Rocky Gathercole, 54: ‘He was a good soul’

At New York Fashion Week in 2018. Facebook photo.

By Cristina DC Pastor

Victor Palmos was awakened by a call at 5:30 a.m. A photographer asked if it was true his friend Rocky Gathercole has died. Victor couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He and Rocky were just on Messenger eight hours before!

Frantic calls to the Philippines confirmed the news: His long-time friend, “a good soul,” has died following what is being reported as a heart attack. 

“According to his housekeeper he was supposed to have an appointment with his doctor that day,” he shared. “He slipped in the bathroom.”

Victor met ‘designer to the stars’ Rocky in 2015 in New York. They became fast friends because of shared acquaintances in the modeling industry. Victor became Rocky’s go-to hair and make-up artist whenever he’s in New York. The cushy business partnership turned into a deep and durable friendship.

Victor Palmos doing hair and makeup for Rocky’s model. Facebook photo.

“I talk to him every single day,” said Victor, a prominent fashion stylist in New York.

Rocky was raised by his British father Ike Gathercole after his mother left the family. Suffering verbal and physical abuse whenever his father came home drunk, Rocky left home at age 14 and took on whatever jobs he could find on or off the streets. He worked as a waiter, a bus boy, a jeepney barker. “At a young age he worked as a waiter in a Japanese restaurant in Makati,” said Victor.

The abuse as well as Rocky’s burgeoning ambition propelled his decision to leave home, he said.

Rocky knew he had talent with pencil sketching and illustrations but he wasn’t sure what to do with it. A family friend who knew what gifted hands he possessed put him in touch with employers in the Middle East looking for designers. From Dubai, Rocky’s reputation as an unorthodox designer spread in the region. Soon he was earning acclaim as an “avant garde” creative associated with adjectives like “edgy” and “experimental.” His clients grew to incude Middle Eastern royalty and Hollywood celebrities, such as Jennifer Lopez, Cardi B, and Paris Hilton.

 “He was hired by the team of Lady Gaga to do her outfit for an upcoming concert,” said Victor. Sometimes, Rocky would talk to him about Katy Perry, Britney Spears, and Nicki Minaj. “Hay, nakakaloka.”

“He loves doing beautiful creations,” he said. “He has natural-born talent. He is the only designer I know who is busy during COVID. He did JLo’s red gown for Christmas 2020.”

Victor confirmed that Rocky has a son from a woman he had a relationship with decades ago. “Rocky was good-looking when he was younger. He looked like (actor) Albert Martinez,” he said.  As far as he knows, Rocky was not in any serious relationship. “He has no partner, pa date date lang, like me.”

“Walang bisyo, he never smoked, and only drank socially.”

Victor, who is not done crying, said Rocky has so many unfinished projects. “This wonderful creature is unstoppable when it comes to work. He will always remain in my heart.”

Forever Business Owner: Nieva Quezon Burdick

© The FilAm 2021

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