Spotlighting Follows Filipino Pop Band the Sunspots and Their Dreams of Success as Entertainers
Spotlighting , an entertaining and touching tribute to the long career of Filipino Pop Band the Sunspots, airs on
PBS this May as part of the Center for Asian American Media's first rate lineup of films for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. (Check local listings.)
The Sunspots seemed to be well on their way to success in the 1960s. The band was famous in Okinawa, Japan, and Korea as well as in their home country, the Philippines. They had landed a contract with one of the best agencies in America, played in the Latin Quarter in New York City, and were scheduled to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show. Directors Josh Diamond and Justin Lin (Better Luck Tomorrow and Annapolis ) trace the rise of the Sunspots and show how close the band came to worldwide success in this new documentary. The film shows the group in their early days, competing in local talent contests to playing American bases throughout Asia. Their success at the military bases led to a big tour in the U.S., playing in countless cities during the 1950s and 60s. The band even caught the attention of Ed Sullivan and Johnny Carson. But the Sunspots never got that "lucky break." Instead, a strike cancelled their appearance on Ed Sullivan and their management decided that instead of going on Johnny Carson, it would be better for them to go on the road as the opening act for Al Hirt and his jazz band. And, of course, the U.S. was hit by the British Invasion the Beatles. We couldve been the Yellow Beatles! exclaim the Sunspots. But instead, they band stayed on the road, playing clubs in the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and so on. If we were white, we would be somewhere, says one band member. The Sunspots eventually settled in Las Vegas where they have played in the Omaha Lounge of the Plaza Hotel for ten years, developing a deeply loyal following. Entertain[ing] people is about as successful as you can get, says one band member. And if thats a measure for success, then Spotlighting shows that the Sunspots have achieved the pinnacle of success in their profession.
The Center for Asian American Media (formerly known as the National Asian American Telecommunications Association) has a new director. A fond farewell to Eddie Wong and a hearty welcome to Stephen Gong. Gong, 53, joins the Center after working for 18 years at the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, most recently as the Deputy Director. He has a degree in English from UC Berkeley and attended graduate school in cinema studies at the University of Southern California. www.asianamericanmedia.org.