passion

HIKI NŌ
Focus on Compassion: Parents and Children

 

The second of four in a special HIKI NŌ Focus on Compassion series emphasizes the unique and sometimes misunderstood relationship between parent and child. This four-episode series is hosted by Crystal Cebedo, a 2016 HIKI NŌ and Wai‘anae High School graduate in her second year at Menlo College in Atherton, California.

 

The outstanding HIKI NŌ stories in this Focus on Compassion show include:

 

–“Father Coach” from Hongwanji Mission School on O‘ahu: the story of a father and son whose bond and mutual respect developed and deepened through their additional roles as coach and player.

 

–“Parental Guidance Required” from Wai‘anae High School on O‘ahu: a look at how the tough love of a parent has sharpened one student wrestler’s competitive spirit and prepared her with the skills and mindset for life outside the ring.

 

–“Racing Sakamotos” from Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School on Kaua‘i: the story of how a father’s passion for drag racing passed down to his children and united the entire family around the discipline and detail of this exhilarating sport.

 

–“Lucy’s Lab Creamery” from Saint Francis School on O‘ahu: the story of a young entrepreneur who uses his ice cream parlor to simultaneously honor the memory of his late mother and raise money for charity.

 

–“The Comedy of Life” from Maui High School on Maui: a look at the mental and emotional adjustments made as a daughter becomes the caretaker of her mother with Alzheimer’s.

 

–“Silent Passion” from Nanakuli High and Intermediate School on O‘ahu: the story of a mother, who despite her inability to hear, enthusiastically supports her son’s passion for singing, dancing and theater.

 

–“Anti-Meth Teen” from H.P. Baldwin High School on Maui: the story of a teen whose father’s past addiction inspired her volunteerism and gave her a platform for helping her peers rise above difficult circumstances.

 

This program encores Saturday, Aug. 12, at 12:00 pm and Sunday, Aug. 13, at 3:00 pm. You can also view HIKI NŌ episodes on our website, www.pbshawaii.org/hikino.

 

BIG PACIFIC
Passionate

 

Plunge into the Pacific with researchers and cinematographers and see the ocean’s rare and dazzling creatures in a way never before seen on television. The series examines the ocean that covers a third of the Earth’s surface. Actor and producer Daniel Dae Kim narrates.

 

Passionate
See how the quest to multiply has spawned a stunning array of unusual behaviors and adaptations. View forest penguins with a tenuous marriage and the secret rendezvous of great white sharks, and hear the tale of male pregnancy.

 

PBS HAWAI‘I PRESENTS
Kū Kanaka/Stand Tall

 

In August 1969, 15-year-old Terry Kanalu Young became quadriplegic after a diving accident. Initially bitter about his circumstances, he eventually realized that his rage could destroy him – or he could learn a great lesson from it. This film explores Young’s life journey, from a Hawaiian history student to an activist and community leader, and how he used his insights about identity and trauma to offer hope to dispossessed Native Hawaiians.

 

To learn more about Terry Kanalu Young, be sure to see this interview.

 

INSIGHTS ON PBS HAWAI‘I
The Power to Overcome

 

The film Kū Kanaka/Stand Tall told Kanalu Young’s remarkable story about a courageous journey – emerging from personal tragedy to find a new meaning and passion for life. Some of us make that journey and find our way despite a childhood of unimaginable neglect. Join us for an inspirational INSIGHTS with people who found the power to overcome.

 

Your questions and comments are welcome via phone, email and via Twitter during the Live Broadcast.

 

Phone Lines:
462-5000 on Oahu or 800-238-4847 on the Neighbor Islands.

 

Email:insights@pbshawaii.org

 

Twitter:
Join our live discussion using #pbsinsights

 

Truly A Privilege

 

A Special Message

By Robbie Alm
Outgoing Chair, PBS Hawai‘i Board of Directors

 

Robbie Alm, Outgoing Chair, PBS Hawai‘iAll of us who serve on the PBS Hawai‘i Board feel so privileged and honored to do so. It begins when we walk toward our new headquarters and pass the wall containing the names of all of you who supported the building of our new home. It is at once humbling and inspiring. And we know that we have a responsibility to honor the trust you have given us with your gifts.

 

As we come into and walk throughout the building, we can see – literally through all the glass – a very special and dedicated group of employees making the mission of PBS Hawai‘i live every day. They are the best at what they do and they approach their tasks with aloha for each other and for all of you who do us the honor of letting us become a part of your lives. And it is our privilege to support them.

 

PBS Hawai‘i President and CEO Leslie Wilcox and Board Chair Robbie Alm untie the maile at this morning’s blessing ceremony and donor thank-you event at the public television station’s new home at 315 Sand Island Access Road in Honolulu. Photo: PBS Hawai‘iHawai‘i President and CEO Leslie Wilcox and Board Chair Robbie Alm untying the maile lei at the grand opening of the station’s new home, September 21, 2016.

 

And as we have watched it grow, we have all come to understand how special and really extraordinary HIKI NŌ has become. The young people of Hawai‘i are now storytellers of nationwide fame and distinction, as they win award after award in national competitions. They show the skills honed through diligent and demanding work, under the guidance of our great HIKI NŌ team, including Executive Producer Robert Pennybacker, Managing Editor Sue Yim, Online Editor Nikki Minamoto and Administrative Assistant Susan Waldman. There were those who said that HIKI NŌ would never happen – and if by chance we got a statewide student news network of public, private and charter schools started, it would most certainly fail. Our young people, mostly from public schools, every day prove them wrong.

 

Alm, during his service as Director of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, with Deputy Director Susan Doyle, circa 1992.Alm, during his service as Director of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, with Deputy Director Susan Doyle, circa
1992.

 

It is also truly a great privilege and pleasure for all of us to support the very special leadership of Leslie Wilcox. She left the bright lights, fame and remuneration of commercial television, where she was one of the top-rated on-air newscasters in town, to join us, and she has been an amazing force since the day she got here. Her excellence as a journalist made a home in a place that features great public affairs programming (such as Insights), the drawing out of our community leaders (Leslie’s own Long Story Short) and showcasing special stories of Hawai‘i, making sure they are shared across our Islands and with the world. Nothing could speak more strongly to that than the 2015 studio concert of Jimmy Borges and the recent Eddie and Myrna Kamae film festival Leslie was entrusted to present. We are so lucky that PBS Hawai‘i turns out to be her life’s passion and we are in awe as we watch her go, and go, and go.

 

We are privileged to work with a great staff: Ashley Aurellano, Paula Biondine, Emily Bodfish, Linda Brock, Brian Bueza, Forest Butler, Meriel Collins, Alison Crabb, Patty Doo, Todd Fink, Paul Hayashida, Sam Hee, Drew Hironaga, Emilie Howlett, Lori Kaya, John Kovacich, Terry Lonokapu, Jill Loving, Karen Maddocks, Mariko Miho, Nikki Miyamoto, John Nakahira, Lawrence Pacheco, Robert Pennybacker, Liberty Peralta, Michael Powell, Richard Reyes, Jason Suapaia, Christina Sumida, Rianne Tsutsui, Susan Waldman and Karen Yamamoto.

 

And our Board members are so lucky to work as a group that brings great community wisdom, an ethic of laboring for love and for Hawai‘i, and an insistence on quality and passion, that includes: Muriel Anderson, Susan Bendon, Jodi Endo Chai, Keola Donaghy, Matt Emerson, Jake Fergus, Jason Fujimoto, Joanne Grimes, Jason Haruki, Noelani Kalipi, Joy Miura Koerte, Kamani Kuala‘au, Mary Ann Manahan, Bettina Mehnert, Cameron Nekota, Aaron Salā, Julie Shimonishi, Ka‘iulani Sodaro, Candy Suiso, Kent Tsukamoto, Huy Vo, Bruce Voss and shortly, Jim Duffy and Ian Kitajima. It is said that one of the best measures of a person is the company he or she keeps, and this company speaks for itself.

