“Roman Springs”

The first time I heard of the movie “The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone” starring Vivien Leigh and Warren Beatty was during one Sunday dinner some time in 1980 with my uncle, Brother Andrew.  He said it was the story of an older woman who “got involved” with a younger man.  Since then, every time a “scandale” erupted in Manila with an older woman getting it on with a younger man, Brother Andrew, eyes wide with wicked and picaresque delight, would snap:  “The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone!!!  Hahahah!!!”

I was not interested to watch “The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone” because I absolutely had no curiosity about older women getting involved with younger men.  All I knew about older women and younger men were mothers and their sons.  I didn’t even know that “having an affair” meant having sex.  I was young and innocent and I wasn’t interested in sex, much less sexual dynamics.  If there was any “Stone” I was interested in watching, it was the cartoon “The Flintstones”!!!   😛

If I remember right, it was in the late 1980s, during the Cory Aquino administration, that we had our first brush with a “Mrs. Stone episode” in the family, specifically my maternal Reyes side:  An aunt in her 60s had taken to [ the then very fashionable ] ballroom dancing along with her peers and had subsequently become infatuated with her twentysomething D.I. dancing instructor.  The trouble was that her husband in his 70s was ill with liver cancer and was in and out of the hospital, but that she was, rather insensitively as observed by the family, gallivanting all over town with her young D.I. [ who it turned out wasn’t even of centerfold stud quality  😛 ].  Her mature daughters finally confronted her and complained about the whole she-bang:  the D.I., the ballroom dancing, the nights [ and early mornings ] out, the untrackable dates, the cash withdrawals, the maxed-out credit card bills…  oh the bills!!!  It was a godawful emotional confrontation that left the aunt victorious and her daughters devastated.  Aunt declared decisively:  “I don’t care what any of you think!  Your father is dying and there’s nothing any of us can do about it!”  The affair continued and the daughters continued carping…  until the $$$ money finally ran out, thanks to the horrendous medical bills of the terminally ill husband.  And that was when the D.I. finally left.  Fin.

Now it comes back to me… it was also during those years that Manila society was regaled with the romantic misadventures of a lady and her D.I. dance instructor which brought forth giggles from otherwise correct ladies and guffaws from otherwise somber gentlemen.  Those episodes brought Brother Andrew, and many prominent people, great amusement, albeit perverse.  Because we were on our way to a dinner, I had accompanied Brother Andrew to that lady’s husband’s wake, and I remember her “half-dead” as she stoically accepted my uncle’s condolences, wearing thick glasses, and wrapped in a great black shawl.  Months later, odd rumors started circulating in high circles.  Still later at a posh gathering at the Polo club, I came across a totally chic old lady, her hair in a Chanel bob, with full maquillage, and dressed in the overblown style of Christian Lacroix — not unlike Princess TNT / Gloria von Thurn und Taxis — supported by two maids accompanied by a battalion of household staff, and to my utter surprise, was told by chichi friends that it was none other than her.  She was unrecognizable, at least from the time of her husband’s wake.  A year later, a good friend and I were visiting an Ilocana doyenne at a new condominium building at the Ortigas Center.  Ilocana doyenne gestured towards the unit opposite and said that it was the love nest of the lady and her D.I. dance instructor.  It had faux stained glass on the front door and there hung a resin sign with “Home Sweet Home.”  We thought it was cute.  It seemed the affair continued for some time, although there were rumors of a separation:  it was said that she had caught her lover “in flagrante delicto” with, alas, another man.  Last we heard, the D.I. had simply “disappeared”… to the relief of the family.

Certainly the most galling of the “Mrs. Stone stories” was that of an heiress of an Old Manila family with a fortune of Php 750 million who died without issue as well as intestate, that is to say, without children and without a Last Will and Testament.  Her D.I. dance instructor had the effrontery to challenge her indirect heirs, her nephews and nieces, for her considerable estate in court.

On 16 May of this year 2010, during the “Piyesta ng Pag-Akyat” Feast of the Ascension at the Villa Escudero, Joey Panlilio, with whom I have had a “Malice in Wonderland”-Louella Parsons-and-Hedda Hopper kind of friendship for the longest time, told me that I should watch “The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone,” not only for the young Warren Beatty, but for the heavy, 19th century “Luchino Visconti-Franco Zeffirelli-Lorenzo Mongiardino-esque” decor of the Contessa Gonzalez’s Rome apartment.  He added, in his peculiar soignee but mordant Eleanor Parker-as-Baroness Schrader [ from “The Sound of Music” movie ] manner, that the eccentric behavior, not to mention the name, of the Contessa Gonzalez reminded him of me.  Of course, he didn’t say that the Contessa Gonzalez was the procuress / pimp who introduced Paolo the Italian gigolo [ Warren Beatty ] to Mrs. Stone, the retired American actress [ Vivien Leigh ].  Such wishful thinking of my good friend.

