t's her skin. Its porcelain perfection knocks the breath out of you as you stand to shake her hand. It's the kind of skin that could earn its wearer a tidy nest egg endorsing a skincare line. Wendy Tokuda in the flesh is, in fact, a powerful argument for high-definition TV. Sure, you can see her on the tube and appreciate the pert nose, the mischievous eyes, the outrageous mouth, but as for the skin, you naturally assume it's just makeup, lighting and the kindness of low - resolution.
She is 5-2 1/2. High-heeled and bundled in a short wool tunic against the damp chill of what has been by L.A. standards an unconscionably wet rainy season, Tokuda is a compact, bouncy presence who takes a lively interest in her companion as we exit the building that houses the Burbank studio of KNBC, Channel 4 to Angelenos. As we roam the vast parking lot she tells me, in a light vein, that according to trend-watchers Northwest is in and Southwest is out. She thinks it has to do with all the Angelenos moving up to Seattle, her hometown of 27 years. Evidently, she takes some humorous pleasure in seeing the humble -- not to say dowdy -- culture of her hometown glorified, especially at a time when the weather too seems to be turning Northwest.
Obviously, anyone who can enthrall major-market TV audiences with her face and presence is a mega-wattage personality. Tokuda is certainly smart, feisty, friendly, earthy--a regular guy and a kind of idealized girl-next-door. There is also in her something of the rainy-day person. You feel, as you talk with her, that she sees in you more than what you are saying or doing at the moment. She seems to take an interest in the inner you, not in an intrusively smarmy way but quietly, implicitly. She seems to renounce any personal advantage she may have over you, seeking instead some deep bond with your hidden sorrows. She is the kind of person, you sense, who would as gladly stand by you in defeat as in triumph. Nothing she says or does even hints that she has an ego need to feel superior. She has nothing bad to say about anyone or anything. You quickly come to trust her.
We have walked past the parking lot before realizing that we had each thought we were taking the other's car. Deciding on mine, we head back into the parking lot. A few days earlier at her photo session I had seen Tokuda driving a surprisingly modest car made by a company that shares the same name with her better-known crosstown rival. I ask whether it isn't really her housekeeper's car.
"No, it's really mine," says Tokuda. "I'm just not a fancy-car person."