About a day ago, I ran into an old friend. He’s pictured on the right.
He, and the other person pictured here, don’t have much in common.
The person on the left is short.
My friend on the right is tall.
The person on the left is a former actor.
My friend on the right is my former classmate.
The person on the left played one of the most memorable roles on the seminal ABC hit Fantasy Island — which ran from 1977 to 1984. My friend on the right also has talents — mathematics being one of them.
The person on the left was born Hervé Jean-Pierre Villechaize, but is known more by his movie moniker, which I’ll get to in a moment. My friend on the right is Big Mario, otherwise known as Mario D. Brown; one of San Jose’s finest.
So what brings them together?
I have to go back to east San Jose, Halloween night in 1979. Like all of the kids in our neighborhood, I was out with a group of friends running from house to house in an attempt to fill our pillowcases with as much candy as possible. Apparently, however, my small group wasn’t moving fast enough — at least not for Mario and his group of much taller friends. While each group was jockeying for position, scrambling to get to the next door, I leaped a bush to cut off everyone — including Big Mario. At that moment, this big brother shouted, “Get out the way, Tattoo!”
Everyone fell out! My friends, his friends, and every other kid within earshot. From that moment on, so many of my friends and acquaintances referred to me as Tattoo.
Of course, unless you’re from my generation, and are familiar with Fantasy Island, having the name “Tattoo” applied to me is a non sequitur.
To fill in the gap, let’s just say that the actor Herve Villechaize – played one of the most beloved TV characters of that time — known the world over by the name “Tattoo”; and like me, he was short! While his condition was defined as dwarfism, he insisted on being called a midget.
In a nutshell, Tattoo was my generation’s Mini-Me.
By the time I got back to school, it didn’t take long for people to grab my attention using Tattoo’s famous television phrase, “Da plane! Da plane” every time I walked through the quad.
Rather than object, I embraced the friendly heckling and newly acquired nickname. In fact, I wrote it on my books, shoes, and even stenciled it on the boom-box I owned at the time. I loved it! And although I kept the moniker for only a year, its genesis and tenure remain in my memory.
While I didn’t expect it, I came home with much more than candy in 1979. Most kids receive treats when they get to a door, but because of the quick-witted remark of my friend Mario, I was lucky enough to receive mine before I got to one.by