Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

'For the Love of Jimmy' event raises more than $70,000

February 1st, 2016
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Performers at "For the Love of Jimmy" included Lucie Arnaz, Melveen Leed and Jimmy Borges himself.

 

 

“For the Love of Jimmy,” that fundraiser for entertainer Jimmy Borges, raised  more than $70,000 — surpassing its $50,000 goal  — at the gala last Saturday (Jan. 30) at the Westin Moana Surfrider  hotel.

And monies are still being tallied.

The evening was an outpouring of love and aloha for Borges, who has stage four terminal  lung cancer. He decided live out his life his way — without customary chemotherapy — and the journey has been a mix of good and bad days.

Happily, Borges was in high spirits Saturday, meeting and greeting and being photographed with an array of genuine fans, friends, family and notables, all sharing a common mission: to salute the master of his craft.

The show  — in the Banyan Court of the Moana Surfrider,  under a sprawling banyan tree and clear skies  — was a mixed bag of local performers capped by a Borges fan and friend from way back, Lucie Arnaz, the daughter of one of show biz’s iconic couples, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

The space, not commonly utilized for shows these days (‘twas the previous home of radio’s “Hawaii Calls,” the Tavana revue, then Tihati Productions’ Polynesian spectacle during Waikiki’s glorious show biz  era of the ‘60s to the ‘80s), made celebrants wonder why there haven’t been more events in recent times.

It was a fitting and cordial spot to show Borges how well he is adored and worshipped, and a salute intending to pump up monies to fulfill his last wish: to launch a University of Hawaii scholarship bearing his name, for future vocalists.

So it was a hearty party, a rainbow of aloha and styles to demonstrate how much Borges is adored.

The  take-away moment came early on, without warning.

Melveen Leed, who shelved her comedic antics and Hawaiian repertoire this night, opened the evening on a pop-jazz note, beginning with “Poor Butterfly.” She innocently sashayed into a bossa nova mood with “The More I See You,” segueing into “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” which prompted Borges — seated at a front table surrounded by family and supporters — to unexpectedly rise from his seat, head for the corner stage on the veranda of the restaurant area, to chime in with Leed.

Appropriately, “I Wish You Love” was the anthem of this rousing moment.  Weak on his feet but his heart filled with celebratory joy, Borges hung onto the veranda rail to share a see-sawing duet with Leed, who played along like a pro, sharing her segment with the honoree. With equal parts glee and concern, Borges had the savvy and the energy to deliver what surely might have been his final performance in a colorful and triumphant 60-year career.

He is 80, but the cancer — affecting his ability to breathe — means he has lost some of the steam steam as a belter.

But with this instance of genuine but unplanned honesty, he and Leed earned cheers and ovations, nullifying a late-in-the-show song Borges was to do. This was the right moment at the right time with the right emotions, and it was thoroughly impromptu, it was totally electrifying. It couldn’t have been scripted any better. For Leed, it was a triumph, too; so many admired her vocal prowess and discipline and charity, sharing her mike time and co-starring in this iconic highlight.

Willie K also adjusted his songlist to pay tribute to jazz and Borges, with a super duper performance emoting Ella Fitzgerald-like scat singing which brought down the house, too. When he indulged in “If I Didn’t Care,” the old Ink Spots classic, he validated  his fondness of blues and jazz, mimicking and saluting Nina Simone.

Oh yeah, Willie also was wildly operatic with a powerful “Nessun Dorma.”

Yvonne Elliman, widely associated with her Mary Magdalene connection with the concept album, Broadway musical and film version of  “Jesus Christ Superstar,” focused instead on her ‘70s repertoire, sharing sure bets like “If I Can’t Have You” from “Saturday Night Fever” and her Barbara Lewis cover-turned-hit “Hello, Stranger.”  For her, nostalgia ruled.

Taimane Gardner, a skilled and animated ukulele whiz, demonstrated her expressive and explosive strumming, a good spot for familiarizing her evolving brand with a local crowd. A former Don Ho “discovery,” she traditionally plays for visitor audiences so this was a nifty notch for her local creds.