So I finally watched “The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone” on YouTube…  Yes, it was an interesting movie.  I did not find it strange — as I would have, had I seen it in my youth — as I was familiar with several similar episodes in the Manila milieu.  I found the themes of aging, loneliness, vulnerability, and compromise remarkably lifelike, even relevant.  They managed to remind me of what lies ahead in the not so distant future.

My late, widowed mother had her own version of “The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone” when she became involved with a separated engineer a tad younger than her.  He actually looked like the cartoon character “Shrek” and my siblings [ but not I ] referred to him as such.  However, that affair turned out more like “The Bridges of Madison County” with my mother wondering where all her once-comely physical attributes had gone…  😛

Then came actress Demi Moore’s steamy affair with the younger stud Ashton Kucher in 2003.  Prior to that, she had had a relationship with the balding macho man Bruce Willis.  If I’m not mistaken, that Demi-Ashton affair started the term “Cougar,” referring to an older woman whooping it up with a younger man, renewing and revivifying herself in the process.

One of the better stories about latter-day Mrs. Stones is a good friend of my late mother, a shrewd and wise Capampangan widow of exceedingly good family and a very considerable fortune.  A 30 year-long medical career in New York city allowed her to accumulate more Manhattan properties, USD and EE placements, and diamond jewelry to add to her already considerable inheritance from her entrepreneurial parents.  After her husband passed away, she started spending a few months of every year in Manila, and soon enough, was caught up in the ballroom dancing whirl.  Because of her endless dollars, the best [ and needless to say the most expensive ] D.I.s dancing instructors gravitated to her, and she hired them, paying a queenly premium of Php 5,000.00/xx – 10,000.00/xx an evening when the going rate was only Php 1,500.00/xx.  At some point, she decided that ballroom dancing at the Manila Polo Club and at the Club Filipino in Greenhills was not safe for the big diamonds she liked to wear while dancing, not because of thieves, but because they could be lost if they fell from their settings in those big dance floors.  So she had a dance floor and a high tech sound system installed in her posh high-rise apartment composed of three interconnected units;  and that was where they danced so she could wear her big diamonds without fear of their getting lost.  She paid her D.I.’s handsomely, took them to hotel restaurants, bought them good suits, shirts, and shoes, brought them on Star Cruises around Asia, and even promised them trips and cruises to Europe.  However, just when the D.I.s thought that they had her in their palms, that she could not live without them, and that there were even possibilities of inheritance from her, she dropped them abruptly when she finally developed joint problems and retreated to her former widow’s life of properties, placements, and diamonds.  She says that she’s had her fun, spent enough money on “frivolities,” and now it’s time to retire sensibly and to prepare to meet her Creator.   🙂   🙂   🙂

Last weekend, I was suddenly reminded of “The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone” when we siblings inadvertently discovered, to our surprise and much laughter, that our dear 80 year-old spinster aunt, the eldest sister of my mother, and once a habitue of Studio 54 in New York, had developed a “fatal attraction” to her 45 year-old tall dancing instructor at the “Club Filipino” in Greenhills…

*unfinished*

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17 Comments

  1. Presy Guevara said,

    November 22, 2010 at 3:17 am

    Myles, sorry for being quiet for a while. Just noticed your query on post #13. Thanks for asking. I’m back, be assured. I’m catching up and much entertained by Toto’s blog. Cheers to all posters.

  2. October 24, 2010 at 6:32 am

    I’ve just been informed by chichi friends that D.I.s dancing instructors are no longer fashionable [ ditto having affairs with them ].

    Running coaches are “in.” Specially at the MPC Manila Polo Club.

    Toto Gonzalez

  3. Tomas Pablo San Andres said,

    October 21, 2010 at 2:00 am

    maraming matronas nagalit sa dalawang anak dahil alam nila yun lamang ang natirang kaligayahan ng matanda hindi pa pinabayan.

    kahit na kinalat yung mga litratong malaswa ng DI kasama ang mga boylets nya hubad sila sa kabilang silid ng matanda, nag hapi hapi, hindi naman apektado yun matanda, dapat pinabayan nalang.

    at ang sabi yung mga anak din naman meron mga kanya kanyang “alaga’ sila at di naman pinakelaman ng nanay nila.

