Wednesday, October 22, 2014
I had the distinct privilege of going to the HUB in Asakusa on Tuesday, October 21, to see Shinichi Yanagisawa sing and play drums in his jazz band live and in person. The former Shochiku actor sang several jazz tunes in English and did an excellent job!
While he was on drums, Yanagisawa-san spotted me in the audience and greeted me. After the set, I had a pleasant chat with Yanagisawa-san and saxophone player Kyoichi Watanabe. I'm still in the process of transcribing last month's interview, but I hope to have it completed in the near future.
Shinichi Yanagisawa played Miyamoto in The X from Outer Space (1967), but he also appeared in films made by all the major studios in Japan: Toho, Shochiku, Daiei, Toei, and Nikkatsu. He got his start as a jazz singer before making the transition to acting in the 1950s.
All in all, it was great to visit Yanagisawa-san again, who is as friendly and genuine as people come. I hope to get many more opportunities to see him in the future!
Saturday, October 18, 2014
Like all other Godzilla fans, I was shocked to learn of the recent passing of actress Anna Nakagawa at the age of 49. Cancer has taken her life, but her spirit will live on in her movies and TV dramas. The daughter of director Harunosuke Nakagawa (who helmed several episodes of Ultra Q), Nakagawa-san would make her own mark in the tokusatsu world by starring in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991) as Emmy, the good-hearted Futurian who ends up piloting Mecha-King Ghidorah.
I was privileged to interview Nakagawa-san in February 2012. Nakagawa-san spoke at length about her memories of the film, which were quite fascinating. The interview was eventually published in G-FAN magazine. Before the interview, Nakagawa-san gave me a Cast Co. bromide card set of King Ghidorah, one of which she signed for me. Suffice it to say, I'll treasure her signature.
A chance encounter on the Odakyu Line in March 2013 proved to be my last time meeting Nakagawa-san. Photo by Brett Homenick.
Nakagawa-san and I were connected on Facebook, and occasionally we'd exchange messages and like each other's photos. I always hoped for another opportunity to see her, but given her busy schedule, it was never to be. I'll always remember the time we did get to spend together and the generosity she showed me.
Rest in peace, Nakagawa-san.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Spending time with Cleo Melchior at the Melchior residence in July 2012. This photo was taken the night before I left Los Angeles.
Born on June 1, 1927, Cleo worked as a landscape architect who specialized in designing swimming pools. She had several celebrity clients, some of whom she told me about over many dinners we would have together.
I first met Mrs. Melchior in September 2009 when I traveled to Los Angeles to visit some friends. This was shortly after I relocated to Rancho Mirage, CA, after a four-year stay in North Dakota. In 2008, I interviewed Ib Melchior for G-FAN magazine about his monster movies, and shortly thereafter I also reviewed his book Melchior A La Carte for the magazine. When I moved back to California, Ib kindly invited me to stay at his home if I wanted to come to L.A. Of course, I readily accepted the invitation.
I spent the night at Ib and Cleo's house and was privileged to get to know them. But that was only the beginning. Over the next year and a half, I would visit the Melchiors several times, staying at their home when I would come to the L.A. area.
With Cleo and Ib Melchior at a book signing for Ib's book Six Cult Films from the Sixties in June 2010.
Thoughts of my last moments at the Melchiors' home has been running through my mind ever since I read the heart-breaking news. Cleo Melchior was like a grandmother to me, and I'll always remember her warmth, kindness, and humor. She and Ib were a great couple, and I'm so glad they were able to find each other. If you didn't believe in the concept of soulmates before meeting the Melchiors, you would have afterward. They were a perfect pair.
As much as I could go on about Cleo, words seem so futile to me now. Those of us who knew and loved Cleo mourn her loss, and we send our condolences to Ib.
Sunday, October 12, 2014
Today I attended a talk show and signing event in Nakano, Tokyo. Held on the 15th floor of the Sun Plaza (right next door to the Nakano Broadway Mall), the three major Godzilla suit actors were the guests of honor. Haruo Nakajima, Kenpachiro Satsuma, and Tsutomu Kitagawa were big hits with the fans, as they happily signed autographs and posed for photos!
Following a talk show session, all three suit actors signed autographs for their fans. The first suit actor I met in line was Kenpachiro Satsuma, who played Godzilla from 1984-1995. I had Satsuma-san sign my DVD sleeve of Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973), in which he plays Gigan. Satsuma-san's signature joins those of Katsuhiko Sasaki, Yutaka Hayashi, Teruyoshi Nakano, Ulf Otsuki, and Riichiro Manabe! I also purchased a copy of Satsuma-san's book and had that signed as well.
Posing with Kenpachiro Satsuma, who not only played the Heisei Godzilla, but also Hedorah and Gigan!