Finally, Lucie Arnaz, a songstress of admirable eloquence and charm, capped the evening with a solid roster of American song standards, showing a parallel philosophy of Borges: utilizing songs to tell stories. From “Lulu’s Back in Town” to “The Tender Trap”  to “Until Now,” she breezed through a gamut of romantic paths: lasting connections, failures, eternal searches. Not jazzy, but grand and graceful.

And then to punctuate her adoration of the islands — she has been here a number of times over the decades — she dusted off the classic Hawaiian “Na Alii,” revealing she  researched its lyrics involving history and propriety, surprising the audience that she knew the Hawaiian lyrics which she delivered in contrasting pace and tempo, first with a the slow version and the show-stopping rapid-fire upbeat version.

The crowd howled delight.

As for the Borges scholarship donations, the funds will fuel the initial $300,000 committed to the Jimmy Borges Endowment Fun, to bolster and solidify a legacy for the ailing jazz singer. He simply wanted to leave something significant for a future generation of needy vocalists, so the plan is to award University of Hawaii scholarships to prospective singers, hopefully for a lifetime.

All “For the Love of Jimmy.”

 

A jolly holiday fullhouse concert by the Royal Hawaiian Band

December 11th, 2015
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Nearly two hours before the 7 p.m. curtain, local folks lined up for the Royal Hawaiian Band’s first holiday concert Thursday (Dec. 10) at Hawaii Theatre.

The queue snaked around the theater, from the box office on Bethel Street, along Hotel Street, up Nuuanu Avenue, and snuggling Pauahi Street nearly back to the front entrance.

So naturally, the house was jammed — the show was free, no tickets required, and between 1,200 to 1,300 fans of the band assembled, certainly including first-timers to the theater and newbies to the RHB. Which thrilled maestro Clarke Bright, of course,  as well as Hawaii Theatre president Ruth Bolan, who was all smiles with the sense of community within the historical theater.

The hometowners applauding the homegrown band with roots linked to King Kamehameha III and Hawaiian royalty…that’s magical.

The takeaway:

  • The Royal Hawaiian Band is hugely underrated. Known primarily for its marching parades and informal concerts, it’s merrily festive and supreme as a Christmastime attraction.
  • Corral  a few island troupers with their own following — comedian Frank DeLima, songstress Karen Keawehawaii, and Jerry Santos of the incomparable Olomana group — and you have a socko cast. Throw in keiki — Kamehameha Schools Children’s Chorus and a hula halau, Ka La ‘Onohi Mai o Ha’ehae’e — and there’s vast interest and variety, the  chorus kids charming not only in voices but in faces, a hearty brew of next-generation performers and  the halau demonstrating that culture is worth performing and perpetuating. And tap RHB regulars Malia Ka’ai, she of the operatic voice; Gary Keawe Aiko, the son of Genoa Keawe, thus rooted in credible Hawaii tradition; and Pi’ilaniwahine Smith, the hula soloist who is the daughter of kumu hula Alicia Smith; and you’re talking lifelong stewards of cultural preservation.
  • The partnership of the City and County of Honolulu, the Royal Hawaiian Band Music Society, and the Hawaii Theatre Center enabled the performance to be free, a splendid Christmas present to the community. The fact that the place was packed to the hilt indicates the grand gesture was a hit, and the attendance was validation for the presenters. A win-win for all.
  • For the bandmaster and the band members alike, a holiday gig like this meant the musical menu would be a mixed bag, to suit palettes of all kinds.  And yep, the gang succeeded — holiday orchestral favorites tempered with classical strains; cultural expansion including  something Russian, something cinematic (a “Star Wars” medley, complete with Storm Troopers and more, in anticipation of this winter’s film biggie, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”)  Indeed, the force is with the band.

The band utilized all the elements the Hawaii Theatre provides: entrances and exits via the stage pit, prances and dances in the aisles, and the cherry on the cake: a house sound system geared for concerts, compared to the open-air dynamics of a park show or a parade. On this note, the band was at its best, with swirls of the subtle as well as blasts of the robust — every trick possible. Loved the chimes, loved the jingling bells, loved the rich, full sounds.

