here is a clip of the billboards in the alley I took last Friday the 13th April 2007.

Don't Forget to watch the live coverage of the 61st Tony Awards on June 10 at 8 p.m. on CBS

Sunday, June 03, 2007


Here's Lea Salonga as the spoken voice of Mrs. Yasuko Kusakabe in the star- studded Disney version of Hayao Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro that was released last March 7, 2006.

Incidentally, Mr. Miyazaki is the Japanese Animated Film Master behind the very popular and 2001 Academy Award Winner for Best Animated Feature Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi 千と千尋の神隠し)

Visit the Ghibli link

  • My Neighbor Totoro
  • Friday, June 01, 2007

    Two Tales

    Here are "raw" excerpts from The Adventures of the Dragonfly- Eaters.

    Spirit of the Glass

    The death of Tay Isko one lonely April night heralds the ascension of Romeda to fame, fortune and notoriety.

    Tay Isko was the lone Albularyo* in the barrio: He was a real healer, fortune teller and a natural leader rolled into one. He was a respected man of many talents and a genuine Basagan*

    He walks with a swagger of a proud man while at the same time spewing healing words, chewing on his toothless cud and spiting the juice of his favorite Nganga* to the ground.

    He can see the future in your palms and tell the significance of every mole in your body at a glance. His eyes is a mirror of your soul and in his hands lie the best cure for every curse imaginable but a day after he healed the cross-eyed Antonio, he was found naked and dead in his bed.

    Rumors had it that he died of the dreaded Bangungot* after eating a full meal of Adobong Manok and chasing them with several bottles of Lambanog the night before that was brought to him by a grateful Antonio.

    There were also rumors that he died while making love to one of his countless paramours.

    But many people believe that he was a victim of a counter- curse that was unleashed by a more powerful shaman that he offended in the course of his work.

    A power vacuum soon ensued and the barrio was left without a trusty healer and a dependable leader in times of peace and calamity.

    Romeda, the fast-talking, denture- wearing lucky- nine card player immediately grabbed the chance to step into the shoes of the departed Tay Isko as she hurriedly assembled a core group composed of her card-playing buddies to run the barrio’s affairs as she began to show her newly- found magical prowess and crowned herself as the High Priestess of the Spirits of the Glass.

    Three days after the funeral of Tay Isko, she began her nightly ritual by claiming that the spirit of the old man is guiding her to heal whatever illness and curse by way of the glass.

    Night in and night out the residents of Basag*, curious at what she can really do, would gather at the dilapidated Nipa Hut of Romeda and watch her do her thing at the stroke of midnight.

    She performed her new role with gusto and basked in the spotlight. Soon enough, people from other barrios would drop by and watch her perform the "sacred" rituals. They were amazed on how the glass moved as if it has a mind of its own and would go to the letters for the answers to anyone’s query.

    Romeda would usually start her ritual with the recitation of three Our Fathers and five Hail Marys followed by incantations punctuated by made- up Latin- laced words that she learned from her late Grandmother.

    Her sudden rise to fame was soon followed by good fortune as people from all over the place began to flock to her house and give her support in whatever form; donations poured in like rain-- fruits, chickens, eggs and even money.

    Romeda had it all and she became so popular that they elected her to become the first woman Purok President, a position meted on only to the person with whom the residents have a complete trust. Their belief in her was so strong that they were soon egging her to run for a seat in the Barangay Council.

    The Dragonfly Eaters were curious by the sudden turn of events and on what’s happening at night in the barrio but could only listen to the news and hearsays from the early morning tsismisans* of elderly women washing dirty linens at the barrio's lone faucet under the shade of the old Tamarind tree.

    Being children, they were not allowed to venture out of the house after 10 o’clock in the evening. So, they contented themselves to whatever bits and pieces of tales that would come their way. But their curiosity only heightened as the days went by, what with all the people flocking to Romeda’s place in daytime and the hordes of believers keeping vigil at night.

    They soon devised a plan that will outwit their parents so that they could see for themselves the phenomenon that was Romeda and the Spirits in her Glass.

    That night, they pretended that they were soundly sleeping in their Banigs* when their parents went out for their nightly session with Romeda.

    And as soon as their parents were gone they all jumped out of bed, climbed down from the open bamboo windows and gathered themselves near the wooden bridge by the shallow river to devise their plan of action.

    They decided to blend in with the crowds from the other barrios and slowly worked their way inside the house of Romeda and squeezed their small frames into the human barriers milling around a small table wherein a lone candle was propped- up on an empty Milk Maid tin can emitting the only source of light in the house.

    They saw Romeda and the three other women whom they recognized to be her buddies during her card-playing days seated around the square wooden table with their forefingers and middle fingers on top of the bottom of the upside-down Nescafe coffee glass as if in a trance.

    Then the spectacle began…

    “Tonight, we will ask the spirit of our hero, Andres Bonifacio to be our guest”, Romeda began.

    “Spirrrrit of the glass, are you in?” chorused her card-playing buddies.

    “Spirit of the glasssssssss, are you in?” echoed Romeda as anxious and eager faces watched them in anticipation on what was about to happen.

    Then all of a sudden the glass began to move and went to the letter Y, then to letter E and lastly to the letter S!

    The barriofolks were watching the dark phenomenon in stunned silence...

    “Yes, spirit of the glass would you like to identify yourself?”
    asked Romeda in her mumbling raspy voice.

