Monday, July 5, 2010

Identity on the Catwalk, Part 2

One of my problems with being a performer/actor-type in Los Angeles is that I am easily starstruck. It's difficult for me, sometimes, to let well known actors just be regular people if I get the chance to meet them.

Mr. T was one of the male models in the fashion show fund raiser for Nisei Week. He is a prominent actor and director, and a standout celebrity in the Asian American acting community. A highlight of his impressive career was winning the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short, Visas and Virtues, in which he starred, directed, and co-wrote.

He is an obvious role model for Asian American men, as much for his good looks and physique as for his accomplished career.

I had met Mr. T before, at other fund raisers and theater events, but only briefly. It had been years since I had last seen him, and I doubted that he would remember me. I was happy that we would have the chance to work more directly together, even if for only one afternoon.

Theater friends had told me that Mr. T is "a nice guy" but not very sociable. Even having been forewarned, I was still disappointed when he wasn't very responsive to my attempts at small talk with him. During a lunch break with the other models, Mr. T seemed content to stay out of conversation and let his gaze wander elsewhere.

I was sorry that the chance to be buddy-buddy with Mr. T did not organically occur.

Mr. T reminded me of an alter ego I had invented as a kind of defense mechanism exercise: "Tad Tokunaga." Where in real life I am sometimes too emotional for my own good, the fictional Tad is stoic and aloof. In my mind, Tad is full-blooded Japanese (I am only half) and very Asian looking. He is the silent type, non-responsive in general, and rocker-thin. And he smokes.

Tad Tokunaga is everything I'm not, and it helps, even if only a little bit, to focus on who he is when my feelings get hurt and I want to not care about it.

It was strange to recognize that Mr. T was a good true-to-life example of who I imagine Tad Tokunaga to be. I don't know Mr. T's stage and film roles well, but after last month's fashion show, I'd guess that he saves most of his emotional expression for his acting career, and maybe for those he is closest to.

Maybe he is just a very private person.

Even though I was disappointed not to have the chance to be chummy with him, I still admire him. I still hold Mr. T up as a role model, especially as we both progress through middle age (he is still a sexy and attractive man at the end of five decades). If I am too emotional, I can use the inspiration he provides to balance my own real life persona.

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