A maverick, in and out of the ball park


Los Angeles Times | Glendale News-Press | 2004 July 24

A maverick,
in and out of the ball park

This is the second of two parts.

GGRecently, I had the pleasure of seeing Marlon Brando’s performance
in “Sayonara” from the comfort of my living room.

GG In “Sayonara,” Maj. Lloyd Gruver (Marlon Brando), a Korean War
flying ace, is re-stationed in Kobe, Japan. Gruver initially supports
the military’s opposition to marriages between American servicemen and
Japanese women, but eventually succumbs to love with Hana-ogi and
plunges into conflict with the U.S. Air Force.


GGTraffic at Eagleson’s Big and Tall in downtown Los Angeles was
light. The rain had taken its toll on George’s daily sale of suits;
numbers were the last thing on his mind on that day. It was 4 p.m. and
he had given up on receiving his four tickets to the fourth game of
the 1963 World Series between the Dodgers and the Yankees. His main
worry was his buddy’s son, Kobe Gruver. George had invited the Gruvers
to the ball park, and the prospect of disappointing the 10-year-old
was painful.

GGJust as George had formulated an approach to deliver the bad news to
Kobe, Scott Krueger pulled up to the wet curb and parked his 1962 Ford
Galaxie with the engine still running. He kicked the door on his red
convertible open, and with the latest issue of the Los Angeles Times
protecting his head from the rain, ran into Eagleson’s.

GG”Hey, George, sorry I am late. Here are the tickets. Thanks for
taking care of my huge self all these years. I hope you enjoy the

GG “Thank you, Scott. The kid will be ecstatic.”

GG “Enjoy, I gotta run. Go Dodgers!”

GG “I am personally a Tigers fan. But yes, Kobe is a Dodgers fan. So,
go Dodgers!”


GGThe only thing separating Kobe’s fourth-grade books from the rain
was his green wool jacket. As he pressed his books against his side,
he felt a jolt against his back. He turned around and was startled to
see Grant, the school bully, watching him with a tense stare. Grant’s
teeth were pressed together as he gave Kobe yet another shove.

GG “Hey, Kobe, watch where you’re goin’!” said Grant, who followed
that by uttering a string of disparaging racist remarks. *


GGOfficial attendance at Dodger Stadium on Oct. 6, 1963, was
55,912. It was between the seventh and eighth innings when Kobe had
begun to feel a bit restless in his seat. Not wanting to embarrass her
son in front of their neighbor and longtime friend, George, Hana-ogi
addressed her son in Japanese:

GG “Kobe, please try to sit properly and don’t bother Mr. K.”

GG “Mom, English please, you are embarrassing me,” Kobe replied in

GG The generally mild-mannered Hana-ogi did not have to think twice
before yanking her frail son from his seat and directing him toward
the exit. For every Hana-ogi step, Kobe had to take a couple to catch
up to his mom. Kobe’s hands were beginning to sweat.

GG “Kobe is going to get an earful from his mom,” George observes
immediately. “I’ve had a few of those with my mom about my Armenian

GG “Yeah, I hope so. That’s no way for him to speak to his mom,”
Gruver confirms.


GGHana-ogi and Kobe stand face to face away from the stands. Hana-ogi
kneels down to her son’s height and begins speaking softly in
GG “Son, you are an American, yes?”
GG “Yes.”
GG “Your father is an American war hero, yes?”
GG “Yes.”
GG “We are only going to have this conversation once, and only
once… your mother is Japanese. And you are part Japanese.”
GG “Yes, ma’am.”
GG “My son will not be embarrassed of what he is.”
GG “Yes, ma’am.”
GG “We are going to go back into the stands and you will address me
only in Japanese for the remainder of the game.”
GG “Yes, ma’am.”
GG “George, when are you gonna tie the knot and settle down?”
GG “I am still looking for my Armenian bride, Gruver.”
GG “Well, you better travel a bit. I don’t see no Armenian girls here
in Glendale.”
GG “Yup, If I have to, I may pay a visit to Beirut, Lebanon. I hear
the place is full of Armenian beauties.”
GG “Let me know. We’ll tag along. I wouldn’t mind exposing Kobe to the
world. I want him to know there is more to life than Kenwood Drive.”


GG Marlon Brando’s popularity did not always match the grand size of
his talent. Frank statements such as “Never confuse the size of your
paycheck with the size of your talent” did not exactly endear him to
his colleagues.

GG At a press conference for “The Young Lions” in Berlin, he said,
“This picture will try to show that Nazism is a matter of mind, not
geography, and that there are Nazis — and people of good will — in
every country. The world can’t spend its life looking over its
shoulder and nursing hatreds. There would be no progress that way.”

GG Weeks after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Brando told
reporters, “We are either going to learn to live together as brothers
or die separately as fools.”

GG Marlon Brando was a maverick. His definition of self was a humble
one: “I’m a human being — hopefully a concerned and somewhat
intelligent one — who occasionally acts.”

* [Edited for the Los Angeles Times/Glendale News-Press] “Hey Kobe,
watch where you’re goin’. Oooh, unless you can’t really see through
those pretty slanted eyes of yours… It’s ‘Nippy’ out here, isn’t

Patrick Azadian lives and works in Glendale. He is an identity and
branding consultant for the retail industry. Reach him at
[email protected] Reach the Glendale News-Press at [email protected]