 

For me, this month brings to a close one of the most treasured journeys of my life. Education television was born in the same UH College of Education building in which my parents Dick and Julie Alm taught. As Director of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, the Hawai‘i Public Broadcasting Authority was a key part of my everyday life. And later when PBS Hawai‘i came into being as a community licensee, I joined the Board in 1999 and became Chair, succeeding Neil Hannahs, in 2009. Making sure that we finished the capital campaign, that we built and moved into our new building, and that we set ourselves up in a way that would allow us to lead in this exciting century, were goals for many of us, and certainly for me.

 

And now leadership passes to new and very worthy hands. As part of Hawai‘i Island’s outstanding Fujimoto family, our new Board Chair Jason Fujimoto has the experience, the skills and the youth to lead our great Board and Staff to ever higher levels of achievement and service.

 

It truly has been a privilege and a great honor.

 

Ke Akua pū a hui hou,

Robbie Alm Signature

 

Kū Kanaka/Stand Tall

PBS Hawai‘i Presents

Kū Kanaka/Stand Tall

The story of Hawaiian community leader Kanalu Young Premieres
Thursday, June 15, 8:00 pm

 

By Liberty Peralta

 

In August 1969, 15-year-old Terry Young took a dive into the ocean from a rock wall at Cromwell’s Beach near Diamond Head. The water was shallow; Terry hit his head. In a split second, he became quadriplegic – paralyzed from the neck down, with limited use of his hands and arms.

 

Kanalu Young at an Elder-hostel (now called Road Scholar) summer program, circa 1997. Photo courtesy of the Family of Kanalu Young.In rehab, bitter from the accident, young Terry took his anger out on hospital staff. Eventually, he realized that his rage could destroy him – or he could learn a great lesson from it.

 

It was 1970s Hawai‘i, and the Hawaiian Renaissance was taking root. Terry, who would adopt the Hawaiian name, Kanalu, turned his passion toward Hawaiian language, history and culture. In the 90s, he earned a PhD in Pacific Island history and began his career as a professor of Hawaiian history at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa.

 

Filmmaker and professor Marlene Booth first met Kanalu when they both served on a panel to review film proposals. They ended up working together on Pidgin: The Voice of Hawai‘i, a documentary that made its broadcast premiere on PBS Hawai‘i in 2009. Shortly before the completion of Pidgin in 2008, Kanalu passed away at age 54.

 

Marlene spoke with us about the making of Kū Kanaka/Stand Tall, and about Kanalu’s life and legacy. The following is a transcript of that conversation.

 

 

PBS Hawai‘i: Tell us about when you first met Kanalu.

 

Marlene Booth: I first met Kanalu in the year 2000. We were both serving on a panel put together by PIC [Pacific Islanders in Communications] to judge proposals for films. He was there representing the academic side and I was there representing the filmmaker side. I saw that as we discussed the proposals we’d read, he and I seemed to be saying similar things, and I liked that, so I approached him and asked him if he ever thought of making a film. He was a professor, a tenured professor at the University of Hawai‘i, but he said yes! He said yes as though he had been waiting for somebody to come and ask him that question.

 

So we began talking about, if we made a film together, what that would be. We emailed back and forth because I wasn’t really living here at that point, and came up with the idea to do a film about the resurgence of the Hawaiian language, which ended up morphing into a film about pidgin, because of Kanalu. This local boy, who taught Hawaiian studies, who loved Hawaiian history, and really felt like Hawaiian history and Hawaiian language had given him a sense of who he was in the most important way, said, “Let’s do a film about pidgin.” And when I asked him why, he said, “Because without pidgin, I would cease to be whole.”

 

So we ended up then making a film about pidgin, which was on PBS Hawai‘i, called Pidgin: The Voice of Hawai‘i. That took many years because funding a film always takes a long time, and producing a film takes a long time. Towards the end of the editing of that film, Kanalu passed away. He was quadriplegic from the age of 15, and almost a lifelong sufferer with asthma. With the combination, he got very sick. He ended up in the hospital and never came out of the hospital. We lost him in late August 2008. Pidgin would be finished just a few months after that, toward the end of 2008. Kanalu, unfortunately, only got to see the first 20 minutes of it, which he liked. But he would have loved to see the finished product. He would have loved interacting with audiences and talking to them about who they are. Identity was very important to him.

 

When did you realize that Kanalu’s story would make a good film?

 

A few years had passed [since his death]. I started thinking about Hawaiian language and history, and what it meant to live in a place like Hawai‘i, a place where history is alive and being talked about every day. There’s such vitality to that and such importance in terms of what it means to be a person whose history is being rediscovered and affirmed. The renewed interest in Hawaiian language and history are really embodied in Kanalu’s life. He became active in the disability community as a leader, but he was well aware that all around him was the awakening of Hawaiian culture. It was as though what had been a Hawaiian Renaissance on a statewide scale became Kanalu’s renaissance. It completely opened him up to all of these things. Everything spoke to him and he wanted to grab it in every way he could. He became a graduate student in Pacific Islands history, which is what [UH] had at that point, and he got a PhD in it and became a professor.

 

Kanalu Young, center, was in the front line of the 1993 ‘Onipa‘a march, which observed the 100th anniversary of the Hawaiian Kingdom overthrow. Photo courtesy of Ed Greevy.Kanalu Young, center, was in the front line of the 1993 ‘Onipa‘a march, which observed the 100th anniversary of the Hawaiian Kingdom overthrow. Photo courtesy of Ed Greedy.

 

Meanwhile, he didn’t limit what he was learning to the classroom; he went to demonstrations. In one, which was a year before the famous 1993 ‘Onipa‘a march, in 1992, he was arrested at a vigil that was celebrating King Kamehameha on King Kamehameha Day. It was meant to serve as preparation for what would become the ‘Onipa‘a march the next year. People stormed the stairs of ‘Iolani Palace, which he could not do. He was forcibly pulled from his wheelchair and thrown in a paddy wagon, which I think brought him into the notice of people who might not have known him outside of the university. When the 1993 march came along, it struck a chord with people who, as [UH Hawaiian studies professor] Jon Osorio told me, had not heard the real history of Hawaiian history, and this was the first time they had heard it. At that march, Kanalu is in the front line. He suddenly goes from being a learner and a student who’s moving toward becoming a teacher, to becoming a leader, not having really thought it, but his actions that came out of his sense of who he was and what he had to do propelled him there.

 

The film presents parallels between Kanalu’s life story and the story of the Hawaiian community. Was this something Kanalu himself observed?

 

In one of the final interviews he gave, Kanalu was in bed, and he’s talking about how he thinks he has an unusual perspective on the Hawaiian sovereignty movement. He says that when he came into it, the Hawaiian community was broken and in recovery. He said, “I understood that.”

 

When I spoke to Noelani Goodyear-Ka‘ōpua, who had been his student, and Jon Osorio, who was his very good friend and colleague, both of them said something similar – that Kanalu brought to the Hawaiian movement a sense of understanding and moving forward from trauma because he had had his individual encounter with trauma years before. I think Kanalu knew that the recovery side doesn’t stop, it’s ongoing. I think he felt that the Hawaiian movement gained strength by acknowledging trauma, acknowledging loss, and moving forward to recovery. I think he felt that understanding history, re-asserting language, and publicly celebrating culture, was really very important to cultural and national renewal.

 

How did the film’s title come to be?

 

One of Kanalu’s friends who teaches at an immersion school, Pua Mendonca – I was talking to her early in my research for the film – I said, “What would you title it?” And she said, without missing a beat, “I would call it Kū Kanaka/Stand Tall.” She said Kanalu always stood tall. He was always head and shoulders above the rest of us.

 

I later learned that there was a book with that same title about the resurgence of Hawaiian music, at the beginning of the Hawaiian Renaissance. That came out many years ago, and yes, they both have the same title, but there was no connection.

