Uzzwal Bhandary is not a household name. Not in America, anyway. At least not yet.
This newcomer to Sonoma County has a TV following in his native Nepal and he's hoping to make a start in show business — or, truly, any business — in this country. He's prepared to work even dressed as a man.
Bhandary (vahn-DAH-ree) is the star of the Nepal 1 network's low-budget weekly talk show, "Ujju Darling." In more than 400 episodes, he appears on a beauty-parlor set gussied up in a wig, makeup and female clothes. He interviews guests such as national and local politicians, fellow performers and Nepalese people with interesting stories.
Why the cross-dressing?
"It's different," the personable and engaging Bhandary, 47, said over coffee at Santa Rosa's Coddingtown Mall. For the time being, he and his wife, Puspa, and sons Sezal, 19, and Pranzal, 12, live in an apartment nearby.
"There are so many talk shows, everywhere in the world," he said. When the longtime Kathmandu tour guide and actor took a shot at getting his own show onto the air in 2007, he figured he had to do something to stand out.
Bhandary concedes that his crossing-dressing wasn't an immediate hit in largely Buddhist and Hindu Nepal.
"I got very negative feedback from my friends and family, and the public," he said. He persuaded his quite nervous producer to hang in with him for a year.
After about 50 weekly episodes, Bhandary said, "People came to like it." Friends would ask him, "Who will you have on next?"
For each half-hour show, he typically welcomes one guest into the beauty parlor and the two of them chat over coffee. As Ujju, he is flirtatious, nimble and spontaneous.