Thursday, March 08, 2007

26. TV Bloopers

I was happy with my life. I had a satisfying and fulfilling career. The agency was humming with activity. A stark contrast from the time I joined. My boss did not renege on his promise to make the place jumpier and noisier. The noise level was up as the account wins started to come. Also, existing accounts were persuaded to resume their advertising activities through continuous proposals for restages and relaunches.
 Front: Pablo Tolentino, Sal (Mafinco), Lucky Borbon back: Wainwright Rivera. MFCO Mgr, MFCO Mgr, Ed Roa

In the meantime Lucky was able to recruit more people into the agency. There was Ely Mansor who was also an FEU drama student during the time of my older brothers. He was taken in by Lucky because he seemed handy with a 35 mm camera and could help develop a commercial film production capability for the agency. Ging Montealegre, a friend from radio room days together with Ding Pasaylon came in as client service executives. Jing would become a vice president of Advertising and Marketing Associates, Tony de Joya’s ad agency (AMA would be headed by Greg Makabenta, another habitue of the FEU radio room during our college days). I was becoming very busy on both media and client servicing. Lucky recruited Wainwright Rivera to assist me in client service. Wainwright later on became the commissioner of Public Estates.

One of the major wins was that of the Cosmos Bottling Company the maker of Cosmos Sarsaparilla the leading entry in the low price end of the softdrink market. It was operating in a niche market where there were really no serious contenders to the Cosmos leadership. We renamed the brand “Sarsi” and waged a vigorous television campaign using “live” TV commercials featuring Caucasian male presentors. For the placements in Channel 2 (ABS-CBN) our talent was Hal Bowie, a well-known newscaster and anchorman of special media events. The very popular Uncle Bob Stewart, the owner of Channel 7 did the Sarsi “live” commercials in his station. We had a certain Reverend Williams, a long necked pastor from a Protestant ministry doing the commercials in TV stations other than Channel 7 and Channel 2 (ABS-CBN). I could picture an effervescent Sarsi cascading through his long esophagus. The imagery tempted me to use the line, “Sarsi, a long, long refreshing drink” but Lucky groaned.
Uncle Bob's Lucky 7 club
Bob Stewart

“Live” TV commercials were something I would wish on my enemies. Anybody doing this kind of commercial production would have a severely shortened life expectancy from the devastating effects of bloopers committed on air. A slightly inebriated Hal Bowie coming from his usual “one drink” at the MOPC before going to the studio once ended the Sarsi commercial with “…so why don’t you reward yourself with a tall glass of San Miguel beer”. Bob Stewart almost always did not require a script. I just told him the message I wanted conveyed and sometimes a story line and he took it from there. I cannot forget the time when Bob Stewart in an inspired moment, took a cute little girl from the studio audience and asked what her favorite softdrink was. “Coke” she said, “You mean Sarsi, sweetheart”, “Nope…Coke!!” and no amount of enticement and pleas by Bob could make her renounce her loyalty to Coke…on air. I aged five years when Hal did the Sarsi with egg commercial and had inadvertently used a rotten egg. You can’t tell an egg’s goodness from the outside. Some inventive camera movements were employed to allow Hal to throw away the contents of his glass out of frame to save the situation.
Sarsi with egg
There were other prized bloopers with lessons to be learned. Bob Stewart singed his hand when a fireproof paint burst into flames upon applying a lighted match to a plywood board that he just brushed the paint on (Lesson: it becomes fireproof when the paint has dried), an Olympia typewriter boasting of sturdiness was dropped atop a table to show that it can take rough handling. As soon as the typewriter touched ground its carriage was sent flying like a Scud missile (lesson: the carriage had to be locked before you drop). There was the case of the “live” demo of a fogger appliance that refused to fog because we used water instead of an oil-based liquid. We couldn’t use insecticide unless we were ready to die of toxification or asphyxiation. The visual effect I wanted was to fill the small promo booth with fog and have Freddie Cochran groping around, then emerging like the monster from the Black Lagoon while he did his spiel. The fogger did not fog. All it did was spray water on the wet and hapless Freddie who was not making sense with his spiel (lesson: oil based liquid fogged while water just sprayed). I don’t recall how Freddie and I got out of that one. The commercial slot must have been on a hardly watched program and our client did not see the blooper. In another occasion I asked Freddie to do a Papa Piccolino “live” commercial. The adhesive that held his false moustache gave up and he ended up doing the commercial with only half a moustache. The other half fell on the pasta plate while he was demonstrating how “al dente” the macaroni was (lesson: sew the false moustache on the talent’s skin). I did a regular “live” commercial for Mafinco’s Mystique, a hair spray brand. Mystique had one placement a week in the Wild, Wild West the first colored program on television. The commercial required a different model each time. We had some of the loveliest girls in Manila as models in these commercials. As amateurs in TV commercial modeling they needed intensive personal coaching (lesson: be patient, “live” commercial production has its moments).

