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Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong

Actor and record executive Aki Aleong was born on December 19, 1934 in Port of Spain, Trinidad, to Henry Leong (Aleong), a cook from Hong Kong, and Agnes Vera Gonsalves from St. Vincent, British West Indies; he was originally called Assing Aleong by his father and Leonard Gonzales by his mother. Aleong attended Progressive Education Institute in Trinidad as a youth. After moving to Brooklyn, New York, with his mother in 1949, Aleong graduated from Boys High School; in 1951, he started taking classes at Brooklyn College while working in a hardware store.

Responding to a casting call for an Asian character, Aleong was cast as the Goat Boy in the 1954 Broadway production of Teahouse of the August Moon on Broadway. In 1956, Aleong made his first live television appearance in The Letter, an episode of NBC’s Producers’ Showcase. In 1957, Aleong was cast in the movie Motorcycle Gang. Throughout his career, Aleong performed in over than 200 different television programs, including: Ben Casey (1961); The Outer Limits (1963); The Virginian (1967); L.A. Law(1986); Babylon 5 (1994); Kung Fu: The Legend Continues (1996); and Curb Your Enthusiasm (2001). Aleong’s movie credits include: Never So Few (1959); The Hanoi Hilton (1987); Farewell to the King (1989); Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993); Tidal Wave: No Escape (1997); A Breed Apart (1998); Missing Brendan (2003); House of Sand and Fog (2003); and Sci-Fighter (2004).

Also a musician, Aleong wrote the hit songs Trade Winds and Shombalor; in 1963 he formed Aki Aleong and the Nobles. Leaving the movie business in 1967, Aleong worked as the west coast R&B sales and promotion manager for Capitol Records; an assistant vice president of promotion for Polydor Records; an assistant vice president of sales for Liberty/United Artist Records; the president of Pan World Records and Pan World Publishing (BMI); and a record producer for VeeJay Records. Aleong worked with The 5th Dimension, The Ojays, and Bobby Womack, and produced the Roy Ayers album Red Black and Green. Aleong also managed Norman Connors in 1976, and produced Connors’s gold record You are My Starship.

Onetime chairman of the Fraternity of Recording Executives, Aleong returned to acting in 1983. Aleong served on the boards of the Screen Actors Guild and the Media Action Network for Asian Americans and was the executive director for Asians in Media.

Accession Number

A2005.108

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/26/2005

Last Name

Aleong

Middle Name

Leonard Gonzales

Schools

Boys High School

Brooklyn College

First Name

Aki

Birth City, State, Country

Port of Spain

HM ID

ALE01

Favorite Season

Spring

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

12/19/1934

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

Trinidad & Tobago

Favorite Food

Peas and Rice

Short Description

Television actor and music executive Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong (1934 - ) appeared in numerous television and film roles in a career that spanned almost fifty years. In addition to his accomplishments in the realm of visual media, Aleong also served in a variety of executive roles within the recording industry, and released hit records as an artist.

Employment

Capitol Records, Inc.

Polydor Records

Liberty/UA Records

Pan World Records

Favorite Color

Black

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong remembers immigrating to Brooklyn, New York City from Trinidad

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes his mother's childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong remembers his childhood in Port of Spain, Trinidad

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes his father

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes how his father processed opium

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong talks about his exposure to opium

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes his father's family background and the history of Chinese immigration to the Americas

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes the role of religion in his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong remembers moving to Brooklyn, New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes the culture shock he experienced upon immigrating to New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong remembers attending Boys High School in Brooklyn, New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong remembers joining a street gang

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong remembers gang activity and policing in Brooklyn, New York City in the 1950s

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong remembers being involved in a street fight in Brooklyn, New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong talks about his friend, Bolero Martinez, from Brooklyn, New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong recalls dancing at Brooklyn College in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong recalls his focus on dancing at Brooklyn College in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes his dance studies at Henry Street Settlement House in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes his audition for 'Teahouse of the August Moon'

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes the jobs he held while attending Brooklyn College in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong remembers watching a Broadway play for the first time

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes his role in 'Teahouse of the August Moon'

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes his friendship with Marlon Brando

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong remembers his time in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes acting in the television production of 'The Letter'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong shares an insight he gained from acting in 'The Enemy'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong recalls housing discrimination in California during the 1950s

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes working with Frank Sinatra

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong recalls disputes in Hollywood that impacted his career

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes the legacy of Bill Cosby and HistoryMaker Berry Gordy

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong talks about the relationship between Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr.

