By SOJI KASHIWAGI
Long-time community funny man Rodney Kageyama is currently facing a situation that’s pretty far from being funny, but just as he has as an actor and a master of ceremonies for community events too numerous to count, he’s more concerned about pleasing his audience, and making them laugh.
“Can you make it funny?” he asked, as he sat down to lunch in Little Tokyo recently.
But then he explained what’s happening, and he wasn’t laughing.
“We’ve lived in a house in Eagle Rock for 22 years,” he said. “The owner passed away and the heirs want to sell. They’ve hired a lawyer, and they’ve given us until the end of May to leave.”
In other words, Kageyama, Kenny White, his life partner of 32 years, and their two pugs are being evicted.
Known as the “Unofficial Mayor of Little Tokyo,” Kageyama faces an unknown future, and at age 72, the whole thing has been “quite traumatic.”
“If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone,” he said. “I have no relatives here.”
Friends working in the legal profession are trying to help. He’s looked at three or four places, but so far, no luck.
“I need help,” he said.
Since he’s lived in a house for so long, he’s looking for another two-bedroom house, bungalow or “mother-in-law” back house for around $1,100 a month. The ideal situation, he said, is if there’s a senior out there that’s moving to be with his/her kids, leaving the house available for rent.
Asking for help is not easy, especially within the Japanese and Japanese American community.
“Most people hide their problems because of hazukashii, shame,” he said. “But you know me. I’ve never been that way. We all need help. So I’m going to set aside my Japanese side and ask for help. I have no haji. I have no shame.”
But despite his troubles, Kageyama is determined to fulfill his upcoming community commitments, including serving as the MC for the Centenary Arigato Bazaar, the Tanabata Festival, Nisei Week, and various Obon festivals.
“I feel very blessed and appreciated. It gives me strength to give back to the community. I have to. I have to help the community. I have to help my friends. I have to help people I don’t even know.”
When asked why he continues to do what he does for the community, he said, “I believe in our community so much. I believe in our culture, our traditions and our history. But the main thing we do is help each other, no matter what. Even the poorest person, they would share whatever they had to help you out.”
Because of this, Kageyama has faith that everything will work out in the end. “I could just give up, but I’m not going to. I have to go on, no matter what. This is a new adventure for me.”
And then, in typical Rodney Kageyama fashion, he added with a laugh:
“I have to find a place soon. Otherwise me and my little family’s new address will be underneath the Fourth Street Bridge!”
To assist Kageyama in his search for a new home, call (323) 823-8773.