 

Why is the film only about 30 minutes long?

 

There are several reasons. The funding mandated half an hour. There’s also only a finite amount of footage we could find of Kanalu that was in usable form. There was a lot of material on VHS that had deteriorated to the point of no recovery. I think we searched long and hard for any material of him.

 

We didn’t want him to get lost in the story. It’s tricky when you’re doing a film about someone who’s passed away. It’s easy for the film to be one person or another giving testimony about who he is. It was very important to have Kanalu’s voice and image in the film, and there just wasn’t all that much out there. What was out there, we found, as far as I know.

 

Half an hour is also a very usable length for classrooms and that’s important. Also, I realized that an hour-long film would have also been another year or two of fundraising and production. I really wanted to get the film done and out and used.

 

You worked a lot with ‘Ulu‘ulu [the moving image archive at UH West O‘ahu] on this project.

 

‘Ulu‘ulu was so important. The film would not have happened without ‘Ulu‘ulu. They were the ones really getting their hands dirty. They have a ton of footage from the ‘Onipa‘a march and Kanalu was in a lot of that.

 

‘Ulu‘ulu found an interview that Mahealani Richardson had done as a young reporter at KGMB asking him about ‘aumakua. The cameraman, bless him, let the camera roll before and after the interview. What Kanalu said to Mahealani before and after the interview became key pieces in the film. They talked as an older Hawaiian man who knew Hawaiian history, and a younger Hawaiian woman who was curious. I would have never found this footage without ‘Ulu‘ulu.

 

What are some things about Kanalu that you wish could have been included in this film?

 

I’m happy with the film; it gives a strong idea of Kanalu and his importance to the Hawaiian movement. He loved to sing, and he had a wonderful sense of humor, and I don’t think we were able to get enough of that into the film. I wish there had been the time to develop more the fullness of Kanalu the person, but in finding a story, the strong focus seemed to be his individual understanding of who he was as a Native Hawaiian, and the way he was able to propel that into helping others connect to the Hawaiian movement.

 

And some things need contextualizing. There’s some home movie footage that Kanalu’s brother shot on VHS, where he’s being silly, but I think it would have taken a little bit of contextualizing to explain where his silliness came from and how it operated.

 

There was a whole incident that we never talked about [on camera]. Leading up to the 25th anniversary of his accident, of taking that dive at Cromwell’s, he said, “I want to go back to Cromwell’s. I want to get in the water and I want to make my peace with the ocean, and I want to reassert my love for the ocean and tell the ocean it wasn’t your fault.” He does this whole thing of finding friends who are lifeguards and firemen and weather people who can tell him what the surf condition is going to be, and then he mobilizes everybody he knows, and he works out a whole choreography. “How am I going to get in the water? What are we going to use?” And he does it! They get him in the water. The waves were coming over him because the waves were stronger than predicted. He does it for himself; he wants that experience. But he also does it for everybody else, to show them that anything is possible. It’s got to be tactile for him, even though he can’t feel most of it, except for his neck up.

 

Friends and family helped with Kanalu’s return to Cromwell’s Beach, 25 years after his fateful dive there paralyzed him from the neck down. Photo courtesy of the Family of Kanalu Young.Friends and family helped with Kanalu’s return to Cromwell’s Beach, 25 years after his fateful dive there paralyzed him from the neck down. Photo courtesy of the Family of Kanalu Young.

 

If Kanalu was a different person, he could have said, “I never want to go back there.”

 

Exactly, but he wanted to, and it was fantastic. His friend and younger colleague, Kekai Perry, told that story, but I didn’t have Kanalu telling it. I had one great photo, but it just wasn’t enough to make a whole scene work in the film.

 

Each thing I might have added about him [in the film] would have uncovered another layer of this man. We can’t any of us be reduced to just one thing about ourselves. But in a film, of course, you need to have a goal and find a story. The more compelling story seemed to be who he was as a voice at this time, at that moment in history. Next film, next round. [laughs]

 

If there’s one message you’d like people to take away from this film, what would that be?

 

Boy, there are a million messages. Kanalu was both a gentle man and a warrior, and I think he understood that history is complex, the times we live in are complex, and we need to garner our strength to recognize injustice when we see it, to be resilient to fight against it, and to continue that engagement, while continuing to be ourselves.

 

In these times, I think he would say that there is strength in knowing who you are and knowing the various parts of yourself, especially for Native Hawaiians, in terms of knowing the history, language and culture, and understanding that those tools embolden you and make you a better person, and never to forget that, and to use that in service of fighting injustice.

 

I think about him all the time and what he would be making of our times now. And I think he would say, “No give up.”

 

Right after his accident, Kanalu was in the hospital, angry at everyone there. It would have been so easy to go in that direction instead.

 

He saw that other direction. But Kanalu makes a decision that you’re in rehab to not give up, and that makes all the difference. Once he’s made that decision, that he’s in the game and he’s in it for the long haul, the world opens up to him, and he goes after everything.

 

He was always open to new things. He could take a really strong stand publicly about something in Hawaiian history, and then he’d uncover new evidence. He was always saying, “It’s got to be evidence-based. Make sure that what you’re saying is evidence-based.” Every time I say that to my classes at UH, it’s Kanalu speaking through me. If he had evidence for something, he’d change his mind and not feel like less of a person.

 

He often said that if the accident had not happened, he would never had been who he became. Not that he would have ever looked for the accident, but it gave him a focus, and a seriousness of purpose, and a seriousness about himself. From that, he knew how to adapt to change. That was not something new for him; he had adapted to probably one of the biggest changes to adapt to, when he was just an adolescent, becoming who he was going to become.

 

Kanalu Young at an Elder-hostel (now called Road Scholar) summer program, circa 1997. Photo courtesy of the Family of Kanalu Young.Kanalu Young at an Elder-hostel (now called Road Scholar) summer program, circa 1997. Photo courtesy of the Family of Kanalu Young.

 

He was comfortable with himself as a man in a wheelchair in public. That was never an identity he shied away from; he was who he was. His disability was a part of who he was. It gave him a perspective on himself, on life, on Hawaiian history, that he appreciated. It allowed him to see things and hear things and to understand things that might not be available to everybody.

 

A big life, this man had.

 

PBS Hawai‘i to air documentary on late Hawaiian history professor, activist

PBS Hawaii

For questions regarding this press release, contact:
Liberty Peralta
lperalta@pbshawaii.org
808.462.5030

 

Download this Press Release

 

PBS Hawai‘i to air documentary on
late Hawaiian history professor, activist

 

Kū Kanaka/Stand Tall premieres June 15 at 8 pm on PBS Hawai‘i

 

Kū Kanaka/Stand TallKanalu Young, center, was in the front line of the 1993 ‘Onipa‘a March in Honolulu, which commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Hawaiian Kingdom overthrow. Photo: Ed Greevy

 

HONOLULU, HI – A half-hour documentary about the late University of Hawai‘i Hawaiian history professor, Kanalu Young, is set to make its statewide broadcast premiere on PBS Hawai‘i. Kū Kanaka/Stand Tall premieres Thursday, June 15 at 8 pm on PBS Hawai‘i’s local film showcase, PBS Hawai‘i Presents.

 

A live discussion about the film will take place on Insights on PBS Hawai‘i at 8:30 pm, following the broadcast premiere of Kū Kanaka/Stand Tall.

 

The documentary traces Young’s story, starting with his fateful dive at age 15 near Diamond Head. The accident paralyzed him from the neck down, with limited use of his hands and arms.

 

In rehab, he went through a period of rage. According to Kū Kanaka/Stand Tall filmmaker Marlene Booth, Young eventually chose a new path. “Kanalu makes a decision that you’re in rehab to not give up,” Booth said. “That makes all the difference.”

