Search This Blog & Get A Rife

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Reiko Douglas Helped Soften US Views of Japanese After WW2

Reiko Douglas, a Japanese-born entertainer who became a popular guest on American talk shows in the 1960s and 1970s despite the fact that she appeared to speak little English, died of cancer on September 9, 2013 in Los Angeles. She was 77.

Now... I don't know Ms. Douglas. I've never corresponded with her, and I doubt she ever read any of my blogs - and now she's dead. I'm not saying there is a correlation, but I'm not saying there isn't one.

But... we come not to bury Reiko Douglas, but to praise her.

Who the hell is she? Well, she is best known as a television personality - appearing first on The Tonight Show in the early 1960s with Jack Paar and Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, David Frost and Dick Cavett. Crap... Dick Cavett is the only one still alive! I'm feeling old...) with her husband, Jack Douglas, who was a comedy writer.

Despite the fact that she was with a comedy writer... audiences were more amused with the beautiful Reiko... who would appear in typical Japanese garb and speak somewhat nonsensical English...

But it was all part of a schtick.

Back in the early 1960s... the only people who had seen many Japanese folk were trying to kill them some 15 years earlier during WWII... and so... seeing the sexy Reiko on TV... people began to get a different view of the Japanese... no longer Nips... and perhaps more nipple.

Schtick? Yes... Reiko pretended to not speak 'Engrish' very well... which would amuse the audience... and, in my opinion helped soften the image of Japanese to the Americans.

Can you imagine if Reiko appeared on television as a beautiful goddess and spoke intelligent, non-stereotypical English? It would scare people just a little bit... but by appearing as the poor ignorant immigrant, people liked her.

That's just in my opinion. But why else have her on the shows? It's not like the Douglas comedy stylings were on the road touring the Catskills... these appearances on television were far and few between.... just enough to keep each in the public's eye... as well perhaps for Reiko's husband Jack to be in the eye of shows looking for a writer.

Reiko was born on September 2, 1936, in Kanazawa, Japan and grew up there performing as a triple-threat singer-dancer-comedian. Dancer? Legs!

Independently, Reiko moved to the U.S., in 1955, met Jack Douglas when the two of them were performing at a nightclub in 1960, and married later that year.

Of course... that was 1960... when a man could meet a woman, tell her three minutes later that's he's wild about her and then after making out, they would talk marriage and kids.

Reiko did appear in a comic memoirs written by Jack: 1970's "Shut Up and Eat Your Snowshoes!", about their move to the Canadian wilderness; "Benedict Arnold Slept Here" (1975), about the their disastrous attempt to run an inn in Maine; and "Going Nuts in Brazil With Jack Douglas" (1977).

Her husband, Jack, died in 1989.

In a 1962 interview with the Broadway columnist Earl Wilson, Reiko, in just five words and a grunt, gave readers a glimpse at how well she understood English vocabulary was. During the interview, Mr. Wilson wrote, he complimented her fluency in the language:

“Aw, snow job,” Ms. Douglas said.
“No. Serious,” Mr. Wilson assured her.
“Serious snow job,” she replied. 

Yes, Reiko... but who was pulling the snow job? The interviewer or you?

Reiko Douglas helped soften the image of the Japanese to Americans. Rest in Peace.

Andrew Joseph

No comments:

Post a Comment