My first trip of many to Brazil, our great and troubled southern neighbor, was in 1990. I went there with a bunch of friends to discover the music and culture of the various states: Rio de Janeiro, Minas, Pernambuco, Bahia, Sao Paulo. We had a Varig air pass so we went everywhere. We drank cashew milkshakes, got robbed in Olinda, viewed Rio’s gorgeous topography from atop Sugarloaf and Corcovado, bodysurfed on Ipanema beach, and ate acaraje fritters on the Pelourinho in Salvador, Bahia. Even caught a free concert in Rio by Caetano Veloso.
One night we went to a cool nightspot/outdoor eatery adjoining the Lagoa, the lagoon in the middle of Rio. We sat down, ordered drinks, and the waiter shyly asked if one of our party, my architect friend Ralph Mursinna, was an actor from Robocop. The waiter actually thought Ralph looked like the bad guy, Kurtwood Smith, although he referred to him as Robocop. I had never seen the movie, nor had Ralph, but we played along with it anyway. The photo above left shows Ralph as he looks today, 25 years later. He may have resembled Smith more when we were all in Rio. Ralph was approached a second time in Belo Horizonte by a fan also thinking he was the Robocop bad guy. Kurtwood Smith is also known for his role in the TV program “That 70’s Show”.
After that, a bunch of waiters and other staff came over to our table, asking for autographs. Nobody, including Ralph, knew the bad character’s name so he just scribbled off an autograph, which seemed to do the trick.