Obituary: Reiko Douglas / Popular guest on TV talk shows

Sept. 2, 1936 - Sept. 9, 2013

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Reiko Douglas, a Japanese-born entertainer who became a popular guest on American talk shows in the 1960s and '70s despite the fact that she appeared to speak little English, died Sept. 9 in Los Angeles. She was 77.

Her death, from cancer, was announced by Alan Eichler, a family spokesman.

With her husband, the comedy writer Jack Douglas, Ms. Douglas made many appearances on Jack Paar's television shows -- starting with "The Tonight Show" in the early 1960s and continuing through "Jack Paar Tonight" in the 1970s.

The Douglases -- usually billed in tandem as "Jack Douglas and Reiko" -- were also ubiquitous on the shows of Merv Griffin, David Frost, Mike Douglas and Dick Cavett, and on the Johnny Carson incarnation of "The Tonight Show."

Ms. Douglas, whose English, the show-business columnist Dorothy Kilgallen wrote in 1960, was actually far better than it appeared, capitalized handily on American parochialism of the day.

In her first appearance on Paar's show, she took the stage in traditional Japanese attire alongside her husband. Her heavily accented, nearly incomprehensible replies to Paar's questions caused much hilarity among the audience.

But far from being helplessly adrift in an Anglophone sea, Ms. Douglas was by many accounts in considerable control of the situation: Her girlish charm and unassuming speech helped disarm a xenophobic public only a decade and a half after the end of World War II.

Reiko Hashimoto was born on Sept. 2, 1936, in Kanazawa, Japan. She performed in Japan as a dancer, singer and comedian before moving to the United States in 1955.

She met Jack Douglas, a writer for Paar's show and others, in 1960, when she shared a bill with him at a Los Angeles nightclub. They married that year. The couple had two sons. Jack Douglas died in 1989.

Reiko Douglas appears in several comic memoirs by her husband, including "Shut Up and Eat Your Snowshoes!" (1970), about their move to the Canadian wilderness.

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