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2 Utahns tire of fame in Japan

Janica Southwick isn't the only Utahn to achieve success as a television celebrity in Japan. The two Kents beat her to the punch.

Kent Gilbert, now 50 and a resident of Orem, and Kent Derricott, now 48 and a Bountiful resident, both served LDS missions to Japan in the 1970s, during which they became fluent in the Japanese language.

In 1980, Gilbert, who had become an international lawyer, returned to Japan to try his hand at both business and entertainment.

Two years later, Derricott also returned to Japan to explore business opportunities (including selling bullet-proof vests called "Second Chance" through a small import company he had founded).

When Derricott saw Gilbert appearing on a Japanese quiz show, he said to himself, "I can do that."

Gilbert had won a trip around the world for correctly guessing the price of horse's milk in Germany, and later played the piano with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra. Over the years, Gilbert acted in movies, had his own television show and became a prominent guest on other Japanese programs.

Though the two Kents never really "hung out" together, their television lives closely paralleled each other. Within a short time, each became famous enough to attract large crowds wherever they went in Japan. Back home in Utah, however, neither would be noticed on a downtown street or in a shopping mall.

While Derricott nurtured a comedic image, Gilbert preferred a more serious persona and became well-known for political and international commentary.

Derricott got his big break following an interview on Japanese television, during which he demonstrated a trick with his Coke-bottle-thick eyeglasses — he pulled his glasses slowly away from his face to magnify his eyeballs in a grotesque fashion.

Eventually, he had his own noon-time variety TV show, which was on the air for six years and which he characterized as "a sort of David Letterman-like show." Derricott made the talk-show rounds, did commercials and infomercials, appeared on sitcoms, did commentary, cut a soft-rock album and produced his own documentaries.

In the early '90s, both Gilbert and Derricott tired of their fame in Japan (wherever they went in Tokyo, each needed a security team). And both longed for their more obscure Utah lives. So they moved back to Utah.

Derricott founded a television-production company and today works mainly as a business consultant for companies that deal with Japan. But Gilbert continued to cultivate his television stardom, and today, according to his wife, Lana, he spends the majority of his time performing in Japan, while his family remains in Orem. Lana said her husband has never had any interest in parlaying his Japanese success into American celebrity.

Despite his American business, Derricott has also maintained a high profile in Japan, where, several times a year, he returns in three-week blocks to tape television shows and commercials. According to his wife, Barbara, Derricott was once offered an American television job — as the replacement for Richard Dawson on the long-running "Family Feud" game show — but he turned it town "because he didn't want to live in Los Angeles."