Linda Mabrey (a.k.a. Linda Malsom) became an actress and model in Japan by pure happenstance. After arriving in Japan in the late 1960s, Linda found herself appearing in the cult classic The Green Slime (1968), as well as episode 19 of Tsuburaya Productions’ Ultra Seven (1967-68) as Grace Miyabe.
Born on May 16, 1947, in Anderson, Indiana, Linda graduated from high school in her hometown. Linda, whose father was in Nagasaki during World War II, planned to go to college but got married to her high school sweetheart, who had joined the Air Force. After boot camp in Texas, her husband became stationed in Japan, and eventually she went to join him. Linda’s mother made her to work to earn enough money to purchase the plane ticket on her own, which took about a year. Upon arrival, she lived at Fuchu Air Station near Higashi-Fuchu Station.
Since childhood, Linda had practiced to become a performer. At a young age, her mother put her in lessons for ballet, tap-dancing, acrobatics, concert piano for years. But she turned 22 before she got into singing. While working as a cocktail waitress in Hawaii, the keyboardist of a trio was Japanese and asked Linda if she knew how to sing, which she didn’t. He then sent her to the University of Hawaii to study opera for a year.
After deciding it would be difficult to make a living as an opera singer, Linda switched to become a wedding singer, which is how she started learning languages. In all, Linda sang in five languages. During this time, she sang with the Honolulu-based party and wedding band The Ebb Tides. After her first stay in Japan in the late 1960s, Linda returned to Japan in the early ‘70s and got a contract with Capitol Records and began singing professionally, even though she couldn’t speak Japanese very well. Her work included co-hosting Nite Gent, a TV program in Nagasaki, and Night Rhapsody, a radio show in Osaka.
After returning the U.S., Linda pursued a career as a singer/songwriter and a keynote speaker, addressing such issues as crime and abuse. Under her current stage name Linda Kristy, she recently published the book Deception: I Married a Con Man (2016), which chronicles her real-life experience married to a man who was not at all what he claimed. In May 2018, Linda spoke with Brett Homenick via telephone about her memories of living and working in Japan.
Brett Homenick: What brought you to Japan?
Linda Mabrey: Would I ever in my life, being born in Anderson, Indiana, think that I would be in another country? No. So it was a great happening. There are no mistakes. He (my husband) had his boot camp, and then they shipped him over to Higashi-Fuchu. I worked for a year to get the ticket to go over to meet him. When I went over to meet – I have no qualms about saying that – he had already gotten a lady-friend through the base. I guess the guys used to drink a lot, and they would have hostesses in Japan. I never knew about that before. So he was in love or infatuated with somebody. Anyway, when I got over there, it was apparent that he didn’t really want me, and he arranged a divorce. I went into shock!
So I stayed at the pastor’s at the base. I stayed at his house, and he got me an agent after the divorce because I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t return home because he had cashed in the ticket and kind of partied a lot, and I didn’t have money for a ticket. I was ashamed and didn’t want to tell my family, so when I was living with this pastor, he got me an agent, and I started working. In the meantime, I did meet a girlfriend, and her name was Sumie Totani at that time. She was Japanese and had a Japanese family in Suginami. Between the pastor and working when I was in Tokyo, I’d stay with her and her family, so it was between the pastor and her family that I would stay over there. That’s how I started working.
BH: Which agency was it?
LM: I don’t know the agent at that time because it was just an agent. I don’t know if it was an agency. I didn’t know the details – it was through the pastor. But the second time I had gone over, it was with Aoyama Productions. I believe they were located in Roppongi.
BH: Do you remember what some of your first jobs were when you joined the agency?
LM: I had a lot of modeling jobs. I was the in the Stars and Stripes Air Force magazine. I don’t know how I got there – I was the calendar girl. I was in a lot of commercials – camera commercials, cigarette commercials, motorcycle commercials – a lot of magazines, modeling, but usually for items. They needed an American face. There weren’t too many Americans over there at that time that I knew of, except for a couple of the other girls when we did the MGM movie (The Green Slime). I really didn’t know that many Americans over there at that time.
