Hettrick: Arcadia Sumo on Leno

Arcadia resident Mark Sagato made a big splash on primetime TV Tuesday.

by Scott Hettrick

by Scott Hettrick

He got a big hug from Christina Applegate, on “The Jay Leno Show” no less.
Nevermind that she was blindfolded, or that he was nearly naked at the time.
It was still very fun for Sagato, who stands 6′ 5″ and weights 440 pounds.

Sagato is a sumo wrestler. Not just any sumo wrestler; he’s currently the biggest one in the California Sumo Association and one of the first with a tattoo. Sometimes he also represents the United States Sumo Federation.

He told me Thursday that he’s been wrestling for 4 1/2 years and is hoping sumo becomes an Olympic sport soon so he can wrestle for the U.S. team. His knees are starting to wear out. (Story continues below the following 19-second video snippets from Sagato’s appearance on The Jay Leno Show.)

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Meanwhile, Sagato, an Arcadia resident since 1981 who lives off Baldwin Avenue and went to schools in Temple City, makes a living doing demonstrations and making appearances, sometimes in TV commercials, mostly overseas — companies have flown him to London, Germany, and even India (but not Japan — apparently they have a good supply of their own sumo wrestlers there).

Somone spotted Sagato doing the blindfold schtick recently with former latenight talk show host Arsenio Hall and asked him to do it again on NBC for Leno. He stayed in his dressing room the whole time so that Applegate would be completely unprepared for what she was asked to touch and make a guess as to what he was.

He’s used to being used for visual laughs; one for a commercial overseas he was asked to wear a pink tutu.
But he takes it in stride; he didn’t show any nerves on Leno and even nodded his head to the audience in mock-cocky pleasure like like a frat boy when Applegate hugged him.

Although he’s been flown overseas, nothing compares to his gig on Leno this week. Especially when a limo rolled up to his house at 1 p.m. Tuesday to drive him to the studio in Burbank, where he hung out until the bit was over and he left about 6 p.m. But not before Leno showed his class and style by giving Sagato and personalized watch as a keepsake gift.

“It was a very expensive-type,” Sagato said.