 

In 1970s Hawai‘i, when the Hawaiian Renaissance was taking root, Young would turn his passion toward learning Hawaiian language, history and culture. In the mid-90s, Young earned a PhD in Pacific Island history and began his career as a Hawaiian history professor at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. During his studies, Young participated in demonstrations, including the 1993 ‘Onipa‘a march in Honolulu that commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Hawaiian kingdom overthrow.

 

Booth says that Young’s personal experience with trauma gave him insight into the trauma experienced by the Hawaiian community. “I think he felt that the Hawaiian movement gained strength by acknowledging trauma, acknowledging loss, and moving forward to recovery,” Booth said. “I think he felt that understanding history, re-asserting language, and publicly celebrating culture, was really very important to cultural and national renewal.”

 

Booth, who co-produced the documentary Pidgin: The Voice of Hawai‘i with Young shortly before his passing in 2008, said that Young was “both a gentle man and a warrior.”

 

“In these times, I think he would say that there is strength in knowing who you are and knowing the various parts of yourself, especially for Native Hawaiians,” Booth said.

 

“I think about him all the time and what he would be making of our times now. And I think he would say, “No give up.”

 

To view the full interview, click here.

 


PBS Hawai‘i is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization and Hawai‘i’s sole member of the trusted Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). We advance learning and discovery through storytelling that profoundly touches people’s lives. We bring the world to Hawai‘i and Hawai‘i to the world. pbshawaii.org | facebook.com/pbshawaii | @pbshawaii

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Jeannette Paulson Hereniko

 

Jeannette Paulson Hereniko has always known the power of storytelling. During a troubled childhood, stories functioned as a source of comfort. In adulthood, she founded the Hawai‘i International Film Festival. Throughout her multifaceted life, Jeannette has blazed her own trail, working with unwavering vision and passion.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, April 12, at 11:00 pm and Sunday, April 16, at 4:00 pm.

 

Jeannette Paulson Hereniko Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

I used to go to high school crying, with a hand on my hand, where my mother had slapped me. That was me, going to school crying. And on Mother’s Day, wondering what they’re talking about. But I knew in my heart of hearts—and a lot of it was my faith, my Congregational church believing that something else was waiting for me, and I could do it.

 

Jeannette Paulson Hereniko first took comfort in storytelling to escape her abusive mother. She continued to tell stories in different mediums, and in her role as founding director of the Hawaii International Film Festival. Jeannette Paulson Hereniko, next, on Long Story Short.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaiʻi’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Jeannette Paulson Hereniko has spent her entire life sharing and telling stories. Whether it be through children’s storytelling, television, stage plays, or film, Hereniko has always known the power of storytelling. Hereniko is best known in Hawaiʻi as the founding director of the Hawaii International Film Festival, which has become one of the premier film festivals for showcasing Asian and Pacific films. She’s also gone on to be a filmmaker in her own right, producing the award-winning film, The Land Has Eyes, with her second husband, Vilsoni Hereniko. Jeannette says her childhood years were the hardest days of her life, but they also helped her develop her love of storytelling.

 

I consider myself an Oregonian because those first nineteen years of my life were very influential. The people there were independent people. They vote a lot; they vote on everything in Oregon. You really had to think. And I like that; I love politics. My father was a fireman, and a labor organizer for public employees. So, I was kind of, on his side, anyway, kind of political at an early age, and very interested in changing society and making it a better place. My mother, now I know, looking back, was mentally ill. But at the time, I didn’t know it. And it was a very, very difficult childhood. It was not a happy family.

 

How did you realize later that she was mentally ill?

 

I was emotionally and physically abused. You know, I was hit around, and told I was terrible and an awful person. And I really believed it.  I escaped a lot, and I escaped in stories, I escaped in making up my own fantasies about life. And I was determined not to live a life like I was brought up. And I think that gave me enormous drive. And like, when I was ten, I had my own radio show.

 

Ten?

 

On what radio channel?

 

On Public Radio.

 

On Public Radio?

 

In Portland.

 

What did you do at ten as a host?

 

It was called Tots and Teens, and I was a storyteller. And I told stories that I wrote, and I had my sister come and imitate animals to the stories.

 

I had my girlfriend play the piano. I’d give little reports on the news.

 

What gave you the confidence to do that?

 

Well, that’s kinda what I’m saying. Because my family was so screwy, I just kind of thought this other life at a very, very early age. I was giving children’s sermons in my church. I found people liked that, and I got a lot of feedback that was positive, which I didn’t get in my family.

 

You said your dad gave you inspiration for public affairs.

 

Right.

 

What was his role in the household?

 

Gone and apathetic, and leave it to Mom to do the work. And not terribly supportive. But never mind; he had that fireman outfit, and he came to my school on Fire Prevention Week, and told us the number to call if our house ever caught on fire. And I had a sign when he ran for city council up in my bedroom posted. So, he still inspired me, in spite of being kind of an absent, apathetic father.

 

Were there other children in the house?

 

There was my sister. And part of my mother’s illness really was to pit us against each other. So, we never did become close. And my sister died at an early age, in her forties, and that’s a huge regret that I never was able to be close to her. But on the saving side of all the family stuff, I had an incredible, strong grandmother on my mother’s side. And she was from Russia. She was Volga German; she migrated when the Communists came in and took over. They didn’t want any Volga Germans. They didn’t want any Jews, they didn’t want any Volga Germans, didn’t want any gays. And so, those people left, if they could. And my grandmother ran away from her family home at eighteen, and somehow made it to Ellis Island, and somehow made it to Seaside, Oregon. And in between, fell in love with another Volga German, Jacob Bartholoma. And uh, they bought cottages, little cottages to rent. That’s where my solace was. That’s where I spent my summers. My grandmother was a storyteller; she told me all the stories about Russia and German, and she cooked and she loved me. And so, it was in Seaside, Oregon that I really felt nurtured.

 

While still living in Oregon, Jeannette Paulson Hereniko struggled to make ends meet to put herself through college. At age nineteen, she felt there weren’t many career options open to her, so she quickly set her sights on marriage.

 

So, I worked two jobs, and I went to school. And I thought, what I’d really like to be, you know, is maybe a lawyer, but I can’t be a lawyer, there’s no women lawyers, and there weren’t any women going to law school. So, I’ll marry a lawyer. I was very self-determined, so I went to Willamette University to the law school, and stood down at the bottom of the steps and watched the guys come down the steps.  And one of them said to me, Hi, stranger. And I remembered he had been a guard at a booth where I was a hostess during the Oregon bicentennial. And three months later, we were married. How’s that for a story?

 

You were consciously looking for a husband?

 

I was consciously looking for a husband who was an attorney. Yeah.

 

Wow.

 

Uh-huh.

 

But the marriage was not successful.

 

It was not successful, because we were so entirely different. He was a conservative Baptist Republican, and I was liberal Congregationalist Democrat.  But you know, there were good years. There were good years.

 

You had children together.

 

We had three beautiful, wonderful children. And we came to Hawaii together, you know, and I learned a lot about business from him. I learned a lot about law from him. And I really was close to his family. It was kind of a substitute family, and they were wonderful. So, not all black and dark.

 

What was it like breaking into Hawaii, when you didn’t know anybody, and probably didn’t have jobs either?

 

So, we moved May 20th. So, May 23rd was my birthday, and I wanted to go to this place called The Sty in Niu Valley.

 

I’ve heard of the Sty.

 

I remember that, in Niu Valley. And we walked into The Sty, and I heard the Sons of Hawaiʻi play.

 

M-hm.

 

And I started bursting into tears; I cried and cried, ‘cause the music just—it was Eddie’s voice. There was something very deep.

 

Eddie Kamae.

 

There was something in his voice so channeling something that touched everything inside my soul, with such storytelling like I’d never heard before. And I just knew this is where I wanted to live forever.

 

Before relocating to Hawaiʻi in 1975, Jeannette Paulson Hereniko worked as a professional children’s storyteller in Oregon. She even started a storytelling guild and children’s festival in Southern Oregon, and hoped to continue telling stories when she reached Hawaii.

