Mar 04
SLEEPLESS STARS by Vincent M. Ragay  |  Posted in Articles  |  on Wed, Mar 4, 2009

My first encounter with celebrity stars at work was in my high school years. One of those adolescent night-outs, after a caroling stint with classmates. The gang decided to stay overnight on the monument base of the Quezon Memorial Circle in Diliman, Quezon City, just hanging out, playing cards, singing and drinking.

Our old school then was an old, rented shoe-box building nearby, one of the many government buildings around the monument. It was our neighborhood and we felt confident we could stake out there without any problem. The sky was clear, the night endless and we were young.

So were Guy and Pip. As it happened, they were filming on-location around the monument for several hours around and past midnight. Headstrong and arrogant, we jeered at the movie stars who were too busy to notice us. We prided ourselves of being not “bakya” (cheesy), although my friends didn’t know I watched Guy and Pip now and then on TV. With four sisters and a mother who were fans and three brothers who were out most of the time, I didn’t have much choice during primetime.

That night was the very first time I lost a night’s sleep, not ogling stars but having fun with friends. (And trying to evade a police patrol which had parked near us at dawn and which we thought were after us). But I would soon learn that it was a common practice for actors to stay up late to do filming and other related work such as dubbing and recording songs. Eventually, I would mess up my own bio-rhythm by staying up late quite often to record an indie album of my songs in the late ‘90s. I did not become a star though. Just sleepless and disoriented. Yet happy for having done something I had always wanted to do.

The first celebrity star labeled as “bituing walang tulog”, if I am not mistaken, was Judy Ann Santos. Or it might have been Nora Aunor long before her. Or Niño Mulach. It doesn’t matter — they were all willing victims, to a certain degree, to a lifestyle which disrupts normal sleeping patterns, not to mention normal life patterns. It is often surmised that for Niño, staying up late kept him from growing normally. Other effects, I suppose, could not be easily observed by adoring fans and cruel critics alike.

Aptly labeled after those brilliant celestial bodies, entertainers work mostly at night and sleep during the day. That was especially true then when TV was not around. Today, they sleep much of the morning away and work at noontime, too. The producers and managers must grind them for all they are worth, it seems.

Yes, becoming a star (or an artist) is by no means a common or normal profession gauging from what conservative schools and traditional norms dictate. In my youth, it was uncommon to see movie stars who had college degrees. The 60’s matinee idol, Joseph “Erap” Estrada, skipped college to become a star and eventually became president. Many of our young stars today conscientiously acquire a college education to build their character and to provide themselves a better foundation for the future. Hence, Juday, a graduate of Culinary Arts, could always put up her own Inasal or Inihaw chain of restaurants she can manage when she has grandchildren. For now, she probably has to lose more sleeping time for every working day – uh, night, rather – she faces.

But with stars gaining more privileges and claiming more rights for themselves, times may have changed toward normalizing or regularizing the work schedules of our celebrities. That is, as long as the networks or producers are made to understand the genuine health and personal needs of their wards. And as long as stars know what is really good for them and do not get caught up in the race toward irrational wealth and fame, they will serve to make the movie and entertainment industry a stable and respectable career worth pursuing.

Whoever said one has to lose sleep in order to make a film? What do we have CGI for? Or, if we can’t afford that and giant studio-sets to keep the privacy of film productions, we can always find creative means of going around obstacles. As the factory sign says: Health and safety first!

Findings show that for the first few nights of sleeplessness, a person usually eats more to counter the effects of energy loss and gains weight in the process. This is apparent among Call Center workers who, without aiming to become stars, stay awake at night to make more money than most ordinary employees nowadays. However, after a while, a person who progressively builds up his or her sleep-debt will eat and eat and not gain because the body no longer responds normally. Irreversible damage could ensue unless one recovers the deficit.

So, we wonder if some weight-conscious stars really need to call Dr. Belo or use slimming drugs if their sleeping habits already force them to lose weight. Or per-haps, they maintain a constant rest-deficit that keeps them eating and gaining weight, thus leading them to the liposuction option. We know for a fact that the stars in the heavens neither gain nor lose weight; they just burn themselves away whether we pay them any attention or not. But they have thousands of years left before they collapse while their human counterparts only have a decade or even a few years to make the most of the glittering time and benefits.

Stars do try to catch up on their sleep but because of the demand (which can always be denied if they want to) on their time, many end up abusing their bodies and turn to unhealthful means (read: drugs, surgery and loads of stimulants) to keep awake or remain, well, bankable. And because of the lucrative wellness industry, more and more of them have learned to live right, eat right and rest enough for their own good.

But it takes two to tango, so they say. In movie-making, it also takes two to shine – the producer who provides the light and the star who must reflect that light well. Take away that light and the star will fade. Conversely, put too much light upon it or energize a star beyond its capacity to produce brilliance and it will wither.

Or, as in the other strategy obviously used by the networks goes, make use of as many new bright stars as you can and gain a few who will shine bright and long enough to sustain or justify the investments. Celebrities can only protect them-selves so much against calculated abuse on their health and time. Stars, beware!

In the end, superstars will come and go. Every earthly glory will pass. And each heavenly star will lose its radiance in time. Only then can it sleep soundly in the dark.

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