Charles “Charlie” J. Kalani, Jr. (January 6, 1930 – August 22, 2000) was an American professional wrestler, professional boxer, college football player, soldier, actor, and Martial Artist who iwas also known as Professor Toru Tanaka, or simply, Professor Tanaka.
He was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, (where another amazing movie villain Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa resises) the son of Charles J. Kalani and Christina Leong Kalani (who was part Chinese). Charlie began studying judo at age nine. At Iolani School (class of 1949), he was a natural at many sports, and Doris Kalani credited his time on the football team with keeping him away from trouble. “He was a street kid getting into trouble and would have ended up in reform school if Father Kenneth A. Bray hadn’t helped him out by bringing him to Iolani. He felt Iolani saved him,” she told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
He left Hawaii for Utah’s Weber Junior College (now Weber State University). On December 6, 1951, the Associated Press reported he received honorable mention for playing football at the University of Utah. It was at the University of Utah that he also met his wife Doris in 1952. On December 3, 1952 the Associated Press reported Kalani would become a professional boxer. Drafted into the U.S. Army in 1955, Kalani rose to the rank of sergeant and excelled on the pistol team. For four years, the couple were stationed at a base in Nuremberg, Germany.
After Kalani’s discharge from the service in 1966, the couple moved to Monterey, California, where he ran a Judo and Danzan-ryu Jujitsu academy with Professor John Chow-Hoon. San Francisco promoter Roy Shire asked him to wrestle in 1967, but he had to get meaner. “Charlie was almost full-blooded Hawaiian,” said Doris. “In wrestling, Hawaii seemed not as exciting as Japan, so they talked him into becoming a Japanese wrestler.”
Toru Tanaka was featured in a television commercial for a brand of rice in Puerto Rico. His other appearance in a commercial was for Colgate toothpaste with Pat Morita. Tanaka was seen as an extra in a few of David Lee Roth’s music videos in the mid-1980s.
By the early 1980s, Kalani’s body could not handle the beatings in the ring any longer, and he moved into the film world on a more permanent basis. His first film was 1981′s An Eye for an Eye and his last film was 1995′s Hard Justice. He appeared in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Running Man and Chuck Norris’ Missing in Action 2: The Beginning.
Appearing in The Perfect Weapon movie with 6th degree Kenpo black belt Jeff Speakman, Tanaka comes to a fiery end courtesy of an LPG tank like Bolo Yeung in Bloodsport!! In reality, Tanaka was far removed from his own screen persona, and was known to be a kind & generous man to all who knew him. He passed away in August, 2000 from heart failure.
Toru Tanaka was one of three semi-retired professional wrestlers to compete in a tug-of-war match with two other wrestlers teamed up against a large group of children on the Nickelodeon series Wild and Crazy Kids in the early 1990s.
An Eye for an Eye (1981)
Angel Of H.E.A.T. (1982)
Little House on the Prairie – A new beginning; “Alden’s Dilemma” Season 9 aired first on December 6, 1982
Revenge of the Ninja (1983)
The A-Team – The Maltese Cow (1983)
Off the Wall (1983)
Chattanooga Choo Choo (1984)
Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Missing in Action 2: The Beginning (1985)
The A-Team – The Spy Who Mugged Me (1986)
Bad Guys (1986)
Shanghai Surprise (1986)
The Running Man (1987)
Catch The Heat (1987)
Dead Heat (1988)
Black Rain (1989)
Tax Season (1989)
Martial Law (1990)
Deadly Game (1991)
The Perfect Weapon (1991)
Alligator II: The Mutation (1991)
3 Ninjas (1992)
Last Action Hero (1993)
Hard Justice (1995)
source: imdb, wikipedia