I’ve just read on the news that Stephen Gately, one of the two front men of Boyzone, has passed away. He died in his sleep.
I wasn’t much of a Boyzone fan, though I admit to liking them more than any other boy band in their generation except N*SYNC who was my most favorite then (nothing beats Menudo in my heart, though). I just love some of their songs, my favorite being I Love The Way You Love Me. Between the two Boyzone vocalists, Stephen was the one I preferred. He was my crush among the group, never mind that he was later on revealed to be gay.
I have my own Stephen Gately memory. He came over to our country when his first solo album, New Beginning, was released. Boyzone has been visiting the Philippines even before they became hugely popular (just like the Backstreet Boys; their first visit here was before the boy band craze of the 1990s started in the US), so it was but natural that Stephen – and Ronan Keating – ended up doing promo tours here when they went solo. Stephen was already ‘out’ when he went here but nobody cared. In fact, more people loved him for being true to himself.
I was at Megamall with my friends Ann and Shirley when Stephen did his mall tour there. We weren’t there for him; we were there because one of us – not sure now if it was Ann or Shirley – was celebrating her birthday. I was excited to know that I might have a chance to see Stephen in person, but I wasn’t too excited enough to be like the other fans who painstakingly lined up since morning to gain entrance at the cordoned-off area for the autograph session. Just catching a glimpse of Stephen will do. I simply went on with my business that day.
We were just hanging out at the mall when the time for Stephen’s mini-show came. I told my friends to just wait for me at the coffee shop while I check it out. There was a huge crowd of teenagers – naturally, all Boyzone fans. I came in just when the show was starting. I was giggling like crazy whenever Stephen would raise his hand and do gestures which were so so SO gay. Kulang na lang mag-ala-Sheryl Cruz.
When the autograph session started, an idea came into my head. You see, just a couple of days before that, I was at a government office in Shaw Boulevard for an audit assignment and I always pass by Megamall to catch the bus going home. That day, James Ingram also had an autograph session there and I was able to catch the last few minutes of it. I saw the guards letting some people from outside the cordoned area in to get their albums signed by James. I already have a copy of his album but I ended up buying another copy just to have it signed. I was one of the last people who got an autograph from James Ingram. I figured, maybe it would work with Stephen Gately, too. I ran to the nearest Odyssey and got a copy of his album. After which I went back to the Atrium and tried my luck.
Apparently, James Ingram and Stephen Gately come from two very different universes. James doesn’t have hundreds of teenagers pushing and shoving their way to get in.
I looked for the entrance to the cordoned area – which was severely blocked by screaming Boyzone fans – and tried looking for the teeniest gaps in the crowd to try slipping myself in (not an easy task, given my body size). There was no line whatsoever. Everything was a mess. I wasn’t pushing or anything; I just let my body be swept by the crowd. I heard pleas from the young girls all over me, begging the guard to let them in to have their albums signed. A few minutes after, I was shocked to suddenly find myself right in front of the crowd. The guard saw me, and I guess the perks of being an “older” fan came in. He literally grabbed my arm and let me inside the cordoned area. My face must’ve looked like this: suddenly finding myself away from the crowd and inside that privileged area just a few steps away from Stephen Gately. I waited for my turn, all the while observing what the other fans were doing. I did this because at the James Ingram autograph session, the fan before me stuck out her hand to shake James’ and I heard James and his handlers say, “whoa whoa! Someone got sneaky!” or something along those lines. James shook her hand but he was also mumbling some not-so-nice stuff. Apparently, a handshake wasn’t part of the deal (and apparently, these people thought Filipinos do not understand English ). So to avoid any similar incident – not that I was intending to maul Stephen and kiss him or even touch him – I observed how things were going.
When my turn came, another shock came in. After signing the cassette, Stephen offered his hand for me to shake. It wasn’t like that with the others, who usually were the ones to make the first move. I guess that’s another perk of being an older fan. Stephen was probably so surprised to find someone past 20 years old in that crowd.
(Unfortunately, this tactic will not work on Rain because I am very well aware that a good chunk of his fans are much older than I am.)
I tried looking for that signed cassette now that Stephen is gone. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it anymore. It probably was swept away by Ondoy. The only thing I have left of Stephen is that memory. A very good memory.