Next for me was meeting Haruo Nakajima, the original Godzilla suit actor from 1954-1972. I had Nakajima-san sign my Blu-ray sleeve for King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), as well as a copy of his brand-new photo book, which contains many incredible still shots from Nakajima-san's acting career. When I approached his table, Nakajima-san's daughter, Sonoe, whispered to her father who I was, and Nakajima-san greeted me with a big smile.
Then we took several photos like the one below. The last several times I've met Nakajima-san, we've always taken photos like this. It's practically a tradition now!
The final guest for me was Millennium series suit actor Tsutomu Kitagawa, who played Godzilla from 1999-2004 (minus GMK). Kitagawa-san was also very friendly and welcoming. He signed my Godzilla: Final Wars (2004) DVD sleeve.
When I was about to leave, a surprise guest showed up -- none other than Robert Scott Field! That's right, M11 from Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991) happened to be in Tokyo at the time and was invited to attend by Kitagawa-san. Scott spent a lot of time catching up with Satsuma-san as well as Kitagawa-san. Interestingly, this marks the first time I've actually seen Scott in Japan. But, considering he lives in Osaka, that's not too surprising!
Overall, it was a fun event, and the highlight was getting to see old friends and great guests. I hope to attend more such events in the future.
I was recently invited to view a performance on Bin Furuya's new stage play at in Asakusa, which recently wrapped. Its title, which translates as "Under the Sky of the Six Wards," was a postwar tale of Japan with plenty of humor but also some dramatic moments.
Seeing Furuya-san's play gave me a chance to see him sing and even perform some tap-dancing! I've known for a long time that Furuya-san was a man of many talents, but he continues to prove it in all he does!
A leaflet for "Under the Sky of the Six Wards," starring Bin Furuya, which ran from October 8 through October 10.
A couple of days after seeing the play, Furuya-san called me to thank me for coming out to see it. It, of course, was my pleasure. But Furuya-san is the real deal, so his phone call was just a reflection of the gentleman he is.
Sunday, October 5, 2014
Sunday, October 5, saw a celebration of Godzilla, Akira Takarada, Akira Ifukube, and just about everything else in the genre take place at Cue Studio in Ueno, Tokyo. Akira Takarada was the guest of honor, but also in attendance were Godzilla suit actor Kenpachiro Satsuma, director and creature creator Tomo Haraguchi, Kyoko Ifukube (Maestro Ifukube's daughter), and artist Yuji Kaida.
Everyone in attendance (including the other special guests!) each got a chance to speak with Takarada-san on the microphone. It was quite a sight to see Godzilla (and Hedorah and Gigan!) speak with Takarada-san!
Tomo Haraguchi also offered his praise for Takarada-san. I was pleased to see two giants of the Heisei kaiju universe pay tribute to one of the greatest figures from the Showa era.
The obligatory buddy shot! After getting some things signed, it was picture time! I should mention that when it was my turn to speak, I presented Takarada-san with a poster for Salaryman Chushingura (1960), in which he was one of the stars. He was delighted to receive it!
While it was my first time to meet Haraguchi-san, I've briefly met Satsuma-san at Super Festival. I got to communicate with Satsuma-san a bit more through our mutual friend Tsuyuki. Satsuma-san was his usual gregarious self!
Even Kyoko Ifukube wanted an autograph from Takarada-san! The great composer's daughter was very excited to get this lovely shikishi board signed by the Godzilla series' biggest star.
And that's a wrap! What a great event! I was taken by surprise by all the additional guests. Truth be known, I thought Takarada-san would be the only guest, so the addition of so many bonus guests was the icing on the cake!
The highlights for me were catching up with Takarada-san and getting to know Satsuma-san much better. This event far exceeded my expectations, and I had a wonderful time. I eagerly await the next one!
October 4 marks the third year in a row that I have been privileged to attend the birthday party for Teruyoshi Nakano, the Toho SFX director who helmed the Godzilla series in the 1970s through Godzilla 1985. Despite what is often posted on the Internet, Nakano-san's birthday takes place on October 9.
Nakano-san's celebration took place in a cafe near Yomiuriland-mae Station in Kawasaki, Kanagawa. For the entire "talk show" portion of the event, Nakano-san talked about two of his favorite movies: The Third Man (1949) and Our Very Own (1950). After the talk show was completed, Nakano-san signed copies of his book, of which I'm happy to say I am now a proud owner!
When I posed for the above photo, Nakano-san said, "Family." Suffice it to say, I was humbled. So long as I'm in Japan, I'll always make it out to Nakano-san's birthday parties. I'm a Teruyoshi Nakano guy! Many thanks to my good friend Yasushi!