There were two men of note who died last week, very different. The thing they had in common in my mind is that I watched them on television a lot.
Noriyuki “Pat” Morita played Arnold on Happy Days. Most of the Asians I saw on TV were servants. Sammee Tong playing “helpful, but often inscrutable Oriental houseboy” Peter Tong to John Forythe’s Bachelor Father (1957-1962). Victor Sen Yeng played the often befudled cook Hop Sing on Bonanza (1959-1973). Miyoshi Umeki played Mrs. Livingston, Tom’s (Bill Bixby) “dependable…. but sometimes confused housekeeper” on The Courtship of Eddie’s Father (1969-1972). (Quotes from the Brooks and Marsh “Directory to…TV Shows”.)
I watched some Happy Days reunion show on Nick at Nite recently, and one of the clips was of “Arnold” saying something like “Does this face look like an Arnold?” Well, no, but it was an Asian face that stood up for himself, to Richie and his pals, even the Fonz, at least that year (1975-1976) when he was first on, and I was watching. He left the show to star in the short-lived “Mr. T. and Tina,” then returned in 1982 to Happy Days at a point I had stopped watching.
Later, he would become the first Asian-American nominated for an Academy Award for The Karate Kid, losing to Dr. Haing S. Ngor for The Killing Fields.
The other person was Hugh Sidey, who covered nine Presidents for Time magazine, and I’m sure I’ve read his words often. But I knew him best for being a panelist on a news program called Agronsky and Company. Not only must I have watched it a lot, it must have been well-known that I watched it a lot, for Raoul Vezina made me a birthday card referencing the fact, sometimes in the early 1980s. Martin Agronsky was the moderator, Carl Rowan was the guy who was left of center, James Kilpatrick represented the right of center, and Hugh Sidey was generally the centralist. (There were others over the years.) They seldom talked over each other, talking louder to make their point. It was all rather civilized. They, particularly Sidey, were gentlemen, in the traditional sense. It was though other opinions actually MATTERED. A period largely lost in televised discourse.
And in other media news, expect an interesting wiriters’ strike.
Finally, I REALLY want to know: who ARE the 29% of Americans who still think Dick Cheney is honest and ethical?