What Lolit Solis is to me

Pablo A. Tariman - The Philippine Star

She is many things to many people

MANILA, Philippines - There is no way you can avoid Lolit Solis in the showbiz kingdom.

She is a mainstay on GMA 7’s Startalk every Saturday with former college classmate Joey de Leon. She also reports the latest in showbiz happenings for a radio station.

Readers on the lookout for the hottest items read her regular column in Pilipino Star Ngayon. Every movie celebrity’s birthday, wedding and anniversary are incomplete without the presence of La Solis.

From what one can figure out, Lolit is many things to many people.

For one, she is a good mother and a good provider.

She is easily moved by friends and relatives in distress; she could easily write a check for acquaintances in need of help.

She is a good talent manager and on many occasions, she will risk life and limb for her artists.

To many in the showbiz kingdom, there is no fury like a Lolit Solis scorned.

Her pen is mightier than the sword, in many sense.

Said Gretchen Barretto in her now famous Manila City Hall appearance 17 years ago: “Lolit Solis is a name to reckon with in the movie industry. She can make or unmake you, she has friends, she has connections, she can isolate you in these awards events because she handles the talents like she did in this festival. Like as soon as I came out with my revelation, she had the guts to announce on TV she’d slap me if I don’t keep my mouth shut. She is perfectly capable of doing that.”

Movie scribes swore Lolit had done just that to Maritoni Fernandez, whom she used to manage.

They recalled that she had thrown ashtrays at movie newshen Nene Riego when the latter wrote unsavory things about Lolit’s talents.

But alas, in those days, incidents like that were what make showbiz colorful. Truth was, those incidents were considered quite commonplace — as common as the microphone-hitting scene in a live telecast between sexpot Divina Valencia and the late star manager Rey de la Cruz and as common as the sight of Robin Padilla slugging it out in a disco joint with a punk who made the mistake of ogling at his girlfriend.

When that film festival controversy broke out in the mid-’90s, La Solis edged out Frank Sinatra and the Abu Sayyaf from the front pages, and had even managed to steal the thunder from the VAT issue. Even non-movie columnists wrote about her as though she’d just done something to upset the country’s Gross National Product.

Even political columnists no longer found it beneath them to tackle Lolit.

The late Teddy Benigno said that at any way you looked at Lolit, she looked like a mini-Patton tank positioning its gun turret for a belch.

To this date, La Solis’s column exposés attracted quite a lot of libel cases and on TV primetime news, Lolit was there being asked for sound bites which to most TV viewers were sources of fun and amusement.

But as one watched Lolit in recent TV appearances, it was obvious she has come to terms with “the indiscretions” of the ’90s and was just glad in her role as grandmother.

How was Lolit’s life like before she became movie writer, star builder and talent manager?

She started as a movie reporter in the early ’70s, submitting to komiks outlets yarns on the movie beat. She could have had in mind a journalism career since she took up Masscom at the University of the Philippines where comedian-actor Joey de Leon was a classmate.

She grew up in the squatters’ area in Lardizabal, Sampaloc, near National University, and in one journalism seminar she attended, she met her husband-to-be Angie Pasamonte, an engineer-architect. She had two daughters — now aged 49 and 51 — from that marriage which didn’t last.

How did Lolit of 40 years ago look like?

“She was a very jolly person,” said a movie scribe who used to attend journalism seminars with her. “But already she had that kiti-kiti (wild streak) in her.”

The house she lived in Sampaloc was a far cry from the mansion she owned today in Fairview. It was an “aksesorya” in Lardizabal Street shared with her parents and a large brood.

The job she settled in as soon as she got out of college was writing about movie stars. As a newcomer in the game, she literally had to beg publishers to use her story so her subject would come across, so to speak. These articles soon got her movie passes.

And her marriage?

It was short-lived and the couple never reconciled after the first separation. They lived in a Pampanga town where for a while, Lolit played the full-time housewife. She opted to stay home until financial problems cropped up. Her husband couldn’t provide enough, and then staying home began to bore her. One Christmas in that short-lived marriage, Lolit found herself staring at her two daughters with no food on the table.

She left the marital abode with her daughters, went back to Sampaloc and into movie reporting with a vengeance.

Then it dawned on her: If she pushed people’s showbiz career with her writings, she might as well make the most of it. So she maintained her movie columns, built stars, managed their careers, handled talents — a multi-faceted career which brought her from one fiesta event in Luzon to as far as the West Coast and even Europe. Lolit had begun to enjoy the luxuries of the job.

Movie scribes are a colorful lot and Lolit holds the crown as the most inimitable of them all.

Before the punk hairdo, she’d tie her tresses on top, make them look like bizarre pies and she’d stray into a hotel’s function room looking like she was the most stylish of them all — until her loud voice and her strident Tondo coloratura gave her away.

In movie presscons where she’d often accompany her talents, she’d poked into the buffet table even before the hosts had arrived. When all the guests had settled, she’d make noises — “Asaan na ang datung?” — and then she’d unleash that laughter which could unsettle a movie newcomer. She’d go home with a doggie bag filled with the presscon fare. She was the only one who could get away with such lines as “iyang baklang Gabby at ang loka-lokang Nanette.”

Through the years, given that raw upbringing and its resultant crude behavior witnessed by movie insiders in the gamut of showbiz activities, from the komiks write-ups to TV talk shows, Lolit developed a clout — with the movie press, producers and stars of consequence — barely matched in the local movie industry.

