The Vietnam drama -- elusive TV target

tonight (Friday), ABC is slipping quietly into its schedule a $4 million production that originally was intended to be the pilot of a miniseries. Written by Sterling Siliphant, the author of last year's "Pearl," this one is called "Fly Away Home" (ABC, Friday, 8-11 p.m., check local listings) and, like his "Pearl," features his Vietnamese wife, Tiana alexandra, in a major role.

They came visiting the other day before I had a chance to preview their film. Later I saw it and found it to be, like his earlier fact-into-entertainment "Pearl," full of over-wrought situations and acting. Miss Alexandra, however, is as talented as an actress as she is beautiful on screen.

"Fly Away Home" tries to crowd in all points of view -- North and South vietnamese, American GIs, and American war protesters, Army officers and corrupt officials, etc. Miss Alexandra says the film is not autobiographical, although she has a large family like the one in the program.

"Sterling and I met at a karate tournament in Washington," she explains. She is a martial arts expert as well as an accomplished rock singer and actress. She has a California rock band with roots in Asian music called China Gate. Her most popular single is a record called "Dumped On," dedicated to the Vietnamese people.

She grew up in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) and Washington where her father was a government official, but she and her husband and two children make their home in California now.

She believes the boat people are adapting very well and declares that she would place the number in this country at close to a million.

"The Vietnamese people have always been the Jews of the Orient," she says. "We assimilate well, but we always manage to maintain our own culture. We will do that here, too."

Will the new generation want to go back?

"Only if there is not a communist government. I don't believe the Vietnamese people are communists at heart."

Would she like to go back to Vietnam and go into politics as Melina Mercuri did in Greece?

She blushes. "I am not that well organized. But I am learning more and more about my own cultural roots. Who knows, maybe I will go back some day."

This karate expert, actress, and rock singer might just add "politician" to her list of accomplishments.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.