The following excerpt is from my forthcoming book, Domo Arigato, Mr. Mugato, soon to be available at fine booksellers everywhere.
From a small part in a popular 60’s science fiction show to the entertainment tour-de-force he is today, Mugato has been a giant on stage and screen over the last five decades. I caught up to him in London, where he was in the midst of a two-month engagement at the Southwark Playhouse. His portrayal of Torvald in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House has been called a masterclass in the Stanislavsky method.
AP: Mr. Mugato. It’s truly an honor. Thank you for meeting with me.
M: Please. Call me Mugato.
AP: Thanks. Sorry, I’m just a little nervous.
M: Don’t worry. I don’t bite. Not anymore, anyway (laughs).
AP: Do you mind if we talk about Star Trek?
M: Why would I mind?
AP: Well, it’s just that some people have said…
M: That I don’t like talking about it? Nah. I’d like to think I’ve done better work, that’s all.
AP: Of course. But…
M: Ask your questions, kid.
AP: Do you remember how you got the part?
M: Right place, right time, I guess. In ’67 I was working as a caterer in the Hollywood hills. Serving drinks, wiping tables…you know. One night I was working a party at Roddenberry’s house. He must have liked my look, because he told me to come to Desilu the next day. Couple of hours after that, I was tackling Bill Shatner on planet Mongo, or wherever the hell they were that week (laughs).
AP: And from there a star was born.
M: Not quite…I got offered a lot of parts after that, became the toast of the town. Everyone wanted me around. I was Hollywood royalty. But then came the seventies…
AP: Right. The blacklisting, because of the war.
M: Well, they didn’t call it that, not officially. Everyone was still raw from the fifties. But, Jane (that’s Jane Fonda; I call her Jane) Jane and I sure as hell couldn’t get any good work once everyone found out how we felt about the war. If that’s not a blacklist, I don’t know what it is.
AP: Still, you managed to find work…
M: Sure. My unique look gave me an advantage. I’m lucky. I’m a humanoid, apelike creature with a lethally venomous bite, so obviously I can play just about anything. It’s tough to typecast me, so no one ever tried. Melvin hired me, then Russ…it was an interesting time.
AP: You mean Melvin Van Peebles? And Russ Meyer, right?
M: You got it. Mel gave me that part in Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song and Russ gave me the lead in Watch It Jiggle.
AP: Do you regret any of those movies?
M: Nope. Both gave me the chance to show my range as an actor, and Russ helped me understand that I like boobs. (Chuckles).
AP: About that…over the years you’ve been linked romantically to Raquel Welch, Uschi Digard and Serena Grandi, to name a few. But the most persistent rumor is that Carly Simon’s famous song, You’re So Vain, is about you. Is it?
M: I dunno. We dated for a while. You’d have to ask Carly. Anyway, I don’t kiss and tell.
AP: In an April, 1987 interview with Cinema Verite, Stanley Kubrick claimed that the five greatest actors of the last 100 years were Olivier, Welles, Streep, Day-Lewis…and Mugato.
M: I saw it. That was kind of Stan to say.
AP: What do you think?
M: I mean, I’m flattered, but I think Bobby D and Marlon got screwed (laughs).
AP: Yet you never worked with Kubrick, even though it’s rumored he had you in mind for Private Pyle in Full Metal Jacket.
M: Yeah…Stan thought I’d be all over that because of my not-so-private stance on Vietnam. But I was ready to move on from that. I was doing a lot of coke at the time, too. That’s probably what cost me the lead in Children of a Lesser God earlier that year. Still, Bill Hurt did ok, I guess. So did D’onofrio.
AP: That brings us to the nineties…
M: Yeah, look…not to be rude, but I have a curtain call in 10 minutes. I do mostly theatre now. Back to basics. But remember, I didn’t get my start in the theatre. I’m doing things in reverse. Make sure you write that in your book.
AP: OK, one last question?
AP: Why don’t you go to Star Trek conventions?
M: You’re kidding, right? (sighs). Look, I was practically a kid when Star Trek aired. Bill, De, Leonard…they were ok to me, but I wouldn’t call them my friends. Jimmy Doohan and I once ran into each other over at Pink’s, getting hot dogs. That was years later. By then I was a bigger name than him. But hey, Jimmy was all right.
The short version is that those guys and me…we only worked together long enough for me to attack Kirk and then get disintegrated. There wasn’t much chance of a recurring role after that happens to your character, and I was in demand elsewhere. I guess I’ll always be grateful to Roddenberry for giving me my shot. But I took it and managed to do pretty well. I managed to make some decent coin in this business, and I’m not looking back. Those conventions are just…sad. Anyway, thanks for dropping by, kid.
Thus, for a brief time, I had been in the presence of a master of his craft. I still had a million other questions for Mugato, but that was undeniably a dismissal. Regretfully, I shook his three-clawed paw and took my leave.
Monster May(hem) is winding down, and I’m happy to say I still have one more contribution to make, most likely on the last day. But…it’s my big ‘un this year, so if all goes well I will be happy indeed.
Be sure to check out all the other participants. Harry posted some pictures of his completed High Elf Dragon, Matt made the most terrifying (and clever) monster of all, and Ken completed a couple of Displacer Beasts that look great! That just leaves His Crow-ness, and I have faith he’ll deliver by the end of the month. (But even if he doesn’t, he’s been up to some pretty impressive Dr. Who gaming and diorama-making over on his site. You should go there and see.)
Roger, aka Dick Garrison, from Rantings From Under the Wargames Table
Dave Stone from Wargames Terrain Workshop
Matt from PMPainting
Coyotepunc from Coyotepunc’s Creativity
Ken from Blue Moose Arts
Jeremy, aka Carrion Crow, from Carrion Crow’s Buffet
Harry from War Across the Ages
You can find links to all these blogs (and others) in the sidebar as well!