I just remembered. I was doing a movie with Yuzo Kayama (the star of Toho’s Young Guy series), and we became girlfriend/boyfriend. So I’d always go down to the beach and met his mom (actress Yoko Kozakura); we got along wonderfully. I was sad to hear when she passed (in 1970).
I dated him for a long time. Of course, it was on the hush-hush. I met him on a movie that he did, and I don’t remember the name of the movie. I think it was NHK. I think it was a larger one because he was pretty big at that time. I do not remember the name of the movie. I just remember I was in a movie. I was in a lot of things. They’d send me, and I’d do it. I don’t know the names of a lot of stuff that I was in. But this is one of the things that I remember because I was going with him. We were dating. I used to stay at the family home on the beach. I forget where the beach was.
LM: Chigasaki, yes! It was all very interesting. Oh, I was so madly in love! Oh, my gosh. We couldn’t be an item at that time because everything was done in secrecy. But I remember!
BH: I know you met on a film, but what were the circumstances of your meeting, and how did it start?
LM: It was in studio. I was in the movie, and we started talking. The reason we got along so well is because he spoke English because his mom taught him. His spoke good English. She (his mother) was like Elizabeth Taylor; she was beautiful. No wonder he was so handsome. That’s where I met (him), on set. We got to talking, and he invited me to come to Chigasaki. So we did, and we dated for a long time. That was the only thing I remembered about that.
BH: When you dated, where would you go?
LM: We were mostly secret. We never went outside in public. He’d never meet me when we were in Tokyo. It was always secret because he didn’t want any scandals or anything. That’s all I remember about that.
BH: Personality-wise, how did you find Mr. Kayama?
LM: Very professional, very romantic. Disciplined. I don’t really remember any negatives about him. He was very honorable, especially to his mother and myself. But he loved his work. Absolutely, that was his life. Loved his work and his public. He was very good when he was in public. But it was like we couldn’t really speak when we were on the set that much because they didn’t want anybody to get an idea (of) any kind of romance, which they should have assumed. I mean, we were on set together. The uniqueness of it was at that time not too many people that I worked with spoke English. So he was very smart, very intelligent.
I do remember going on a boat, a large boat. I do remember that, and I don’t remember any details. Maybe that’s why I went to Chigasaki. It was down by the water; it was on the beach, I remember. I remember a boat.
When I working in Roppongi at Club Apia (the Playboy Club), I had heard that he came once in secret. He didn’t want anyone to know he was there, and he watched the show. But he never said hello. Now that’s what they told me, and the guy that owns the place was my friend. He said, “You’re friend was in here!” “Oh, really?” So I believe it to be true, but I don’t know. I didn’t see him, but I think he was there. That was the second time I was in Japan.
BH: What do you remember as being the first acting job you had?
LM: I do not remember. The only thing I remember is being in that MGM movie. I remember (a TV program) called Hadaka no Machi (1968-69). I remember that because they said it was the equivalent of Naked City. It was a detective show. I was on that as a German spy. They had to write me out. I remember the blue makeup (they used on me). Somebody shot me and put me in the river, and they thought I died. They had to do that to end that particular show, to be continued. They sent me to Hong Kong for 10 days to renew my visa. At that time, it was the old way of (renewing) visas. You could come in the country, work six months, out 10 days, get a new visa, work six months, out 10 days. So they’d always take me to Hong Kong. So I’d renew my visa and come back in, and then I didn’t die, so they would write me back in the series. I do not know what channel it was on, what network it was on.
