Archive for August, 2009

TV Review: Marlene talks about TCB on PBS

August 23rd, 2009

Taking care of business.
It’s one of the foundations of the late Elvis Presley’s legacy.
It’s also a mantra of entertainer Marlene Sai, who says you’ve got to get a serious handle on the business of show to stay afloat and maintain a career that sails.
So she reveals in Part Two of her chat on PBS Hawai’i’s “Long Story Short With Leslie Wilcox,” premiering at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday (Aug. 25).
Sai, one of Waikiki’s enduring songbirds, was 19 when she turned pro, getting her initial show biz exposure with the late Don Ho, who then was managing his mom’s Kane’ohe pub, Honey’s.
She credits Ho, who became a lifelong friend, with setting the foundation of learning the biz. “Always be true to yourself,” she says of the advice Ho gave her.
Thus, she tells host Wilcox, that anyone yearning to venture into show business must “treat this business (entertainment) as it is a business.”
Be seriously committed, in other words.
This, from the thrush who counts among her career hits, “Kainoa,” “Waikiki,” and “I Love You” and the actress who played Queen Lili’uokalani in two separate docudramas and Bloody Mary in the Hawaii Opera Theatre’s “South Pacific.”
When Wilcox asks her what might be her legacy, Sai blushes: “Gosh, ‘she’s been around for a long time.’”
Sai is one of the few homegrown talents who’s done it all over 40 years. Recordings. Headlining in Waikiki nightclubs and showrooms. Doing dramatic and musical turns on stage. Running her own entertainment business.
Lately, however, Goofy (her nickname) best enjoys the gig as granny.
This is a trouper who grew up with a famous uncle, singer-composer Andy Cummings, who wrote her biggest hit, “Waikiki.” This is the Kamehameha Schools grad, who does not speak Hawaiian, who learned the ropes by being surrounded by notables like Gabby Pahinui and Sonny Chillingworth while growing up, and went straight to the sources — like composers Maddy Lam and Mary Kawena Puku’i, as well as Uncle Andy — to find out the intent and meaning behind a song before she recorded and embraced it.
All part of taking care of business.
When she was doing her first legit gig at Honey’s, she was under contract to Ho — but was wooed by Kimo McVay to venture into the Waikiki circuit. She was eager to make the leap, so she gave Ho notice of her intention of leaving.
He laughed, “You can’t leave, you signed a contract,” she says of Ho’s response. But she tells him, “I don’t think the contract is any good; I’m under age.”
He releases her to make the break but offers to take part in the negotiations and “he constantly checked up on me,” says Sai of her close relationship with the guy who “discovered” her.
That’s also part of her legacy.
Sai shares a charming story about where her first album, “Kainoa,” was recorded — at the old bus barn at Alapai Street, where buses still gather and the Honolulu Police Department calls home. She recorded amid the parked HRT (Honolulu Rapid Transit) buses of yesteryear.
She also reveals how Uncle Andy wrote his signature “Waikiki” while snowbound in Lansing, Michigan in 1938 — and yearning for the warmth of paradise. And she talks-sings some of the lyrics: “Waikiki, my whole life is empty without you, I miss the magic about you, magic beside the sea, magic of Waikiki.”
It’s now part of her legacy, too.


Part Two airs 7:30 p.m. Tuesday (Aug. 25), repeats 11 p.m. Aug 26 (Wednesday)
PBS Hawaii (Channel 10)

50 who made a Show Biz difference since statehood

August 21st, 2009

Since today is the 50th anniversary of Hawaiian statehood, I’d like to list — from a show biz perspective — 50 Islanders who’ve left an entertainment imprint and made a difference since Hawai’i became a state.
Most are up-front names you know; a few are behind-the-sceners who helped shape the Island scene, sound and style, here and abroad; some are couples or groups counting as one in the tally.
Many have transited to eternal gigs in the heavens.
The common ground: I’ve had the privilege to meet, know, interview, review and befriend everyone on this list during my 44-year tenure at The Advertiser.
All have my respect, applause and heartfelt mahalo for shaping and defining the climate — with that genuine dosage of aloha — of Island entertainment.


1 —Don Ho, Mr. Waikiki
2 —Hilo Hattie, iconic singer-comedienne
3 —Society of Seven, showroom stars
4 —Jack and Cha Thompson, Polynesian show producers
5 —Jim Nabors, legendary crooner and over-all nice guy
6 —Jack Cione, show impresario


7 —Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, singer-‘ukulele strummer
8 —Gabby Pahinui, pace-setting slack key guitarist
9 —Genoa Keawe, falsetto singer
10 —Keali’i Reichel, kumu hula-concert singer
11 —Jake Shimabukuro, new-generation uke strummer
12 —Eddie Kamae & the Sons of Hawai’i, classic Hawaiian entertainers
13 —Cecilio & Kapono, contemporary singers-composers
14 —Keola & Kapono Beamer, trendsetting brother duo
15 —Rap Reiplinger, groundbreaking comic-actor
16 —Roy Sakuma, visionary ‘ukulele player
17 —The Brothers Cazimero, contemporary Island entertainers
18 —Amy Hanaiali’i, Island songbird
19 —The Makaha Sons (formerly The Makaha Sons of Ni’ihau), concert-recording trio
20 —Jimmy Borges, foremost jazz singer
21 —Frank DeLima, comedian


