There’s a story behind this photo, taken last night, and why, once again, I broke habit and asked a (semi-)celebrity (this time a major TV network sports news anchor) whether he wouldn’t mind taking a picture with me.
One afternoon many, many years ago, when I was a spry, young recent college graduate, I sat at home flipping through television channels when “The Oprah Winfrey Show” piqued my interest. That day, Oprah was spotlighting, or basically pimping out, “The Ten Most Eligible Bachelors of TV News” from across the fifty states. She was inviting all the single ladies out there to write in to the show, addressing a letter (including photo) to the featured news anchor or reporter of her choice in the hopes of “winning a date” with her prey, I mean mark, I mean object of desire. (Hmmm, my word choices do seem to betray some stalker-like tendencies.)
Anyways, it was in that year between college and law school, and between boyfriends, when I was single, restless and unsure about the future, that I happened to catch this particular episode. I rarely watched television in the first place and had never been one of Oprah’s devoted followers. So really, it must’ve been fate for me to watch it.
To be honest, I didn’t know or recognize any of the ten “most eligible bachelors” being flesh-peddled by Oprah. Certainly, I wouldn’t have recognized any of the sports news men. (I prefer playing over watching sports any day.) But Rob Fukuzaki caught my eye as kinda cute…and also the only Asian bachelor featured. At the time, he was the weekday sports reporter and weekend anchor for KITV Channel 4, ABC’s Honolulu affiliate. (Two years later, he would join ABC7 Eyewitness News in 1994 and become the first Japanese-American male television anchor in Los Angeles. Today, he is the host of ABC7’s Sports Zone on Monday nights during football season. Not bad! Props to you, Robbie baby.) (By the way, in case you readers are jumping to the conclusion that I know his career history because I really did/am stalking him, I just now pulled it from this quick web search.) Ok, wait. Where was I? Oh yes. “That Asian reporter’s kinda cute.”
“How fun! Maybe I’ll write in to him, just for laughs, and see what happens.”
I typed a letter to Rob, trying to sound witty and whimsical while describing myself and my accomplishments (there weren’t many — I was 22, for goodness sake), interests and hobbies. And I decided, against “contest” guidelines, to omit a photo of myself. My reasoning, which seemed so clever, mature and “enlightened” at the time, was that Rob should choose me based on what I had to say rather than what I looked like. In retrospect, that was naive and moronic because, as most forthright men will readily admit on the topic of relationships, men are essentially hormone-driven, primitive, visual creatures. While women are often capable of gradually “falling for” and becoming attracted to someone for whom they initially had zero physical attraction (based perhaps on the man’s intellect, personality appeal, humor, or in bad cases, wealth), it seems that 99.9999999999999% of men just aren’t built that way. From the guy’s perspective, if there’s no physical attraction to begin with, there’s very little or no chance that there ever will be. So the odds were, Rob was not going to waste his card betting on the funny but faceless femme genius (the term “genius” being used extremely loosely; in fact, incorrectly, here) from L.A.
Plus, come on now. Had I enclosed “une photo de moi” with my inarguably fascinating and almost legendarily brilliant letter, it just…wouldn’t have been fair for all those other wishful ladies vying for Rob’s attention. They wouldn’t have stood a chance, right? Right?? Hello? Anyone out there???
A month or so later, the follow-up Oprah segment aired, revealing which “lucky lady” each bachelor had chosen for a date. Rob, oh Rob (smh), had picked some woman (I’m not bitter) who’d sent, along with her letter and photo, a package of SPAM (no, not the disruptive email messages but the questionable but oh-so-yum-when-pan-fried canned food consisting mostly(??) of pork formed into a solid block). (Dangit. Nice move, girlie.) Rob had grown up in Hawaii and if you didn’t already know, SPAM is very popular among Hawaiians. She must’ve figured he’d think that was cute and clever. He did. (Sucker.) So anyways, after watching the follow-up segment, being reminded of what the heck Rob looked like in the first place, learning of his selection/my rejection, and drying my tears and snot, somehow I managed to move on with my life, wrecked heart notwithstanding.
A year or two later, my law school boyfriend, a few of our classmates, and I took a quick day trip to Vegas. I had never gambled before, so we avoided the Strip and hit downtown Vegas, where the betting limits are lower and I could learn how to play at the tables without, fingers crossed, losing too much money. We headed to The California Hotel and Casino, which indulges visitors in Hawaiian hospitality and caters heavily to the steady influx of hotel guests from Hawaii). There, we’d grab a quick bite at the mini California Club eatery next to the casino floor before trying our hands at the tables. Suddenly, my girlfriend whispers, “Hey Anita. Isn’t that Rob Fukuzaki sitting right behind you?” Sure enough, Rob and I were sitting back-to-back at neighboring tables. He was there with his parents and a couple other friends or relatives.
I don’t know what possessed me next, but as he made his way, alone, to the soda fountain machine, I jumped up and followed him. As he turned back from the machine, there I was, in his face.
- “Excuse me. Are you Rob Fukuzaki?”
- “Yes, I am. Do we know each other?”
- “No, you don’t know me, but I wrote to you when Oprah did that show a couple years back?”
- “You did? I don’t recognize…”
- “I didn’t include a photo.”
- “Oh! Were you the UCLA student?”
- “Yes! That was me!”
- “Oh, I remember your letter! How funny. You should’ve sent a photo.” (At this point, his folks and my friends have all turned to watch us, amused by the ridiculous scene unfolding before them.)
- “Oh well. You missed out. I’m taken now. That’s my boyfriend. Hey [Boyfriend]! Will you please take a picture of Rob and me??”
Boyfriend good-naturedly takes a photo of us. We all, including my friends and Rob’s family, chuckle, nod quick hellos at one another, and go back to sitting and eating at our respective tables.
Fast forward a year or two. A girlfriend who knew the story excitedly comes up to me one day and says,
- “Hey Anita. I had to fly for work recently and guess who I was sitting next to??”
- “Rob Fukuzaki! And I told him that my friend, Anita, wrote to him once after an Oprah show! Funny, huh?”
- “That is funny. I doubt he’d remember that though.”
Fast forward another year or two. Another one of our girlfriends says to me one day,
- “Hey Anita! I was in Larchmont Village last week and I bumped into Rob Fukuzaki! And I told him my friend Anita wrote to him years before on the Oprah show.”
- “Did you really? Gosh, he’s gonna think I’m stalking him or something.”
Fast forward another dozen or so years, plus marriage, a legal career, and three kids later…to last night. I enter the Park Plaza Hotel to attend the annual “Unforgettable” awards ceremony and gala hosted by KoreAm Journal and Audrey Magazine when…who do I see but Rob Fukuzaki. Ok, I just had to get a photo with him. It was all just too comical. Of course, he didn’t know (or care) who I am, that we’ve met before, that my name had come up in conversation a few times over a span of 15 years. Yet here we were…again. And again, he was too late. I’m taken. (Not that he was asking.) At least this time, I asked a girlfriend, not DH, to take the photo. Fun times.
Well Rob, thanks for the (one-sided) memories. Adieu, adieu. ‘Til we meet again. (I’ll try to keep a spare case of SPAM in my car for if and when that happens. Kidding. By the way, I’m not stalking you. Seriously. I’m not. I’m NOT!!)
P.S. If anyone sees or meets Rob Fukuzaki, please do NOT tell him you have a friend named Anita who wrote to him once on the Oprah show.