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes the limited roles for actors of color

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes the Asian community in Hollywood

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong recounts his efforts to increase diversity in advertising

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong talks about record companies' exploitation of the black community

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong recalls record companies' exploitation of black employees and musicians

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes the systemic discrimination against black disc jockeys and black record labels

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes big record companies buying out black labels

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong talks about why he quit acting

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes his promotional work with Liberty UA Records and PolyGram Records

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong talks about his friendship with HistoryMaker Reverend Al Sharpton

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong talks about leaving the record business and working as an ambulance driver

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes managing jazz musician Norman Connors

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong talks about promoting jazz musicians Norman Connors and Pharaoh Sanders

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes his presence in the doo wop scene

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes his sales and promotional work for Capitol Records

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes working with Ray Charles

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes working as an ambulance driver

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong remembers his return to acting

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes his TV roles and joining the National Board of Screen Actors Guild

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong talks about promoting diversity in Hollywood

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes promoting diversity with the SAG Ethnic Minorities Committee

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong explains the need for writers and producers of color

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong reflects upon his work as an activist

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong reflects upon the challenges of representing Asian Americans in the media

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes undermining stereotypes of Asians in his roles

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong talks about being perceived as Asian rather than black

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong reflects upon his life

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes his film, 'Chinaman's Chance: America's Other Slaves'

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes the need for more diverse stories

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong talks about his relationship with his children

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong narrates his photographs, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$6