 

Ray Okamoto was his name, and he was in charge of the Artists In Schools Program with the Department of Education. And before I came, he said, We’d like you to be a storyteller with the Artists In Schools Program in Hawaiʻi. So, I did. But it was part-time, and I needed to work a little more, ‘cause my husband was having a difficult time getting a job, even though he was an attorney, just breaking in. But I actually was having a great time. I was going around Waimanalo telling stories and everything. But I needed a little more money, ‘cause we had these three kids and everything. So, I went to educational television.

 

And that’s the DOE television.

 

That’s right.

 

Right.

 

That’s right. Anyway, they hired me as a production assistant, and I worked my way up as a producer and a writer. But I didn’t have a college degree. But it was that switch from storytelling, because when I was going around telling stories, there were all these incredible Hawaiians, kupuna. They knew the story, they knew the stories of the aina, and they knew the stories of the history. And that’s the kind of stories I love to tell. And I thought, it’s like picking flowers in someone else’s garden, this isn’t right for me to be doing this. But film, that’s another way. That’s another way to tell stories. And so, I quit being the storyteller in the schools, and devoted my time to educational television. But still, as an independent contractor, ‘cause I didn’t have a degree.

 

Jeannette Paulson Hereniko would go on to earn a college degree from Chaminade University in Honolulu. In 1980, she started a new job in public relations at the East West Center, an educational and research institution on the campus of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Her new job would soon lead her to the creation of Hawaiʻi’s premier cinematic event, the Hawaii International Film Festival.

 

Where I really wanted to work was the East West Center. And people would say, Well, why? And I said, ‘Cause I’m really interested in cross-cultural relations, and I’m really interested in bringing people together from Asia and the Pacific and the United States. Where do we meet, and where do we differ, and how do we negotiate those different. That’s always been a real strong interest in those questions. So, when they had an opening in the public relations department for a community relations director, I applied, and I was hired by Everett Kleinjans, who was the president at the time. And he directed me to think of three ideas that would bring the community closer together to the East West Center. And one of the ideas, why don’t we create a film festival, and why don’t we put the emphasis on Asia and Pacific films, made by Asians and Pacific Islanders, and have some from America. And why don’t we have an academic symposium where we talk about the difference and the similarities, and why don’t we have it free, and why don’t we take it to the neighbor islands, and why don’t we take tours all around and show these films with scholars, you know, and talk about these issues. He said, Oh, I just love that idea. You go for it. Of course, I’m not giving you any money, you have no budget, so you go raise the money. And I said, Fine, I like to raise money.

 

You like to raise money?

 

I do like to raise money.

 

You like to ask people for money?

 

Because here’s what I believe, and you know this. You bring people who have money, and a cause that they want, and they’re waiting for you, because they want to meet the artists, they want to be part of a bigger vision. I really believe that. And so, I like to put people together, I like to do that. So, I thought, I’ve got to have Jack Lord be for this, ‘cause he’s got money and he’s got a name. But I didn’t know him. So, I talked to Cobey Black, and she introduced me to him, and we just hit it off famously. And he wrote a check; five-oh-oh-oh, you know. First check we got. And then, we gotta have theaters, so who owns the theaters. The person in town was Art Gordon. Do you know Art?

 

Remember him.

 

One of the most wonderful men I’ve ever met in my life. And I went to him and explained this idea, that we had this theme of when strangers meet, and we wanted to have Asian films. And he said, You know what, it’s free, and you’re gonna have Asian films. And he loved Asian films, particularly Japanese films, which he’d shown a lot. He says, I’m giving you the Varsity Theater. So, that’s how we got it started, until six months in, a new president come to the Center. He didn’t like the idea of a film festival, at all, and asked me to stop.

 

This must be Victor Li.

 

Yeah; it was Victor Li, Victor Hao Li. But he really did not believe that the East West Center, with the mission as he saw it, included anything to do with film.

 

I see.

 

And he didn’t think anybody in public relations should be creating program, that that should be left to the scholars. So, it was legitimate policy differences. But, you know, it affected my life, ‘cause he told me to stop. And I said, You know what, it’s too late, ‘cause the tickets have been given out. So, he says, Well, just the first one, then. But the first one, the papers called. Maybe you called; I don’t know. Where were you? And there were lines around the block, and people were loving the festival. And he called me in the office and presented me with flowers. He said, You did it, this is great. But it’s gotta be small, it’s gotta be academic, and yeah, just keep it controlled, and you gotta raise all your money outside.

 

You didn’t keep it small and controlled, Jeannette.

 

Well, maybe that was my fault, you know. And maybe because of my background, I was used to people kind of on my back and telling me, No, no, no, you can’t do it. Maybe that’s why I did it.

 

Under the leadership of Jeannette Paulson Hereniko, and with an army of volunteers, the Hawaii International Film Festival grew, and eventually became an independent nonprofit organization, splitting off from the East West Center. Jeannette went through a divorce from her first husband, and tried to find balance in her new role as the festival director, single woman, and mother raising three children.

 

When one has an abusive parent … unfortunately, that that sometimes shows up in their own parenting. How was parenting for you?

 

Great question. You know, again, you have to ask my children. And I still ask them. And it drives them crazy. They say, Oh, Mom, stop asking that. I had three, and one of them was extremely difficult, and she is no longer with us. And you know, maybe there’s a gene there; I don’t know. It was kind of almost like reliving my mother’s story through my daughter. Except my daughter was much more bright and loving, and a wonderful parent herself. But the other two say that I was okay, but I know in reality that I was gone too much, with throwing myself into the film festival, as almost sort of an escape thing. And I regret that; I wish I’d spent more time with them. But they keep assuring me that I was a good mom, so I hope they’re right. And they turned out great.

 

Jeannette Paulson Hereniko poured her passion into growing the Hawaii International Film Festival. After living as a single independent woman for over a decade, Jeannette says she has the Film Festival to thank for introducing her to the man who would become her second husband and soulmate.

 

We wanted scholars on our jury, and we wanted people from different Asia and Pacific places. And I didn’t have a lot of Pacific Islanders that knew a lot about film, so I asked my friend Jean Charlot, who was on the film selection committee with us, Where can I find a Pacific Islander? And he says, Well, you know, there’s this student that’s getting his PhD from Fiji, and he’s at the East West Center, and he’s smart, he’s written books, he’s written all kinds of plays; he’d be great on your jury. He didn’t actually say student; he just said this person. So, I thought that he was gonna be an old man after I read his resume. And so we had the jury. And he walked in and I thought, Oh, my, that’s an old man.

 

He was younger than you were; right?

 

Yeah. He was pretty cute, too. But he was married, so I left my hands off of him. But I made him my friend and put him on my film selection committee; okay? So, when he got divorced, I decided I would fix him up with some of my young girlfriends. Then, he finally said to me, I’d like to take you to dinner. And I thought, This is really strange. I mean, we’ve had lunch, we’d gone to meetings, but why would he want to take me to dinner? Oh, he wants to announce that he’s gonna marry this woman I’d fixed up. So, we went out to dinner and he says, Before I open this bottle of wine, I want to tell you that I’ve been in love with you for two years, but you’ve been so busy with the film festival. I’m imitating him.

 

And you haven’t even noticed. And I thought, Oh, my gosh. So, I said to him—he’s a Pacific Islander, and I’m Caucasian. Okay, I can get over that, but I’m much older than you are. And he said to me, I have been in love with women younger than me. Where does it say I can’t be in love with someone older than me? I have learned in love, age and race make no difference. Do you think you can do the same? And I thought, Here I am running this film festival, When Strangers Meet, and I haven’t dared to think like that. So, I said, Let’s give it a try. And that man’s name is Vilsoni Hereniko. And a year and a half after that dinner, we were married, and we’ve been married nineteen years.

 

And you have very similar interests.

 

Oh, yeah; we’re both storytellers. My my kids say, You finally found someone as crazy as you, Mom.