The acts benefitted, too; when was the last time you heard a keiki chorus accompanied by a 40-plus unit with all the frills of flutes, the toots of trumpets, French horns and trombones, the gentle riffs of clarinets and the syncopation of percussions. And more. Made “Hallelujah Chorus” a rouser, resulting in a spontaneous standing ovation! (It helped that Lynnel Bright, conductor of the Kamehameha kids, is the spouse of bandmaster Clarke — nothing like partnerships in the ‘ohana).  And even Jerry Santos opined that it was pleasure and a treasure to have the accompaniment of the musicians on two of his classics, “Seabird” and “Ku’u Home O Kahalu’u,” yielding a panorama of support and waves of nostalgic emotions. Further, Santos’ senior viewpoint was a natural fit for his protégé-partner Kamuela Kimokeo, a singer-guitarist and for all practical purposes, the young mate in the age-diverse Olomana of the present. And yes, it was savvy for Santos to include his hula soloist Nalani Badua-Fernandes in his trio of island tunes.

DeLima provided funny fodder, like his inimitable “Filipino Christmas,” complete with a tree costume glistening with lights, and parodies of and salutes to Marcus Mariota and Bruno Mars; he’s mastered the manner of taking popular tunes and making ‘em his own with a new posture and lyrics, and his Portuguese jokes never fail him.

Keawehawai’i perhaps had the evening’s most difficult task, likely assigned to deliver tunes that were not her signature like her peers in the cast. Still, the pro that she is, Keawehawai’i updated  “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Hawaiian Fa-La-La!” with her own imprint, with a rollicking posture and a vocal force that sounded like it was fresh from the North Pole. At least her daughter’s (Tracie Lopes) halau made it a family affair with hula on “Fa-La-La!”

Denby Dung vacated her clarinet chair in the band to emcee the show, delivering cheerful intros to the acts and enabled her to do some comedy in the “Star Wars” segment, complete with Princess Leia-like doughnut rolls on both sides of her hair.

It was nice to see both Mayor Kirk Caldwell and Gov. David Ige and their spouses on opposite ends of a sector loaded with city council members and administrators. And the Ron Bright ‘ohana, now led by widow Mo Bright, numbered 18 and were generous in applause and goodwill for No. 1 son Clarke’s role in the evening of holiday enchantment.

So, the Royal Hawaiian Band legacy continues. And sounds like Hawaii Theatre’s honcho Bolan wants to make this gift an annual treat. As one of the ushers said, “This is the first time since Jim Nabors’ Christmas concerts that the house is packed.” Hallelujah!

 

 

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'Five-0' on a roll — with role-playing — but ratings static

November 21st, 2015
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Danno (Scott Caan) goes to school, under cover as an economics professor, in this week’s “Hawaii Five-0.” In the episode entitled “Hana Kuaka (Charades),” which aired Friday (Nov. 20), he portrays a college professor subbing for the one murdered and tossed in a pig pen with the pigs making dinner out of the prof's carcass. The oinkers weren’t making believe; the “body” must have had some flavors the big piggies loved.

First, a word about the overnight Nielsen ratings: ABC’s “Shark Tank” was No. 1 in the key 18 to 49 adults demographic, with a 1.7 rating — best of the night. And it’s a role the show has maintained for weeks, no charade invovled.

CBS’ “Five-0” had more viewers in the same hour — 9.06 million, better than last week — but with a static 1.1 18 to 49 demo rating.  The evening’s most-watched program was CBS’ “Blue Bloods,” which logged 11 million viewers and a 1.1  18 to 49 demo rating, in the hour following “Five-0.”

 

Danno wasn’t the only one playing something or someone he wasn’t.

Eric (Andrew), Danno’s nephew now recurring as a lab assistant, also goes under cover as a college student, to seek out evidence or chatter about why or how the prof landed in the pig pen. Good to admit he didn’t “cry uncle,” and his playful banter and young looks made him a natural to think he’d fit in on boozing and dancing with the collegians.

Even McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) took on the supportive fatherly stance, in a subplot involving a troubled son and his suspicious dad — with McG trying to sort out dad’s motives and son’s distancing stance while keeping everyone happy.

Jerry (Jorge Garcia), still eager to find his niche in the “Five-0” hierarchy, pulls what literally is a crappy duty — an evidence collector who has to watch for a missing bullet in the murder victim’s carcass to “pass” through the pig. While reading “Charlotte’s Web,” no less. Can you imagine the environment and odor during the filming? Garcia had to play the role of someone who couldn’t tell hell from smell.

