It was a fun, nostalgic over-five-hour Zoom-mustahan that took place last Saturday, October 3. Members of the iconic That’s Entertainment teen variety show from the '80s and '90s gathered online to pay tribute to the late Kuya Germs—their mentor German Moreno—and reminisce about their fondest memories of being in the show. The reunion fell a day before the birthday of Moreno who would have turned 87 this year.
That’s, which aired on GMA-7 from 1986 to 1996, produced some of the country’s most successful names not only in show business but also in the fields of healthcare, business, politics, and the arts. Many members are now based in different parts of the world, making the virtual reunion in this time of pandemic quite a remarkable occasion.
Manilyn Reynes, in true Kuya Germs fashion, prepared a video greeting to open the show. “O, ready na ba kayong lahat sa production number? Ang costumes okey na ba? O, girls… nag-Aquanet na ba kayo na hanggang ceiling ang taas?” She then sang a few lines of the show’s theme, “That’s Entertainment,” originally from the '50s musical “The Band Wagon,” signaling the start of the virtual show.
Each of the groups gamely participated in the pre-produced numbers (all done via Zoom). Jojo Alejar, known for his Michael Jackson dance moves, opened the show singing and grooving to “That’s The Way (I Like It)—but replacing the lyrics with “That’s Entertainment (I Like It).” Melissa Gibbs (along with Charo Laude and Harlene Bautista) brought back memories of the cassette years with her version of Dina Bonnevie’s “Bakit Ba Ganyan.” Her brother Janno’s version of “Send in the Clowns,” a song very much associated with German Moreno, struck an emotional chord, as photographs of the showman flashed on the screen.
Piolo—or PJ during those days—Pascual sang a medley with the Friday group ladies, which included Tina Paner, Lilet, Sharmaine Arnaiz and Kim delos Santos.
It was a night of jokes and ribbing as members recalled those younger years, particularly those times they needed to come up with out-of-the-box group performances complete with sometimes outrageous costumes, loads of makeup, and heavily teased hair.
“Billy Joe, malaki ka na!” the members greeted the new dad, who joined the “after-party,” the latter part of the gathering. Billy replied saying he’s not used to not being called Chuckie Dreyfus by the group. “Buong buhay ko, tinatawag akong Chuckie Dreyfus.” Everyone roared in laughter.
He said his life has changed a lot, briefly panning his camera to his music room where an Eco-Mom UV sterilizer and a microwave oven can be found, the accoutrements of his new role as dad. Billie became a first-time father in September.
Billy brought audiences back to the day when he was just a little audience member in That’s, which was how he was discovered by Kuya Germs. “Kuya Niño Muhlach was the one who started everything for me. Nakita lang ako ni Kuya Germs nakakandong kay Kuya Niño,” he shared. He was only four years old when he joined the show as “saling-pusa,” but that started a showbiz career that now spans three decades. “I’m now 38. Thank you That’s for opening that one door that I needed to start my life.”
Donita Rose recalled the lessons she learned through the show that helped her career—a career that at one point got her an international gig as MTV VJ in 1988. “One thing na di ko talaga makalimutan is Kuya Germs and what he made us do in That’s Entertainment. Dahil sa kanya, nagkaroon ako ng confidence to just do things on the spot and that really, really helped me in my job in MTV and even after that,” she shared. “I remember I was asked to do impromptu things—sing, dance on the spot, do a little bit of comedy, acting. I was doing this show called MTV Screen na kailangan tumingin sa green screen pero uma-acting ako.”
Rachel Alejandro, who was part of That’s from age 12 to 15, shared it was through the show that she developed her talent in performing. “It also taught us to make friends, to enjoy a healthy competition, and how to have our own brand and style,” she said. Rachel has been staying in New York since the lockdown, and hopes she could go back home to the Philippines in time for Christmas.
The early years
Lea Salonga, who also joined the “after party” shared her own recollections of those early days before Cameron Macintosh scooped her up. “We were literally konti—like maybe four [members] in a day. We were able to fill the time, kahit mag-two numbers ka, you could, kasi kakaunti lang,” she shared. She mentioned some of the members during her time—JC, Mags and Richard Bonnin, Jonjon Hernandez, Nadia Montenegro, Dranreb Belleza, Richard Bonnin, Ian Veneracion, and Fatima Alvir.
She only has fun memories of show, but also admitted there was a lot of hard work involved, especially in pulling off the production numbers. “It was hectic but a lot of fun. The camaraderie now in showbiz is very different. It was competitive, but never cutthroat, always friendly—that’s what I remember it to be,” she said.
The show was full of talented young stars, she said, like Cristina Paner and Manilyn (“Ang gagaling nilang kumanta!”) who she got to perform with on a Friday, back when there was no Friday group yet. “We would all pile into the recording studio, and we would decide to perform, mabilisang usapan lang. That’s what I mean by that kind of camaraderie. My memories are just so good,” the internationally known theater actress said.
Isko Moreno, now Manila mayor, recalled Kuya Germs’ advice when he was just starting to carve his career in public service. “Alam nyo bang matagal na niya akong gustong mag-mayor?” he revealed to the other That’s members. But being a father figure to “the younger Moreno,” Kuya Germs often reminded him to be discerning of the people he deals with. “Binilinan nya ako, ‘wag kang maniniwala dyan—sinungaling yan!” he said laughing, not mentioning who the impresario was referring to.
The mayor also happily informed the That’s members that the restoration of the Metropolitan Theater, a heritage structure very close to Kuya Germs’s heart, will be finished soon. He invited his co-stars to mount a show there, a tribute to their mentor and the show he founded. An excellent excuse to look forward to another That’s Entertainment reunion, don’t you think, boys and ghels?