entertainment

Carpenters:
Close to You

The Carpenters: Close to You

 

This music-filled documentary traces the Carpenters’ career through the eyes of Richard Carpenter and the group’s friends in the music business. It features their top hits, including “(They Long to Be) Close to You,” “Top of the World,” “For All We Know,” “Superstar,” “Yesterday Once More,” “Rainy Days and Mondays” and “We’ve Only Just Begun.”

 

 

 

60s Pop, Rock & Soul

Jefferson Starship performs on 60's Pop, Rock & Soul.

 

Hosted by icons Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits and the late Davy Jones of the Monkees, this concert spectacular features hits and favorites of the AM radio era from Paul Revere & the Raiders, Gary Lewis & the Playboys, the Kingsmen, the Ventures, Question Mark & the Mysterians and Jefferson Starship. Every song is a classic from the decade of peace, love and profound social change ― sung by performers who represent a period of time that resonates through the generations.

 

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PBS HAWAI‘I PRESENTS
The Hawaiian Room

PBS Hawai‘i Presents: The Hawaiian Room

 

The Hawaiian Room, located in the famed Lexington Hotel, was an oasis of Hawaiian culture and entertainment in the heart of New York City. Between 1937 and 1966, hundreds of dancers, singers and musicians from Hawai‘i were recruited to perform at the entertainment venue. In this documentary, filmmaker Ann Marie Kirk shares interviews with over 20 former performers who speak candidly and fondly of their experience at the historic nightclub, and the culture shock of going from Hawai‘i to New York City.

 

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LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Showbiz Masterminds

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX: Showbiz Masterminds

 

The glamour of the entertainment industry can be alluring, but with its heavy business risks, there are no guarantees of success. Polynesian entertainment company co-owner Cha Thompson; the late radio DJ and concert promoter Tom Moffatt; and former nightclub owner Jack Cione are three “showbiz masterminds” who excelled at entertaining local audiences. Revisit these conversations about their journeys, lessons learned and passion for showbiz.

 

Program

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, May. 5, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

More from Showbiz Masterminds:

 

Cha Thompson – Authenticity in Entertaining

 

Tom Moffatt – Elvis’s Hat

 

Tom Moffatt – Elvis at Honolulu Stadium

 

Jack Cione – How to Hire a Naked Waiter

 

Showbiz Masterminds Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

And if you said you were from Hawaiʻi, that sold.  You almost didn’t have to do anything.  And so, we started traveling around the world.  And when we came home, people wanted shows.  We actually had to decide: We gotta get off the stage, you cannot be producer, director, business manager, choreographer, which is what we did. And oh, god; try do the books. Hello.

 

I just had them open their kimonos to add a little more to the show.

 

And what were the skaters wearing?

 

The skaters wore clothes, but the three girls that stood there on the ice—

 

Oh; I see.

 

They were the nudes on ice.  [CHUCKLE]  That was my hook.  Every show needs a hook, you know.

 

Yeah; because you’re a marketer, too.

 

Yes.  [CHUCKLE]

 

Was there a time you considered getting out, because maybe the risk was too high, or the cost was too high in some way?

 

No; I’ve never felt that way.  I always have been very optimistic about this business, that people want to be entertained, they want to see live concerts, they want to go out and be there, and experience that music firsthand.

 

The world of bright lights and big stages holds a certain allure.  But only a few carve out a successful business in the grueling entertainment world.  Meet three of Hawaiʻi’s showbiz masterminds, next, on Long Story Short.

 

One-on-one engaging conversations with some of Hawaiʻi’s most intriguing people: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.

 

Aloha mai kākou.  I’m Leslie Wicox.  Show business can be fun, exciting, and profitable.  But there are no guarantees.  Yet, Polynesian entertainment company co-owner Cha Thompson, nightclub owner Jack Cione, and the late radio deejay turned concert promoter Tom Moffatt excelled in this risky industry.   These three people are very different from each other.  In common, they all trusted their artistic tastes and business instincts to entertain Hawaiʻi for decades.

 

First, we turn to our 2008 conversation with Cha Thompson.  In the early 70s, she was a nineteen-year-old hula dancer traveling the world for performances, when she was suddenly put in charge of a popular Polynesian dance group.  Cha Thompson and her husband Jack soon founded Tihati Productions, now one of the largest and longest-running entertainment companies in Hawaiʻi.

 

I was with the original Puka Puka Otea group that Elaine Frisbie from Rarotonga ran.  And we were the only one in the State to do Polynesian everything.  And then, when she was leaving, I was her lead dancer, and she simply said: Here, take it and run.  And at nineteen, excuse me, I knew nothing about business.  And so, you know, when I married my husband, I was working in medical records at Queen’s Medical Center, and he was working in reservations at Hawaiian Airlines.  And people started calling us.  And I’m telling you, it was so successful, because tourism at the time was the thing, and everybody wanted a show.

 

What year was that?  What general decade?

 

1969, ’70.  And if you said you were from Hawaiʻi, that sold.  You almost didn’t have to do anything.  And so, we started traveling around the world.  And when we came home, people wanted shows.  We actually had to decide: We gotta get off the stage, you cannot be producer, director, business manager, choreographer, which is what we did. And oh, god; try do the books. Hello.

 

You danced.  What did your husband do?