Max (Maxi Oka), the ME who finds the thumb of the victim in the goop and, well, you know, the mess in the pig pen, might have been role-playing, too— thinking of his other primetime duties on NBC’s “Heroes Reborn,” which smells like gravy compared to this episode.

Chin (Daniel Dae Kim) still is masquerading with a smitten, gentlemanly veneer in his ongoing work-duty alongside Abby (Julie Benz), even opening the car door in their mutual cop-work doldrums.

With so many involved in the charade parade, who’s holding down the fort?

Lou (Chi McBride) was pretty stable this week, carrying the investigative banner. And Kono (Grace Park) put on a pretty face, despite the lack of good news regarding her problemed husband Adam (Ian Anthony Dale, not seen this week, but mentioned), with his Yakuza-ties past.

 

 

 

 

'Five-0' ratings remain flat, but so are its storylines

November 9th, 2015
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So far this season, “Hawaii Five-0” has been “flat” — industry jargon for neither upward nor downward movement — in its Friday time slot. It pulled a 1.1 rating in the preferred 18 to 49 age demographic, and 8.75 million viewers.

The CBS procedural  has the most viewers in its 8 p.m. frame (9 p.m. Mainland), but trails ABC’s “Shark Tank” in the same hour, with its 1.6 demo rating; this key demo dictates advertising dollars, so the topper here for Friday Nov. 6, was “Shark,”  despite fewer viewers at 6.69 million.

“Bluebloods,” in the hour following “Five-0,” is most-watched with 10.75 million viewers and a 1.2 rating in the 18 to 49 demos. This has been the general  Friday pattern, week after week, according to overnight Nielsen TV ratings.

For its part, the Hawaii-filmed “Five-0” survives on a night that gets little respect from the industry; Friday is the go-to place before cancellation.

Not saying the “Five-0” is imminently bound there; but because of a financial arrangement  with cabler TNT, “Five-0” is making money for CBS, in spite of the so-so performance. With TNT paying dearly  for syndication rights, the network is content to keep the show in production. As long as it can, before the steam runs out.

The plots are more often superfluous than not. Take Friday’s “Na Kama Hele (Day Trippers)” episode – No. 7 of Season 6. Its dual stories put Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlln) in romantic mode, on an incredulous first-date with Lynn Downey (Sarah Downey), involving scuba diving, dodging bullets from a gunman on an isolated island, in clearly was a misadventure-in-paradise outing. Oh, but they had time for a selfie.

Meanwhile, the “Five-0” team — with Danno Williams (Scott Caan) AWOL again — juggles assignments involving a silly incident about throwing a high school football game, which is never been an issue here.

So Chin Ho Kelly (Daniel Dae Kim) and Kono Kalakaua (Grace Park), with kokua from Lou Grover (Chi McBride), try to make sense of  high school football QB named Jesse Frontera (Jake Nutty) attempting to throw a game (being watched by football scouts) so the kid’s kidnapped father Kai Frontera (Gibi Del Barrio) would not be killed by hoods. The premise was flat and predictable — like, you knew the troubled kid would score a TD in the name of morality, despite the familial threat — and that his dad wasn’t going to be murdered for a super-happy ending. In reality, when was the last time you heard of  high school game being fixed with a gangsta team lording over the innocents? Pro ball, maybe, but  almost never with high school gridiron.

The episode had more, um, incredible moments, involving the two romantics:

  • McG and his sweetie, climbing up a waterfall; a slip down the craggy terrain would have given the attempt some credibility, but nope, they not only traipsed up the falls, they crossed the rippling waters to the other side. Who said mossy rocks are slippery?
  • McG and date, tooling over to an isolated island, on a skimpy rubber craft across pretty vast ocean — not so savvy, even for an ex-SEAL.
  • The couple discover a lost and unreported small plane in the wilds, and are discovered by a Boston mobster, Dennis Logan (James C. Burns), whose prison transport plane this was. Wouldn't  the Feds have searched for this errant plane?
  •  Fact or fiction, cannot tell you — but when his date receives a head injury, McG's RX is coconut water, supposedly serving as a cleanser and perhaps an antibiotic.
  • And they had time for a selfie?!

