Written and photographed
By Jude Thaddeus L. Bautista
For her Aphrodite concert last July 5, 2011, Kylie Minogue proved that she has the immense talent and beauty worthy of the Greek goddess of love, beauty and sensuality. Filipino fans got their fill of a spectacular show that included trapeze artists and an incredible stage at the storied Araneta Coliseum. Upon her arrival Minogue also patiently answered questions of TV reporters, before she was whisked off to her hotel at EDSA Shangri La.Sometimes it’s the people around the artists that give them a bad reputation and this is definitely what happened with Kylie.
I was fortunate enough to be assigned as official photographer by Wilbros Live, the local organizer of the concert. Wilbros has a track record of bringing in top notch foreign acts that include, Janet Jackson, rapper Flo Rida, Jay Park, Sean Kingston, T-Pain, Kelly Rowland and many more. They also organized the talk of former U.S. President Bill Clinton, with whom I had the privilege of shooting as well.
Midas Productions’ Mel Tyler was with us in the vehicle on the way from the airport to the hotel. Midas books and coordinates foreign artists who perform here in the Philippines. He suggested that I photograph Kylie getting off the car as well. We were to go into the basement area to avoid possible fans from bothering her. As we approached I already saw an EDSA Shangri La Hotel Exec ready to welcome Kylie. This was a great photo op which I knew I should shoot instinctively as a professional. I even fired a test shot of the Executive before Kylie was even there.
Just then a tall balding guy beside Kylie looked at me and yelled, “No pictures!” So I relented not wanting to cause any friction. Since it was the basement there was no other exit for pedestrians except through the elevator to the lobby. And so I walked quietly behind the party making sure NOT to take any more pictures. And yet, another man with white hair clearly overweight and in his senior years, glared at me and said, “Get out! Do you understand get out? Get out of here.” The white haired senior citizen I would later find out was Kylie’s manager Terry Blamey and the balding guy as Steve Dixon whom I’m assuming is her security guy. Talk about perfect names for their attitudes, I did not make them up!
He didn’t seem to understand that I didn’t have anywhere else to ‘get out’ of except through the same exit and elevator where they were passing through as well. I didn’t get mad because earlier Janice Dee, who also coordinated the crew and performers, explained to me their punishing schedule. The tour had come from Bangkok, Singapore, Taipei in less than a week or so. I just assumed the old man was stressed out and thought nothing of it.
The following day, hours before the concert itself I was inside the venue checking the designated area for photographers. Head of Wilbros, Winston Llamas gladly saw me and requested for a photo in front of the elaborate set up on the stage. We were probably ten rows away from the stage itself and I snapped a few. Winston was kind enough to include a bouncer in one of the photos. After Winston stepped out of the arena, Blamey and Dixon approached me and my co-photographer Chris Lucas. They asked who gave us our access pass that was prominently displayed around our necks and confiscated them. Blamey yelled at me again, “You were at the hotel yesterday weren’t you?” I said, “Yes, Wilbros hired me to do it.” Dixon said, “We don’t allow any kind of photography whatsoever for the concert. You have to come with me and you have to leave the premises.”
After shooting for Wilbros several times including Janet Jackson and former President Bill Clinton, this was the only time we’d ever heard of such a thing. But I kept my cool and went with them backstage, but not before I called Wilbros people to let them know what was happening.
If it weren’t for the previous successful coverage that I’ve had with Wilbros, I may have just walked away from it out of disgust with the arrogance of these two people working for Kylie. I was more concerned with the need to document the concert for post event purposes for Wilbros than my bruised ego. Not long after, Winston assured me that I was still shooting the concert and pulled me backstage again for the meet and greet.
This time the meet and greet was severely limited and I was only supposed to shoot Winston, Glenn and their siblings with Kylie. Usually there’s a long line of VIPs that include sponsors etc but not in this case. It’s customary for the brothers to present their guest artist with a framed prayer signed by no less than Pope Benedict himself. As Glenn was handing it over to Kylie, naturally I was taking pictures and yet ANOTHER female assistant was tapping me on the shoulder saying, “That’s enough pictures!” Kylie herself said, “Oh we need to take a picture of this gift with them,” and posed gamely with her bright smile. Then Glenn asked for a solo pic for each of the four brothers with Kylie and she was only too happy to do it.
With the ambush interview in the airport and the meet and greet, Kylie herself showed that there didn’t have to be this paranoid attitude with picture taking. But her manager very appropriately named Terry Blamey antagonizes people with his attitude. And those who may not be as kind or open minded may attribute or attach his antagonism with that of the artist he manages. Blamey has a permanent scowl on his face as my picture from the airport will reveal. He doesn’t seem to care if his own actions will reflect on the artist that he purportedly ‘manages.’ I can understand protecting her from paparazzi. And yet he is unable to make the distinction between the paparazzi and an official photographer such as myself hired by the local organizer.
In my opinion, the Aphrodite tour was the most elaborate, well designed, choreographed concert I had ever seen. Everything befitted the talent, performing skills, attractiveness and sexual appeal of Kylie Minogue. But what is the worth of all that if your manager antagonizes and isolates the very people who bring the images and write the stories about your wonderful show? How will people get to know about it if not for the media?
The irony was that later on, when I was shooting the concert itself, there was a tall Caucasian guy shooting the concert with an amateur video cam. This guy was clearly unauthorized, he did not have a pass or ID of any sort prominently displayed to identify himself. One of my co-photographers Sherwin Guzman had a similar pass around his neck (like mine). It was also confiscated and was prohibited from shooting. It was taken by another one of Kylie’s entourage.
The question that arises is how could they miss this 6’2’’ tall Caucasian shooting video near the stage and yet be able to see Sherwin Guzman at the Lower box section? Were Kylie’s people specifically targeting darker skinned photographers such as me and Sherwin while letting Caucasians shoot unabated? Where does their ‘no photography of any sort’ rule come in’? Are they going to ban cell phones, i-phones etc that have built in cameras too? No fan would attend their concert, if they enforced that.
Chris Lucas aptly described it via a Filipino saying: “Kala ng langaw mas mataas siya sa kalabaw na tinutungtungan niya. (The fly thinks he is higher than the oxen he is atop of)” We all love Kylie that’s why I wrote this out of genuine concern for her. There will be many more people in other countries who will come into contact with Blamey and ‘Dick’son. I sincerely hope they don’t take it out on Kylie.