Original Offenders: Susan Ahn Cuddy

This was a historic week in American history for progress—everything from SCOTUS ruling that marriage equality was the law of the land to symbols of a hateful past being torn down from the corridors of government—but amidst all the positives, I wanted to make sure to acknowledge some sad news: the death of Susan Ahn Cuddy.

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Cuddy passed away this past Wednesday at the age of 100. Born in 1915, her accomplishments were numerous. Her father was the Korean independence leader Dosan Ahn Chang Ho (considered Korea’s George Washington) and her brother, the late Philip Ahn, was one of the first successful Asian American actors in Hollywood. She grew up in Southern California—exiled in the United States with her family while Japan occupied Korea, her home the heart of the Korean independence movement.

Original Offenders: Momofuku Ando

Today would’ve been the 105th birthday of one of the most important human beings to ever walk the earth: Momofuku Ando, the Taiwanese-Japanese founder of Nissin Foods aka the “inventor” of instant noodles.

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Yes, if it weren’t for this man, many college students would’ve died from starvation or at least had to subside solely on yucky cafeteria dorm food, which is the same thing. So although he passed away in 2007, Ando’s legacy still remains as strong as ever and to commemorate this special day, Google has released a bunch of its Google Doodles celebrating the man:

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DRUNK HISTORY Retelling of Daniel Inouye and the 442nd

GUARDIANSDRUNK HISTORY, currently on Comedy Central, has a brilliant but simple concept — Drunk comedians retelling a historical event. Most of it is accurate, some of it is not. And man, some of these guys are so drunk, they’ll have to take some puking breaks to get a tad sober to finish their tale. Reenactments are filmed to accompany the drunk retelling and usually, the results are pure hilarity.

It’s cool that DRUNK HISTORY is doing a Hawaii episode, with one of the stories about the late Senator and WWII hero Daniel K. Inouye and his experiences serving in the 442nd regiment, the most celebrated regiment in US military history. Steve Yeun of THE WALKING DEAD, portrays a young Inouye and James Hong plays his dad.

Original Offenders: James Shigeta

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It was a revelation: a Hollywood movie made in 1959 that starred an Asian American male lead who saved the day, beat out his white romantic rival, and ended up with the white leading lady. That in a nutshell sums up Sam Fuller’s The Crimson Kimono, which introduced audiences to a young Japanese American actor named James Shigeta as a Japanese American police detective investigating the murder of a stripper in downtown Los Angeles.

I’ve written about the film before (here and here) so I won’t go into detail now but if it was a revelation to learn that such a progressive film could have been produced almost sixty decades ago, it was even more of a revelation to discover that an actor like James Shigeta existed back then. Here he was—a full blown Asian American leading man who starred in Hollywood films at a time when most Asian men were lucky just to get a few lines in a movie as the hero’s sidekick or the bad guy.

Original Offenders: Keye Luke

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Like many of my generation, the first time I remember seeing Chinese American actor Keye Luke was in the 1984 film Gremlins. He played the mysterious Mr. Wing—the elderly man who sells Hoyt Axton the Mogwai named Gizmo and warns him of the three important rules to obey in taking care of this new “pet.”

The role was your standard “exotic Oriental” and by this time, Luke could do these parts in his sleep, but he brought a sense of playfulness as well as a gravitas to a character that would have been more one-dimensional in other hands.

Original Offenders: Nobu McCarthy

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Nobu McCarthy passed away on this day in 2002 at the age of 67 of an aortal aneurysm. She was a Japanese American actress whose career was launched in 1958 when she played opposite Jerry Lewis in The Geisha Boy. She went on to appear in film and TV projects like the western Walk Like A Dragon (alongside another pioneer, James Shigeta), the acclaimed TV movie Farewell to Manzanar (Hollywood’s first attempt to document the internment of Japanese Americans in WWII) and the adaptation of Philip Kan Gotanda’s The Wash, which earned her an Independent Spirit Award Nomination in 1989.

But of course the movie that I, and many of my generation, will always remember her for is The Karate Kid II where she played Pat Morita’s old flame.

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I had the good fortune of meeting Nobu a few years before her death when I was invited to join a fundraising committee for East West Players, the oldest Asian American theater company, by one of the theater’s founders, Beulah Quo, and actor George Takei. Beulah (who sadly passed away shortly after Nobu) and George were the chairs of the committee, which was tasked with raising money for East West Player’s move from their 99-seat Silver Lake location to their much larger facility in Little Tokyo that serves as their home today.

Original Offenders: Misao Okawa

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Misao Okawa aka the oldest known person in the world turns 116 years old tomorrow and if that alone doesn’t qualify her to join the ranks of our OG Offenders, I don’t know what does.

Okawa was born in 1898 in Osaka. That was the year New York City was divided into five boroughs, the Spanish-American war raged (and ended in December), Chekov’s classic play The Seagull opened at the Moscow Art Theater and German writer Bertolt Brecht was born. In other words, that is old.

Original Offender: David Tran, Inventor of Sriracha

The LA Times has a great profile on David Tran, a Vietnamese refugee who epitomizes the American dream and became a multi-millionaire, thanks to his need to fill the void of a good hot sauce to add to his food in his new adopted U.S. homeland after escaping Vietnam on a Taiwanese freighter after the fall of Saigon. Setting up a company called Huy Fong Foods, named after said Taiwanese freighter, his homemade concoction took off in San Gabriel Valley (east LA) and he would make deliveries to supermarkets and restaurants.

Original Offenders: Larry Shinoda

What do the 1963 Corvette Stingray, Mako Shark I and II, the Boss 302 and 429 Mustangs, Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Corvair Super Spyder and even the Goodyear Blimp have in common? They were all the creations of Japanese American automobile designer Lawrence (Larry) Shinoda.

Born in 1930 in Los Angeles, Shinoda was interned with his family at Manzanar during World War II. Later, he built hot rods and became involved in the then-burgeoning drag race culture in Southern California. In 1955, he won the first National Hot Rod Association Nationals.

Thus, began a life-long affair with cars and positions at Ford, Packard and GM—ultimately leading to his work on concept cars that would give birth to the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray, which would secure Shinoda’s reputation as one of the most innovative automobile designers in the business.

Original Offenders: Dr. David Ho

Today marks the 59th birthday of Dr. David Ho, the Taiwanese American AIDS researcher who pioneered the use of protease inhibitors in HIV-infected patients and other treatments against AIDS, prompting Time Magazine to name him “The Man of the Year” in 1996 and “The Man who Could Beat AIDS” in 2010.

The Taiwanese-born Ho immigrated to Los Angeles at age 12 and grew up to pursue a career in medicine; choosing to study infectious diseases at the UCLA School of Medicine in the late 1970s/early 1980s. It was during this time, while a resident at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, that he noticed the first reported cases of what would soon come to be known as AIDS in mostly young gay men.

Happy Birthday, Freddie!

Yesterday was Freddie Mercury’s birthday. Offender Phil previously wrote about the first British Asian rockstar and his influence on the global rock scene in general. Google honored the great icon with their “Google doodle” on their homepage. Check it out, it’s amazing. Happy Birthday, Freddie!  [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xe0gIFxYhrk[/youtube]