Oh, and one no-no; Chin apparently never got the memo or read the handbook about cop brutality in questioning a suspect; his behavior and action in trying to get a hood to spill the beans drew blood, enough for some disciplinary or legal action. Come to think of it, the "Five-0" inquiry room, with its institutional-green-painted hollow tile walls, does not have the customary peer-through-glass window for investigator honchos to see and hear the questioning. Howcum?

In the football game moments, Kukui High made a homecoming, complete with red T-shirts and pep squad and filmed at Kaiser High, with deliberate camera angles to prevent showing a not-so-crowded stadium audience.

And if you yearned for bromance banter, there was none. There's always next week.

 

 

 

Mugiishi goes for broke, pledges his 'Allegiance'

November 7th, 2015
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Left photo, Lea Salonga and George Takei are among the stars of “Allegiance,” premiering Nov. 8 at the Longacre Theatre on Broadway. Right photo, Telly Leung and ensemble, in “Allegiance.” Photos by Matthew Murphy, courtesy “Allegiance.”

 

 

Note: This is an expanded version of my Show Biz column of  Nov. 8 (www.staradvertiser.com), on local doctor Mark Mugiishi and his journey to become a Broadway producer with tonight’s premiere of “Allegiance” in New York City.

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Left, Dr. Mark Mugiishi, leading "Allegiance" producer from Hawaii; right, Playbill for "Allegiance."  Photos by Wayne Harada

 

Call it a pledge of “Allegiance”  — with historic magnitude.

Dr. Mark Mugiishi, a Honolulu surgeon, becomes a first-time Broadway producer of the new wartime internment camp musical, “Allegiance,” premiering tonight (Nov. 8) at the Longacre Theatre in New York.

His is a history-making journey of astounding perseverance, beginning about four years ago and culminating in the “Allegiance” premiere tonight.

Mugiishi heads an island delegation of 275, including 130 show investors and their families and guests, who have assembled in New York for the launch.

Mugiishi championed a fundraising drive among his Hawaii colleagues and friends, including his doctor colleagues and Iolani School buddies dating back to his basketball coaching days — to amass the largest sum, undisclosed, due to Broadway protocol to keep numbers private  — of the musical’s $13 million budget.

It’s also his birthday weekend; Mugiishi, a Honolulu surgeon, turned 56 Saturday, (Nov. 7) on the eve of opening night of “Allegiance.” So it’s a double-barreled milestone for Mugiishi.

“I’ll celebrate belatedly,” he said of the birthday.

Weeks of anticipation and shinpai — Japanese for worries and concerns — preceded tonight’s premiere.

He packed Big Island cookies and Hawaiian Host macadamia nut chocolates as omiyage for cast and crew.

He purchased a tuxedo, since the premiere is a formal event, but gave up on lei, since his mid-week departure was too far ahead of opening night, and logistics of  lei presentation (when, where and to whom) made the floral tradition a challenge.

For his part in the fundraising, Mugiishi’s name will appear first among all investor producers and above the title of the show, reflecting his formidable feat well beyond imagination.

“Hawaii’s130 investors cumulatively put in a sizable number in the multi-million dollars, towards the musical with a $13 million budget,” he said.

What Mugiishi could reveal is that  each minimum investment of $25,000 meant two tickets for donors on opening night; $50,000 translated to four seats, and so on. Do the math: the 275 locals will fill nearly a fourth of the 1,057 seats at the Longacre Theatre. That’s a lot of dough, baby.

Called  “Doc” by his colleagues, Mugiishi organized and inspired the Hawaii Hui  to write huge checks in a process involving  informational sessions, with appearances by three of the musical’s principal  stars: George Takei, Lea Salonga and Telly Leung.

It’s what you do, to pitch an unknown entity among Broadway game players to capitalize a minimum budget to make the prospect “legit” beyond the dream level.

Mugiishi is the former Iolani basketball coach who never played the game, but led his team to seven championships; a surgeon, he now is senior vice president of clinical affairs at Hawaii Medical Service Assn. (HMSA). He also is a surgeon/physician at the Ekahi Health/Central Medical Clinic at Kuakini Hospital.