(During my second stay in Japan,) I was in five cities a day, singing, doing concerts. I remember there were about 5,000 in one concert. The bleachers went all the way up to the sky. There was a group of girls up in the audience, saying, “Linda-san! Linda-san!” That was televised. There was a lot televised for the singing. But that was through Aoyama Productions when they put my song out, which was called “Blue Light.” So I did very well on that. That’s when I started traveling. So it was all combined, but mostly singing.
BH: Going back to The Green Slime, which is the MGM movie, what can you tell me about that? Do you remember being cast or being on the set?
LM: I remember it had a nice buzz. Everybody was talking about this big MGM movie that came to town. (My agent was) so excited because I had a line in the movie. So it’s sad for me to say they took out the line! (laughs) So I couldn’t claim that, so I was just one of the all people that were in there. I had a few shots with the stars, which were Luciana Paluzzi – she had just come from doing a 007 movie in London at that time – and then Richard Jaeckel and Robert Horton, who was of course famous for Wagon Train, which I still watch to this day – good old black and white. I had dinner with them a lot. Richard and I were kind of an item on set. So we had dinners together, and off-set we all became friends. Being an American over there, and having Americans come over, you kind of gather all together. So they became close friends.
BH: You were a bit of an item with Richard Jaeckel on the set?
LM: Yes, we were kind of dating, I guess. This is in Japan, you’re on set, you become friends, and I became close friends with him. Yeah, we were dating.
The only thing I do remember – it really scared me – when they were spraying oil on the (tentacles) on these little monsters that they made, and the little people get into these suits, and they zip them up, and then they spray oil on them. That always amazed me, and it scared me. I used to have bad dreams about these little guys. To this day, I don’t like to look at them. I remember that! (laughs)
BH: So you were genuinely afraid of the creatures.
LM: Well, yeah, I had bad dreams about them when we were on set. I started having bad dreams about them. I can still remember that. I know there’s men in there, but it was weird. As a younger person, I guess it just stuck to me. I didn’t like it. Just a quirky thing, you know.
No big, major thing, except I was friends with Richard, and it was just interesting watching that movie being made over there and how they built the sets, how they gathered, and did their rehearsals. It was just amazing. That was the first time I was ever in a major movie. At that time, it was a pretty big deal in my life. They were calling it “Battle Beyond the Stars.” Oh, it was so beautiful! Then, after it was all said and done, they said they changed the movie to The Green Slime. Oh, my goodness! My heart broke. (laughs) I wasn’t proud of The Green Slime anymore. Then when it was on in Anderson, Indiana, in the outside movie theater – oh, my gosh – I was so embarrassed I didn’t say anything to anybody. I should have been in the newspapers and stuff like that.
BH: One person who was on the set actually said that the people in the suits, at least some of them, were children. Do you remember seeing any children?
LM: No, I don’t. I just know it was a little person. I don’t think it was children. I have done some work in the United States with little people, and I do believe it was little people. I do not think it was children. I don’t think they’d have used children at that time, 50 years ago, would they? They had to stay in those suits for a long while. It must have been terribly, terribly hot in there. Working on those sets was (under) tough conditions. I would venture to say they were more little people than they were children.
BH: Do you have any other memories to share about The Green Slime, or does that about cover it?
LM: I think that just about covers it. I had a good time. It wasn’t like work. It was like Disneyland. (laughs) I made a lot of friends. Us girls kind of hung together, and then we fell apart after all that. We never kept in contact.
BH: Do you remember where you filmed your scenes? Do you remember if they were filmed at Toei Studios?
LM: Yes, it was in studio. That sounds familiar, Toei Studios. It was all in studio.
BH: Do you remember how long, more or less, the shoot was for you?
LM: Maybe a couple of weeks. I just remember enjoying going to the set every day. I don’t know if it was a couple of weeks or maybe longer than that. Maybe two to three weeks.
BH: So it wasn’t just a couple of days; it was actually a couple of weeks.
