REFLECTIONS OF MISS AIRLIFTER! Kathy Horan Remembers Her Acting and Modeling Career in Japan!

Kathy Horan’s first Miss Airlifter photo, appearing in Pacific Stars and Stripes in 1967. Photo © Pacific Stars and Stripes.

Kathy Horan was born in Roswell, New Mexico, on March 5, 1948, and came to Japan in the 1960s as a military brat during her sophomore year of high school. She subsequently appeared in a number of science fiction films and TV series toward the end of the decade, including Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell (1968) as Mrs. Neal, Genocide (a.k.a. War of the Insects, 1968) as Annabelle, King Kong Escapes (1967) as a United Nations reporter, The X from Outer Space (1967) as a Moon Station nurse, The Green Slime (1968) as a Gamma 3 nurse, and Latitude Zero (1969) as a Latitude Zero correspondent. On television, she appeared in episode 17 of Kaiju Booska (1966-67) as a hotel guest, as well as episode 20 of Operation: Mystery! (1968-69) as Diana. Despite being credited in the opening credits of episode 7 of Ultra Seven (1967-68), Ms. Horan does not appear in the episode. In this 2006 interview, Ms. Horan graciously shared her memories of Japan with Brett Homenick.

Please note that, at the time this interview was conducted in 2006, Ms. Horan had not yet seen her movies or TV appearances. Her answers were given to the best of her memory at the time.

Brett Homenick: Why exactly did you move to Japan?

Kathy Horan: My father was in the Air Force and was transferred to Tachikawa Air Force Base [north of Tokyo] in ’64 for a three-year tour of duty. He was a flight engineer.

BH: And that’s the only reason.

KH: Yes.

BH: How’d you get your start in acting over there?

KH: In ninth grade, I was a member of the National Thespians Club. Acting was in my blood. After playing Ophelia in Hamlet, and acting in several other plays, I was hooked! It truly was in my blood. Thus, upon arriving in Japan, with tons of opportunities for “round eyes,” as we were called, I jumped right in. I actually did not start working till the summer of my junior year [of high school]. I had to graduate! I signed up with several modeling agencies; I remember Tops being one that used me a lot.

One of my first modeling jobs was for Honda. I got to meet the Honda family. They were very gracious [and] invited my mom and me over for tea. We enjoyed our day. At one point, in my career in Japan, I even had my own weekly TV show [episode 20 of Operation: Mystery!].

BH: What was that about?

KH: I can’t seem to remember the name, but I was dressed like the goddess Diana, and I carried a bow and arrow. All I can remember is, a picture of me hung in this Japanese house [of the stars of the TV show], and, at certain times, I magically came alive, came out of the frame, and shot my arrow at someone. It always made them feel better!

BH: So you were kind of the goddess of love back then, in that show?

KH: I guess you could say that! I guess I hit them with love! It ran on TV for a year.

BH: (laughs) Well, talk about your memories of King Kong Escapes (1967).

KH: I don’t have any memories of that! (laughs) I mean, was I in that?

BH: I’m looking at the still right now, and it looks like you’re in that.

KH: It could be. I can remember some big, hairy gorilla on a set somewhere, but I probably had a real small part.      

BH: Do you have any memories of Rhodes Reason or Akira Takarada or any of the other people in that movie?

KH: Who was that? What was the person’s name?

BH: Rhodes Reason.

KH: Rhodes. No, I don’t. I don’t remember a Rhodes.

Kathy Horan leans on the tail of a C-130 that was affectionately known as “Old Shaky.” Photo courtesy of Kathy Horan.

BH: Do you have any memories of working with Ishiro Honda, the director?

KH: Sure! He was a great guy.

BH: Do you remember how we would direct you in a scene?

KH: He would basically be very patient, and he would even kind of act it out himself first, to show you what he wanted. I thought he was a great guy. I enjoyed working with him. I think I did three different movies with him.

BH: On the subject of the movie Genocide, also known as War of the Insects (1968), that was one of your bigger roles.

KH: Right.

BH: You played Annabelle, who reportedly is a Holocaust survivor. Is that true?

KH: No.

BH: What can you tell me about that movie? Not a lot is known about the plot — it‘s not been subtitled over here.

KH: I found an old newspaper article on this movie in one of my books. Here it goes:

A killer bee gets into a big bomber, making it crash, A-bomb and all. The bees then sting [the] survivors to death. Main actor, Yusuke Kawazu, is an insect collector. As the article goes, I’m his fast foreign friend! There is a Communist spy ring in the movie, [and] I turn out to be a mad bee specialist living in the area. In the article, which really slams the acting, they quote my last line, just before I fall down my laboratory steps covered in bees that are stinging me to death, “Bugs don’t lie, but people do. I hate people!”

BH: Do you have any memories of Chico [Lourant]?

KH: Chico … Japanese actor?

BH: No, he was the black guy in that movie.

KH: Oh, oh, oh, yes. Also a military guy. I think he was English, part English. He had an English accent.

BH: How about Rolf Jessup or Ralph Jessup? He played one of the military people in that movie.

KH: I have no memory.

Eizo Kitamura and Kathy Horan act out a scene on the set of Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell (1968). Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell © 1968, Shochiku Co., Ltd.

BH: Another one of your bigger roles was [in] Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell (1968). What can you tell me about that movie?

KH: Well, it was a plane crash. I was a passenger. Oh, it played up the Vietnam War big-time. I guess I was going to pick my husband’s body up, and the plane crashed.

BH: That’s right. Do you have any memories of the shoot at all?

