Remembering William Leary

“…William Leary (deceased), my one and only business & appointments manager…” – Vilma Santos

The Musical Era – “…The success of Vi & Bot love team was evident with numerous films and it was only a matter of time that the idea of having Vilma have her own album came in 1969. There was a market and demand for Vilma’s very own long-playing vinyl. William Leary, Vilma’s manager asked musical director Dannie Subido to gather songs that will suit Vilma’s limited range. It was reported that Subido find the project challenging. They have to find songs that are light but will still give Vilma’s fans enjoyment. They decided to make it fun and sort of child like. They also wanted to make sure that the songs reflect Vilma’s current state of mind, that of a growing teenager. Sort of like early Britney, “no longer a child not yet a woman.” Her promotional interview clearly confirmed some of the issues teenagers are experiencing during this time. Body image, sex education, adulthood, friendship, and dating are some of the topics the album tackled which are topics that are still relevant today. “…as a singer…gosh…I feel a funny thing inside every time na naiisip kong, I was not a born singer. But every time I hear my records play, I couldn’t help but kid myself that I was made after all.” She commented when asked to evaluate herself as singer. What she really meant by that line, “I made it” is that by making her record a success no one cannot say that she cannot be sell records. This success proves that she can be a successful singer like her closest rival, Nora…” – RV (READ MORE)

Be Mindful – “…Ang nasirang si William Leary ang isa sa mga nagmahal kay Governor Vi. Noong kabataan ni Vi ay si William ang kanyang naging manager. Alagang alaga ni William si Vi. Noong early ’70s ang mga kabataang artista ay dapat na marunong kumanta at may isinaplakang awitin. At dahil sa kanyang pagmamahal kay Vi kaya’t nagtatag siya ng isang recording company, ang Wilears Record, kung saan iginawa niya si Vi ng mga isinaplakang awitin. Hindi naman nabigo si William dahil ang unang singles ni Vi na may pamagat na Sixteen ay naging Gold Record at si Vi pa nga ay naging nominado bilang Most Promising Singer sa Awit Awards. Sa pananagumpay ng awiting Sixteen, na sinulat ni Danny Subido ay naging pamagat pa din ito ng kanyang pelikula katambal si Edgar Mortiz. Natatandaan ko pa noon na pinagsabihan kaming mga Vis ni William na mag-ingat sa mga pananalita lalo na sa mga press people dahil kay Vi nagre-reflect ang mga negatibong ginagawa ng mga Vis. Katulad na lang noong 1984 CMMA awards night kung saan nominated si Vi sa Sister Stella L samantalang si Nora Aunor ay sa Bulaklak Ng City Jail, at si Nora ang nagwagi…..nagtanong si Manny Nava sa mga madre sa Archbishop Palace kung saan ginanap ang awards night kung bakit si Nora ang nanalo samantalang si Vi, katulad nila ay isang madre sa Sister Stella L…..sumagot ang madre na ang mga mata ni Nora ang nagpanalo sa kanya… sinagot ni Manny ng for your eyes only pala kaya nanalo si Nora?…” – Alfonso Valencia (READ MORE)

The Interview – “…It was a tough assignment. It was something that we never wanted to do, but nobody has ever said no to Mars Ravelo, and certainly we couldn’t be the first to do that. He wanted me to write a story about Vilma Santos. I have never written anything about her before. I haven’t met her personally even if I have been in the business for some time. I made all the possible alibis, but it came to the point that I was pushed to the wall. All of those assigned to write about Nora Aunor have done their piece. All those assigned to write about Vilma have also written theirs except me. One afternoon I bumped with Cleo Cruz who told me that Uncle Mars has asked her to help me make an appointment for interview with Vilma. She did more than that. She actually set up the interview. She told me that the following day Vilma will be shooting in an apartment in Cubao, and that her manager William Leary will also be there to meet me. I am left with no choice. The following day I went to the shooting set in Cubao. True to her words, William Leary was there. He told me everything has been set up and I might as well take the chance since there is a shooting break at that time. He led me to a small air conditioned room where Vilma stays. After a brief introduction with each other, a very formal interview started.

