Say that aloud at the airport, any airport, or on a plane, any plane, and chances are that you could be handcuffed as a suspected terrorist.
I said “Hi, Jack!” aloud yesterday morning at a receiving room of the spanking-new Novotel Hotel at the Araneta Center in Quezon City and what I got was a warm handshake from Jack Jones who hardly showed any sign of jetlag from the 14-plus hours PAL flight from L.A. Sunday morning with his wife Eleonora.
It’s Jack’s nth time to visit the country, this time also for a concert tonight at the newly-opened Kia Theater (also at the Araneta Center) and tomorrow night (Dec. 30) at the Novotel ballroom. The last time he was here was in February last year for a Valentine concert at Manila Hotel.
He handed me a copy of his album Seriously Frank and sat down for an exclusive interview before he would proceed at the hotel’s third floor for a presscon. In exchange, I gave him two stress balls, one for him and the other for his wife.
“That’s my tribute to Sinatra,” Jack said about the album. “He was my idol. I became a singer because of him.”
I reminded him that he must love the Philippines so much for him to be coming back. Novotel was right beside the Smart-Araneta Coliseum where Jack had his first Philippine concert ages ago. I pointed out the Big Dome to him and asked what fond memories it evoked in him.
“At the risk of repeating myself since I’ve told you about this a few times,” Jack recalled. “The first time I was here, I was invited by Jorge Araneta’s father because of one song. I didn’t know that, no one told me. Some people came up to me and said, ‘Are you going to sing Lorelei?’ I said, ‘No, we don’t have it in our repertoire.’ That song was never a popular hit anywhere else in the world but in the Philippines. The poor guy was in shock, stiffened up and walked away. ‘Find out what’s going on here,’ I told my driver.
“The guy came back and said, ‘Jack, you better sing Lorelei.’ I already knew so I tried to put the guy on and kidded him, ‘No, I’m not going to sing Lorelei. Give me one reason why I should sing Lorelei.’ The guy told me, ‘That’s why you are here because of Lorelei.’ So I sang it, hahahaha!”
I told him that Lorelei was such a big hit around here that in 1974, a few months after the Miss Universe pageant was staged here, a movie was inspired by it starring Miss Finland Johanna Raunio (who represented her country in the Miss Universe pageant held here for the first time a few months earlier) with model Raul Roa as leading man.
“Since then, I became close to the Aranetas,” continued Jack whose retelling of the stories sounds like new every time. (He told The STAR those stories in several previous interviews.) “So I’ve been singing Lorelei in my concerts and even included it in one of my albums.”
For sure, Jack will be singing Lorelei in his two concerts, including his other enduring hits such as Impossible Dream and What I Did For Love.
In the past half century, Jack has been performing in various venues, starting at the Big Dome and then at the Folk Arts Theater and Manila Hotel.
“The Araneta Coliseum is memorable to me because when I performed there I was starting in my career. It was overwhelming because at that time it was the biggest building in the area.”
Another memorable concert was the one for charity that Jack did for then First Lady Imelda Marcos at the Manila Hotel.
“That’s where I met Imelda,” said Jack.
Asked if he dedicated a song for Madame Imelda, Jack smiled.
“I did the whole show for her!”
Years later, when he saw Madame Imelda walked in to watch Jack’s another show at the Big Dome, he greeted her almost yelling, “Hey, Imelda!” Madame Imelda showed up to watch his concert at another show at the Big Dome. “My wife was shocked because back in those days, you didn’t address her that way. But Imelda was such a nice lady. She said, ‘Hi, Jack. How are you?’ My wife couldn’t believe it!”
Jack and Eleonora, together with their kids, spent Christmas in their Palm Springs home in California. The celebration was rudely interrupted by his engagement here but Jack said he didn’t mind.
“We could always make up for it next year.”
What could be his most impossible dream and how did he realize it?
“When I talk about my album Seriously Frank, I say that the songs on it are not the usual songs that Sinatra would sing. I thought it was an impossible dream to record those songs in an album. These are the songs that I grew up with in high school. Frank’s daughter Nancy Jr. was in the same school with me. One day, she invited me to watch her father’s show. That was the moment that I decided to be a singer full time. That I would be a singer, thanks to Frank.”
What was the best thing that he did for love?
“Marrying my wife,” replied Jack without a second thought.
And the worst thing that he did for love?
“Too many worst things to single out just one,” he laughed.
Is Lorelei in his song a real woman?
“Lorelei is the siren in an old German lore…it’s about how a man can be mesmerized by a wonderful figure who is almost an apparition.”
I wondered, does Jack still make a New Year resolution just like what Filipinos do (force of habit, you know)?
“I’d rather keep it to myself,” he smiled again. “Hmmm, let me see, I think I will come up with one. Anyway, I will have two New Year’s Eves, one here and the other one when I go back to the States.”
Jack and Eleonora are flying back home Thursday night (again via PAL), Dec. 31. They will arrive in L.A. still on Thursday, Dec. 31.
After the interview, Jack excused himself to go to the bathroom. He was singing Lorelei along the way. A few minutes later, he came out, yes, still singing Lorelei.
Really now, who can she be the Lorelei? Why is it me who hears her sigh…?
(E-mail reactions at email@example.com. You may also send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more updates, photos and videos visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on www.twitter/therealrickylo.) PHOTOS by RICKY LO