My 20 most memorable interviews for The STAR

STAR BYTES - Butch Francisco -
(First of a series)
I may not be able to claim that I’ve spent 20 solid years as a columnist of this newspaper (only 11 all in all), but I can proudly say that I’ve had some pretty memorable interviews writing for The Philippine Star.

In this series of columns I am doing starting today – in line with the paper’s 20th anniversary – I will recall 20 of my most memorable interviews for The Philippine Star.

This will also be a test of memory for me as I recall everything that happened during the interview – the location, the scenario, etc. Just don’t ask me to remember what the subjects wore because I’m an idiot when it comes to clothes. But I may be able to remember the food we shared – not because I’m a food expert – but because I’ve always had a big appetite ever since. And so here is the initial list of my 20 most memorable interviews for this paper, which was named only recently as the country’s best:

Kris Aquino
– This interview was arranged through the paper’s founding chairman, the late Betty Go-Belmonte a week before Christmas of 1987 and was set at the Guest House of Malacañang where President Corazon Aquino and her family lived.

Malacañang wasn’t totally alien to me because as a kid (during the Marcos years), I had the chance to visit the Palace (and was even able to sleep at the Mansion House in Baguio) because the chief engineer there was my godfather.

But the place had changed so much when I went there that time. What was so disorienting was the fact that it looked like Lebanon because there were sandbags all over (there were coup threats months earlier). I remember meeting Lifestyle Assistant Editor Ching Alano at the gate because she, too, had an appointment with Kris for a short interview.

Kris that time was doing a Christmas special called Kris Kringle and she excitedly talked about this project. Along the way, I also asked about life in the Palace – and what they ate. "Well, the usual food," said Kris – "steak and lobster."

I have to admit that I almost fell off my seat that time when she said that. But looking back, I don’t think she was bragging about having "steak and lobster" as their usual fare because, maybe, that was what they really ate at the Palace. And then, you have to remember that Kris was raised in the US where steak is quite affordable – and in New England at that where lobster is cheap and plentiful, especially when it’s in season. So no big deal as far as she was concerned. Besides, we all know by now that Kris always speaks the truth – and how!

Kris that time was very young – 16 if I recall it right – but even then you knew she was bright. Although she only had one foot (actually not even – probably just a toe) dipped in showbiz, somehow you could tell even then that she was going to succeed immensely in this profession. In fact, she even went beyond expectations because aside from conquering the world of television, she also went on to win acting awards – quite unthinkable when she was starting out in the business because everyone said she had no talent (but as it turned out, it’s something you can hone through the years).

And what else do I remember of that interview? That was the first time I met Bettina Aspillaga (now with Boy Abunda) who became a good friend I’m very comfortable with.

As for the refreshments, they only served iced tea in a nice tall glass. No steak. No lobster.

Dina Bonnevie
– Having had a string of box-office hits (and acting awards to boot) under Viva that time, Dina was Queen of Drama. For a change, she tried TV comedy by doing Dina for ABS-CBN.

Unfortunately, she wasted her talent on this sitcom, which was badly put together (it only lasted a season) and when I reviewed it, I referred to its launching as D-Day – D for Disaster.

Dina was abroad when the review came out (I doubt if she ever read it), but as soon as she was back, she was promptly told about it and naturally she felt bad – outraged, I can imagine.

Dina and I didn’t know each other personally then, but her manager, June Rufino – who I love – tried to bring us together maybe so that no further wedge is put between us. While we were scheduling the interview somebody told me (no, not June), that she was supposed to have said, "O sige na nga, para ma-meet ko na ’yang si D for Disaster!" Obviously she couldn’t even spit out my name.

During the interview – conducted at the Celebrity Sports Plaza – I felt the animosity from her end. At one point, I thought smoke came out of her nostrils. But she still looked fabulous – especially with her nice olive skin.

At the end of the interview, there was the matter of who was settling the bill – for a cheeseburger that I hardly touched (who could have eaten in that situation?). Of course, the press doesn’t pay for anything – and that is the accepted practice especially in show business. But at that point, I had to get the check, except that she stood up and intercepted the waiter and paid at the counter.

I still felt her smoldering as we said goodbye (she was mad, but polite all throughout) and on our way out, who do we bump into but Vic Sotto and Coney Reyes (Eat, Bulaga ! was still being staged at Celebrity Sports Plaza then.)? No, there was no tension among them – only a lot of civility.

The article came out a week later and Dina was obviously pleased with it. We became friends after that – not very close, but comfortable enough to be able to make small talk when we bump into each other.

Through the years, I’ve learned to respect her more not only as a person, but especially as an actress. As it turned out, she was good in comedy after all – like she showed in Bridal Shower. All she needed was a good material and I give her a D for it. D for Divine.

Gloria Romero
– That day – Oct. 25, 1988 – was unforgettable because that was my first one-on-one with the greatest movie queen of them all. (The day was also significant for her because that was the death anniversary of her late beloved mother who died during Liberation.)

We set the interview at Annabel’s and even if I made an effort to be there, she still got there ahead of me. Immediately I felt comfortable in her presence and it was one of the few interviews where I digested my food (pasta – I remember) quite well because she made me feel so relaxed.

And she was the dream interviewee. I asked her to trace her beginnings and she related everything to me without skipping a beat. The article practically just wrote itself.

The great part about this interview was that I established a wonderful relationship with Tita Glo, who became not only a friend, but practically a second mother to me.

To this day, we’ve kept our friendship and we continue to send presents on each other’s birthdays (we’re only a week apart). Yes, we also exchange presents every Christmas and though I try not to be maudlin about it, I’d like to say that her friendship is one of the best gifts I’ve ever received in this life – one of the fabulous bonuses writing for this newspaper. (To be continued)











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