There was an issue then. Vilma Santos married Edu Manzano in the US, a story that both of them denied. I asked Vilma the question, and the answer was a short smile, and she showed us her wedding ring. We asked for details and she was kind enough to tell us everything that happened. We also asked her if it is true that she’s on the family way, she said yes, three months. We were surprised, why is Vilma Santos telling us all of these when she has denied it earlier, and she knows what we can write about all of those things. However no word was spoken and we went on with the interview. What we planned to be no more than a ten minute interview lasted for three hours. We can just imagine how the people on the set hated us then. After the interview we said goodbye, but alas Vilma Santos herself asked for a favor. She said she told us everything, but please don’t write about it yet until after her movie with Boyet de Leon then was shown. We never said yes to her request, meaning she said it all and it is up to us to write about it or not. To be honest, our first plan was to write all about it. It will be an expose. It will be a controversial story, and how can Miss Santos deny the taped interview? When we got home that evening, we sat in front of our typewriter and started writing our story. We talked about so many things, and we wrote almost all of them. When we finished, we were too sleepy we did not even copy read what we have written.

We were awaken by a call the following morning. Uncle Mars has learned that we already did the interview and he wants us to bring the story to him immediately. In a hurry, we got everything and went to Uncle Mars’ office. We gave him the manuscripts, and told him we didn’t even have time to copy read them. “It’s alright,” was his answer. His red pencil in hand, he started to read them. He was so quiet, and when he finished reading, he smiled at us and said just one word, “beautiful”. He immediately called the typesetter and asked that my article be set immediately. Then I excused myself and left. The article came out in Bulaklak Magazine. To our surprise, it ran for five pages. Why was it that long, “because the manuscript was also long”? And the worst was I wasn’t able to write that Vilma really married Edu in the US and that she was three months on the family way. I can’t believe it. I looked for my original manuscript; it was the same as what was published. I never thought that the article would be that long, and it would be that good. The next thing I heard was, “someone hates you”. Then came another incident. My good friend Lourdes Carvajal, more popularly known as Inday Badiday, or Ate Luds, yes she was the queen of intrigues, invited us to her show. The Metro Manila Film Festival was about to start. During one commercial break, she asked everyone’s opinion, “who do you think will be the festival’s best actress?”

To her surprise, we answered Vilma Santos. She laughed aloud and said, “but I bet you can’t say that on air”. We said we can. She challenged us to a bet, we accepted the challenge. When we went back on the air, Ate Luds immediately asked us who we felt would be the festival’s best actress, and we answered Vilma Santos. Everyone on the studio was surprised but of course we meant what we say. That article which we wrote and that television interview with Ate Luds turned the tides for us. And mind you, there is no turning back. We accidentally met Vilma Santos at the Broadcast City a few days after, and she was very nice. She thanked us for the article we wrote, and told us how she appreciates it that I kept to myself the things she told me in confidence. She also thanked us for our comment on television. And it seems we were suddenly awaken, hey no one has ever done that before. No one has ever thanked us for what we have written about them. And it really changed the tides. We left showbusiness for some time, tried some other beats, and we were away from all of the stars and the rumors and intrigues that showbusiness has to offer. We thought we will just have a quiet life, but one day Tita Nene Riego called us up, telling us that another respected editor at that time, Eddie Roque, is inviting us to write for his magazine. Suddenly we found ourselves in showbusiness again. We met new stars, but of course Vilma Santos was still there. She has remained as popular as before. She has also remained as nice as before. So to this day, Vilma Santos has been a friend. We may not agree on some issues. We may not like her all the time, but Vilma is still a friend no matter what. There were times when we would be Vilma’s critic, but wait till someone else says something bad and we feel we should be at her side to defend her. It is very seldom that you make friends in showbusiness, and for us Vilma is really a friend. For us, Vilma is not “the star for all seasons”. She is the star for all reasons. …” – Ed de Leon (READ MORE)