 

You know, we’re storytellers, we’re filmmakers. He’s written plays, I’m starting to write plays now.

 

In 1996, Jeannette Paulson Hereniko decided to walk away from the Hawaii International Film Festival, the organization that she created and to which she gave so much of her personal life.

 

And why did you choose to quit the film festival?

 

That’s the object of my first show called Wild Wisdom. And it was because my mother, who I’ve talked about quite a bit in the show got early Alzheimer’s. ‘Cause it ended that there was a gene from the Volga Germans that my family had, and fifty percent of those people, meaning me, Volga Germans, get early Alzheimer’s. I saw it on CNN News one night, and I realized my mother, my grandfather, my sister, and three of my cousins had all died of early Alzheimer’s. And I thought, What if I have that gene? So, I called the Alzheimer’s Association, and they didn’t know, there was no way to test. I thought, Man, I’ve just been giving my whole life to the film festival, a single woman, I don’t even know if I like apples and oranges. I’m quitting, and I’m gonna go around the world, and I’m just gonna enjoy my life, because I might lose my mind. Who knows? And that’s why I quit the film festival. But people didn’t know that at the time. So, I’ve been doing that; it was 1981 to ’96. So, that was long enough. Fifteen years. So, they did find out about a test, and I did take the test, and I don’t have that gene. I wouldn’t marry Vili until I knew that. And he told me; he said to me when we went in to get the results of that test, he said, I don’t care if you have it or not, I still want to marry you.

 

In the year 2000, Jeannette Paulson Hereniko stepped out of her comfort zone as someone who shares and promotes films to someone who creates films. She and her new husband, Vilsoni Hereniko, set out to make their first feature film, The Land Has Eyes, filmed on her spouse’s tiny home island of Rotuma, Fiji.

 

Yeah, we decided to make a feature film together. And he had a film in mind, a script in mind. And we took it to Buddhadev Das Gupta from Calcutta, who was on the jury the same year Vili was on, and a very, very dear friend. And he said, You can’t make that film; your first feature film must be your own life. You have to go fishing deep inside and write your own life story. That’s your first feature film. And Vili took that advice literally, and he threw that away, and he started writing his own life. And then, he got writer’s block, ‘cause it was getting very personal. And I said, Change it to a girl. So, Vili became Viki. And we made The Land Has Eyes. We were on the Island of Rotuma for three months to make it.

 

And you didn’t have a big budget, and you had villagers playing roles.

 

Yeah; it was wonderful.

 

And it was just very courageous.

 

Thank you.

 

It was a gamble; right?

 

Yeah.

 

And it’s a beautiful movie.

 

Oh, thank you. Yeah. Well, it was probably the uh, deepest experience. And talk about shattering illusions. That takes the cake; that did it. Because being married to him, and seeing him in Honolulu, and then to go back to his island, which I had not been to, where he’s the director and I’m the producer, and living in his family’s home. Yeah; it was the most challenging and the most rewarding experience of my life.

 

You know, I look at my life from where I am now, and I am so satisfied. I’m so happy with my life. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier. And one reason is, a lot of my dreams have been realized. And I’m still dreaming, and I’m still realizing more dreams.

 

You’re still working; right?

 

I’m still working. But I just wanted to say that the secret has been what Joseph Campbell said. And that’s, follow your bliss, follow your passion. I really honestly believe that each one of us has been born with a very special, unique gift, and it’s our job in our lifetime to find out what that gift is, and to shine it as bright as we can, to treat it like a precious diamond. And you don’t have to do everything. Like, you know, I can’t sew, I can’t can fruits like so many of my Oregon friends can. But I can tell stories, and I know how to make a movie, and I know how to get things done, and I really love involving other people in projects. That’s my little diamond. We each have that diamond, and you’ve gotta find it and shine it, and give it away.

 

The film, The Land Has Eyes, produced by Jeannette Paulson Hereniko and directed by her husband Vilsoni Hereniko, debuted at Robert Redford’s prestigious Sundance Film Festival in 2004, and went on to win Best Film at the Wairoa Maori Film Festival. At the time of this conversation in 2016, Jeannette had been out of the Film Festival spotlight for some years, but she continues to curate and distribute Asian and Pacific films to universities and libraries through a film distribution company called Alexander Street Press; and Jeannette and husband Vilsoni were setting out to make a new short film atop Mauna Kea on Hawaiʻi Island. Mahalo to Jeannette Paulson Hereniko of Honolulu for sharing your story with us. And thank you for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, a hui hou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

I’m not afraid. When I stand before a crowd, I’m not afraid. Again, maybe it goes back to that childhood. That’s my home. Ten years old; you know, I was performing at ten, live audiences as well, and I’ve just never been afraid. Sometimes, it’s harder one-to-one.

 

[END]

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Phil Arnone

 

Phil Arnone has built a career on telling Hawaii’s stories as a television director and producer. Revered for his passion and professionalism, he has directed Hawaii’s number-one local newscast, produced a popular kids’ show and now produces documentaries that explore some of Hawaii’s most important places and people.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Oct. 19 at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Oct. 23 at 4:00 pm.

 

Phil Arnone Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

He’s been paid to direct and produce Hawaii’s number one local newscast, a groundbreaking kids’ show, and practically everything in between. Television producer director Phil Arnone, coming up next on Long Story Short.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. When you think of a television director, especially one who’s made his mark working on live broadcasts, you may picture someone who’s confident, diligent, dedicated to perfection, and perhaps wound a little tight. Producer director Phil Arnone was all that during his time with KGMB, by far Hawaii’s number one television station in the 1970s and 1980s. Arnone’s love for Hawaii is evident in the work he did then, and the work he’s involved with now, telling the stories of the people and places of Hawaii. This producer, who has so carefully archived the lives of people such as Israel Kamakawiwoole, Eddie Aikau, and Rap Reiplinger, began life an ocean away from Hawaii.

 

You’ve spent a lot of time in the Bay Area growing up.

 

Born and raised in San Francisco. My father was a second generation Italian, and my mother was second generation Norwegian. And as a result, of course, I speak no Italian or Norwegian, and never have any food that isn’t American.

 

That was in the era where people that were born elsewhere and moved to America were such patriots immediately, and they didn’t really want to talk about their history in the old country, if you will. My father was more outgoing and more Italian. I mean, he was, so he was out there and friendly, and reaching, and approachable. And my mother was a more conservative, quiet person. But it was a good family life. We didn’t stay in San Francisco too long. In the end of the sixth grade, we moved to Marin County at the other end of the Golden Gate Bridge.

 

Marin County; what was your life like as a child after sixth grade?

 

It was good. I mean, very normal. The town that we lived in, Corte Madera, probably had, I don’t know, eighteen hundred people living there. It was quite small. And we walked to school. We’d walk down the railroad track, and then … grammar school. So, it was pretty normal for me.

 

Phil Arnone led this normal life through high school, then on to college. In his search for what to do in his life, Arnone looked to the military, which in turn, brought him to Hawaii.

 

I started off at a junior college at College of Marin in Kentfield, and mostly looking for things to see if I … something I wanted to do. And I didn’t find any. Then, I tried forestry and civil engineering, and took a class in all about religions, and took a business class. I did okay, but it never turned me on, it never excited me.

 

Did you think, I’ll have to get a job and not be especially excited, but I’ll do it?

 

Well, here’s what I did. At the end of the two years, I joined the Army. Actually, I volunteered for the draft. There was a draft then. So, they just took your name and put it up on top, and boom, you’re in the Army.

 

Why’d you do that? Because …

 

Well, it was between wars, for one.

 

It was safe?

 

It was pretty safe; yeah. So, I did that, because I needed a little experience living away from home, and growing up, and seeing how I failed the growing up part, but I did get some experience just living away from home.

 

Where’d you go?

