(For a professional biography, please click here. The content below is more of a “Everything Random That You Wanted to Know About Junichi P Semitsu But Were Afraid To Ask” personal biography.)
Junichi P Semitsu was born a baby in Fresno, California on the same day that Johnny Carson ignited panicked shopping sprees for toilet paper by suggesting there was a nationwide shortage on The Tonight Show.
He grew up in the malodorous but quaint cow-town of Hanford, California and attended Hanford High School, which was both Hanford’s most prestigious high school and Hanford’s only high school.
He was violently forced to take piano lessons when he was five years old and was trained through the Suzuki Method, which engendered his prodigal knack for combining piano with rhythm, a process that is not known as the rhythm method. He eventually won first place in the central valley Music Teachers’ Association’s Concerto Competition for his performance of Gershwin’s Concerto in F. He also began composing original songs, the first of which was called “I Hate My Orthdontist.”
While in high school, he was a proud member of the Future Homemakers of America (“FHA”). He competed in statewide and national FHA events, eventually becoming a state champion in speeches on successful homemaking and a national competitor in parliamentary procedure.
He also was part of a winning quintet of students that won the Florida Citrus Association’s Orange Juice Music Video contest. As part of the prize package for writing the best song promoting the nutritional value of orange juice, his name was flashed across the screen for 0.23 seconds during the basic cable dance show Dance Party USA , which was similar in style to American Bandstand, except unwatchable and rhythmless.
Along with artistic prodigy John Matsubara and gingerly half-witted genius Scott Olsen, he wrote the play, “On The Bright Side,” which he also directed for the local stage. The script earned the trio a Bravo Theater award for best original high school play.
Another highlight of his theatrical résumé is his starring role as Conrad Birdie in the high school production of Bye Bye Birdie. Although his original dance moves in the style of a Japanese Elvis ensured brisk ticket sales and uproarious audience laughter, local reviewer Bethanee J. Hunnicutt referred to his performance as “painful.”
As his high school’s senior class president, he abolished the longstanding local tradition of having a religious prayer at the graduation ceremony, in keeping with his steadfast belief that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution also applies to rural areas. In its place, he instituted a moment of silence, which he used to thank God for giving him an opportunity to visit areas outside the San Joaquin Valley.
Junichi then attended the University of California at Berkeley where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Economics with highest honors and a minor in Ethnic Studies.
While in college, Junichi won the American College Personnel Association’s Outstanding Undergraduate Student Staff Member award. Most notably, he produced a popular health program for Berkeley undergraduates that was featured on MTV and the cover of the Daily Californian. He also served as the Hall Coordinator of Cleary Hall for two years, supervising both the Asian Pacific American Theme House and Casa Magdalena Mora, the Chicano/Latino Theme House.
Speaking of television shows, Junichi also appeared as a contestant on CBS’s The Price is Right with Bob Barker. Rod Roddy demanded that he “come on down” to contestant’s row … but unfortunately he never managed to leave the row. When asked to bid on a Hooker (a brand of rolltop desks) and a broom, he officially overbid by $36, causing him to be denied his shot at the American Dream. (To Junichi, the American Dream is to play Plinko, win a new car, enter the showcase showdown, and go home with both showcases.)
He also appeared as a dancer for four episodes of Soul Train with Don Cornelius, which gave him the distinction of being the first Asian American male dance on the show. During his brief stint, he also had the distinction of being the only dancer with a Cabbage Patch Kids vest and the only dancer who was personally escorted off the floor by Don Cornelius.
As an undergraduate, Junichi studied with Poet and Professor June Jordan in her Poetry for the People creative writing program. One of his poems was included in the book June Jordan’s Poetry for the People: A Revolutionary Blueprint.
Junichi served as one of two student speakers at his Economics graduation at Berkeley. An excerpt of his speech, titled “Why the World Wants More Astrologists than Economists,” was published in the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Examiner, the Journal of Commerce, the Sacramento Bee, the Phoenix Gazette, and the Toronto Star. More notably, he was the only graduate wearing a lei made of Pez dispensers.
Immediately after graduating from U.C. Berkeley, he became a traitor to his alma mater and enrolled in Stanford University’s School of Law. He served as Co-President of the Law School, Ombudsman and Senior Editor of the Stanford Law Review, and Co-Director of the Stanford Law School Musical. He competed in the 1999 Kirkwood Moot Court Competition and won the award for Best Individual Oral Advocate and Best Brief. He was also one of the creators of Battle of the Brains, an annual trivia fundraiser to benefit the East Palo Alto Community Law Center.
While in law school, he and classmate Alex Gould worked as DJs in the now-defunct Polly Esther’s in San Jose, the Seventh Note Showclub in San Francisco, and various 80s nights events sponsored by radio station Alice @ 97.3 FM.
He graduated from Stanford Law School in 1999, passed the California Bar, and then served as a judicial clerk for Judge James R. Browning on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. He helped Judge Browning write an important opinion on conspiracy and criminal procedure, which was later reversed 9-0 by a unanimous Supreme Court. While he perhaps should be embarrassed about this fact, he is proud to have helped unite all nine Justices.
After practicing law for two years, his mentor, June Jordan, nominated Junichi to teach the Poetry for the People program at U.C. Berkeley. He directed the program for seven semesters, helping to bring countless “hot shot poets” such as Martin Espada, Naomi Shihab Nye, Saul Williams, Li-Young Lee, Luis Rodriguez, Ruth Forman, Mohja Kahf, Denizen Kane, Nathalie Handal, and Cornelius Eady to the Berkeley campus. With the help of his students, he was also selected as a finalist in the 2002 San Francisco Poetry Slam competition.
While teaching at UC Berkeley, he also developed a new course in the African American Studies Department called “Race and the Constitution,” which provided an overview of how the Supreme Court has interpreted the Constitution with regard to issues of race. He was served as a visiting faculty member at UC Berkeley’s Boalt School of Law, where he spent two semesters teaching the seminar, “Asian Americans and the Law.”
In 2003, he began dating Dima Hilal, whom he has known since 1996 when they met in the Poetry for the People program at UC Berkeley. In 2006, they married in 2006 in Laguna Beach, California, where he announced his intention to be with his gorgeous soulmate forever. He and his wife are the proud parents of two boys.
Shortly after getting married, he spent approximately 18 months following three women around the world. Specifically, he was selected as the official blogger for the Dixie Chicks, which gave him the distinction of being the first ever embedded blogger with any major musical artist. As their “Management Assistant,” he traveled with the Dixie Chicks on their Accidents & Accusations Tour and attended numerous events with them including the Grammy Awards, the American Music Awards, the Toronto Film Festival, Late Night with David Letterman, and the Howard Stern Show.
After moving to Orange County, he began teaching as a Professor at the University of San Diego School of Law, where he works today.