Rebel, not without a cause

PATRICK AZADIAN

This is the first of two parts.

In April, I finally saw "On the Waterfront," featuring Marlon

Brando, on the silver screen. I was thankful to the Alex Film Society

for this unique opportunity. In my excitement, I joined the society,

and as if "On the Waterfront" was not enough of a reward, I was

gifted a DVD of another Brando movie, "Sayonara," for becoming a

member.

In "Sayonara," Brando stars as Maj. Lloyd Gruver; it is a tale of

an American stationed in Kobe, Japan, during the Korean War. At the

time, the military regulations forbade marriages between American

troops and Japanese women. Gruver initially supported the military's

regulations but eventually falls in love with a local showgirl, named

Hana-ogi. By the end of the movie, Gruver is in direct conflict with

the military's regulations as he proposes to his Japanese darling.

*

August of 1953 was a particularly warm summer month in Glendale.

The U.S., North Korea and China had just agreed to end the Korean

War. The American troops were gradually making their way home to

scenes far less jubilant than the ones their compatriots encountered

after World War II.

Maj. Lloyd Gruver and his bride, Hana-ogi, arrived at the Glendale

Greyhound station at 400 Cerritos Ave. Gruver's buddy, George, was

awaiting them at curbside. George had a healthy dose of envy for

Gruver's ability to serve his country. George had flat feet; the

military examiners had rejected him. But he was determined to pay his

dues by helping the Gruvers settle into their new home in Glendale.

George spotted Gruver carrying two pieces of large luggage. He

darted away from his 1952 white Oldsmobile Super 88 and greeted

Gruver in a manner reserved for Russian party officials from the

Caucasus. The two men embraced for a few seconds before George

smacked Gruver's cheeks with his trademark kisses. Years of service

overseas, and Gruver still had not gotten used to the idea of being

kissed by a male friend.

"Welcome home, Gruvers."

"Thank you for picking us up, George."

"My pleasure; that's the least I could do. Sorry about the

weather; it is unusually hot."

"Not too bad. Oh, George, this is my wife, Hana-ogi."

"Nice to meet you. You are even more beautiful than Gruver had

described."

"Thank you, you are kind."

"Let me take those," George pleads as he bends forward and extends

his arms to take charge of the luggage.

"That's OK, George. I got it."

"Let me have them, if you don't want me to knock you around, right

here in front of your wife!"

"OK, big guy. Take 'em away."

George lifts the luggage as if they were filled with feathers, and

swiftly places them in the trunk of his Olds coupe. He runs over to

the passenger side and opens the door. He pushes the seat backing

forward to make way for Gruver to sit in the back.

"No, no, I sit in back. Gruver sit in front," Hana-ogi exclaims.

"What! That big lug in the front? Impossible!"

"George, the chances of Hana accepting to sit in the front are as

good as North Koreans surrendering to the South, sporting a smile."

"OK, Hana-ogi. Go ahead."

*

George shifts his Olds into drive and proceeds to make a U-turn

heading north to Kenwood Drive.

"Nice wheels, George."

"Thanks, finally I got something to show for after working at

Eagleson's for so long."

"You still work there? Do the guys still give you a hard time for

your last name?"

"Yeah, every once in a while they try to get under my skin. It's

worse when I make the salesman of the month."

"Well, next time they call you a 'starving Armenian' or a 'Fresno

Indian,' let me know. I will need some physical exercise after this

war."

"Naah, it's not a big deal."

"You can always shorten your name. All the actors in Hollywood are

doin' it. 'Kalebdjian' can become 'Caleb' with a 'C.' 'George Caleb.'

"

"First of all, if you still haven't noticed, we are going to live

in Glendale, not Hollywood. Second, I am not so sure how my parents

would feel about that. They didn't flee persecution to voluntarily

give up their family name."

"I am just pulling your leg. I am just hoping you can make us some

Turkish coffee once we get home."

"Turkish?! Haven't I told you it's Armenian, and not Turkish?!"

"I know, I know, take it easy. I am just having fun with you."

"I actually had to special order some just for you from Syracuse,

New York."

"Can't wait!"

*

Marlon Brando's life may best be defined by a line from "The Wild

One," in which Brando, playing a motorcycle gang leader, is asked

what he's rebelling against. "Whattaya got?" was his reply.

His most famous act of rebellion was his refusal in 1973 to accept

an Oscar. He sent a woman named Sacheen Littlefeather to read a

statement against Hollywood's mistreatment of Native Americans. She

was booed.

"I am myself," he once declared, "and if I have to hit my head

against a brick wall to remain true to myself, I will do it."

* PATRICK AZADIAN lives and works in Glendale. He is an identity

and branding consultant for the retail industry. Reach him at

padania@earthlink.net.

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