LM: Oh, yeah. It was a long time. What was great about it is we were around and watched the rehearsals and how they did the special effects. It was great. Like I said, it was like Disneyland, only watching it being made. Very special. That was the major part – not only being in it, which was great – but it was watching them make the scenes and doing scenes over and over, and how the Japanese perfection was working side-by-side with the Americans. It was a great thing to see, great camaraderie.
BH: Do you remember how they did the special effects or any memories of watching the special effects and how they did that?
LM: All I remember is when they sprayed the oil on the little squeaky guys with the big old arms that I don’t like. I remember the tricks of the lighting. They were inside a spaceship: “Wow, it really looks like we’re there! Oh, my gosh!” It was just the magic of the movies. It was incredible. That’s really about all I remember.
BH: The credit that I think most people are interested in hearing about is Ultra Seven. Do you remember how you got cast?
LM: No, I don’t. It had to be from the agency.
BH: What do you remember about shooting? Take me back to the set. What do you remember about the people you worked with? Where were your scenes shot?
LM: I don’t remember the people very much. I remember the set. I remember not screaming loud enough. I couldn’t scream loud enough. They’d say, “Okay, retake.” So they finally got me screaming loud enough. But I remember because it was scary to me, like the MGM movie with the monsters. When I was going down the stairway with the candle, first of all, that’s scary in itself – on the set, going down this dark stairway. I remember the camera filming that, going down that stairway. When I had to scream, that was a good scream because it was real. (laughs) I was actually scared! (laughs)
I was just very impressed with, again, the trickery or the magic of the movies. I only saw (Ultra) Seven in costume a couple of times. I do remember working with that man (actor Kozo Nomura, who played Dr. Miyabe). I don’t remember his name. I remember he was very kind. I do not remember any of the other people. But I do remember the stairway, and I remember turning out the lights in the scene when we were both in bed. I remember that they took that one shot, and my hand was going up there, and I turned out the light. I remember that.
BH: Were all your scenes filmed on location? Was any of it a set?
LM: No, it was all on location – my part.
BH: Was this out near Mount Fuji?
BH: Do you remember anything else about the house, going to the location?
LM: I don’t remember going to that house. I remember that we stayed in a quaint, small hotel, and I remember I slept on tatami, and I had shoji doors –very, very Japanese-style. It was like a little inn. I had a little problem with a couple of the guys getting a little bit too much sake. I do remember that. I do remember staying there, so we stayed at a hotel, and it was on location at a house.
BH: Do you remember about how long you were there, more or less?
LM: Maybe a week to 10 days. I remember locations usually lasted seven to 10 days. If you go on location, it would usually last that long. I do remember that.
BH: Could you elaborate on the sake story? Were they crew members, or were they just random guests at the inn?
LM: I don’t know. You know guys when they drink sake, and they’re guys. I just remember that the doors didn’t lock, or I didn’t know how to lock them. They got drunk and came into my room one night. There was a little bit of a scene, but I got them out. I do remember that. I don’t know if it was a producer, a lighting guy – it was just guys, a couple of guys. You know: Fun on location, whoop-de-doo, let’s have some sake, and go scare the girl actress. (laughs) But that’s all I remember, and it wasn’t like any serious stuff. Anyway, it got taken care of, and everything was fine. But it wasn’t a bad time on location. It was all very, very good. I always remember how good, professional, precise they always were. That was only one incident, and that was probably because everybody was on location, having a good time, drinking sake. So I don’t blame anybody for doing that kind of stuff.
BH: Did you have any other possible memories about Ultra Seven?
LM: I do not. I just remember the stairway. I was scared. I remember the candle. I remember turning out the lights, and the man that I worked with was very kind. They were great. I’d never seen it before. Anything I’d do (as an actress in Japan), I don’t watch. It’s a job. You do it and go on. So it was quite interesting – their special effects, how they do things compared to what we see here in the United States, the different categories, the different levels of how things are done technically. It was just interesting how it developed through the years.
