Not only was Dale a kilabot in the early ‘60s long before Jun Polistico, Hajji Alejandro and Marco Sison, he was also a brilliant singer who could play various musical instruments – all without any formal schooling.
He was also being billed as the Frank Sinatra sound-alike as was the practice in those days, except that Dale gave Sinatra’s songs his own flavor and interpretation. In 1962, he left for Hong Kong, then proceeded to England after being discovered by a songwriter based in London. He continued this life of an itinerant, to follow his destiny, so to speak, reappearing every now and then to do shows in the country, then moving on again.
In 1967, he returned to join Pilita Corrales and the Wing Duo in the front act for the infamous Beatles Concert that made headlines around the world. We remember this story vividly since it was as comic as it was surreal, and so very Pinoy. Apparently, then First Lady Imelda Marcos had prepared a bash to honor the Beatles after the concert, but they did not appear. This perceived “snub” so incensed the Pinoys who decided en masse to show their disgust by withdrawing all support for the famous group. If they were welcomed with music, smiles, sampaguita leis, hordes of fans and school children lining the avenues, they left a virtually empty city, with no one on the streets, no official escort, no porters at the airport to help carry their bags.
His travels around the world took Dale to Asia, Europe, Australia, the US. In each of these countries, Dale distinguished himself with outstanding performances. In each of these places, he also picked himself a wife. The Portuguese-Venezuelan living in the Philippines was wife No. 1, Erlinda whom he left behind in ‘62. British Rita whom he met in England was wife No. 2. Then followed wife No. 3, the British Australian Rebecca with whom he had many interesting escapades from Darwin to Sydney in Australia. Wife No. 4 was Ruby, the American who lived with him in North Hollywood. Wife No. 5 is Odette, the Filipina who is his current partner, with whom he says he is determined to make good his marriage vows. He has six children – two girls with the first wife, and four boys with the third wife.
Wiith each wife, Dale encountered the highs and lows of his career and personal life that could fill up volumes. While married to Erlinda, Dale was accused of kidnapping with rape for an involvement with a minor. It was a tedious battle with court hearings that ended only when the minor retracted all accusations.
His British sojourn started while playing at the Ambassador Hotel HK. A HK haberdashery owner had recommended Dale to his wife, a songwriter in England for whom he recorded some songs which reached the attention of Norman Smith who later became the R & R of Parlophone, the label that distributed the Beatles first recordings. Naturally, this led to Dale’s five-year contract with the label and connections unparalleled for a Filipino at that time.
In Australia, he acquired Australian citizenship in 1971 and topbilled shows at the Motor Club on George Street in Sydney. Apparently, the club was run by the mafia, who set him up in a penthouse overlooking the Sydney Harbor Bridge, changed his name to Gene Santana (because they found he looked like Santana), and went to town promoting this singer who looked like Santana and sounded like Sinatra. They billed the show Frank Sinatra in Technicolor starring Gene Santana.
“The money was good until I could not bear it any longer. The chefs calling me Gene, everyone calling me Gene. I told them I wanted to go back to Dale Adriatico. They said, ‘What’s the matter with you…Adriatico? That’s Italian’. They really wanted me to be Gene Santana. The worst thing was when they bought a record of Sinatra live at the Sands and wanted me to copy it. I said no! I’m not gonna do it. I want my life back. You guys are controlling my life. So I walked out after six months. I thought I was gonna be shot because no one walks out on the mafia and lives,” Dale tells us.
By an unprecedented stroke of luck, they allowed him to leave, just taking away his penthouse. Dale found a job at the small Barbarian Restaurant, which strangely enough the mafiosi would patronize and try to convince him to return.
After Australia, the vagabond in Dale brought him back to the Philippines in time for martial law to be lifted in 1978. He worked with Bing Soledad, joined Vic del Rosario’s talents together with Rico J., Basil, Mike Hanopol and Dulce, then left again in 1980 and stayed abroad for 18 years.
It was back to Australia, then Hawaii where Dale met the Hawaiian mafiosi who brought him to Los Angeles, had him met at the airport by a limo driven by his son “so I could teach him culture,” and opened lots of doors. Naturally, Dale reached Las Vegas where he performed in several shows including the Golden Nugget, where Sinatra once dropped by in 1985 to listen to him, and North Hollywood where he turned Christian and bought a mansion once owned by Elvis Presley.
In the company of wife No. 4, Dale was making lots of money, even opened up his own acting and singing school. In 1999, Eddie Mercado who visited L.A. convinced him to return to Manila which Dale did, against his better judgment. His restless nature must have gotten the better of him. He abandoned his wife and everything he owned for the past 18 years – the mansion in North Hollywood, the Mercedes Benz, and the three Jaguars. So very like Dale, we mused.
Earning P60,000 per show at the Parañaque Casino, Dale got the shock of his life upon converting it to US dollars. To top it all, the distraught wife back in the US allowed the mansion to be padlocked by the bank after missing several payments on the mortgage, and Dale was left with practically nothing.
Looking back, Dale tells us, “It was God’s plan. If this didn’t happen, I would have been just a lukewarm Christian. It’s like I was being whacked on my behind. I got beautiful vehicles, my wife was voted one of the 10 most beautiful women in Hollywood, I had a beautiful house, Jaguars. So mayabang na ako. ”
He opened a restaurant in Makati, and met Odette, a pretty young and spunky girl who became his secretary. Love blossomed even while Dale had returned to the US. He remembers burning telephone lines and exchanging text messages from New York with Odette in the Philippines. He wanted to bring her back with him and was waiting for the chance for Imelda Papin to include Odette in her entourage.
But this didn’t happen. One of the congregation members in New York offered a temporary place in Susanna Heights for them to stay. So Dale returned to be with Odette, but soon after, the owner returned and they found themselves on the streets once again.
“I had a small Toyota 1980 model, and called it our Porche Kalawang. That was our home for two months, parking in front of the Luneta Grandstand, then going to some friends to have showers,” recounts Dale of this weird chapter in his life. ” We persevered. That’s my life. I’m used to it. But Odette was having a difficult time.” As always, someone out of the blue came to the rescue. A Korean said they could stay with her.
Today Dale Adriatico splits his time between Australia and the Philippines devoting himself to various film and music projects.