He’s never produced a Broadway show, so it’s still too early to know or say if the financial payoff will succeed. The show’s advance sales — subscribers who buy tickets well  in advance, to give the production momentum and legs — have been moderate, compared to quick hits like this season’s “Hamilton,” a musical about Alexander Hamilton, which was a hit well before the opening curtain (OK, it had a preliminary run off-Broadway as insurance and a trial balloon).

Mugiishi joined the fundraising team for the upstart musical, like donors who ultimately took his cue, because of the unlikely theme of the show: a story, with songs, about the wartime internment camps. A tuner with such a downer of a plot? Yes, it was a struggle, initially.

“Allegiance” features a  book by Marc Acito, Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione, based on the emotion-charged theme of innocent Japanese Americans unjustly incarcerated in camps during World War II. Though not spotlighting a Hawaii internment facility was situated at Honouliuli, the impact of such governmental crimes still resonate with islanders.

“Allegiance” is based on actual interment memories of actor Takei, Sulu from the “Star Trek” franchise, and also stars Salonga (“Miss Saigon,” “Les Miserables”  and Leung (“Glee”). Original songs are by Kuo; the production is directed by Stafford Arima and choreographed by Andrew Palermo.

INVESTOR NOTES: Investors could readily bond with the show’s internment plot, though initially, it was a tough sell to enlist locals to commit to investing in “Allegiance.”

Said Karen Ono, wife of gastroenterologist Warren Ono: “It’s just a fascinating story; my mother and her family were living in the Sacramento area during the war so we invested because of the emotional bond and a passion for the story.”

Dan Arita, a Data House technology specialist for 40 years, said, “This is a story that needs to be told and perpetuated — for the greater good of America … the wartime story of people whose lives where changed when they were placed into an internment camp, without committing a crime.

I’m 79 years old,” said Arita. “But I remember that era where Hawaii people were being impacted. I was about 7 years old; there was  a lot of talk families being uprooted. And anxious moments.

Trevor Benn, who is not Asian but whose wife is Japanese, is founder-owner of the Benn Pacific Realty. He said his passion for the show is separate and distinct from ethnicity.

 

“I hope it’s a wild success, not just financially, but for the basic understanding of the story — about a family who had everything taken from them, when they did nothing wrong,”  said Benn. …

 

HAWAIIAN CONNECTION:  Two cast members have Hawaii ties. Lea Salonga, who portrays Kei Kimura, is married to Robert Charles Chien, whose family is here; Greg Watanabe, who plays Mike Masaoka, the only true-to-life character who was the president of the Japanese American Citizens League, has an aunt here who is part of the Sumida Watercress Farm hui. …

Further, backstage, there’s another Hawaii ex-pat: Melanie Tojio Lockyear is an associate director; she earlier starred in “Miss Saigon” and “Les Miserables.”

TRADE WINDS: Congresswoman Mazie Hirono is expected to be among the Hawaii notables attending tonight’s premiere. …

While Hawaii had a wartime internment camp at Honouliuli, the musical focuses on the personal experiences of George Takei, whose family members in the retelling — the Kimuras — were removed from their farm in Salinas, Calif., to the Heart Mountain internment camp in the plains of Wyoming, following the Japanese attack on  Pearl Harbor which launched the U.S. involvement in World War II. …

THE LOCAL ANGLE: To mobilize and move 275 people to and from New York, Mugiishi enlisted a travel group that worked with individual fliers on their preferred carrier — many chose the Honolulu-to-Newark direct flies on Hawaiian and United — with discounts at four hotels in the vicinity of the Longacre, located at W. 48th Street and Broadway. At the top of the scale: $225 rates per night at the W New York at Times Square. …

QUOTABLE: The key Hawaii presence in the musical is a moment when a soldier comforts Sam Kimura (played by Leung) about the 442 Infantry Regimental Combat Team, 100th Infantry Battalion GIs, ready to roll out a rescue mission in France, saying, “Don’t worry; what do Hawaiian soldiers say? ‘Go For Broke!’” …

Kind of sums up Mugiishi’s pledge of “Allegiance.” …

 

 

 

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