    The glass moved again as the barrio folks watched with bated breath…

    This time it began to spell the name of the hero--A-N-D-R-E-S followed by the letters B-O-N-

    Then the glass hesitated for a while before it went straight into the letter E, then to the letters F-A-C-E-O in rapid succession!

    Palert, one of the original Dragonfly- Eaters with a keen eye for details and an honor student in his third grade class at the Central School knew from the heart that the National Hero’s surname should have been spelled with I’s and not E’s suddenly interrupted the otherwise solemn ritual---

    “That’s it, Gat Andres Bonifacio; you can’t even spell your name correctly how can we believe that it’s you who’s inside that glass and not the forces of the hands that rocks the Lucky Nine Cards!”

    The weak foundation of the house shook due to the thunderous laughter that followed as Palert found himself being led away by his red-faced father home.

    He was not spared the rod that night for his nerve in exposing the shenanigans of Romeda in front of so many people and in her own house at that.

    It’s not polite and proper, his father reasoned out even if what he pointed out was the obvious truth.

    What happened that fateful night was no big deal for Palert but the news spread like wildfire on how the spirit of Andres Bonifacio got the spelling of his name wrong?

    The tale of the spirit of the glass went pfft and vanished like mist into the thin night air and in the next few days it was forgotten, buried into the deep recesses of the barrios memory by the people too embarassed to admit that they were taken for a ride by a bunch of wisecraking un-educated card players.

    And just like that, Romeda and her gang went back to their old card-playing selves again this time with plenty of money to spare and a lot of tales to tell that would last a lifetime.

    The Music of the Dead

    Narciso is the sole proprietor and manager of the only funeral parlor in the town.

    His motto in life is to serve the dead in the town with dignity and charity.

    He treated the dead equally, whether the one is a rich man or a jobless Istambay* the relatives can rest in peace that he would give his darned best in doing the funeral service.

    He was one man, proud of his job and accomplishments although people would cringe when they think about the way he earns for a living. In local parlance we call that as “hanap- patay!”

    Nevertheless, he would dish out his customary service with fervor in his funeral parlor that’s why the people of the town love him dearly for it.

    Yet many really dread his "welcome" visits for it is always believed that once he knocks on your door, you’re dead meat. But you can bet your last centavo that he is the best when it comes to catering for the dead.

    He literally made his bones by providing the dead person’s so- called “last trip” the ultimate and best service that his simple mind could think of- aside from the usual pampering that the dead gets in the embalming table, he would also search his vast-- mostly bootleg cassette tapes-- collections of the music that is apt and appropriate for the occasion that he would play in the long procession that suits the personality of the dearly departed.

    This he deemed important so as to give relatives of the dead person the emotional comfort that they need as they made their loneliest and longest walk of their lives.

    So, what a better way to help them ease the burden of the loss of a love one but through music!

    One day, Kalasyo, always the keen observer that he was, had already memorized the entire catalog of music that Narciso would play for the solemn procession from the church all the way to the municipal public cemetery.

    He could also now guess and point to the Dragonfly Eaters and to whoever interested whether Narciso was already paid by the relatives of the dead for the funeral service or not. These he said he mastered after keenly observing the man’s rituals before, on and after the funeral service for about a year.

    And just before he told us his observations, he made it a point that he meant no disrespect to those who departed early but rather he wants to tell his observations in the spirit of fun that the people of the town is best known for.

    He began to tell us that for example during the funeral of the late Barangay Kapitan Trinidad he pointed out that when the coffin was being carried away and moved out from the huge mahogany gates of the local 18th- Century Church of San Lorenzo the Martyr and into the comforts of the vintage black Cadillac by his friends and relatives, Narciso played in the car’s stereo Gordon Lightfoot’s “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my Brother” that was followed by Matt Munro’s classic ditty, “Walk Away” as the hearse rolled out of the churchyard and into the street on the way to the cemetery.

    Along the way, he played the Godfather’s Theme sung by Andy Williams with utmost emotion as well as Ol’ Blue Eyes‘ My Way.

    Kalasyo even went on to the extent of hollering praises for Narciso’s vast repertoire and claimed that he heard “Cha- cha” was played in a ballroom dancer’s funeral a few years back.

    He further added that when the hearse reached the huge cemented arch gates of the municipal cemetery, he noticed that there were only two songs that Narciso deemed as the most requested and most appropriate for the occasion--

    If the deceased is a male, the stereo would loudly play the immortal “Oh My Papa” while if it’s a female, he would certainly let another Matt Monro classic “For Mama” soar through the subdued air.

    These haunting songs serve as a fitting finale for the long march that would make even the hardest member of the bereaved family to break down into a cacophony of sobs, howls and cries that were louder than the usual customary tears in their last effort to show to the whole town their love and respect for the dead person: feelings that were obviously bouyed by the music of the funeral car’s stereo and the louder you roar, the greater your love for the dear departed or so it was believed by most people.

    These observations made by Kalasyo would always elicit laughter to anybody that would bother to hear him in his funny- way of delivering his story.

    Just as most of us thought that he was through with his tales…

    Narciso, on board his black Cadillac suddenly blitzed by while a loud ABBA ditty was blaring from its stereo for the entire world to hear!

    As Narciso waved at us with his silly grin, Kalasyo blurted out, “And that folks, is a sign of a very happy man!”

    And added with a casual but somber look on his face, “Obviously paid in whole rather than on an installment basis otherwise the music that would be playing in his car would be Bobby Vinton’s Mr. Lonely.”


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