Saturday, September 11, 2010

Esoteric Claims to Fame, Or: My Cousin Was a MIB

Originally posted at Trickster's Realm for Binnall of America.



An item on Lon Sticker’s Phantoms and Monsters about Elvis and his life long interest in UFOs inspired me to write about the time I met Elvis in Los Angles when I was working at the Free Clinic.  (see my post on UFO Mystic.) That was one of my brushes with fame, and esoteric in a round about way, since Elvis had a strong curiosity about UFOs and believed in extraterrestrial life.

Another esoteric brush with fame is, I think, waaaaaaaay cool. It concerns Boris Badenov. Yes, that Boris Badenov! Legend has it that the character actor Akim Tarmioff was the inspiration for the spy character Boris Badenov of the  Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons.  Here is what a Wikipedia entry has to say about Akim’s inspiration:
Badenov's name is a play on that of the 16th-century Russian Tsar Boris Godunov ("bad enough" vs. "good enough"). His accent and explosive temper are an homage to Hollywood actor Akim Tamiroff, especially Tamiroff's role in The Great McGinty, a 1940 movie directed by Preston Sturges.


Akim (Mikhailovich) Tamiroff, the Russian born character actor who appeared in dozens of films and television shows was often typecast as a Mexican or Greek, among other ethnic characters. He played spies, cops, thieves; all manner of roles.  Among the films Akim appeared in:For Whom the Bell Tolls, 1943, Lord Jim, 1965, Oceans 11, 1960, Topaki, 1964, and dozens more.

Akim was married to my grandfather’s niece, actress Tamara Shayne. My mother lived with them when she was in her late teens (that would be in late 1940s, early 1950s) when she first arrived in Los Angeles from Oregon.  I met them once when I was little; I remember Tamara as being stand offish , but Akim was pretty nice, very funny and playful.

Truly, how cool is it that one of the iconic cartoon characters, Boris Badenov, was based on a family member? (Another fun esoteric synchronistic fact: my mother’s name is a variation of Natasha.) 


Is it fair to say Boris was a MIB? No, it just sounded good for the title. Boris was short, fat, and hardly MIB like in behavior or appearance. He was an Eastern European/Russian spy, bumbling, the bad guy, created during the Cold War, when the spy business was everywhere. It still is; and actually, we’ve come back around to Russian spies recently, with movies like SALT and the plethora of Russian spies on television shows.

I have other claims to esoteric fame, which I'll write about in future columns.

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