22 —Ronald Bright, inspirational director
23 —Loretta Ables Sayre, Tony nominee
24 —Jason Tam, Broadway star
25 —Jim Hutchison, longtime director
26 —Tommy Aguilar, inspirational director
27 —Lee Cataluna, playwright
28 —Lisa Matsumoto, playwright


29 —Jack Lord, “Hawaii Five-O”
30 —Tom Selleck, “Magnum, P.I.”
31 —Jasmine Trias, “American Idol”
32 —Bette Midler, mainstream superstar
33 —Phil Arnone, TV producer-director
34 — Carole Kai, “Hawaii Stars” founder


35 —Roy Yamaguchi, Roy’s Restaurant
36 —Alan Wong, Alan Wong’s
37 —George Mavrothalassitis, Chef Mavro’s
38 —Keo Sananikone, Keo’s Thai Cuisine


39 — Hal Lewis, aka J. Akuhead Pupule, deejay
40 —Tom Moffatt, deejay-show presenter
41 —Michael W. Perry & Larry Price, the kings of morning drive
42 —Bob Sevey, iconic TV anchor
43 —Joe Moore, top-rated TV anchor
44 —Emme Tomimbang, TV producer-host


45 — Dottie Thompson and George Naope, Merrie Monarch Festival founders
46 — Nona Beamer, beloved Hawaiiana aunty
47 —Kui Lee, composer
48 — Jon de Mello and Jack de Mello, recording producers
49 —Kimo McVay, entrepreneur-manager
50 —Eddie Sherman, three-dot columnist

Who’s on your list that’s not on mine? Share your thoughts...

TV Review: Marlene Sai on ‘Long Story Short’

August 15th, 2009

Singer Marlene Sai reflects on family life, nicknames, Kamehameha Schools and how Don Ho became the catalyst in her show show biz launch.
Her reflection of life before becoming an entertainer provides the arc on Part One of “Long Story Short With Leslie Wilcox,” airing at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday (Aug. 18) on PBS Hawaii, repeating at 11 p.m. Wednesday (Aug. 19) and 4 p.m. Aug. 23.
One of five siblings raised in Kaimuki, Sai was surrounded by music while growing up. Notably, family ties with uncle Andy Cummings — the composer of one of Sai’s signature recordings, “Waikiki” — subliminally nudged her into the singing realm. Cummings would periodically pop in at the family home to practice or appear at New Year’s lu’au, and his band included Gabby “Pops” Pahinui.
Uncle Andy helped Sai with phrasing while singing; controlling breathing to complete a sentiment.
Sai’s close pals know her Goofy, a childhood nickname that has stuck through adulthood. She has four other siblings, she said, and everyone has nicknames: Jiggy, Bighead, Peewee and Hopalong. Goofy is the English variation of the Hawaiian term, pupuka, a small-kid-time description of her unattractive curly hair.
She developed an appreciation of Hawaiian music through choral training and performances; however, she does not speak Hawaiian, but understands phrases.
Sai’s recollection of how Don Ho ultimately hired her as a singer at his mom’s Kane‘ohe club, Honey’s, is a curious tale of good intentions gone astray. She met some beachboy friends at the site to sing; Ho liked what he heard, asked for her phone number and address and promised to call, so she waited. Sai harrumphs, “This guy was all waha (mouth).” Turns out he misplaced the note but pursued her one day when both were driving in Waikiki — and offered the singing slot.
These candid memories are typical of Goof's give-and-take.
The segment opens with Robert Cazimero on piano, complimenting Sai for her early signature hit, “Kainoa,” which she sings. There’s no video of Sai performing this classic at Honey’s, but the audience included record producers Bill Murata and George Chun.
One will ultimately get her first disc out.
Oh, and Sai tells a stunned Wilcox, at the end credits, that Ho’s nickname (known only by his best friends) is Quack. But she doesn’t explain why.


