If you, like me, actually lived through the 1970s, or if you have an interest in (fascination with?) the culture of that decade, you certainly remember Telly Savalas. If you don’t, he was a bald actor of Greek extraction who played cops and tough guys in movies and TV shows. He is most famous for his performance as the title detective in the very popular gritty police procedural Kojak. Kojak was plenty tough, but he had a sweet side, symbolized by his fondness for lollipops. The ladies loved him– both Kojak and Savalas himself. He was an unexpected pop culture hearthrob of the day.
Since the 70’s, Americans who travel in Asia have been mentioning statues of the Buddha (and other religious and folkloric personages with bald heads) who “look like Telly Savalas”. I had never personally seen the famous “Buddha who looks like Telly Savalas” in many years of idly looking for him. That is, until yesterday, when I found him in the Chinese buffet, on the shelf over the sushi case. Technically, I believe this is a statue of Ho Tei, sometimes called the Happy Buddha, who looks like Telly Savalas. He really, really does.
You can almost hear him asking “who loves ya, baby?” in Kojak’s voice.