THE LEGACY OF BOBBY GONZALES
Manila, October 10, 2002 (STAR) by Butch Francisco - With the passing away of Bobby Gonzales last week (after a long bout with emphysema) at the Parañaque Medical Center, the entertainment industry lost another one of its pillars. Today’s generation may not know him, but Bobby was really a big star – a headliner, which was how superstars were known back in the vaudeville days.
Bobby actually started in the 1950’s with Bayani Casimiro’s entertainment group, Bayani’s Merry-Go-Round. But good friend German Moreno, whose birthday it was (Oct. 4) when Bobby died, remembers watching the singer for the first time at the King’s Theater somewhere in Ongpin. Bobby, so German claims, sounded so much like Frankie Lane and a bit of Johnny Rey. When he sang Cry, the crowd cheered on and really went wild.
That was sometime in the mid ’50s – when German was still working as a janitor/telonero at the Clover Theater, when Clover also featured stage shows – with movies as intermission – the theater signed up Bobby Gonzalez as one of its regular performers.
Bobby became an instant hit at Clover Theater. Glittery American suits and sequined Barong Tagalog become his signature attire. "Siya ‘yung nagpa-uso ng mga burloloy sa mga Americana’t barong Tagalog. Basta lagi siyang nangingintab sa stage," recalls German, who incidentally got a hand-me-down Barong Tagalog from the singer that time.
As a headliner then, Bobby often had to sing as many as 20 songs per show – and there were three shows in one day (1, 3 and 9 p.m.)! "That time, paramihan ng kanta, which was why you had to know a lot of songs," volunteers German. This was the edge of Bobby Gonzales. He had a wide repertoire of songs. In every show, however, he had to sing Cry because the audience always asked for that. Next was Sunny Side of the Street.
Although Bobby was a headliner, the real superstar that time was the legendary Katy de la Cruz, who received P100 a day. German estimates Bobby’s starting salary to have been P25 a day.
"But nobody acted a superstar that time – not even Katy de la Cruz," stresses German. Bobby, German insists, was one of the nicest guys in the theater.
The other headliners at Clover during Bobby’s time were the Reycard Duet, The Wing Duo, Tawag ng Tanghalan alumnus Berlin Meneses (who broke the Clover record by singing 29 songs in the show and Diomedes Maturan (who also passed away this year).
However, Bobby’s chief rival at Clover Theater. In fact, when the Clover people put up a show for the ten top performers one time, they had to carefully work out the billing on the Marquee. Bobby eventually was billed ahead because he was more senior than Diomedes in the entertainment scene. But the Bobby-Diomedes rivalry was confined only on stage. Outside of the show, they were buddies.
But much as they wanted to hang around for a drink after the 9 p.m. show (which usually ended at 11) they couldn’t. A lot of times, Bobby, Diomedes and the other performers had to motor all the way to either Clark Field or Subic to do more shows for American audiences.
In between, Bobby and Diomedes still managed to squeeze in movies – with Diomedes doing a string of movies for LVN Pictures. On the part of Bobby Gonzales, he had the privilege of being in the company of no less than Fernando Poe Jr., as part of the famous ’50s teenage group Lo-Waist Gang along with Zaldy Zschornack and Boy Sta. Romana. Later Bobby and the rest of the gang moved to the Manila Grand Opera House and found similar success there. But in the early ’60s, Bobby and the rest of the Clover Theater gang left the local showbiz scene for a while and went Stateside. This was when the impressario husband of Shirley MacLaine came to the Philippines and invited Bobby, Katy de la Cruz, Diomedes Maturan, Baby Aguilar, the Reycard Duet and the other local entertainers to perform at Las Vegas.
After his Vegas stint, Bobby returned to the Philippines and even conquered local television. This was sometime in 1967. Pancho Magalona was then entering politics and had to take a leave from his daily grind as the main host of Magandang Tanghali in the old ABS-CBN Channel 3. bobby was taken in to pinch-hit for Pancho.
Too bad for Pancho, he not only lost the elections (he ran for Rizal governor), but was also unable to return to his old hosting job. ABS-CBN decided to slightly reformat Magandang Tanghali, changed its title to Bigay-Hilig, but retained its cast – including Bobby Gonzales as main host (He was supported by Cachupoy, Teroy de Guzman and, later, Babalu).
When Bigay-Hilig was also cancelled after a couple of years and was replaced by Stop Look & Listen Bobby Gonzales eventually flew to the US where he continued his singing career. He returned to Manila sometime in 1982 and made a special appearance as Sylvria la Torre’s co-presenter in the first Cecil Awards held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
When the government station, MBS-4 put up a Sunday Night variety show for Alma Moreno (entitled. The Other Side of Alma), Bobby was taken in as a regular co-host. But this show didn’t really last very long on Channel 4. Bobby again found himself migrating to the US.
Nothing much was heard of him after that. Then, sometime last year, the public at least those who remember him from the past – were shocked to found out that he had been very ill. Close friends decided to chip in and raise money for his medication. (Sylvia la torre from her end began a fundraising campaign on the set of the now-defunct Biglang Sibol, which starred among others, Ceclia Rodriguez, Alessandra de Rossi, Princess Punzalan and Jeffrey Quizon).
Last week, Bobby left again. But this time, he is never coming back. Yesterday, he was laid to rest – without today’s generation knowing his past achievements.
Unfortunately, we never really treat our legends well. Somehow we always honor them posthumously – when it’s too late. Now, I won’t be surprised if some organization or group would rush out and come up with an award for Bobby to make up for this overnight. That surely would be in keeping with the title of this now-classic record Hahabol-habol.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
2002 by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS
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