Where Are They Now: Karate Kid Edition

Of course we’re all familiar with the career arc of Elizabeth Shue, who after Adventures in Babysitting was suddenly too cool to do the Karate Kid sequels, leading to Daniel-son’s awkward romance in Part III with that chick from Teen Witch.

And we all know Ralph Maccio pretty much fell off the face of the Earth after My Cousin Vinny, only to resurface in a guest spot on Entourage last season. (Also, according to IMDB, he did an episode of Chicken Soup for the Soul, which sounds like a made-up show to me.)

Then there’s Pat Morita, who passed away last year after nearly forty years of being just about the hardest working man in show business. Can anyone else claim guest spots on Green Acres, Gomer Pyle, The Odd Couple, M*A*S*H, Kung Fu, Sanford and Son, Welcome Back Kotter, Chico and the Man, The Incredible Hulk, The Love Boat, Laverne and Shirley, Dave’s World, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Murder She Wrote, Boy Meets World, Family Matters, Son of the Beach, Baywatch, Caroline in the City and Yes, Dear?

It seems fitting that in the last few years of his life Morita was cast several times as an emperor, after starting his career as “Oriental #3” in Thoroughly Modern Millie and playing more Wongs and Wings than probably any other actor in history.

So that takes care of the principle stars of The Karate Kid universe. But what about the lesser lights, the second fiddles, the memorable character actors that populated perhaps the best movie ever made about under-18 tournament karate?

Martin Kove, aka the evil John Kreese, has been in a long string of forgettable TV shows and movies with names like The Marksmen, Grizzly Mountain, Extreme Honor and American Gun. You get the idea. Perhaps his career highlight came in 2003, when he again teamed up with Pat Morita in the fish-out-of-water comedy Rice Girls, about an aspiring actress picked up on a prostitution sting, chased by an Iraqi warlord and forced to wrestle a 300-pound character named “Meathead.” And now I have to change the plot of my novel. Damn it.

Randee Heller, who played Daniel-son’s annoying mother has, against all odds, continued to act, mostly in television shows. Though she recently had a memorable turn as “Beverly Hills Dog Owner” in Monster in Law.

And what about the Kobra Kai’s?

William Zabka (Johnny) followed up The Karate Kid with Just One of the Guys, European Vacation and Back to School. For a while there in the mid-80’s, everything was coming up Zabka. Then he did Karate Kid II and a made-for-TV movie about a Spanish treasure hunter, and things took a turn for the worse. Pretty soon he was starring exclusively in futuristic thrillers like Shootfighter, Shootfighter II, Gale Force, Hyper Sonic and Mindstorm. Oh, how the mighty have fallen (into the straight-to-video bin).

Though is it worse to do straight-to-video or straight-to-pay-per-view? Because fellow Kobra Kai Rob Garrison (Tommy) played Billy Dare in Hollywood Hot Tubs 2: Educating Crystal. And now I also have to change the title of my novel.

Ron “Put Him in a Body Bag” Thomas (Bobby), seems to have inexplicably stopped acting after 1987’s Night Screams.

And Chad McQueen (Dutch), who I just found out is the son of Steve McQueen, has had pretty much the same career arc as his father, only instead of The Thomas Crown Affair, he was in Sexual Malice, and instead of The Magnificent Seven, he did Skateboard: The Movie. If you squint your eyes just right, they’re pretty much the same.

Finally, my favorite actor from The Karate Kid, Israel Juarbe, who played Freddy Fernandez, Daniel’s first friend in California. In one of the movie’s great mysteries (the other is what happened to the job in “computers” Mrs. Larusso moved to California for in the first place, since by week two she’s a waitress) Freddy promises to show Daniel the ropes, invites him to a beach party, watches him get his ass kicked by Johnny, then disappears from his life completely, even though they go to the same school and live in the same small apartment complex. Then, in one of the movie’s final scenes, the camera pans the crowd of the All-Valley Karate Tournament, and there’s Freddy in the stands, clapping and smiling! And here I thought he’d moved to Montana, or died of smallpox. Apparently he just had mono, or lots of homework.

Anyway, Juarbe’s had a string of bit parts in television and the movies. He’s played a courier, a room service waiter, attendant, bell hop, a “citizenship student.” And people say Latino actors are typecast -- nonsense! If any of you three or four loyal Barrelhouse readers are in the movie business, give Israel Juarbe some love. Maybe your upcoming movie needs a grape picker, or a janitor. If so, Juarbe’s your man! I kid, I kid. I'm sure he's capable of playing many different parts, like a fast food worker, or a drug kingpin, or a dirty illegal immigrant who sleeps all day and steals jobs from hardworking Americans who are just dying to gut cows in a slaughterhouse for minimum wage.

Give Juarbe a call!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Lucille,(Daniels mom in Karate Kid) was only doing the waitress thing til she found another job.