Do you recognize the man next to Al Pacino? (see above) Yes, the Movie is Scarface starring Mr. Pacino and his “little friend.” His larger friend, standing behind him, had a birthday on July 23rd and has been in more than double the films Al has. His name is Pepe Serna and he has appeared in over 150 films and television programs. During his career, which began in 1971, whenever a Latin male role needed to be filled, his name had to be considered. On TV, he has been in Miami Vice (with a magnificent Edward James Olmos), Kojak, The Rockford Files, Hill Street Blues, and many other programs. And films? Besides Scarface, you may have seen him in Silverado, The Jerk, and, my favorite, Buckaroo Bonzai. Never heard of it?! Oh, my. I must digress.
It is my favorite unusual/weird film. Its full name is: The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai Across the 8th Dimension.” Mr. Bonzai ( played by Peter Weller who in 3 years would star as “Robocop”) was a brain surgeon, rock musician (with his own band), and a crime fighter battling evil aliens who are attempting to invade Earth. Members of the band/crime fighters included, in addition to Mr. Serna (whose name in the film was Reno Nevada), were: Ellen Barkin (AKA Penny Priddy), Jeff Goldblum (AKA New Jersey), Clancy Brown (AKA Rawhide), (see above band members)plus the Bad Guys/evil aliens Christopher Lloyd, Dan Hedaya, and baddest of all John Lithgow (AKA Lord John Whorfin and, also, Dr. Emilio Lizardo). And, yes, the film was played for laughs and every character actor had a payday. (Whatever happened to Jeff Goldblum? Is he living in a “park” somewhere?) And, now, back to reality.
In addition to Mr. Serna’s birthday, July 23 marks the birthday another character actor you may recognize (see above). His name: Karl Swenson. He had 173 appearances in television and films. They were preceded by decades on radio where his radio voice alone kept him in work. But eventually, he made it to television. A guest spot on Bonanza lead to a roll in Little House on the Prairie (he impressed Michael Landon). But there was more. Bonanza was far from the only cowboy show on the tube. Mr. Swenson appeared in many of them(eg, Gunsmoke, Maverick, Wagon Train, The Big Valley, etc.).
Why do I mention these men (and their birthday)? Because it’s actors like these that I remember from TV and films –often more than higher paid stars. If you find you have similar fond memories of lesser known entertainers, you can know when their birthdays come around at www.Imdb.com. Your salute to them will bring wonderful memories to yourself.
PS regarding Mr. Serna: He was commissioned by the Los Angeles Annenberg Metropolitan Project and the Mark Taper Foundation to paint an inspirational canvas on the subject of reading. It was turned into a poster and given to students in the Los Angeles Unified School District.