Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Ricky Martin, Menudo and Me (Another True Story!)

I first came to Japan in the late 1970s. I used to get a scholarship for university and I would take a bunch of that money and then go running around Japan... Then, when back at school, I'd starve as a student - it was well worth it. 

Back then, there were very few foreigners in Tokyo. When I would walk through Shibuya and the Scramble intersection, people would point at me and say, "Look! There's a foreigner!" Some people would even ask for an autograph.

Those were the good old days. Being a foreigner in Japan was the same as being some superstar merely because of where you were born (kind of like British royalty).

I'm standing in the white shirt. Ricky Martin is sitting in the middle in front in the blue shirt....10 years old.....OK. He was 13... So sue me... 

One time, I think it was Jan. of 1979, I was waiting for my friend at 109 department store in Shibuya. They had just completed building it and I was told to wait there for my rendezvous. I got there an hour early. But, after walking around lost in Japan many times before that, I thought it would be best to stay at the designated place and wait for my friend - rather than going off exploring and getting hopelessly lost again. 

No cellphones in 1979!

While I was there waiting, four different beautiful Japanese girls walked up to me and, looking me straight in the eye, said (in impeccable English), things like, "She's not coming. I'm supposed to take you to dinner." Or, "Your girlfriend called me and told me that she can't make it, so I'm supposed to take you to coffee now." Or, "It's getting late, we'd better hurry or they'll cancel our reservations."


I was so surprised. I wondered how these girls knew who I was and who my girlfriend, who I was waiting for, was? Weird, eh? How did they know?

Duh! I figured out after the forth girl asked me to go somewhere with them, that they didn't know who I was and they didn't know my girlfriend, but they were trying to "pick me up!"

"Wow! What a wonderful country Japan is!" I thought, "This would never happen back home. Never in a million years!"

It wouldn't. I have never had a girl try to pick me up back in my home country... Ever!

"Japan was like heaven!" I thought. I'll never forget that experience.

A few years later, I would return again to Japan. This time, I got a regular job on TV Tokyo’s “Ohayo Studio.” It was in mid-1983 or so. Ohayo Studio was hosted by a famous TV announcer named Shiga san (I don’t know his first name), and Yasuha Ebina. Yasuha was a famous pop-singer. Yasuha's dad was one of the most famous comedians in Japanese history. They are all very well known stars in Japan.

I couldn’t believe my luck. I had only been in Japan a short time – couldn’t speak a word of Japanese – and, by some miracle, I got a regular job on a daily kid’s TV show. Impossible! Incredible!

Me, Shinko san (she sang the tunes for McDonald's TV commercials) and Yukari Morikawa far right (who scored one of the biggest #1 hits in all of Japan in the 1980s!)

I taught short English phrases on Ohayou Studio once a week. Also, on that show, there would be local J-Pop bands appearing. 

One time, though, the world-famous Menudo came to the studio. Menudo was the first group that Ricky Martin was ever in and they were touring Japan and Asia so they stopped into the show.

I was looking forward to talking to those guys because, even though I loved Japan and everything about it, I was dying to speak English to another native speaker (Spanish? Oh, well, close enough!) and I was also simply dying for some good Mexican food! Figured that these boys might have brought along a few burritos!

In Japan at that time, there weren’t any good Mexican food restaurants at all. None. Zero. Zip. Nada.

Ok, well, I have to admit that that the band Menudo isn’t from Mexico, but, hell, being a dummy, I didn’t know that! I figured that they must have been from Mexico because the word “Menudo” is the name for a delicious traditional Mexican food dish. If anything I am logical, Mr. Spock!

Anyway, Ricky Martin and the boys from Menudo came to the studio and they “lip synced” (くちぱく) one of their songs. It was “OK.” (Wink! Wink!) After the show I went backstage and said to them, “Hi guys! I’m your biggest fan in Japan! I have all your records and I love Mexican food!”

They all looked down and kind of scowled and said, “We’re not from Mexico. We’re from Puerto Rico.”

How embarrassing! I said, “Oh? Yeah! I knew that! Well, that’s OK because I’m not from Japan! Ha! Ha!….. Ha!... Ahem...”

Oh, yes. I did feel kind of stupid. Why do you ask?

Anyway, after that dumb remark from me, I could tell the room was getting cold and it seemed like, all of a sudden, the guys from Menudo didn't want to talk to me so much, so I asked to take a photo and got out of there as quick as I could...

I could have never guessed that a decade or so later, Ricky Martin would become such a big super-star with that “Livin’ da Vida Loca” song…

So, I took the photo and, since then I have been telling people that I was an "original member" of Menudo; the photo is "proof"... My story goes like this: 

"Those brats in Menudo kicked me out because I was the most handsome one in the group. I was getting all the hot babes (at least the ones who could drink, smoke cigarettes and could go on a date without their mom driving the car!) 

Band management said that Ricky was extremely jealous of me and my action because of my devastatingly good looks, humility and being more "macho" (mui macho!) than all those skinny little punks put together (plus I had the biggest "burrito"!).... Ricky was jealous so I had to go! So they kicked me out and removed my name in the credits as co-writer of all their big hits, including "Livin Da Vida Loca!"

And that's the truth. So help me God! Bwa! Ha! Ha!

Seriously, though... I do look like one of them, don't I?


Here is Morikawa Yukari singing her monster hit... Can you guess what song this is?


Unknown said...

It is an amusing story, but Ricky was 13 years old when he was in Menudo.

Andrew Joseph said...

Mike... I know you are half-Japanese and half-'merican... but is it me, but do you look more American in these old photos? You look Japanese now! Me? I just look wider.
I'm guessing you have become somewhat assimilated into Japanese society.
Just kidding around... a fun story!

Anonymous said...

funny post. ...I had more than 4,096 characters to say about it, but it proved too time consuming to post. ...The world gives out a collective sigh.

"a collective sigh" - isn't that a scary phrase.

- helot

Anonymous said...

That is so funny! Thanks.

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