Remember Spanky Rigor? It’s a name only guys who grew up in the 70s and watched a lot of TV in the 80s would recall. Spanky is one of those many lanky, bemoustached guys of the era, but he is most remembered for being a comedian in the gag show T.O.D.A.S. (props to those who could still recite what the acronym stands for without Googling), and more importantly as the S in VST and Company—one of the great bands that defined Manila Sound.
We mention the VST singer, producer, songwriter, bass guitarist Spanky because we just chanced upon a great, moving short documentary on his life—or at least on what happened after he left the country more than 30 years ago. It’s on YouTube and it’s called My Uncle Spanky, The Rockstar Who Left It All Behind, a feature from Pop-up Magazine, written by Spanky’s nephew Albert Samaha.
So where is Spanky now? He’s working at the San Francisco Airport as a baggage handler, it turns out, and he’s been at it for three decades, reports Samaha. The short feature then proceeds to tell the ex-musician slash comedian’s life story, beginning from his growing up years outside Manila until he meets the V and T of VST in the capital: Vic and Tito Sotto.
The three guys hit it off—the Sotto brothers are impressed with his ear for music—and they form a band, distinguishing themselves from the other music groups of the era by specializing in disco which was exploding at the time. They make “Awitin Mo, Isasayaw Ko,” “Swing,” “Tayo’y Magsayawan”—all hits. Spanky’s fame eventually spills out to other ventures like TV hosting and the movies. It was the Marcos years and, as his nephew says, his Uncle Spanky looked at his job as help to relieve the fears many Filipinos were experiencing during Martial law.
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But when Spanky’s mother-in-law decided to migrate to the US, followed by his wife, his eventual visits to San Francisco drew him more and more to the allure of living there. They bought a house in Vallejo California, and for a while it was a paradise of close-family ties and barbecues on weekends.
We’ll let Spanky’s very talented nephew Samaha take the storytelling from here—which is really the point of this article. We really want you to see the documentary, whether you’re a VST fan or just a Manila Sound devotee. It’s a very good feature, in both the telling and the very important questions it raises about the price of fame and how we define success. We dove into it expecting an E! True Hollywood Story—we came away getting so much more.