Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Memory And The King (Plus The Queen)

When my siblings and I were growing up, our mother expressly forbade us to watch any local television shows (all of them are trash, she claimed). There were only two local shows that she and my dad watched faithfully (although I suspect she was the faithful one, while my dad, the dutiful, no-choice one): Pugak and Patsy’s Tang Tarang-tang, and Dolphy and Nida Blanca’s John & Marsha.

After John & Marsha folded, my mom didn’t bother to watch Home Along Da Riles anymore; she was a Nida Blanca fan, and didn’t warm up to Nova Villa until much later. By that time me and my siblings were very much into Starsky and Hutch, Space: 1999, and Man From Atlantis; my mom, Dance Fever. I never got to know the Kosmes on screen; instead, I got to know them firsthand when I joined ABS-CBN in 2000.

I was assigned to oversee the promotions of the comedy shows of ABS, so for the first time, I watched a whole episode of Riles. Eventually I would only watch the raw takes, given the hand-to-mouth existence of TV shows at that time (they would shoot, edit, score, then air in a span of 3 days). And I got to see the gaffes, the flubs, the take-twos.

In 2003 Riles was replaced by Home Along Da Airport, an attempt at refreshing the decade-old series. But that didn’t last long. Two years later in 2005 Dolphy, along with the more successful of his kids, came back with Quizon Avenue. I left ABS-CBN by 2006, so I was spared of seeing the Quizons be replaced by John En Shirley.

While I was there the network started making these all-star station IDs. It was our department’s massive headache to figure out the billing sequence of the stars. But even if internally we couldn’t agree who would go first, Claudine or Juday, when it came to the one star who would end the station ID, everyone agreed there can only be one. Even when we had FPJ in one of our station IDs, the Action King nodded in deference to the Comedy King.

Even back then, I saw the weariness. Caught on tape, in between takes, or right after when the AD yells “Cut!” and everyone drops down their guard, one can see age and work taking its toll on the King. I once asked the long-time executive producer of Riles and Airport, “Why doesn’t Dolphy retire?” She first gave me the ol’ “He loves the work too much to stop” line, and I didn’t doubt her one bit. But after a bit, she whispered to me, “Eh marami pa rin kasing umaasa sa kanya.”

I remember how hilarious Dolphy was in his heyday as a comedian. I grew up watching black-and-white movies of his on television during weekday afternoons. Two of my most favorite were Kalabog En Bosyo (1959) and Barilan Sa Baboy-Kural (1962); we watched the replays again and again. Even until now, I remember the villain Dr. Kagaw’s most memorable line in the former: “Revenge!” I remember the scene wherein Panchito and Dolphy experimenting with some batter-like mixture in a huge aluminum pot. Someone splattered the other with a small clump of batter by accident, prompting the other to retaliate. This escalated into a full-blown fight, ending with Dolphy lifting the pot, inverting it, then covering Panchito’s whole head in it. I can still see Dolphy, his head all covered with batter except for his eyes and mouth, smiling wickedly as he spun the pot around and around Panchito’s head.

The funny man I saw while previewing the tapes was old and tired. But when the AD yelled “Action!” and the camera started rolling, Dolphy would come to life, and beyond the slow movements and the stooped shoulders, one can see the flames of mischievous youth dancing in the corners of his eyes, in the curve of his smile.

Throughout the six years I was a Kapamilya, I had so many instances wherein I could have asked for a photo taken of me and the Comedy King together. But I always resisted. Instead, I preferred my memories of Dolphy, whether in black-and-white or in color, onscreen and off. I know how fickle memory can be, and how unreliable it can become. When it comes to the King of Comedy, what I treasure more are the warmth of fuzzy feelings versus the harshness of sharp recollection.

* * * * *

Dolphy may be the King of Comedy, but when it came to gay comedy, my all-time favorite Queen is Roderick Paulate. Dolphy’s gay characters were more ridiculous and ridiculed; Kuya Dick’s characters were proud and in fighting form.

It doesn’t surprise me that the whole Filipino nation is in mourning for Dolphy; his appeal is as broad as the range of characters he played. In contrast, Kuya Dick perfected the flamboyant, effeminate gay, whether he’s flaunting it with matching wide-brimmed hat and tasseled umbrella, or attempting to hide it with gruff lowered voice and macho posturing.

The Philippine flag may be at half-mast because of Dolphy’s passing, but should Kuya Dick bid farewell, it’ll be our pink flags that will turn one shade sadder.


Anonymous said...

this is a lovely tribute J. And I agree about Kuya Dick, I can remember fondly how superb he is in MMK.

WEL LARA said...

I was a kid when HOME ALONG THE RILES was still on air.

I remember my family watch this show all together.

It was fun watching the show.

His legacy will always be remembered.
Truly he is the one and only KING OF COMEDY!

I love Roderick Paulate as well, the original "PETRANG KABAYO" !!! ;)

icarusboytoy said...

True… I honestly cannot relate to Dolphy. I never watched his movies for tv shows but Roderick I would remember in movies with his flamboyant acting and would make me laugh so hard.

Sana wag naman siya mamatay muna. lol