  4. Myles Garcia said,

    October 17, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    “Nag pa sexchange…sa America”? Can that be Cheryl Burke of DANCING WITH THE STARS? 🙂 🙂

    This blog is so delish…despite all the attempted coded references. I think Braille is the only coded medium left that would partially obscure the references. I say…LET IT ALL OUT!! 🙂

    BTW, where’s Presy G.? Haven’t heard from him lately.

  5. Enrique Bustos said,

    October 17, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    Nagalit yung mga anak kasi garapal naman manloko yung D.I. na isa pa naman guro sa San Beda binigyan na siya ng mga lupain sa corinthian garden at pera nakuha pa niya manglalaki ang balita at bulong bulongan sa mga dancing club sa Makati Sports Club at Manila Polo ang D.I. nato ay nag pa Sexchange na daw at nakatira na sa America dala lahat ng Ari-arian niya na hindi nabawi ng mga anak

  6. Tomas Pablo San Andres said,

    October 14, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    MPM-L, yung dalawang anak contra sa pinakasalan pa ang DI at nabigyan ng mana.
    pinatawag daw ng tiya nila at pinagsabihan, pabayan nyo siya, nabigyan na kayo ng sapat na mana, pera nya yan, gawin nya ang gusto nya..
    wala din, biglang nawala parang bula yung DI at namatay daw yung nanay with a heavy heart, pining for him.

  7. Ipê Nazareno said,

    October 13, 2010 at 7:42 am

    This article must have been published in the Inquirer between 1987-1990.

  8. Enrique Bustos said,

    October 13, 2010 at 6:15 am

    Myles,

    The article was written 20 years ago; most of the people in the article have already passed away. MPM-L died on July 29, 2003.

  9. Myles Garcia said,

    October 11, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    Enrique, how old is that report? I mean in there MPM-L is still alive. I mean she passed away what–well over a decade ago?

    The “Search” feature in Larry’s blog does not narrow the desired article sharply enough.

  10. Enrique Bustos said,

    October 11, 2010 at 2:11 am

    From Philippine Folio
    by Larry Henares

    I remember Sparkle Plenty and Smiles of a Summer Night because I attended a dance party sponsored by female senior citizens belonging to clubs called Sparklers and Smiles. And never have I seen such sparkles and smiles aplenty from those who ordinarily suffer loneliness, lovelessness, depression, and the aches and pains of old age.
    I saw Ginny Licuanan, writer and widow in her 70s, dancing like Cinderella on her first ball (rated 6 on the scale of 10 as a dancer). I wonder if her children Tattie, vice-president of Ateneo, and Frankie, president of Ayala Land, realize that mamma has discovered the fountain of youth?
    I saw Eliza Gamboa, 91, my father’s contemporary in Bacolod, in much better health than her daughter Sonia Santos of Prudential Bank.
    I saw Julie Rufino, widow of Vicente, mother of My Pal Joey, the unforgettable crybaby on TV during the Edsa Revolt.
    Other widows: Chiching Tuason, wife of Celso, mother of Chuchay, Bachoy and Bolo of Squires Bingham; Nitang Lopez, mother of Geny, Oscar and Manolo of Meralco; Inang Paras Gonzales, 77, mother of couturier Roy of Paris; Pacita Panganiban, 89, mother-in-law of Alex Melchor; and Cion Bacani, mother of Bishop Ted Bacani.
    Also Josie Vergel de Dios (rated 9, dancing better than when we were kids in Pasay); Leonie Limjuco, widow of Johnny, my dancing partner during our Jaycee days; my cousin Macaria Madrigal de Leon, happy as a lark as she never was before, and full of memories of her “loving, devoted and faithful husband Johnny.” Hahaha, Sparklers is indeed magic.
    There are those with couch potatoes for husbands, who need a social life of their own, like Thelma Villongco (rated 8 out of 10) whose Romy stays home watching TV; Rosie Osmeńa Valencia of Elpidio (rated 7); Nory Villanueva Ongsiako of Oscar (rated a perfect 10!); Sonia Santos (also rated 10!); Armida Siguion Reyna (rated 6); and Charing Quiazon of Troadio (rated 5).
    There are those who brought their husbands along (By God, Larry, I have never been with my husband as often as when we got into dancing): young Lulu Tesoro Castańeda (rated 9) and her husband (rated 3); Amparo Castro (rated 6) and her husband Dakila (rated 8).
    The Smiles Club (dancing every Thursday) and the Sparklers Club (every Monday) have interlocking memberships, and differ only in that men such as Dakila Castro are admitted as members into the Sparklers.
    Club members have been subject to criticism, gossip and derision among those who find fault with old ladies having fun with young dancing instructors, and neglected wives having their last fling.
    As I came in with my publisher, a little old lady asked, in her eyes a plea for charity and understanding, “Larry, are you here to make fun of us?”
    I answered ever so gently, “No, no, because if I had sent my mother here, she would still be alive today, happier and less lonely in her old age. And still as lovely as you are.”
    Because if at an advanced age a woman suffers a weak heart, arthritic joints and the aches of menopause, when she loses her husband to God or other women and suffers the trauma of loneliness, helplessness and uselessness, when she feels the onslaught of senility and is alienated from her children — or just want to socialize, young or old — there is no better way to make new friends, to expand her mind and her interests, to exercise as her doctors prescribe, than to join the Sparklers and Smiles.