DAStory

3$4

DATitle
Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong remembers gang activity and policing in Brooklyn, New York City in the 1950s
Aki Leonard Gonzales Aleong recounts his efforts to increase diversity in advertising
Transcript
So, where I used to live, there's Prospect Park [New York, New York], you've heard of Prospect Park, right? And you have heard of the famous Empire roller rink [Empire Roller Skating Center, New York, New York], we integrated the Empire roller rink, that was my first confrontation with the law and with whitey. Now the roller rink was on the other side of the park which was heavily Jewish, so Bolero [Martinez (ph.)] and I and three of the guys used to go skating there. And Bolero was my idol, man; he was like 5'10" about a hundred and sixty pounds, thin, wiry, good looking man, looked like Romeo, man. And this guy man could skate, he did this you know wow, man. After a while all the girls used to come over to him, right, and then I was skating so then you know now and then I wouldn't ask anybody to dance but they would come over and grab me you know so I was, hey man, I was starting to integrate, right? Lo and behold, one day I'm skating, all of a sudden the girls coming over and they're passing me, we used to call it the knives were called shivs or putting--they were passing me these shivs, I put it in my pocket, what's going on? They had called the cops so there's only three black guys, man you know myself, right so what they did was they stopped Bolero and everybody and they frisked them, right? They frisked them you know to see what they had, right? I walked right by the cops, they never bothered with me (laughter) I walked right by, man. I (laughter) you know, so I used to carry this shivs whenever there was any problem, I would separate myself because I would be carrying either a marijuana cigarette or I'd be carrying the knives in my pocket you know what I'm saying? And smiling at the cops (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) They didn't think you were black?$$No, no, they never thought I was black, which is another story why I peep whitey and we'll talk about that later (laughter). But--so that-so---but Bolero man we used to--as a matter of fact I remember when Cher went to the Empire roller rink it was a big volt thing about how she went there skating blah, blah, blah. It was tough, man, so when I used to go to Brooklyn College [New York, New York] about six--about twelve blocks up, was the natural boundary. The natural boundary and it's always the train, Atlantic Avenue was there the train would come in from Long Island [New York] and I never went passed that boundary, I lived in my little ghetto, I never went. However, to go to Brooklyn College, I had to take the bus and everytime the bus would pass Atlantic Avenue I would get paranoid (laughter) because I was going into foreign territory. Now isn't that a shame, isn't that a damn shame to think about that? The college was in the other side, but because of this, we couldn't go past, I mean it was like an unwritten code. I used to feel scared but I had to go to school, right, so we used to take the Nostrand Avenue bus and go past that way to go to school. Anyways, so at Brooklyn College and at that point, with the gang activity you know what I'm saying, I was starting to fine my--a little bit of acceptance. I remember one night Bolero and I went down to Greenpoint [Brooklyn, New York, New York] to go to this party, I'm going to a party man, man I'm feeling good man, I'm going to this party. It's an all black party, man and you know and I can't dance, man (laughter) so I'm sitting down you know some guys come and say, "Hey what's the matter, don't you want to dance Bro?" "No, no, no, man I can't dance you know." So finally Bolero comes to me and said, "Hey man you in a lot of trouble." I said, "What are you talking about a lot of trouble?" "Man, these guys they don't like you man, they think you stuck up." I said, "Man but I want to dance man, I wanna get with the ladies but I can't dance, I'm embarrassed." So well we got a problem, I had to climb out from the second floor out of the bathroom window (laughter) and hang out and get out because they were going to kick my ass (laughter) because they thought I was stuck up, man. Imagine that man, had to climb out the back window.$And the percentages which will tell you because sitting on the board--in 1982, blacks represented four percent, four percent, man, four percent, okay? As the national chair of Screen Actors Guild [SAG; Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA)], co-chair of the [SAG Ethnic] Minorities Committee, Minorities Committee [Ethnic Equal Opportunities Committee], right? I found that there were like--while I was in New York [New York], I organized the program and I got over four hundred kids of color, blacks, mostly blacks, Asians some Native Americans, some Latinos. And I went to Madison Avenue and I said you know what, they're not in commercials, we were in even fewer commercials back then. I said we need a program, so being on the board of SAG, they said oh fine, well he can't do nothing. So I arranged the--a program wherein they would come in and audition these four hundred kids over a period of five months. And what it would be after they negotiate that they would--the kids would come in and they would already have a commercial they can read. But at the night of the audition, Madison Avenue, which controls everything, would then bring in a commercial in and then they can read and we'll tape it. So what I did was that I got some of the members of the board then I--then we videotaped. And I interviewed each kid, you know and most people--most actors you know they have--they don't even know what they look like their pictures don't represent them, it what they think it would be you know. Their hair is out of place, the whole nine yards, so I school them for like two months, then I put them on camera, and then I had them do commercials and they got in sync with what themselves would be, and then eventually Madison Avenue came in. Now during that period of time, we were negotiating contract for commercials. They said, the Madison Avenue said, you know what, we're not gonna pay you on a hundred percent of a commercial because you already lost 25 or 30 percent of the market. Because VCRs were coming in, people were taping; they were knocking out the commercial, so why would we pay you a 100 percent of the commercials? So being the chair of the Minorities Committee and I understood that, what was interesting was the fact that if you took 75 percent of the target audience now right, and most of that 25 percent that slipped away were mostly white--$$That had that kind of VCR.$$That's right that had that money, right? So now we're at 75 percent looking at it, right? Now if you have at that point 30 percent, okay, you had Latinos you had blacks, you had Asians, right, which could represent 25 percent, right? Now that 25 percent out of 75 percent, pretty healthy chunk, how much is that, 30 percent, right? So now you have 30 percent so your target audience is now 30 percent. All of a sudden SAG didn't do anything, so Madison Avenue--so my program was just coming in place. When they came and saw these kids, kids were doing Tetley Tea commercials, right, the brothers would pick up the cup, yo brother man, hey man, this good Tetley Tea, and they, they didn't one like traditional Tetley Tea, you know I mean they brought so much pizzazz and a different way of doing things. They brought their own soul to these different things that people were blown away, right? So what happened is that we started to get more jobs in commercials because, not because SAG was doing anything, but because they were targeting at 40 percent of the market. Interesting, it was nothing to do with anything else, except pure dollars, okay? So now today African Americans are 18 percent from '82 [1982] to today 18 percent of the jobs at Screen Actors Guild, 18 percent and rising rapidly. Latinos, a year ago, were 5.7 percent and they represent almost the same as African Americans. They've now risen 6.7, Asian Americans were 2.2, 2.4 percent for the last four years. And Native Americans had one slight gain last year from like 0.1 percent because they had a TV series that ran three days, a miniseries, there were more actors, so that's why it raised. They're microscopically out of the picture. Now, there are reasons why we can talk about why this increase and whatever, whatever. But it wasn't because of Screen Actors Guild; it was because of the fact that the demographics and the money and what you're looking at is the fact that they were targeting certain markets.