For a while it seemed like he was stalking us… or that we were stalking him.
Whenever we would go to Little Tokyo, or if we were at some community event, or once just walking down a random street, there he was: Rodney Kageyama. If we were lucky, we’d catch him on TV or the big screen, too! I can’t say that I know him well, but his visibility at L.A. events was really unmatched. And even though I don’t think he knows my name, he always, always said hi to me, if I just blurted out, “Hi, Rodney!” in his general direction.
You know how it is. There are people who show up only to the “A-List” type of events. And then there are the people like Rodney who is at every event, big or small, showing his unfailing support. A message has been circling through various email lists and I’ve received it a few times from various sources, they all end with “please foward to as many people as possible.” Ok, then.
If we can’t support someone in his time of need, especially someone who has also supported the community so steadfastly over the years, then really, what’s the point of having a community at all?
So here goes the plea that I got from Chris Tashima, co-Artistic Director of Cedar Grove OnStage:
One of my first gigs, back in 1984, was a series of Coke commercials, for Japanese TV. They were shot at a 50s diner in Visalia, CA, and at Magic Mountain. I was an extra, which wasnâ€™t the highest profile, or most challenging work, but it was fun. I got to travel out of town, learn the Japanese lyrics to the “Coke is it!” song, learn choreography, play dress-up (50s), and dream of being broadcast over the airwaves in Japan â€“ and becoming an international star. I never saw the completed spots, until recently: thanks to YouTube, I discovered these long-lost ads, and was finally able to see the fruits of my labor:
Two spots start at 00:30.
Long lost indeed â€“ lost way, way in the background. I think I can spot myself in one shot, way in the blurry distance, for all of maybe 1.5 seconds.
The memories are still fond, though. One very clear memory is meeting renowned character and comedic actor, Rodney Kageyama (at 00:41 in the above video). Not only did this swell guy befriend me on this shoot, he later introduced me to many of the folks at East West Players in Los Angeles, and to many more in the larger Japanese American community in Southern California. He also supported all of my work, designing costumes for my first film project with Visual Communications, and volunteering on crew for both “Visas and Virtue” and “Day of Independence.” In countless many other ways, he has help me continue with the work that I do, and aspire to do. As I think about all that he has done for me, sadly, I canâ€™t say I have done much in return. But, the warmth of his friendship hasnâ€™t ever made me feel like I needed to. Well, nowâ€™s my chance to try to give back.
Rodney Kageyama needs our help.
Late last year, Rodney was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkinâ€™s lymphoma, a group of cancers that affect the cells that play a role in the immune system. Since his diagnosis, he has been undergoing intense chemotherapy treatments. So far, the results have been hopeful, but his fight against this disease is far from over. This illness has knocked Rodney out of work, and he misses everyone because he hasnâ€™t been able to appear at any community functions or support our community organizations as he has for so many of us over the past 25 years. Rodney has spent a lifetime giving so many of us his time, giving us so much joy and laughter, and has helped us all in so many ways along the way. His greatest gift is his ability to laugh and to make us laugh, sometimes at him, sometimes at ourselves.
Now is the time for us to give something back. This is where everyone can help.
Our goal is to raise at least $25,000 so that Rodney can put all his energy into fighting this fight, and not have to worry about rent, food, utilities and hospital bills for the next year. One hundred percent of your contribution will go directly to Rodney, and his fight for his life. For all heâ€™s done for me, and so many others, I ask you to give a gift from your heart.
The $25k is an estimated minimum, to help Rodney for one year. I donâ€™t think itâ€™s much to ask, especially considering how far and wide-reaching his efforts for the community have been. If all who his gift of giving has touched, reached out to give something back, I think this figure would be blown out of the water, which wouldnâ€™t be a bad thing.
Very fitting, Iâ€™d say.
Thank you for your consideration.
And, thanks again, for reading
PS: Please make your check payable to FRIENDS OF RODNEY KAGEYAMA,
and mail to:
4891 Round Top Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90065
PLEASE FORWARD THIS MESSAGE!