By Wayne Harada
It was like all those boldfaced names in my columns coming to life.
That was the feeling, as I watched and listened and soaked in that tribute for Yours Truly, this past Sunday at the Waikiki nei Showroom at the Royal Hawaiian Center.
It was a gathering of stars. On stage, in the seating gallery, on screen.
It attracted friends, performers, and hundreds of readers (some I met for the first time), who’ve been along on my journey via the newspaper these past 44 ½ years. So I retire... and I get this biggie, because my longtime friend Cha Thompson called a few peers and wanted to do something to mark the milestone. Feel still undeserving, but it was funderful.
From a simple feast around her kitchen table (big, but too small for the folks who wanted to say aloha), the idea surged into a showroom extravaganza requiring scores of committee folks and volunteers and musicians and technicians and ticket-sellers...
You get the idea.
So yes, I’m stoked — filled with exhilaration and gratitude, a memory that will never be forgotten. And just because I’m pau hana.
From a numbers standpoint, 700 attended the event, sat through a marvelous no-intermission mini-marathon of four hours-plus, and got their money’s worth — and more. At least $32,000 was raised, well over the $14,000 goal, plus a charitable on-the-spot donation from Carole Kai Charities ($5,000), with one Island businessman anonymously donating $2,000 for the cause without expecting credit. So Helping Hands and The Advertiser Christmas Fund are happy campers — charity and kokua were the bottom line.
More than 80 stars/acts appeared, in person or digitally, including a live iChat with magician David Copperfield, who was doing a gig in El Paso, but paused long enough to share his aloha. If you're old enough, you'll recall that before he became the David Copperfield, the wizard of ah's who could make the Statue of Liberty disappear and survive the implosion of a building and teleport folks from a showroom to a far-off destination, he was a kid with a can-do attitude who launched his trek to fame at the Pagoda restaurant's C'est Bi Bon club back when we were all young and ambitious.
Copperfield’s ascent had parallels in the Island galaxy, as many of the folks involved in the biz of show began as struggling artists with a zeal to perform. That they returned to share aloha via song, hula, 'ukulele-strumming and comedy was a humbling and truly touching element. It made me feel that you’re only as good as the audience you serve, and there was plenty of validation that these incredibly talented people, many seasoned and a few still finding their niche in Island show biz, are every bit of the success they alluded as they reflected on the end of my 44 1/2-year tenure as The Advertiser's entertainment fella.
That's a lifetime of memories compacted into a frisky and formidable show that surely lifted spirits in this spell of a dour economy, job loss, foreclosure and an uncertain and cloudy future.
Personally, there were some teary moments:
• Loretta Ables Sayre’s backstage aloha, involving her co-stars from “South Pacific” via video — a validation that Island stars can reach for the moon and find their place in the show biz universe. Met them all last summer during a visit. She somebody — forever.
• The surprise reunion of The Fabulous Krush, with still-in-charge Edwin Ramones, joined by Hal Bradbury; when he sang "Waialua Sky," the moisty eyes turned to genuine tears ... of happiness and reflection. Jessie Gamiao, Freddy Von Paraz (on loan from the Society of Seven Las Vegas) and two kinfolk of Bucci Canencia, his brother and his cousin. All about ohana and roots,
• A “Les Miserables” medley, my all-time-favorite musical (seen it more than 20 times, here and elsewhere), courtesy Diamond Head Theatre, with Tricia Marciel (“I Had a Dream”), Shawna Masuda (“On My Own”) and Layton “Elika” Santos (“Do You Hear the People Sing”). My heart was filled with love, with watery eyes.
• Dean Pitchford ... singing? For the scriptwriter-composer, it was a departure of style. Let’s hear it for this local boy Oscar winnah!
“The entertainers brought back many wonderful memories from our days of our youth and we simply sat back and soaked it all in,” said Karen Maeda, a retired University of Hawaii secretary in an e-mail. “It was the ‘Show of Stars’ of Hawaii and just as Wayne was overwhelmed, we were overjoyed
with it all. I hope somebody made a video out of this!”
And from Claire Sato, a retired librarian: “It was such a blast to be so royally entertained. I had the greatest time and time just flew by.”
One visitor told Cha Thompson that she should repeat this show and take it on the road.
