'Somewhere in time we'll always be connected'
Editor’s Note: When ABS-CBN North America Bureau Chief Nadia Trinidad sought an interview with Minnesota-based writer, director and actress Lotis Key, she asked not to show her face on camera. The former girlfriend of Dolphy in the 1970s said she continues to pray for the Philippines’ "Comedy King" and she wrote this moving account of the Dolphy she knew. This is her story, in her voice.
When I first met Dolphy, I asked him one question. Are you married? He swore he wasn’t. And, of course, that was the truth.
I’d heard he had two or three children, but so many Filipino men did, it wasn’t unusual.
I was drawn to him because he was interesting -- a true original. I’d never seen even one of his movies when we first met. Coming from completely different backgrounds, initially, I had no idea how big a star he actually was.
Our big attraction was that we could both die laughing from our own jokes. Maybe that’s why he wanted us to marry. His life was often so sad and when we were together, like children, we had a lot of silly fun. He bought us gold wedding rings in Las Vegas. I told him that first he must talk to his three children and their mother, so they wouldn’t find out from the newspapers. I didn’t want to hurt them.
Well, he never did it, but every few months would bring out those rings and lay them on my dressing table, my pillow, my plate, and just look at me and raise his eyebrows. I’d laugh and say, “What are we going to do? Run away and live on a desert island? These kids are a part of your life. You have to talk to them!”
I had no idea how complex that one request was.
It's hard to believe but I didn't know that there was more than one woman, and more than one set of kids. My Tagalog was poor. I wasn't really part of the movie world. I only went to the set and then straight home. I’m not a gossiper and anyway, my friends weren’t movie people, so they didn’t know anything about his past. I was an introvert who read all the time, and rarely went out of the house, except to work.
Anyway, our years together were marked by hysterical kwentuhan that made us laugh so hard we’d both get asthma attacks.
Even after we’d separated, we’d still go out regularly for dinner, as an excuse to talk for hours. His life was complicated. His business, his families, his girlfriends. I think we were best friends more than anything else.
Apart from what I earned in his movies, and birthday or holiday presents, I never took money from him. He wanted to build me a house but I refused. I never accepted “sustento” or allowance. It was funny because people said it was a sign of his low regard for me that I didn’t have a lot of material things.
To save my “reputation” I was even advised to lie and say he’d given me “this” or “that”! But money never interested me.
I found people interesting and him particularly. His mother and sisters once told me they hoped we’d marry because I was the only person in his life who wouldn’t notice if he suddenly got poor.
In San Francisco last year, someone pointed out a woman to me and whispered; that’s one of the mothers. I went over and introduced myself. I asked her forgiveness for the pain I’d unwittingly caused so many years ago. She turned out to be a lovely, gracious and intelligent woman.
Well he is who he is, isn’t he? I guess he never held a gun to anyone’s head to make them love him.
Oh Dolphs, you were the sunshine of my life in those days. Somewhere in time we’ll always be connected, two giggling kids in blue jeans. In my old age now, I think of you and smile.