Ultra Seven was the first time I’d heard the word and learned the word “anata.” I had to call him “Anata.” I thought it was like “sweetheart” or something. I did do all that (speak my lines) in Japanese. They overdubbed me.
BH: But you were speaking Japanese.
LM: Yeah. Inside, I wrote it out in romaji. That’s would interpret it and speak it, and I would write it out in English. “Wa-ta-shi-wa…” So that’s what I would write in the script, and that’s what I would memorize, what they told me. That’s how I started learning language.
I remember turning on the television and not understanding the news, but I could understand some of the movies. When my (Japanese) girlfriend came over, she couldn’t understand the news, either. It’s like a different language, and you can’t understand that. But you could understand a regular conversation because it’s just regular conversation.
BH: I wanted to ask you about Masumi Okada, whom you worked with. Did you meet him on your first trip in Japan, or was that only your second?
LM: The second time.
BH: What do you remember about Mr. Okada and working with him?
LM: I just remember that I was infatuated with him. He was very handsome, and he had a wonderful voice. The people that were brought onto the program (Nite Gent), I would sing with them. Of course, they’d do their hit songs. He and I would hang out for rehearsals and stuff, but we never really had an outside-friend relationship, as far as going to each other’s place that we stayed. Only a couple of times we had dinner together, but there was always somebody there, too. It was straight, strictly professional. He was more developed, of course, in Japanese than I was. I was kind of the second guy. I was the Ed McMahon of “The Johnny Carson Show.”
He was very professional. It was a fun time. Every Wednesday, I would go to Osaka and do a radio program called Night Rhapsody. That also was scripted, and people that were stars at that time, I would interview them. I do believe I had a co-host. I’m sure I had to, but I don’t remember anything else.
I do not know my (stage) name. I remember that they couldn’t pronounce my name, so I think they (would announce me as) “Linda dake,” which is, “Only Linda.” They taught me how to give autographs, singing as just “Linda.” There was no last name, like Cher.
BH: What were the circumstances when you left (Japan) the first time?
LM: I lived at Sumie’s house and the base at the same time. I was in touch with the pastor and them. So they kept pretty close watch over me. I remember her father was a sumo champion, and he used to sit with me and hit my stomach, so I would go, “Hah!” He was teaching me (how to sing from) my diaphragm. I had singing teachers to strengthen my diaphragm for singing. When I was living at their house, he loved Coca-Cola, and he said, “Linda-san, you are my American daughter!” (laughs) Other than that, I worked there, and I lived with the family. That’s how Sumie and I became close friends. I taught her a lot of English.
I left Japan, and she came over to Florida to become a Pan American stewardess. That’s where the school was. I went back to Indiana. When she graduated, I went down there. I stayed down there for a while, made enough money for a ticket because she got based in Hawaii, and that’s how I got to Hawaii. Then I went off on my own in Hawaii and became a wedding singer. That’s when I got into the Japanese language, and when I was singing at a Japanese party one time, the president of the musicians’ union asked me if I would like to go to Japan under contract. That’s when the second time around started.
BH: How long were you in Japan the second time?
LM: I think I was there for two years. I remember going to Hong Kong twice. Maybe a year and a half then. That was quite some time.
The agency got me the apartment in Roppongi. That’s when I took over (the apartment of) Takamiyama (Daigoro) – he was the sumo champion then – so he was by the same agency. They had eight places for their clients to stay. He was going back to Hawaii, and they put me into where he was living. That’s where I worked out of in Roppongi. That’s where I lived.
BH: At the end of the second time, why did you leave?
LM: I had heard of a showcase in Las Vegas. Those were auditions that were done in Las Vegas. I’d never been there. So I came to Las Vegas. I stayed in a little motel. I came to the showcase – there were 2,000 people. But I came. Boy, did I have guts! (laughs) I came, and I auditioned. Only five got it, and I was one of the five. I got it, and I’ve worked (here) ever since.
Special thanks to Mike Barnum.