Indeed, the wealth of talent (The Brothers Cazimero slipping in a wedge of “A Chorus Line” alongside the Hawaiiana — and dropping names like Tia Carrere and Daniel Ho), the range of musical memories (Marlene Sai doing “Waikiki,” Karen Keawehawaii singing with Cha dancing), even a sample of sexy fun (Tony Young from Manoa Valley Theatre’s “Rocky Horror Show”) and titaness to da max (Melveen Leed) had the house enthused, amused, delighted.
Add Amy Hanaialaii, Jake Shimabukuro and Taimane Gardner, Frank DeLima and Augie T. (and Rey), Carole Kai and Kevin I doing shtick, and Jordan Segundo, Rolando Sanchez, Danny Kaleikini, SOS LV, Danny Couch, Afatia, the Reccas, Jeff Rasmussen, Cathy Foy, the Reccas, Ken Makuakane, Kanoe Miller, Honolulu Theatre for Youth's "Rap's Hawai'i" trio and the Steve Jones Trio. And wow, Shari Lynn should be on Broadway, don’t you think? And wasn’tgentleman Jim Nabors special? Gollee.
Jimmy Borges concocted those special lyrics for the opening and closing numbers — hey Jeremiah, take this talent on the road!
The master of the house, of course, was emcee Al Waterson, who had a script but a quick wit to improv when necessary. What a workhorse.
The collectible tee shirts (the image was “borrowed” for the program cover) was the brainchild of Frannie Kirk of Outrigger Entertainment, and that meant $500 more for charity.
And that’s the biz of show that I loved for 44 years ... and still loving it now. Mahalo plenty, to all of you...
Special mentions, mahalo nui loa:
* Jack Thompson, aka Tihati; welcome your wife back into your life. Yeah, it's been a long three months.
* Roy Tokujo, of Waikiki nei: Your showroom was awesome; arigato for its use, rent-free.
* Gloria Chung, of Pacific Expos; you were the wind beneath Cha's wings.
* John Tilton, of Tihati and New Hope; you shared a lot of charity — and patience.
* Jimmy Borges, lyricist-singer extraordinaire; Jeremiah, you're a bullfrog of parodies, just croakin' hot.
* Al Waterson, of "Al Waterson and You;" you sing, you dance, you emcee, you do handyman work, you're all over the map.
* Nancy Waterson, Al's partner in crime and love; you were the queen of backstage smarts.
* Yemun Chung, of Impact Events and Promo Edge; mahalo for program sales and box office kokua.
* Jack Cione, of Arcadia: You bring new depth to "senior moment;" mahalo for program sales and box office management.
* Noah Parker, of Hawaii Kai: Like a true Farrington Governer, you still go forth to serve; mahalo for gathering all those Gov volunteers and thanks for your program production input.
* Lisa Josephsohn, of Elissa Josephsohn Public Relations: appreciate for your program support and coordinating all those video shoots — and for your magic with acquiring David Copperfield.
* Derek Tamura, of firstname.lastname@example.org; arigato for the playbill program design and graphics.
* Sara Platte, promotions volunteer; amazing, your those broadcast media placements.
* Frannie Kirk, of Outrigger Entertainment and Ron Lee and the Outrigger Showroom ohana; mahalo for your brilliant idea for the keepsake tee shirt and thanks for the loan of the image for the program cover.
* Mark Platte, of The Advertiser; hey boss, thanks for allowing staff to do chores (or you didn't know?) for the show...and, well, everyone helped pull it off!
* Leslie Kawamoto, of The Advertiser; you're the do-everything, go-to dearie whot kept the ball rolling and ticket sales going.
* Gregory Yamamoto, of The Advertiser; arigato for shooting all those local videos comments.
* Derek Daniels, of Derek Daniels Productions; thanks for choreographing the opening and closing numbers.
* Rip Taylor, the comedian, and Martin Nievera, the singer; I know, I know, you sent video messages for the show, but one had tech problems and the other arrived too late to make the cut; but thanks, thanks, guys.
* And pre-show performers — the Abrigo 'Ohana, Noly Pa'a, KFC (Keith Haugen, Frank Uehara and Carmen Haugen) and Sonny Ching's Halau Na Mamo O Pu'uanahulu; aloha plenty for warming up the house.
* Finally, to fellow bloggers Catherine E. Toth and Rodney Lee, domo arigato for your generous sharing — of comments and of photos — from Sunday's extravaganza. Check 'em out, if you haven't yet:
Catherine E. Toth's...