Why some 'tarentos' last and others fade

TOKYO —

“He’s no genius,” said a certain producer of actor-singer Takayuki Yamada. It was not a put-down. On the contrary, he spoke admiringly. The context is a question posed by Shukan Gendai (Jan 5-12): “What constitutes an entertainer’s talent?” Why do some stars fade almost immediately upon flashing, while others endure? It turns out that too much talent can be as bad as too little.

The magazine looks at the careers of eight popular performers, only to conclude, predictably, that there’s no one answer. Each one has his or her own secret – without which all the talent and sex appeal in the world wouldn’t have added up to a lasting career.

Yamada, 29, is best known for his starring role in the 2005 hit movie “Densha Otoko” (Train Man), about a shy “otaku” who heroically rescues women passengers from a drunk molester on a train. Yamada’s career took off – he’s currently appearing in four movies and about to star in a new TV drama.

“He’s no genius,” the producer says of him. “On the contrary, he’s cowardly, timid. On the first take in front of the camera, he can barely get his voice out.” Well, that’s not what you expect of a star in his league. But, the producer continues, “In my opinion, an actor needs cowardice. Those who don’t have it lack delicacy. Those without a touch of cowardice in their makeup insist on doing everything their own way.”

It works for Yamada. It probably wouldn’t for Hitori Gekidan, a 35-year-old comedian. (His real name is Shogo Kawashima; his stage name means, roughly, one-man theater company.) “He was a weird kid,” his mother reminisces fondly. “He was the most troublesome to raise of all my three children. I never realized it was because he had talent.”

Weird? “For example, he remembers things from his infancy; he remembers me carrying him to daycare when he was 18 months old.”

Anything else? “He was very, very shy, always hiding behind his older brother. Once when Shogo was in second grade or thereabouts, his brother teased him about something, and all of a sudden he just exploded.” The brother, five years older, fled in terror and locked himself in his room. To this day, friends say, Gekidan is known for a temper that can explode when you least expect it.

“To him,” one associate tells Shukan Gendai, “laughter is not a business, it’s not money. To him, laughter is a drug. It’s all he thinks about.”

Singer-actor Masaharu Fukuyama, at 43, has been around for 22 years and shows no sign of fading. “Around” means everywhere – records, movies, TV, radio; he won a Best Actor award for his portrayal of an eccentric but brilliant physicist in the Fuji-TV drama “Galileo.” His appeal, an entertainment reporter tells Shukan Gendai, is his instinctive feel for what a particular audience wants, and his ability – and willingness – to deliver it, even at times to the detriment of his private life.

For example, “On late-night radio aimed mostly at young men, he’ll indulge in off-color talk, but at concerts attended mostly by young women, there’ll be nothing of the kind,” says an entertainment reporter. “Who he is depends on where he is, and who’s there with him. His image is important to him to the extent that he’ll end a romance if the press gets wind of it. It’s not good for his image to be seen as a one-woman man.”

So that’s what it takes to be a lasting star.

  • 0

    kimuzukashiiiii

    I like Takayuki Yamada. Although I liked him best in Rookies and Crows!

  • 1

    zenkan

    Gekidan Hitori's mother's description of him as "weird" and subsequent explanation don't add up. Unless a huge proportion of the world population is weird.

  • 7

    smithinjapan

    Sorry, people, but confusing 'tarento' with talent is the first mistake. This article doesn't make one mention of 'tarento' like Hard Gay (who is not gay), Kojima, the 'Getz'! guy, and all those other one-month wonders who have absolutely no talent whatsoever. The article instead mentions some successful actors and musicians. Another fluff piece.

  • 0

    danalawton1@yahoo.com

    Having No-Shame is one of the most important virtues a talent needs. Although I don't know if 'no-shame' would be classified as a virtue.

  • -1

    sensei258

    "It's not who you know, it's who you ...."

  • 0

    sighclops

    The word "talent" gets thrown around a lot these days...

  • 0

    mlg4035

    To "answer" the rhetorical question in the title:

    It sure ain't talent!

  • 2

    edojin

    When looking at the "talents" on TV, I always refer to it as a circus sideshow. What I see is all kinds of freaks, weirdos and, for loss of a better word, "things." The odder they are, the more they seem to be loved.

    So ... "normal" TV talents seem to be in the minority. As the above article indicates, too "normal" and they are history ...

  • 0

    DudeDeuce

    Let's make a list of talent who will be long gone before you know it-

    Sugi-chan, the barefoot guy in jeans shorts Rui Kurihara, the pessimistic half model Fuku-kun, the boy who will be gone like Ashida Mana and that Ponyo girl

  • -2

    nyunt_shwe

    I think I'm the one who hugely like Fukuyama Masaharu as an actor. However, I didn't know his private life and being known him as a never one woman man, now, I have to label him just as a cheap womaniser who threw out ladies whenever his affairs flared out by the media. So, if he would like to change a lady to start another fresh one, he could probably tip the media about his affair in some ways. He's, thus, not a man of character and stable person, but an immoral and cheap one. I must now remove him from my favourite actors/actresses list.

  • 2

    Yubaru

    One hit oneder's are legion in Japan. They get their 15 minutes of fame and then are gone. Oh well, but at least with Kojima Yoshio he's got a backup plan, he is a licensed Japanese teacher, so he pretty much can get a job anywhere.

  • 0

    Yubaru

    Sugi-chan, the barefoot guy in jeans shorts Rui Kurihara, the pessimistic half model Fuku-kun, the boy who will be gone like Ashida Mana and that Ponyo girl

    I personally hope Matsuko-DELUXE will be gone. It was kind of surprised to see Hosoki Kazuko on a TV program recently. I thought she was gone for good....

  • 1

    Novenachama

    Some tarentos stay popular long after their talent has faded if it ever was there to begin with simply because people need something to talk about. The human desire to find common ground in conversation pushes us to discuss already popular people. Basically in the market of popular culture quality marks the difference between popularity and obscurity. Prominent tarentos stay popular longer than they ought to because they serve as conversational fodder, which in turn drives more media coverage or masukomi. Hence fame is probably self-perpetuating even when the famous tarento isn't doing anything fame-worthy anymore.

  • 2

    JapanGal

    Another English word borrowed and used in the wrong way.

  • 0

    kurumazaka

    Since when are Fukuyama Masahiro and Yamada Takayuki considered "tarento?" Yamada is a real actor and Fukuyama a musician who dabbles in TV and movies and is an acclaimed photographer.

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