 

Well, after all the basic training and then the six-week training or whatever, they said, Well, Phil, it’s time for you to go somewhere. You have a choice; you can go to Alaska, or Hawaii. And I said, after waiting a good two or three seconds, I’ll go to Hawaii. I’m one of those guys that listened to Hawaii Calls on the radio in California when I was growing up. And they painted a wonderful picture, and I painted another one in my head, so, I thought, well, this is wonderful. So, I was at Schofield Barracks for about a year and a half. We’re talking about the late 50s. So …

 

Soon after statehood.

 

When I got off the plane for my first time here, it was on the other side of the airport, Lagoon Drive. You walked down the stairs, there was no ramp coming up to you, and they give you the fresh pineapple juice. I mean it lived up to what I’d heard, certainly, and I loved it a lot.

 

Did you get to know local people very much when you were at Schofield?

 

No. I really didn’t, because I was at Schofield, or I was at Waikiki. I might have met a few people locally at the beach, but not out at Schofield Barracks.

 

So, thanks to the U.S. Army, Phil Arnone was able to get that experience of living away from home, in the place that he would later call home, Hawaii. But he still needed to find a career. He left the military and went back to San Francisco, where he continued his college education.

 

When it was time to get out …

 

After one hitch?

 

Yeah; one hitch, which was really only a year and a half. They let you out early if you were going to school. So, I was going to go to San Francisco State, so they have a new student orientation that you have to go to, regardless of whether you’re going as a freshman or a junior, as I was going to do. And at the end of that, they said, Well, now, if you’ll all stand up, it’s time for you to go to your major advisor. I said, Oh, major advisor. Hm; wonder what that’s gonna be.   So, I walked out of the auditorium, and I looked up, and the first sign on the left said, Radio-TV. And I went, Uh, let’s try that.

 

Really?

 

Yeah.

 

Randomly?

 

And I did; I walked in, and I loved the people, I loved the work. And I went, God, this is fun, I really like this. I thought, well, maybe I’ll be on radio. I could do that. And then, at one point, there was a fieldtrip to a television station, where they were doing a local Dick Clark dance party kind of show. So, I went in the control room, and I watched the director standing up, listening to the music, calling the shots. I said, Now I know what I want to do.

 

Do you remember how many cameras the director had?

 

He had two.

 

Only two? Okay.

 

Yeah; black and white. And the turrets on the end. I mean, this is in the, what was it, the late 50s, early 60s. Yeah; it was early 60s. Well, that was in San Francisco, the CBS affiliate. And then, I got a job there.

 

But they don’t just let you be a director all at once; right?

 

No; I wasn’t directing. I started in the film department as an editor. But in those days, what that meant was, all the movies were on film, and you had to cut them to fit the commercials in without destroying the storyline. So, did that for a while, and then, I got the job I wanted, which was to be a stage manager. So, I was stage manager for the rest of my stay there.

 

You were bringing people in and out to appear on programs?

 

Well, yeah, you’re calling, you’re cueing people. You know, it’s like doing a newscast, and you’re on the floor, and you’re telling them when they’re on, and counting back from commercial.

 

You were doing a lot of live television, then.

 

It was almost all live. I don’t remember hardly ever taping anything. Dance party show that I saw earlier, I did direct some of those episodes.

 

Despite directing a few episodes of the dance party show at KPIX in San Francisco, Phil Arnone was still considered a stage manager. Being a director was really what he wanted to do, so he moved back to Hawaii, where he had no job lined up, no connections, and no knowledge of what the television industry was like here, and where he teamed up with a man who would become Hawaii’s dominant television anchor of the 1970s.

 

I came to Hawaii, because I’d been here in the Army, and thought, Hey … maybe they’ll have a job for me.

 

So, I would have thought your best job prospects would be in San Francisco.

 

Well, they weren’t.

 

They weren’t; okay.

 

And Hawaii seemed nice. I mean, you know, when you’re young, you do things that may not make a lot of sense sometimes. And maybe that was one of them. But when I got here, at least I had like three years of experience at the television station in San Francisco, so it looked like, hey, this kid knows something, he knows something about television.

 

Did you know anything about the television industry here?

 

No; not really.

 

So, what did you go about doing as soon as you arrived?

 

I went to all the stations and left resumes, and almost immediately, I started working at Channel 2, which was KONA then, I think, KONA-TV. And I was doing a little switching, audio, camera stuff, editing film things. Things that I wasn’t actually terribly skilled at.   And then, when a directing job opened up at Channel 4, I went over there, and I was there for three years. That’s when I met Bob Sevey. He was the PanAm News anchor. Bob was one of the guys that I certainly learned a lot from, just watching him work on camera, how he handled himself. And Bob was the same guy on camera, or off camera; a wonderful man.

 

He had this great gravitas that didn’t get thrown off by untoward events that happened during newscasts, like a tripod falling down, or somebody walking into the studio not aware that you’re on live television.

 

Yeah; he could handle the worst situation.

 

What did a director at that time do?

 

Ah. The main thing that I did was, directed all of Bob Sevey’s Pan American Newscasts. Directing meaning, I had a script in the control room, and give the commands to roll in tape, and when to go to it, and when to go to this, or that, or whatever the graphic might be, and go to commercial.

 

So, on your end, it wasn’t just following a list of commands in your head or on the script. Sometimes tape comes in late, or things happen, and you’re always on the fly as far as adjusting. And when Bob Sevey is gonna drop things, you make that happen; right?

 

There’s an energy that is created when you’re delivering the news, when you know it’s live, and you know it’s just happening, and everybody’s breathing hard and excited.

 

And you’re waiting for the last information, or the last film clip to come in.

 

And people to come out and hand you a page of script, or a new bulletin has come in, or somebody has just died that we need to talk about. All of that happens, so it can be very exciting, and it can be very stressful. We try not to make it too stressful.

 

The career that Phil Arnone had been working towards, that of a television director, had finally been realized. Arnone soon earned a reputation as a producer and director who accepted no less than perfection from himself, and from the people with whom he worked. Bob Sevey picked you when he switched stations, I take it.

 

Well, he was hired by Cec to run the news department. And within what seemed like a couple of weeks, the director that Cec had hired had a heart attack in the control room, passed away.

 

At Channel 9.

 

At Channel 9. So, Bob had suggested to Cec that I could come over and do that job.

 

You and I worked in the same television station, in the Bob Sevey days.

 

Yes.

 

And you could be one of two things. You could be steely, and scary.

Or you could be staccato sharp, and scary.

 

Ah …

 

But scary was pretty much the defining approach.

 

Yeah.

 

I mean, you were a no-tolerance, perfection director. There are others who go, That’s okay, no problem, you know, we’ll make it back on this next show. You; no prisoners, take no prisoners. What do you mean by that?

 

Well, but you’re right. I mean, I tried to have the perfect show. But I think every director wants that. It’s not like they don’t want it. And what you have to do is, if there’s a mistake made that’s on the air already, nothing you can do about it, you need to talk to that person after the show about what happened.

 

Yes. Your conversations with people about this are very memorable. To them.

 

Well, sometimes, I would open up the microphone from the control room that went into the newsroom on a PA system kinda thing, and tell somebody right after they made a boo-boo that it wasn’t nice, don’t do that again, please. In a different choice of words, perhaps.

 

Were you looking for something that would work, because you wanted that perfect newscast?

 

Oh, yeah. I mean, that was the job. We didn’t want to see a lot of blank screen or … lot of things catching people unawares. We can’t do that.

 

Were you as hard on yourself when you made a mistake?

 

I’d like to think so. I’ve changed, I’ve grown up a little bit. I realize that perhaps … saying certain things doesn’t really help you in the long run.

 

Phil Arnone was in the right place, at the right time. Under owner Cec Heftel, KGMB was the market powerhouse in local news and entertainment in the 1970s. In addition to directing the top-rated Channel 9 News, Arnone also produced and directed live coverage of local sporting events, he created the Hawaiian Moving Company, he produced music specials that featured, amongst others, Cecilio and Kapono, the Peter Moon Band, and Emma Veary. He directed 50th State Wrestling, working with Lord Tally Ho Blears, Gentleman Ed Francis, and Handsome Johnny Berand. And there was also a kids’ show, one that even today is still very fondly remembered by many Hawaii residents.

