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Friday, April 4, 2008

Willie Revillame

Willie Revillame (born Wilfredo Buendia Revillame, January 27, 1961) (age 46) is a Filipino game show host, singer and comedian. He rose to fame in the late '90s as sidekick to big-named movie stars before making his own mark in the business as a TV host for ABS-CBN's (now defunct) noontime variety show, "Magandang Tanghali Bayan". Revillame now currently hosts the noontime game show "Wowowee," one of the most criticized shows on the same network.

Early Showbiz Career:

Revillame earned a living by becoming a concert drummer for Alma Moreno's musical variety show "Loveliness" and rising young singers like Gary Valenciano. But when he met Randy Santiago, who rose to fame via his trademark shades and the song "Hindi Magbabago", his fortunes changed. Santiago hired him as his sidekick in the now-defunct GMA 7 noontime show "Lunch Date". Revillame stayed for three months on the show and was signed up by Regal Films to star alongside Joey Marquez in the movie "Bobocop" (bobo, meaning dumb), a spoof of the hit Hollywood movie Robocop. Since then, Revillame has been cast in movies as sidekick to other movie personalities such as Philip Salvador, Rudy Fernandez, Edu Manzano, Cesar Montano, Aga Muhlach, , Vic Sotto, Joey De Leon and basketball star Johnny Abarrientos. But he gained fame primarily because of his playboy image and when he married Princess Punzalan, daughter of broadcasters Helen Vela and Orly Punzalan.

Randy, John & Willie:

As Revillame became the newest co-host of "Sang Linggo nAPO Sila" in 1998, he joined his former "Lunch Date" co-host Randy Santiago and John Estrada in the show's pageant segment "Calendar Girl"(a sizzling hot bikini contest). He immediately bonded with the two hosts and the three were noted for their on-screen chemistry and comic timing.

This was noticed by the viewers and the newborn triumvirate of Santiago, Estrada, and Revillame was given added exposure in the show. But along with Revillame's new fame as TV host came criticism. Some sectors branded the new trio as a rehashed version of the more established Tito, Vic and Joey, their rival counterparts in the other noontime show, the toprating "Eat Bulaga". On the other hand, some viewers and critics denounced Willie for acting like a "sex maniac" with his vulgar behavior over the "Calendar Girl" contestants. He was repeatedly caught putting his hands inside the pocket of his pants, apparently fondling himself in public, while interviewing a calendar girl contestant, who's wearing only a very skimpy bikini. Those incidents repeatedly took place several times during the entire duration of the said bikini contest.

Despite the criticism, the new trio of Santiago, Estrada, and Revillame received immense support from the ABS-CBN management. Later, they were made lead hosts for the new noontime show, "Magandang Tanghali Bayan".

MTB & Willie's Increasing Popularity:

"Magandang Tanghali Bayan" started its first live episode on November 30, 1998. This was Willie's third noontime show after "Lunch Date" and "'Sang Linggo nAPO Sila", and his first major TV show after playing bit roles in sitcoms. With the Philippine movie industry slowly losing its audience, "MTB" became Willie's source of income although he landed lead roles in two movies, "Matalino Man ang Matsing" (with Eddie Garcia) and "Pera o Bayong not da TV" (with cohorts Randy and John). He also engaged in buying and selling cars. But with Willie's increasing popularity came the reports that he became swell-headed. Not only was he always allegedly late for appointments and tapings, but also he went overboard with his naughty jokes on "MTB". But despite all these, Willie's luck was solid, as "MTB" dethroned "Eat Bulaga" in the ratings game and his movies, "Matalino Man ang Matsing" and "Pera o Bayong not da TV" scored at the box-office.

Suspensions and Comebacks:

In August 1999, Randy, John and Willie were suspended by ABS-CBN from "Magandang Tanghali Bayan" because of the vulgar jokes that they threw at the contestants during the show's portion "Calendar Girl". The suspension was meted after MTRCB (then headed by Armida Siguion-Reyna) issued a warning on ABS-CBN regarding "MTB". A week later, the whole noontime show was suspended and was replaced temporarily by "Esep-Esep".

During Willie's suspension, he got a lot of moral support from his closest family members and friends. Majority of the public also threw their support behind him so when ABS-CBN decided to bring him, Randy and John back on "MTB", he was overwhelmed. He also had a chance to record an album produced by rapper Andrew E., which contained naughty songs. The album was entitled "Parental Guidance". Though the album reached platinum status, it did not enjoy immense airplay at some radio stations because some songs in the album like "Ang Cute ng Pokémon" ("What a Cute Pokémon") and "'Wag Mong Pigilan" ("Don't Stop") had double-meaning lyrics. At the same time, Willie was dropped from the cast of "Richard loves Lucy" and was replaced by John Estrada.