In time, Lolit became known not just for her bizarre hairdo, uncouth laughter or her presscon doggie bag, but also for her winning ways with movie talents and producers.

“She is known in the circle as harbatera (literally a snatcher) of food, giveaways, mga cheapipays and it’s nothing to people in show business,” said a friend. “Beneath that big mouth is really a charming person who will go out of her way to help movie colleagues in distress. And she is very open about a lot of things in her life, specially her squatter background. Whether people call her barumbada, bastos, walanghiya — name it — all that she can accept even with glee.”

The making of Lolit began in the late ’70s, peaked in the ’80s and became even more formidable in the ’90s. By this time, she had been fully liberated from her destitute past; she had built her Fairview mansion with an upper-middle class façade.

“It is a fabulous house she built,” said a friend. “There is one room in her mansion absolutely filled with everything from stocks of food, wine, sardines to imported liquor. She would invite friends on Sundays and tell them ‘I have something for you.’”

Apart from beepers and cellular phones — the tools of a busy “professional” or entrepreneur in the ’90s — Lolit had the rich man’s possessions: A fleet of cars that came with a chauffeur.

Hers was a very comfortable life, to say the least — a far cry from the hovels of Sampaloc and from an obscure Pampanga town where she had once spent a foodless Christmas Eve.

So what does Lolit epitomize in the movie industry?

“She represents the gutsy movie scribe and the invincible talent manager,” said a movie insider.

And how do her colleagues describe her guts developed through the years?

Said another colleague: “Indescribable ang guts ni Lolit. She knows the meaning of survival; she knows the dog-eat-dog world. Those experiences probably hardened her so she could do the best — and she could do the worst. And that scam — if she really masterminded it — was the worst that she could do.”

Are there many Lolit clones in the industry?

Lolit’s confidante is specially proud of this: “Some tried to do a Lolit Solis act and they never succeeded, not even as a poor copy. There is only one Lolit Solis in the industry.”

Gabby Concepcion, before that awards scam grabbed the headlines, had once told me: “I got Lolit Solis as manager because one, she is a fighter, and second, her fierce kind of loyalty. Kahit na ano pa ang sabihin nila — and she even snoops on my girlfriends — I don’t mind as long as she is loyal to me. She is very open, not the sneaky kind.”

One time, Lolit made fun of women infatuated with Gabby. She distributed pictures of Gabby’s past and present girlfriends (two of them beauty queens) showing them in uncompromising positions, she fed their love letters to the movie press and at one time, she even exposed the owners of the underwear she found in Gabby’s Anilao Beach resort hideaway. “Those underwear could not have been mine because I don’t wear them,” Lolit told movie reporters.

If you think Lolit got sued for slander, think again. The defamed beauty queen — after trading lurid words with Lolit in fan magazines — hired Lolit as her first manager when she joined showbiz.

That showed the sort of weird magnetism she had and the degree of clout she wielded with movie producers.

The vulnerable side of Lolit probably started when she broke down in a Manila City Hall hearing 17 years ago.

When that scene unfolded, everyone knew — including the late Teddy Benigno — that Lolit could only take so much.

Benigno captured La Solis’ fall thus: “… Lolit Solis the toughie, the molten rock of authority in the movie world, the grit-jawed, smart talking moll who feared neither man nor beast, broke down. Her voice choked, tears filled her eyes, she went into a semi-slump. It was like seeing Ivan The Terrible crying into his breakfast soup. She cries that everything was so unfair … What would her children think?”

Her friends said that the sobbing talent manager at the City Hall hearing was a different Lolit. “She has changed a lot in that hearing, she has mellowed and she revealed her soft side,” said the late movie scribe Frank Mallo. “I’d like to think that was the real Lolit. Her being tough and abrasive is really a front. Most of her threats are really hanggang bunganga lang. She is really soft inside.”

But then Lolit’s other side was what we saw on the morning she was interviewed on radio, shortly after she was pronounced in safe condition at the Cardinal Santos Hospital after an alleged suicide attempt.

She said she decided to end it all because she couldn’t stand the sight of her daughters silently suffering from all that media bashing. “Isipin mo naman, Bobby,” she told the radio announcer, “I have to keep a brave front para makita ako ng mga anak ko na hindi ako affected. But they really get depressed. I see it in my daughter who is asthmatic. I asked her the other day, ‘Anak bakit may asthma ka naman?’ And she replied, “Wala Mommy kasi napagod lang ako.’ I knew what she was going through every time she opened the papers and heard the radio broadcast.”

As I recall Lolit’s exploits, I can only say that she represents what one should be and should not be in the showbiz kingdom.

Her life can teach everyone — and not just her — a lesson.

Through her own teleserye, everyone in the industry can sustain or revive whatever is good and true in the showbiz life.

With a string of libel cases already resolved in her favor, Lolit may be in for another transformation.

Take it from someone who has seen it all. Been there, done that, so to speak.

Believe it or not, I still like to see Lolit for what she is now — still invincible, wearing wry and black humor in her talk show and surprisingly caring and humane on one hand and still brutally honest about people she didn’t care about.

Whether trailed by fame or infamy, it is a fact that Lolit has remained a fascinating figure in the country’s ever colorful showbiz jungle.

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