 

When I started, the infamous Checkers and Pogo Show was either just starting or about to start. And the show was successful almost from the very beginning, ‘cause Cec was looking for something that kids would want to watch, but also advertisers would want to be in with kids’ products.

 

Did you direct the Checkers and Pogo Show?

 

I may have directed an episode or two along the way, but I was more the producer. I do remember one of the infamous episodes where—you know, there was a lot of pie-throwing on that show. When they were desperate for someone to hit with a pie, I would put on a coat and tie, because it was much more fun to hit a guy with a pie if he was dressed up. And they called me management, if you will. So, I would walk out there, and demand that they give me that pie. I don’t want say it, of course. And the kids are screaming, Yeah, give him a pie! Okay.

 

This is good. Watch this.

 

You had a huge local audience. I still run into adults who are now maybe collecting social security, and they just can’t believe how much fun it was being on that live television show as a kid.

 

There was the penny jar that they could stick their hand into. There were funny-faces. I don’t know if you remember that, but that was a chance for kids to make a face, and it was okay to do that.

 

Different vibe. It was a station that kind of did what it wanted, and was very successful at reading what the audience was willing and happy to watch at the time.

 

You know, free-for-all was a big part of what Cec did, on radio and television at the same time, which was giving away money. And he always said, If you’re giving away money, people will watch or listen to the radio. I mean, he went right to the base core of, this will work.

 

We’re talking about the fun and the games, and the money giveaway, but the newscasts were sacrosanct. Bob Sevey didn’t tolerate any funny business.

 

No, he didn’t. But Cec totally kept his hands off the news department. He hired Bob, and Bob made the decisions about hiring people, and what the newscast was gonna look like, and be like. And so, Cec was certainly smart enough to realize that he can’t be commanding every inch of the station, and Bob knows what he’s doing. So … yeah.

 

And you did both. You could go crazy, and you could go very serious.

 

I was … yeah.

 

Were you as intolerant of mistakes on the Checkers and Pogo Show, as you were on the news?

 

Yeah.   Well, no, probably not to the same degree. I mean, the news is a serious show that needed to be handled in a certain way, and look professional. You could look goofy and make a mistake on Checkers and Pogo, and no one would know it was a mistake. You know, we’d just go, That’s fine, get another pie ready.

 

While Phil Arnone’s passion for television brought him professional success, he acknowledges that the same passion can consume so that you sometimes forget the more important things. And he considers that a factor in the in the end of his first marriage. But sometimes, work can also create social opportunities. Arnone met his current wife while he was producing a show at KGMB.

 

That’s an interesting story. We were doing a Bingo show. It was a short-lived … or is it lived? Short-lived show. It was an experiment, and Karen Keawehawaii and …

 

Kirk Matthews.

 

Kirk Matthews were the two hosts. And Michelle came down with a friend, a girlfriend, to watch the show. And I was looking at people on the camera in the control room, and … and there she was. And I went … I need to go out and talk to her.

I think it’s important. You know, she’s new in the studio, needs …

 

Needs help.

 

–a friendly face, and … that kinda stuff. So, that was pretty much it. You know, at the moment, we kinda left it that way, and then I saw her at some other gathering, and I think I got her phone number. But we did go out on a date. I think we went to Hy’s, where Michelle says I interviewed her.   I think she actually said, third degree, as opposed to interview. But that was interesting. But anyway, that was the first date, and then we went on from there. So, I mean, Michelle is my best friend. I can talk to her about anything, and vice versa. And she’s a joy. I’m so lucky to have her in my life. I really am.

 

And you have a blended family, although the kids didn’t grow up together; right?

 

No; because yeah, the age difference is considerable. But yeah, Michelle’s daughters and my daughters, obviously, we’re all happy. We don’t spend a lot of time all together, because people are living all over the country. But yeah, her daughters, as I think I’ve mentioned, they’re really very bright kids, and have done well for themselves. And Tony, my son, is a professor at University of Iowa, a cellist and has a couple of CDs out, actually.

 

In 1989, after working in Hawaii for twenty-six years, Phil Arnone returned to the Bay Area. As director of local programming at KTVU, he was working in a major market, with major budgets. He was in charge of shows for San Francisco 49ers football and Giants baseball, as well as live coverage of local cultural events such as San Francisco’s Chinese New Year Parade. He produced the Orange Bowl Parade for CBS Television. Arnone’s career was soaring. But in 2002, it was time to come home, to Hawaii.

 

How’d you know it was time?

 

Well, let’s see. I was turning sixty-five, and I promised my wife that we would come back at that point. And it was fine. I had no idea what I was gonna do when I got back.

 

Did you consider retiring?

 

Well, I thought I was retiring. I thought that’s what was happening to me on the plane back. And I go, Well, but you know, I love this, I don’t know anything else. Was that a good move? Mm. But it turned out to be a great move.

 

Rather than retiring, Phil Arnone continued to combine his talents as a producer and director with his love for Hawaii, producing specials about the people and places of our islands.

 

That is what you found to do in, quote, retirement. How did that happen? You’re doing film, after film, after film for Hawaii News Now; local programming.

 

Well, when I came back, I went around and visited all the stations to see what was going on. And as I got into KGMB, realized that this was in fact their fiftieth anniversary being on the air. So, in talking to … I can’t remember the general manager. It was a woman that was there … nice lady.

 

Lynn.

 

Lynn Mueller?

 

Yes.

 

Yeah. And she said, Well, why don’t you do this fiftieth anniversary show for us? You know, so that’s how it started. And then we went from there to another show, and another show, and another show. The truth is that I’ve learned so much about Hawaii and about these people, and about the culture, that I never learned when I was here working at KGMB. I mean, we never did shows like this, and I never left that station. I was always in the station doing things. I feel almost like Lou Gehrig when he said, I’m the luckiest man alive, because I’m still doing something that I enjoy at this age, and in this time.

 

Don Ho, Tom Moffatt, Duke Kahanamoku, Dave Shoji, Jim Nabors, Kapiolani Park, Romance in Hawaii. These are just a few of Hawaii’s stories that have been told by Phil Arnone and his team, writer Robert Pennybacker and editor Lawrence Pacheco. At the time of our conversation in the spring of 2016, the seventy-nine-year-old Arnone and his team were working on their twentieth film about the life of local jazz legend, Jimmy Borges. Mahalo to Phil Arnone of Portlock in East Honolulu, for sharing your story with us. And thank you, for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, hui hou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes store, or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

I did commercials for a while in the 70s. It was on-camera kind of stuff.

 

Were you the earnest pitchman?

 

I was. Well, I wasn’t pitching it, but I was very serious. Except the McDonald’s spot.

 

Grand prize, Datsun 280z in either the two or four-seat model, thirty all-expense-paid trips via United Airlines to Boston and Philadelphia, other prizes; a console piano, a sailboat, an outrigger canoe, a refrigerator freezer, six color TVs, two electric typewriters, four stereo music systems, twenty calculators, four tape recorders. Not so bad so far, huh, folks? Twenty solid state radios, six pop-up toasters, ten hairdryers. We’re rolling now. One hundred trail bikes, three ten-speed bikes, two surfboards, two cassette tape recorders, hundred record albums, and two all-beef patties, special sauce, cheese, onions …

 

[END]

 

CRAFT IN AMERICA
Teachers

 

Follow artists committed to passing on their skills and passion for craft to new generations. Featured are weavers Barbara Teller Ornelas and Lynda Teller Pete of New Mexico; ceramicist Linda Sikora of New York, and glassblowers Therman Statom of Nebraska and Mark Mitsuda from Punahou School in Honolulu.

 

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