In 2001, Willie was terminated from "Magandang Tanghali Bayan" after he defied orders from ABS-CBN management to refrain from making vulgar jokes. He was replaced in the show by the matinee-idol triumvirate of Marvin Agustin, Dominic Ochoa and Rico Yan (now deceased). Soon after, he started appearing as guest star in GMA 7 shows like "Kool Ka Lang", "Idol ko si Kap, and "SOP", fuelling speculations that he will soon be transferring to ABS-CBN's rival network. But after guesting at GMA, there was no news coming from Willie's camp except for his appearance during an EDSA 3 rally.

Willie revealed in an interview with Ricky Lo later on that he went on a sabbatical to the United States for a couple of months. He was contemplating on retiring from showbiz and live a quiet life there. But his plans change after getting a positive reaction from the Filipino-Americans who mingled with him during his stay. So when he went back in 2002, he sought help from friends like Aga Muhlach, Dolphy, Sharon Cuneta and Bong Revilla. Willie ended up meeting with ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs executive Arlene de Castro (wife of Vice President Noli de Castro) who offered him a public service show with a touch of humor. The show turned out to be "Willingly Yours".

"Willingly Yours" premiered on ABS-CBN in July 2002 with one portion of the show that had Willie dress up as a beggar to mingle with a family of beggars and granted their wish to eat fried chicken from Jollibee. The pilot episode garnered high ratings, confirming that Willie was still in-demand despite the upheavals he has experienced in life.

In December of the same year, Willie began exploratory talks with ABS-CBN regarding a new noontime show that would replace "Magandang Tanghali Bayan". Willie suggested for a noontime show (supposed to be titled "BAW") that would have him and his friends, award-winning actors Cesar Montano and Aga Muhlach, as hosts. But ABS-CBN rejected Willie's suggestion after finding out that they could not afford the two actors' expensive talent fees. Instead, ABS-CBN decided to bring back the original "MTB" trio, Randy, John and Willie for the new noontime show and terminate the services of other "MTB" co-hosts and staff, including Roderick Paulate, Amy Perez and director Edgar Mortiz. The noontime show was titled "Masayang Tanghali Bayan".

"Masayang Tanghali Bayan" premiered on February 23, 2003, marking the comeback of Randy, John and Willie. But unlike "Magandang Tanghali Bayan" which drew phenomenal ratings and topped "Eat Bulaga", "Masayang Tanghali Bayan"'s ratings were not high enough to dethrone Tito, Vic and Joey's show. In fact, the show was involved in so many controversies, some of which resulted in Willie's second suspension from ABS-CBN. Willie's other show, "Willingly Yours" was also axed in mid-2003 although Willie won an award from Star Awards as Best Public Service Host, besting the likes of Mike Enriquez, Bernadette Sembrano and Arnold Clavio.

In December 2003, during Mahal's birthday on "Masayang Tanghali Bayan", Willie said to his midget co-host on air, "Sana ma-devirginize ka na (You should get de-virginized)". That stinging remark caught the viewers flat-footed, particularly the MTRCB, the government agency responsible for regulating television and movies. The MTRCB ordered ABS-CBN to terminate Willie from the show, but before the order could be carried out, the host-comedian filed his resignation instead. In January 2004, Willie appeared on ABS-CBN's "The Buzz" and made a tearful farewell appearance.

Willie's appearance on "The Buzz" generated support for the embattled host-comedian. Gretchen Barretto, the partner of telecommunications magnate TonyBoy Cojuangco who owns the television network ABC 5, was one of them. She promised Willie that he will be hired as an ABC 5 talent, much to the consternation of other people, particularly Gretchen's brother-in-law, Dennis Padilla who was Willie's co-host on "Masayang Tanghali Bayan". At the same time, songwriter Lito Camo (the hitmaker behind novelty songs "Otso-otso" and "Ispageti"), and Universal Records executive Bella Tan decided to repackage Willie as a novelty singer. Thus, Willie recorded his second album "Approved by MTRCD". Unlike his first studio album "Parental Guidance" which had naughty lyrics, "Approved by MTRCD" had wholesome songs, all written by album producer Lito Camo. The album spawned radio-friendly hits like "Pito-Pito", "Ikaw ang Number 1" (You Are Number 1), "Sabi Mo, I love You" (You Said I love You) (duet with Ethel Booba) and "Para sa Akin ay Ikaw" (For me It's You). In fact, Willie's song "Pito-Pito" had a festive music video with the special participation of (now deceased weatherman) Ernie Baron. After Bella Tan died in 2004, Willie jumped to Star Records in 2005 to do another wholesome album "Wowowillie", which contained songs which are used in the noontime game show "Wowowee". Like "Approved by MTRCD", Willie's songs were also written and produced by Lito Camo.

