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Friends Remembered Home | Friends Detail

Marlon Brando (KE6PZH)

July 1, 2004

Marlon Brando, KE6PZH/FO5GJ One of the best-known names in cinematic as well as Amateur Radio circles, actor Marlon Brando, died in Los Angeles July 1 at age 80. Known to hams worldwide as KE6PZH and FO5GJ, Brando is listed on the FCC database as Martin Brandeaux. He was on the air occasionally through the years with his FO5 call sign from his private island in French Polynesia. In an interview with Larry King on CNN in 1994, Brando confirmed his continued interest in Amateur Radio. In response to a caller's question, he said ham radio provided him with the opportunity to just be himself. The iconoclastic actor was best known for his roles as Stanley Kowalski in "A Streetcar Named Desire," a dockworker in "On the Waterfront," and Vito Corleone in "The Godfather." He was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won twice.

Contributed by:
Mike (N2MG)

Did anyone ever work Marlon on the air? Even on SSB, that distinctive voice and speech mannerisms would have obvious? I've always wondered just how active he was on the air. 73, N4KZ

Contributed by: David E. Greer (N4KZ)

I never worked Marlon, but I was the ham who asked him on Larry King about being an amateur radio operator. He answered very graciously until Larry K got him off in another direction.Good Guy. I would love to know what kind of ham equipment he had.

Contributed by: j s whi (WA4OYX)

Wow! I had no idea he was a ham. That does answer a question I had. On the day he died, I was watching the local news and they had a news copter shot from above Mr. Brando's house. There was a large tower and beam. I couldn't tell if it was on his property or if it belonged to a neighbor. As Paul Harvey says: "Now you know the rest of the story." :)

Contributed by: Larry Levy (KG6EJT)

Worked him once as FO5GJ and he identified himslef as Martin. Too bad no QSL....I wonder if log books will turn up some day.

Contributed by: Don "Mac" McGrath (KZ1A)

Indeed that was Brando's tower you saw in the news helicopter shot. I heard the local tower guy commenting on 2 meters that he was in the midst of installing new cables and a new tribander at Brando's estate when the actor died (apparently Brando's cables were damaged in a brush fire last year).

Contributed by: Michael C. Tope (W4EF)

Here is a little condensed write up about Marlon Brando and my time with him in Tahiti. The photo were taken in Tahiti near his ham radio station, outside on the white sandy beach. On July 1, 2004, Marlon Brando passed away in Los Angeles California and became a silent key. He is survived by 3 wives and 8 children and 4 adopted children. His daughter Cheyenne died in the mid 90s and was buried in Tahiti. You saw the obituary, tributes, opinions, his ups and downs to his successful acting career, so I won't dwell on that. My contact with Marlon Brando was through the Hobby of Ham Radio. While watching the TV news reports of his passing, I could not help but notice the large "Ham Beam" antenna on his antenna tower. The helicopter hovered above his estate on Mulholland Dr. and the news reporter never mentioned the antenna, but those of us that have experienced ham radio knew what it was and what it was for! In 1983 and 1986, I took annual leave and went down to Tahiti to install some Ham antennas for movie actor Marlon Brando. His ham radio call was FO8GJ and later his most recent call sign was KE6PZH in California. A ham friend of mine named Hank Scharfe (SK) was friends with Marlon and introduced us back in 1983. Marlon wanted some special directional antennas designed and installed on his island in Tahiti, so he could communicate better with his ham shack in Los Angeles. I came up with a rather large Rhombic wire antenna system that would definitely do the job and still fit on his island! He liked the design and had the materials bought and sent down to the island. My wife Lydia and I flew down for a three week stay while I installed the antenna. Lydia enjoyed the beach and warm weather while I worked! I know, it sounds pretty easy, but it really was a lot of hard work to bull-doze the palm trees and clear the path for the large wire spans. The diamond shaped antenna was 600 feet on each side, so a lot of trees had to go in order to make the runs. I had two local helpers that knew little English and I knew even less French or Tahitian! We managed to communicate and got the job done by "drawing pictures" of what I wanted done. They did know some English, like "Knock Off" 4 O'Clock! After two weeks, the antenna was up, the feed line ran and contacts on the air were made! The antenna was a great success and performed well. We got lots of nice strong reports over the air and the reception was super. The project was on time and under budget! Lydia and I got to tour the island of Tahiti and enjoyed some of the local culture and art. In the year of 1985, five storms (Typhoons) went through the area of Tahiti and ruined the Rhombic antenna system, so I got another trip down to reinstall the antenna in 1986. I was sorry the antenna did not hold up in the storms, but not much else did on that island. I was glad for another trip to rebuild it. This time I went down for two weeks and my helper this time was Marlon Brando. We measured and stretched out the wire, secured the insulators and hung them from the large Palm trees. This went on for many days, we had a lot of fun and the project went very well. We got to know one another fairly well and became friends by working together. I soon learned that Marlon had a great sense of humor and was very interested in technical things. He liked gadgets, electronics and technical things. He had a serious side and probably would have been an Engineer if not for the acting career. It paid well and provided him with the funding and time off to pursue his other interests like Ham Radio. Most people did not know he was a Ham radio operator. When on the air, he liked to disguise his voice and put on the folks, so they would not know who he was! He liked his privacy and did not particularly like the public lime light. His closer friends like Jack Nickelson, James Caan, Larry King and others, all had good things to say about him and knew him well. We sure enjoyed meeting and working with him. The Tahiti trip was a great once-in-a-life-time experience for us and one we will never forget! Furthermore, I got to do it twice! Marlon Brando lived life well and enjoyed traveling the world. His movie career spanned over 55 years and ranked up there with the best. He had 80 great years with us and the world is better off because of his talents. Marlon Brando entertained us all, his movies will live on, and he will be greatly missed! 73's Bill, W4NFR

Contributed by: William Moneysmith (W4NFR)

Bill and Marlon on the Island..

Contributed by: William Moneysmith (W4NFR)

Dear OM's Hams, I research from very years the QSL CARD of KE6PZH/FO5GJ MARLON BRANDO!! Only for looking. What is exhibited,displayed?? please you send for me an copy on email??? than you Giuseppe

Contributed by: giuseppe tindaro (IW9GBU)

Dear OM's Hams, I research from very years the QSL CARD of KE6PZH/FO5GJ MARLON BRANDO!! Only for looking. What is exhibited,displayed?? please you send for me an copy on email??? than you Giuseppe

Contributed by: giuseppe tindaro (IW9GBU)

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