Part One airs 7:30 p.m. Tuesday (Aug 18); repeats 11 p.m. Wednesday (Aug. 19) and 4 p.m. Sunday (Aug. 23)
Part Two airs 7:30 p.m. Aug. 25, repeats 11 p.m. Aug 26
PBS Hawaii (Channel 10)

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Datebook: Mākaha Sons, Zuttermeister, Uchino

August 14th, 2009

Listen to music, or discover jewelry inspired by song, in the days ahead:

Hawaiian music: Mākaha Sons’ ‘Walk’ will be freebie

The Mākaha Sons’ summer signature concert, “Take a Walk in the Country,” will be free and longer and a daytime event this year, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 22 at the Frank F. Fasi Civic Center grounds.
The event, reflecting the soft economy, will be a family-friendly gift to the community as a way for The Mākaha Sons — Louis “Moon” Kauakahi, Jerome Koko and John Koko — to say mahalo to their fans. The Sons have been sharing harmonic vocals for more than three decades.
“We’re absolutely delighted that The Mākaha Sons have chosen the Fasi Civic Center grounds for this mahalo concert,” said Mayor Mufi Hannemann. “These grounds will provide a perfect venue for one of our most beloved and talented musical groups, and I know the concert will be a very well-attended
showcase for some of the best musical entertainment in the islands.”
There will be food vendors, booths offering Hawaiian crafts and books, and a keiki village featuring games and rides.
A slate of entertainers will take the stage during the day: Sean Na’auao, Kaukahi, Del Beazley, the Kelly DeLima ‘Ohana, Halau Hula ‘O Hokulani, Makana, Pacific Street and the Abrigo ‘Ohana. The Mākaha Sons, featuring Kealo Koko (daughter of Jerome Koko) and a special performance by Pomaika’i Lyman, will close the day.
FullOn Holdings Inc. and the City & County of Honolulu are co-sponsoring the event.

Collectibles: Hoku Zuttermeister sets jewelry launch
Award-winning entertainer Hoku Zuttermeister has teamed with Royal Hawaiian Heritage Jewelry to create a new line of jewelry inspired by music, family and tradition with a launch set from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 19 at Royal Hawaiian Heritage Jewelry at Pearlridge Center Downtown.
Zuttermeister, a Na Hoku Hanohano Award winner, will give a live performance.
Information: 524.4300, or

Clubs: Sunset Street due at Honolulu Club
Sunset Street, the duo comprised of former George Street members Gail Mack and Gordon Kim, will perform from 6 to 9 p.m. Aug. 17 at the seventh-floor lounge of the Honolulu Club.
The public is invited.

Concert: Uke instrumentalist on Na Mele Nei
‘Ukulele soloist Harold Uchino and the Na Leo Lani Chorus will perform at the next Na Mele Nei Concert, from 1 to 3 p.m. Sept. 6, at the War Warehouse Amphitheatre.
Concerts are staged the first Sunday of each month.
Information: 596-8885, 778-2945.

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Makana: Strumming at Royal, in slack key fest

August 14th, 2009

Makana, doing a gig at the Monarch Room, also is one of the featured ki ho’alu artists in this Sunday’s (Aug. 16) Ki ho’alu Festival at Kapi’olani Park Bandstand.
We asked, he answered:
1 -- What is your earliest recollection and experience with slack key, and what about its sound/style hit a nerve?

“My first awareness of slack key guitar came from Mike Buck's ‘Portraits of Paradise’ TV show, which featured Ray Kane and Bobby Moderow. I was 10, and the sound and feeling appealed to me for the pure Hawaiian feeling evoked, and the sound... what an incredible, unique sound. After seeing that show, my 'ohana went to the ki ho'alu festival to meet them and Bobby became my first kumu.”

2 -- Since the form is generations old and indigenous to the Islands, are you amazed at its widespread appeal and growth?

“I'm amazed slack key hasn't become a household name yet! It's on par with bossa nova, flamenco, bluegrass, and the blues... and with Hawai'ian music's history as the first world music craze (early 1900's) and our contributions to other genres with the steel guitar, slack key is bound to reach far beyond our shores. While the sound of slack key is cultural, its technique and approach to playing is universal, and in time players worldwide will adapt our methods to fit their own music.”

3-- What, among all tunes possible for you to play, is the ulitmate ki ho’alu song -- and why?

“When I play ‘Napo'o Ka La,’ a piece I composed at the water’s edge of Kaimana Beach for the setting sun, the only way to describe the experience is: I become the instrument, with sound pouring through my body... it is the sunset personified, with the architecture of light patterns ricocheting off cloud surfaces in the action of my fingers at light speed playing bass, rhythm and melody, simultaneously. Ki ho'alu is how Hawaiians capture the beauty of nature in sound.”

Noon-6 p.m.
Kapi’olani Park Bandstand

Performance schedule:

Noon-12:15 p.m. — Ozzie Kotani
12:20-12:35 p.m. — Stephen Inglis
12:40-12:55 p.m. — Dwight Kanae
1-1:15 p.m. — Ken Makuakane
1:25-1:40 p.m. — Paul Togioka
1:50-2:05 p.m. — Danny Carvalho
2:15-2:30 p.m. — David Kahiapo
2:40-3 p.m — Makana
3:10-3:25 p.m. — Walter Keale
3:35-3:50 p.m. — Bobby Moderow
4-4:15 p.m. — LT Smooth
4:25-4:40 p.m. — Jeff Peterson
4:50-5:05 p.m. — Dennis Kamakahi
5:15-5:30 p.m. — John Cruz
5:40-6 p.m. — Slack Key Kings

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