KH: Yes, we did a lot of desert-type shooting, running around in the sand with what’s-his-face [Hideo Ko] with the split in his head chasing everyone.

BH: What are your memories of Hajime Sato, the director?

KH: I don’t have any of him.

Kathy Horan (center) and Luciana Paluzzi (right) evade The Green Slime. The Green Slime © 1968, Toei Co., Ltd.

BH: How about The Green Slime (1968)? What are your memories of working on that movie?

KH: Oh, it was great fun. There were tons of people I knew because they probably literally hired the whole Tachikawa Air Base. And then Robert Horton was just a total gentleman. Richard Jaeckel wasn’t. And Luciana Paluzzi was an Italian actress; you know how those girls go.

BH: Do you remember Robert Dunham?

KH: Robert Dunham… that name sounds vaguely familiar. I’m sure, if I saw his picture, it would pop right to me, but I haven‘t pulled those books out in a long time.

BH: (laughs) Well, do you remember anything about Kinji Fukasaku, the director?

KH: I remember thinking he was way before his time, especially when we were filming the Moon land rover scene on the asteroid. I would go in and watch him do his little space-ships-hanging-from-strings shooting, and thinking, “Hey, this guy is way before his time.” But he was a great guy.

BH: Do you remember what kind of direction he gave?

KH: I know he used one of those [megaphones]. He used that all the time. That’s how he gave his orders, through that.

BH: Well, another movie that you worked on was [The] X from Outer Space (1967), and you also worked with an actor named Mike Daneen in that. Do you remember him at all?

KH: Mike Daneen … No, I don’t.

BH: He played Dr. Stein. I guess you played the nurse, and he was the doctor that you played the nurse to.

KH: No.

BH: Do you remember anything about that movie at all?

KH: No. (laughs) Must have had a real small part!

BH: (laughs)

KH: That memory bank’s gone!

Kathy Horan (left) and Luciana Paluzzi tend to an injured man aboard Gamma 3 in The Green Slime. The Green Slime © 1968, Toei Co., Ltd.

BH:  I guess the final movie that I really have any questions on is Latitude Zero (1969), which was another movie with Ishiro Honda. You shared screen time with Joseph Cotten, who was in Citizen Kane (1941), among other movies. Do you have any memories of working with him?

KH: I remember he was a gentleman. I was kind of in awe of him because of Citizen Kane. I was like, “What is he doing over here?” We all have to put food on our table.

BH: It’s interesting because one of the people I know who, in talking with me, pointed this out to me. In the scene, you hand him something, a piece of paper. And, as he walks away, it almost looks like you’re rolling your eyes at him. I guess it’s just how you turn your head or something. He wanted me to ask if he was hard to work with or something because of that.

KH: No, I didn’t find that at all. I don’t know. Maybe I was supposed to do that. Do you think? I don’t have any memory of him being tough to deal with.

BH: And he was always nice to you and everyone on the set.

KH: Yes, I thought he was a real gentleman.

BH: Were you in Las Vegas Free-for-All (1967), which is a Crazy Cats movie?

KH: I found pictures of myself in another movie, which might be this Crazy Cats movie. We are in a room dancing, I’m wearing a silver sleeveless dress, [and] several of the Japanese guys are dancing really wild! Don’t know if it’s that movie or not!

BH: What would you consider any highlight of your career in Japan, if you think you have any or not?

KH: I liked all the things that I did, but I really liked doing The Green Slime with MGM.

BH: That was your favorite.

KH: Yes. I even have a copy of it. Actually, my boys all think it’s way cool that I was an actress in my younger days.

BH: Why did you leave acting, and Japan, for that matter?

KH: Well, my father got transferred back to Washington State.

BH: When did you leave Japan?

KH: We left in ’69.

BH: So that was the end of your movie career, too, just because you left Japan.

KH: Actually, I toyed with the thought [of continuing acting in the U.S.]. Robert Horton had set up an interview for me to interview for Valley of the Dolls back in the States, and I actually went. Charlton Heston was the Screen Actors Guild president at the time. I went and talked to him, but, in the ’70s, to get anywhere, you pretty much had to do other things, and I just decided to change my career. But I could have been in Valley of the Dolls. They told me there was a spot for me, but I just chose not to.

BH: Is there any closing comment you have?

KH: Probably the one thing I am the most proud of while in Japan was the fact that I was Miss Airlifter from ‘67 to ‘69. The 315th Air Division had a monthly newspaper called The Airlifter. I had a monthly column [safety column] with a picture that appeared every month. There also was a three-page article that ran on me in the Pacific Stars and Stripes [August 11, 1968], “Kathi Horan and the Airlift Story.” Thus, those pictures of me on C-130s! I got tons of fan mail from guys in Vietnam, and I must say I answered them all. I also once every four months or so toured the hospitals at Tachi and visited with injured G.I.s.

Photo © Pacific Stars and Stripes.

[After leaving Japan,] I worked as a legal secretary for a law firm in California, moved to Kansas City and worked for the Playboy Club there, [and] traveled with a clothing rep, modeling coats for department stores. I was hired by Braniff International Airlines out of Dallas in ‘72. I worked as a flight attendant for 10 years. I then got married, took 20 years off, and raised two handsome sons, now 24 and 21. I might add, enjoyed the heck out of being a stay-at-home mom! My husband of 28 years is in the restaurant biz here in Colorado. One of my sons just got married, and the younger [son] is in college at UNC [University of Northern Colorado].

My time in Japan was very special to me, and it will always hold a fond place in my heart. I eat Japanese food at least three times a week, so bring on the gyoza!

I really just enjoyed the five years I was in Japan. I haven’t been back, but I know one day I will.

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