Guest Editorial: Ghost of Pat Morita

HEAVEN – Now I’m not one to complain. I had a long and unique career
full of many highs and a few lows. I’ll be the first to admit I had a difficult
life sometimes, but in the end it always built my character and allowed me to grow
as a human. It also added a bit of flavor to my portrayals of strong Asian men in
movies and television.

But damn, couldn’t I have died some other time? Some other
year, when not so many other, more famous people than me kicked the bucket?
What’s the point of becoming a worm buffet if you don’t even get top billing in
the end of the year retrospectives? It just doesn’t seem fair. I put in my
dues, why couldn’t I have shuffled off to the Pearly Gates when it could have
post-humously helped sell copies of the DVD director’s cut of The Next Karate Kid?

For instance, let’s say I bought the farm in 2004. I mean,
sure there was Reagan and Brando. They were both icons of a generation when
they bit the big one. I was depressed for a week when Ray Charles bought the
farm. And when Christopher Reeves payed the piper, we all lost a bit of our

But after that first act, the stage would have been mine. I
would have at least made the top ten. Rick James? Julia Child? I could kick
both their asses with both my hands tied behind my back and one chopstick in my
mouth. Reggie White? Couple of football highlight reels, no big whoop. And who
remembers Fay Wray? I was fuckin’ Arnold on Happy Days for God’s sake!

Because I cashed in my chips in November 2005, that means
I’m stuck in a year where the dead famous people held real global importance instead of the usual laundryt list of actors. The Pope died. A Supreme Court Justice. Civil Rights icon Rosa
Parks. The famous Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal. Peter Jennings. Johnnie
Cochran. Playwright August Wilson.
Prince Ranier III. Hunter S. Thompson. Luther Vandross. Luther Vandross!

Looking at that guest list, my own flat line wouldn’t even
make the MSNBC scroll bar on a low news Monday before 2:00 am. Terry Schiavo’s death got 20 times the coverage of
mine. Maybe I should have gone into a persistent vegetative state. Congress
could have convened for me, Mr. Miyagi!

And don’t get me started about the Academy Awards
retrospective! Every year they have a heartfelt mosaic of actors that have gone
to that big multiplex in the sky. All I hoped for when I croaked was a decent
spot in the montage, a placement that would give me the respectful clapping
that an exceptional and dynamic career that included Big Bird in Japan and a guest spot on Family Matters deserves.

But with the deaths of Ann Bancroft and Arthur Miller, my
legacy is in question. Hell, Bob Denver, Gilligan himself, might even sneak his
wrinkly ass up on the screen. James Doohan might even get a bigger ovation than
me; name another movie role he did besides Scotty on Star Trek. To add insult
to injury, the Academy will spend half the montage on Johnny Carson. He wasn’t
even in the movies at all!

With my luck I’ll get sandwiched between Ossie Davis and
Richard Pryor and all I’ll get is a trickle of claps before the roar for the
bigger names, like the stupid geek at high school graduation. Is that what I
deserve? Is that the Pat Morita you want to remember?

Have you forgotten everything? The recurring roles on
Baywatch, the offensive character ‘Ah Chew’ on Sanford & Son, the bit parts
on such heralded shows as Chico and the Man and Starsky & Hutch…the
Toymaster in Babes in Toyland…that role I had in Honeymoon in Vegas…Mr. Chu in
an episode of Caroline in the City…all those crappy Karate Kid sequels…Playboy
After Dark
episode 22…my role in The Karate DogBloodsport II…

editor’s note: We love Pat Morita. RIP.