It only shows that despite not having a noontime show as a regular income, Willie kept himself busy with guestings and promoting his latest album. In May 2004 Willie became an ABC 5 talent, hosting the primetime game show "Puso o Pera" (Heart or Money) with sexy stars Maui Taylor and Patricia Javier. However, the show only went for three months on the air and was axed due to low ratings, despite the fact that Willie's show was scheduled as a pre-programming to ABC's top-rating gag show "Wow Mali", hosted by his rival noontime host Joey de Leon.

After the axing of "Puso o Pera", Willie guested in GMA's reality show "Extra Challenge". The particular episode was shot in Bali, Indonesia, with Andrew E., Francine Prieto and Michelle Bayle joining Willie as guests. The two-week episode posted the highest ratings for "Extra Challenge". Willie followed it up with another guesting at GMA's sitcom, the now-defunct "All Together Now" where his former "MTB" director Edgar Mortiz was one of the mainstays. His guesting in that show also rated well. It was enough for GMA's rival network ABS-CBN to call up Willie for a meeting with the help of former ABS-CBN news executive Arlene de Castro (wife of Vice President Noli de Castro). Willie then named de Castro his new business manager in place of Wyngard Tracy.

After a series of meetings, ABS-CBN decided to bring back Willie in the noontime slot with his own game show. Willie was given creative freedom in his new show and joined forces with his former directors at "MTB", Edgar Mortiz and Bobbet Vidanes in thinking new concepts for the game show. Willie then christened the show "Wowowee".

Sexual Harassment Case:

Two months after Willie's comeback to ABS-CBN in 2005 for his game show, "Wowowee", Revillame was put once again in bad light after two women filed separate cases of sexual harassment against him. The women who accused Revillame, were entertainment columnist, Salve Asis, and former "Bump" dancer, Euanne Bautista. Asis claimed that Revillame touched her inapropriately while they were in the back of a car, while Bautista said that Revillame touched her during a remote show of "Wowowee" in the Quezon province.

Some observers have said that these sexual harassment case filed against Willie were intended to destroy his television comeback. In October 2005, the sexual harassment cases filed against Revillame were thrown out due to a lack of evidence.

Members of the second batch of "Wowowee Girls" reported that Revillame had touched them inapropriately, even going as far as to threatening that they would be fired from Wowowee if they told ABS-CBN management. This has led the the name change of the Wowowee dance group from "Wowowee Girls" to the new "ASF Dancers."

Wowowee Stampede:

After a year of hosting Wowowee, a mass tragedy happened when a stampede broke out on Febuary 4, 2006 6:00 AM local time at the PhilSports Arena while people were waiting for the show to begin on 1:00 PM local time. 74 people died (according to reports, 71 were dead) and hundreds were injured. It is said that the cause of the stampede is on the line where people get tickets for the show and when the security of ULTRA closed, causing people to rush to enter the gates. Others say that a man shouted that there was a bomb, causing panic. It is the deadliest accident to have occurred in a television event in all the whole history of Philippine broadcasting. After the chairman of ABS-CBN, Gabby Lopez, accepted full responsibility for the tragedy, on March 11 of the same year, the game show was relaunched.

Lovelife and Children:

Willie was married to former beauty queen Liz Almoro in civil rites at Lipa, Batangas on March 2005 officiated by film star and town Mayor, Vilma Santos. This was followed shortly by a lavish church wedding in June 2005 that was sponsored by commercial entities and most probably ABS-CBN. The wedding was adjudged by readers of YES Magazine as Wedding of the Year for 2005.

Willie has three daughters from previous relationships. One of his daughters, Meryll Soriano, is an actress. He and his wife Liz now have a son, Juan Emmanuel (Juamee).

Despite the hoopla and extravaganza of Revillame's wedding and on-air vows of love and devotion to his wife, it was finally confirmed that Revillame's marriage is undergoing the process of annulment upon the instigation of Liz Almoro.