I distinctly remember Hilda Garchitorena as one of the models for Mystique. It was not so much her loveliness, though she was truly attractive, that made her stick in my mind, it was the rumored relationship she had with the late Banjo Laurel that would not go away from my mind. Although Banjo was my classmate in the Ateneo Grade school it did not give assurance that he would look kindly at guys who are engaged in a night job with his girl.


Lea said...

My father was the late Hal Bowie! Now and then I "Google" him and lo and behold this article came up. I remember the debacle of the rotten egg in the Sarsi commercial but didn't know about the "reward yourself with a San Miguel Beer" though dad was a fan of our wonderful beer and did one or two commercials for San Miguel. It's great to know that someone out there still remembers the good old days of Philippine radio and television. I remember all those names and people vividly. If you have any more memories to share, my email address is Thanks again for the memories of my dad.
Lea Bowie

wayfarer said...

Dear Lea.
I am glad to have put a smile on your face remembering your dad in a happy and comical light.
Hal was also a good friend of my brother Pete Roa who worked as VP for production during the early days of ABS CBN. He died a week ago and I have posted some blogs about it.
The chapter TV Bloopers is an episode in my draft autobiography. I have mentioned other charaters from the industry and you find a name or two that would have some relevance to your life in Manila those days.

ANCprincess aka Lea Bowie said...

Thats funny that you mentioned your brother Pete. I remember that some time in the late 60s (I think, it was then) that my father told me that Pete, who had just had a daughter named her Lea. Then (unlike now) I was the only "Lea" around and Pete had told my dad that he liked my name so much he named his daughter that. Am I right in that rememberence? In any event I'm sorry to hear of Pete's passing and please extend my condolences to his family and yourself of course. My dad liked Pete a lot. He wasn't so fond of Bob Stewart. I miss Manila a lot and most especially the halcyon days of the 50s and 60s then. Thanks again for your kind response and I will check your blog more often to see whats new. I didn't see your response until today because I wrongly assumed you might respond to my email address. I'm glad I decided to check. My best to you and thanks for keeping the memories alive!

ANCprincess aka Lea Bowie said...

After I posted the comment about my father I was thinking that maybe Pete Roa was your brother. My sincerely condolences to you and the Roa family on his passing. I remember that my father came home one day to tell me that Pete's wife had just had a baby girl and that they had named her Lea because he liked the name Lea so much. My dad was proud as punch. Then, I was the only Lea around and since my dad had named me when they hurridly baptized me in the Japanese prison camp at Los Banos were I was born prematurely, he thought it cool that Pete would name his first daughter after him. I hope I am not mistaken about this but your neice's name is Lea, right? In any event, I will check your blog for more articles as they are interesting.
Take care and if you are ever near Brooklyn, New York....please let me know.

wayfarer said...

Hi Lea,
Pete's eldest is named Lea and her being named after you by Pete is really an interesting trivia that never would have come up had you not come across TV Bloopers.
Lea is now Mrs. Russel Cuevas, has 4 kids the eldest of whom is now21 years old.
They are staying in Virginia, USA.
I will convey your condolences to Boots who I am sure will be glad to hear about the little known fact that Lea was named after you.

wayfarer said...

On Chapter 17. Loyola Heights, I made mention of some names of Maryknollers who may have been your classmates and some Ateneans that you may have socialized with during those days.

ANCprincess aka Lea Bowie said...

I am always amazed at the almost eternal "connection" we "Manilans" have. No matter how far we roam away from the Manila we grew up in, we somehow bump into someone who grew up there too or we know and its old home reunion time all over again. I'm glad to see that my memory serves me well. Thanks for confirming the little trivia re Lea. I'm sure that my dad and Pete are having interesting remember when discussions "up there." I will keep checking your blog for more tidbits. Have a good one and thanks again for the correspondence. It brings a smile to my day.

ANCprincess aka Lea Bowie said...

Omegosh, Boots! As in Boots Anson. Of course! For a moment I couldn't remember who Pete had married but of course it was Boots - they made such a handsome couple. I remember now so well. I replied to your posting below a bit earlier, but when you said you would convey my condolences to Boots, I had a senior moment and the only Boots I could remember was Boots Taylor who had married another old friend from my gang Jose Luis "Butch" Catala. But it kept nagging me and then the lightbulb lit up and I remembered Boots Anson. I see she has her own blog. I tried to start a blog myself but I'm afraid I'm not too good at this yet so I will have to wait till a friend helps me expand on it. My best to Boots.