Back when I was teenager, in the age when we had cable boxes that had cords attached to them, with actual buttons to change channels, I remember having a movie station called the “Z” channel. It was your run of the mill movie channel, akin to what we called “Home Box Office” back then. (It WAS HBO, but we called it by its full name. Silly 80’s people! ). On many a weekend nights, I watched everything from “The Breakfast Club”, “Weird Science”, “War Games”, “Beetlejuice”, “E.T.”, you name it! And on one occasion, I came across a Michael Keaton movie called “Gung Ho”, a story about a Japanese car manufacturer who decides to come to America to open up a car factory, run by no other than Michael Keaton himself. It was typical Keaton of the 80’s, starring in a quirky, funny, everyday- guy- does- good movie, and in this movie, dealing with the Japanese way of building cars in an American factory. I probably watched it because 1) it was a comedy and I liked Michael Keaton (remember his other 80’s flick “Night Shift” with Henry Winkler?), and 2) it had Asians in it! Whoa! ASIANS in film in the 80’s?! Heck yeah I’m going to watch it.
Basically, it was a story about how Michael Keaton’s character, Hunt Stevenson, helps to open up said Japanese car factory and tries to help his new boss and staff fit into the American way of manufacturing, only to have it back- slap them in the process, trying to fit the american way into the Japanese way of car making, and vice-versa. In it, the main asian cast was a who’s who of asian-american actors of the day, including Sab Shimono, Gedde Watanabe (of “Sixteen Candles” fame), So Yamamura (the big cheese boss!), and a certain Rodney Kageyama, who played a lovable little worker bee who would do anything for the car company even if it meant missing the birth of his on-screen son! It was a funny movie, great for a boring Friday or Saturday night way back in 1986. But what I most remember about it was Rodney’s big scene, where his character, Ito, was dancing on the factory floor with his tie up on his head like a headband, grooving to the song “Jump” by the Pointer Sisters. Of all the scenes, I always thought that was the funniest, and it stuck with me over the years.
That’s Rodney as “Ito” in Gung Ho.
Photo courtesy of Natsukashi.wordpress.com website.
Fast forward about 15 or so years, and I eventually became good friends with Rodney, and upon our first meeting, memories of that old cable box and the “Z” channel sprang up from my teens and I was face to face with “Ito” himself, of Gung Ho fame. Wow. (On a side note, this also happened to me and Tamlyn Tomita, but that’s another story for another time. It’s just weird where life takes you, and who you become friends with. Only in L.A.!)
Fast forward a few more years, to a few days ago when Rodney asked me to photograph him for a big award he’s getting in January for his outstanding community service! Totally deserved He gives so much of his time, efforts, and heart, that it’s not hard to throw accolade after accolade upon him. It truly is an honor to be his friend, and an even greater honor for me to create some portraits for him for that big award he’s getting. We decided on photographing him at the East West Players theater in Little Tokyo, as Rodney is part of the original core of Asian-American actors to have founded the space. What a fitting backdrop for this fun session!
For a few glorious hours, we created these wonderful “Rodney” photos, of which I feel capture the true loving essence of Rodney. Such a joy to photograph, and easily, one of my favorite sessions of all time
Enjoy our efforts, and if you have the time, please look up Rodney Kageyama on the internets and see how diverse his acting career is. You’ve seen him in a lot of projects over the years, trust me
A huge thanks goes out to East West Players for allowing us to use the theater for these photos, to Andy L., Kat C., Tim D. and the rest of the staff as well
Happy holidays everyone! Due to the holidays, I’ll be taking a break till the new year. May your holidays be filled with laughter and joy, and the new year brings you happiness and success Till then, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!