William’s Baby – “…Ang istoryang ito ay matagal nang ikinukuwento sa akin ni William. Wala pa akong asawa, pangarap na ni William na magawa ang pelikula. He had the story at hand. Siya talaga ang nag-negotiate para makuha ang istorya. Noong una nga raw, ayaw pumayag ni Baby Tsina at ng kanyang asawa dahil gusto na nilang kalimutan yun. Eh, si William alam ko yan kung magpilit, tsaka personal kasi niyang kilala si Baby Tsina, nakuha rin ang istorya,” salaysay ni Vilma…”Noong una kong mabasa ang script, ayoko sanang maniwala na nangyari talaga yun. Masyadong cinematic, eh. Para bang sa pelikula at sa komiks lang nangyayari. Until the day nga that I met the real Baby Tsina. Nang siya na ang makuwento sa akin ng naging buhay niya, lalo na after the crime at sa loob Correctional, saka ko lang nalaman na ang nakalagay sa script ay kulang pa pala. Mas matindi ang istorya niya, pero hindi na maaring isamang lahat sa pelikula. Baka namang masyadong humaba eh. Malakas ang istorya. I think the story alone will sell the movie. Lalo na kung iisiping isa itong celebrated case at nasundan ng mga tao noon sa mga diyaryo. Front page stories pa raw lagi iyang si Baby Tsina noon eh…” – Ariel Francisco (READ MORE)

Turning Point – “…The decisive divergence is Burlesk Queen. ‘I took a risk playing Burlesk Queen, Celso Ad. Castillo directing. I was 24. My American manager, William Leary, had persuaded me to accept the role. He had been my manager since he convinced me to do a record, Sixteen, that made good. I was no longer with Sampaguita but I went back there from time to time to make sweet sweet movies or musicals. That was my style. Then I did Burlesk Queen. It turned out to be a turning point. I won an acting award. Suddenly I was the drama queen. Celso Ad. Castillo is really good. In a way it was that film that made me a real actress. It changed my sweet image. And it made good at the boxoffice. ”However, later relations with Castillo proved to be painful. ‘I already had my production company, VS Films, and I got him as director for Pagputi ng Uwak. He really gave me a hard time on that film: it was two years in the making! And it sank VS Films into debt. Celso and I had a fight. As a director he’s very good but as an artist he has his quirks: merong sumpong. I hear he now works in Malaysia: sayang, he was good for Philippine movies. Pagputi ng Uwak nearly ruined me, financially and mentally, but it turned out to be a firstrate film and it won a lot of awards, it won VS Films a lot of prestige. But I still prefer Burlesk Queen.” The five productions of VS Films, which included Rosas sa Putikan, directed by Maning Borlaza, and Halik sa Paa, Halik sa Kamay, costarring Vilma with Eddie Rodriguez, all made money, including Pagputi ng Uwak. Nevertheless, by the time she had to shut it down, VS Films had her drowning in six million pesos’ worth of red ink. It took her some seven years to pay off that montrous debt. And it meant having to go back to making movies that were ‘pambata at pangmasa” movies like Darna and Dyesebel and Wonder Vi….” – Quijano De Manila (Nick Joaquin), Philippine Graphic Magazine 05 November 1990 (READ MORE)

The Records – “…Gaano kadalas ang Minsan? Grossed 7.3 Million in its few days run in Metro Manila in 1982 outgrossing “Sinasamba Kita” for Philippine movies’ all-time box office tally. With inflation and currency rate in consideration that will be around 95 million. But that’s not the only exciting thing about these film. It was the only film that Vilma Santos and Hilda Koronel did while atleast when Hilda was still at her peak. Ofcourse, Ate Vi’s career remained as hot as ever while Koronel now accepts supporting roles. It was obvious that year that Hilda was also more glamourous than Vilma but looking at the two right now, Vilma maintained that slim, youthful look while Hilda struggled and visibly gained so much weight she can be mistaken as Ate Vi’s aunt or mother! After Gaano Kadalas, Hilda did a few more leading roles under Viva Films even co-starred with Nora Aunor but didn’t get the same results as Gaano. But like what William Leary says, “mahirap matalbugan si Vilma, Vilma is Vilma in any season and whatever movie!”…” – RV (READ MORE)