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
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
"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
"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,
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
"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