‘Cobra Kai’ and ‘Karate Kid’ villain is a Camp Pendleton hit
The San Diego Union-Tribune March 15, 2022
(Tribune News Service) — “Cobra Kai” actor Martin Kove, proved his true grit when he personally autographed 789 photos for Marines in just two hours in the Camp Pendleton mess hall. But who’s counting?
The co-star of “Cobra Kai,” the No. 1 streamed Netflix series during the first three weeks of 2022, visited the base March 10. Kove, aka John Kreese, checked out the 5th Marine Expedition’s motor pool of armored vehicles, shouldered an assault rifle and hopped aboard a Humvee and a military vehicle equipped with a 50-caliber gun turret.
“Does this work? Where can we go shoot?” Kove joked.
Justin Habig, a civilian contractor overseeing Camp Pendleton’s mess hall and host of the visit, said about 150 more Marines showed up than anticipated. “I was surprised by how great the turnout was.” Many Marines brought their own memorabilia for Kove to autograph.
The mess hall is equipped with TVs and streaming services.
“’Cobra Kai’ is one of the heavy favorites,” Habig says. “I have a couple of co-workers who binge-watched the last season again before meeting him.”
The fourth season of the Netflix series debuted Dec. 31 and immediately shot to No. 1 on the list of Netflix’s top 10 English TV shows worldwide for the week of Dec. 27, 2021–Jan. 2, 2022, accumulating 120.06 million viewing hours.
Kove, who lives in Nashville, had flown to Los Angeles for a few days of work and took time out to visit the base.
“I learned so much about the Marines,” admits the veteran tough-guy actor, who has spent much of his acting career portraying military figures.
He was impressed with the devotion and “level of humility I experienced with these people who put their lives on the line — and are ready to go (to war) at any time.” Despite low pay and sacrifice, each is proud to be a Marine, he adds.
What the Brooklyn-raised-kid-turned-Hollywood star enjoyed most about his first visit to a California military base was his reception: “They treated me like an equal, which I really enjoyed,” says Kove, who preferred being one of the guys than a celebrity.
Strangely, for a man who played embittered Vietnam Army vet and sensei John Kreese in all three “Karate Kid” movies and recently in the “Cobra Kai” TV series, he confessed to the Marines that his secret love is Westerns. “If John Kreese was a rural character and had a wrench, he would be John Dutton of ‘Yellowstone,’” Kove says.
In July, Kove appeared on the cover of Cowboys & Indians magazine. “The moral fiber of the Western hero is needed right now,” Kove says. He is referring to not the spaghetti Western of yesteryear but sophisticated Westerns with top-notch writing. To Kove, the writer is the true star of the TV show.
He toured Camp Pendleton with his son, Jesse Kove, who is following in his dad’s Hollywood footsteps. In fact, Jesse and Jesse’s twin sister, Rachel, co-host a Thursday podcast with their dad called, “Kicking It With the Koves.”
“He’s very passionate about our troops and the armed services,” says Kove’s manager, Gary Ousdahl, who coordinated the Camp Pendleton tour.
Kove is fanatic about doing research, much of it military, for his acting roles. “The most exciting characters I’ve ever played have been real, live people.” He interviews them, does research and talks to family members to discover more about their private lives.
San Diego played a contributing role in sealing Kove’s acting destiny. One of his first film jobs was a far cry from his current career. He was a lease negotiator for Fotomat, with its drive-thru shopping center kiosks.
In 1969, he was sent from New York to San Diego, where Fotomat was founded, for a week of training.
“I had such a good time in La Jolla,” he recalls. “I knew I wanted to be an actor, so I rented a dune buggy and drove to Hollywood Boulevard and walked in the moonlight at 2 a.m. and got a taste for what I wanted to do as my dream.”
He then called a cousin, who gave him a tour of Hollywood before Kove drove back to San Diego at 6 a.m. to work.
The next evening, he drove the same dune buggy into Mexico to visit Ensenada.
Years later, San Diego was the first place Kove tried his hand at directing. He spent a month with producer Stu Segall, of Segall Productions, directing a 1994 episode of the “Silk Stalkings” TV series. But he soon learned that the fast pace wasn’t a good fit for his take-your-time “Gone With the Wind” perfectionist mentality.
“That was OK,” says Kove, who savored the experience. “I lived in San Diego for a month and had a great time.”
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