  11. Enrique Bustos said,

    October 10, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Here is a list of Society Matrons who are members of Ballroom Dancing Clubs

    Supremes
    1.Nitang Moreno Lopez +
    2.Nena Madrigal de Leon +
    3.Charing Katigbak+
    4.Tita Katigbak San Buenaventura
    5.Ida de Guzman

    Sparkler’s
    1.Julie Abad Rufino+
    2.Elsa Syjuco
    3.Adelaida Vargas+
    4.Leonie Limjuco
    5.Lumen Policarpio+
    6.Pinang Saldana

    Merry Maker’s
    1.Teresing Gonzalez La’o
    2.Rosie Osmena Valencia
    3.Chichi Tuason+
    4.Josie Vergel de Dios
    5.Thelma Gallego Villonco+
    6.Sonia Gamboa Santos

  12. Myles Garcia said,

    October 8, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    I was wondering who this Contessa Gonzalez was (having only seen parts of the film once on TV…found it terribly turgid), and lo and behold…it’s the deliciously malignant Lotte Lenya, Kurt Weill’s widow and that SMERSH agent killer, Rosa Klebb, in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE!! I just loved that cankerous face of hers and those poison-tipped maid’s shoes. 🙂 So utilitarian.

    Surely, Toto, you can’t be related? 🙂 🙂

    Now, are we really taking about Mrs. Stone or more Countess Aurelia, the Madwoman of Chaillot, a far more interesting character than the totally needy Karen Stone? BTW, I just now recall that there was a TV remake of “Mrs. Stone” a couple of years ago with Helen Mirren in the title role, a very bleeeh Olivier Martinez as the Gigolo, and the late Anne Bancroft as the aforementioned Contessa. I think I saw that too, but obviously not much has stuck with me.

    Of course, this lonely rich older lady and young man theme, had a very mordant twist in Imierda’s “friend,” (poor) Doris Duke’s case when she got involved with that scheming, controlling butler, Bernard something…or.. other…who got some US$5 million per the maniulated will. BTW, guess who provided the shady doctor who administered to Doris’ last days in Beverly Hills under the ministrations of the malevolent Bernard? You guessed it…La Romualda!! So in a way, she had a hand in her friend’s hastened death. Lesson: never ask for medical referrals from a former First Lady/Black Widow!!

  13. Enrique Bustos said,

    October 8, 2010 at 7:03 am

    Is the heiress of an Old Manila family with a fortune of Php 750 million who died without issue as well as intestate, that is to say, without children and without a Last Will and Testament. Her D.I. dance instructor had the effrontery to challenge her indirect heirs, her nephews and nieces, for her considerable estate in court — TTG-L?

  14. October 8, 2010 at 1:00 am

    Larry:

    LOLSZ!!! 😀 😀 😀

    Cheers!!!

    Toto Gonzalez

  15. October 7, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    I like young men BECAUSE they possess YOUTH and stamina.

  16. October 7, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Mike:

    Sure you can!!!

    The “Masters of the Inconvenient” blog is linked to the “Remembrance of Things Awry” blog in more ways than one!!! 😛

    Cheers!!!

    Toto Gonzalez 😀

  17. Mike V. Jugo said,

    October 7, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Hi Toto! 🙂

    One of the “Masters of The Inconvenient” has a very interesting position about dating women of the same age or older, but I don’t think I can post it here 😀


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