 

He was the emcee.  And his very first thing to do was, he came to Canada when I was with the World’s Fair, and I was a dancer.  And he was one of the few Polynesians who could speak English.  So, when our emcee got sick, he said: Give it to Thompson.  And he said: I’m not an entertainer.  You know. And in fact, just before we left, he said: I’m part-Samoan, surely I can learn the knife dance.  I always thought he was too handsome to be a knife dancer. He didn’t look as wild and savage. But he learned it, and became a knife dancer.  Terrible knife dancer in the beginning; can’t hold a candle next to my son, who’s a world title holder.  But that’s how we started.  We had to get off stage, and get a good attorney, get a great CPA, and we gave up our careers to run the business.

 

You were singled out to be the one to take over the dancing troupe.

 

Yes.

 

Why?

 

You know, I wonder if because shucks, I was always vocal. I always had an opinion.  I wonder.  And many of the Polynesian girls were more reserved.  I always had the plan, I always had the plan.

 

And it was a good plan?

 

It was a good plan.  I think survival mode; always in a survival mode, you know.  And I think that’s what my children detect. Like: Mom, oh.  You know, always plan for tomorrow, save, you know, the rainy day is coming, and always dress well if you get into an accident and make sure you have clean underwear.  [CHUCKLE] And you know, the house must be clean. Visitors will come, they’ll judge us. I always felt like I was being judged; always.  People started taking us seriously when we would sit on business boards, or when we contributed in a business fashion.  But yeah, I mean, you’re Polynesian; surely you can’t be too smart. And entertainment; heavens, you must fool around you must do drugs.  Well, we did neither, and it paid off.  It paid off for us.

 

I sense you’re a good negotiator.  I’m trying to figure out what your style is.

 

[CHUCKLE]  It’s the Pake blood, Leslie; it’s the Chinese blood.  And the funny thing about it is, in entertainment, they will say: Oh, come and put on a show, or come and dance for us, and you can eat all you want, and you can drink.  I don’t drink.  I’m really thin; I don’t eat that much.  I need something else.  And money was the thing I needed.  But we had to earn it, we had to earn it.  They didn’t take us seriously, you know.

 

I know you brought in some major acts.

 

Yes.

 

And you developed major talent.

 

I think we’re known as a Polynesian revue.  And I don’t know that many people know that Tihati Productions has a vast department that brings in contemporary acts.  Like, we brought in Lionel Richie, and Cyndi Lauper. And we also do thematic parties. You know, we’ll prepare a whole Raiders of The Lost Ark, or Aloha in a volcano.  So, we do many things.  But I think they still think of me as the hula girl.  I mean, maybe, because then they’ll say: Oh, you know, you run that halau. And I say: No, I’m not a kumu, I don’t have a halau.  But Tihati Productions, they think of as a Polynesian revue.

 

You’ve had to really strike a balance between Polynesian authenticity and entertainment.  How have you worked that out?

 

I decided early on not to educate them, rather to entertain them, but to not sell myself and not give them what is real.  Any Tihati revue that you see will have real flowers, we’ll use real ti leaf skirts, we do authentic numbers and sing it in the native tongues.  You know, Tahitian, Samoan, Fijian, and all of my instructors are from those islands, Hawaiian.  So, I never felt that tourism was a threat to me.  In fact, when some people might have thought, Oh, that’s a sell-out, she’s worked in Waikīkīfor thirty-five years, you know, why isn’t she with us?, I would say, Well, tourism dollars sent all my kids to college, and I never felt that I wasn’t doing exactly what is me.  You know, I believe God gave me a gift in my roots and my heritage, and I share it. And lucky for me, tourism is Hawaiʻi’s number-one industry, and they’ll always need the hula girl, and the steel guitar, and the fire knife dancer.  And so, I think I’m here to stay.

 

With clear vision, quick reflexes, and a tenacious attitude, Cha Thompson and her husband Jack built a respected, long-running entertainment business.

 

Our next showbiz mastermind is also a longtime entrepreneur.  Jack Cione first gained notoriety in the 60s with live shows that were new to Honolulu at the time—nude entertainers and bottomless wait staff.  He was fired up to put on his own dance productions after seeing what he called a lousy show at the old Forbidden City Nightclub in Kakaʻako.  Here, from our conversation in 2014, Jack Cione remembers talking to the Forbidden City’s manager about organizing his first shows there.

 

I just told him how bad his show was, and he said: You want to do a show for me?  I said: Yeah, I’ll do a show for you, I have nothing to do.  He said,: How much is it gonna cost?  I said: I’ll do a show for you for nothing.  I just need something to do.  So, I did a show at the Forbidden City.  And I did two shows that made a lot of money.  And then, I did an ice show.  First time we had an ice show at the Forbidden City.  I called it Nudes on Ice.

 

So, you put in an ice skating rink?

 

Yeah; it was about twice the size of this table. Portable.  And two skater friends of mine from the mainland, I brought them over and said: Come and skate; a paid vacation, two weeks.  So, they came over.  And I had the Japanese girls, and I used them as showgirls.  And I talked three of the Japanese girls into going topless. I just had them open their kimonos to add a little more to the show.

 

And what were the skaters wearing?

 

The skaters wore clothes, but the three girls that stood there on the ice—

 

Oh; I see.

 

They were the nudes on ice.  [CHUCKLE]  That was my hook.  Every show needs a hook, you know.

 

Yeah; because you’re a marketer, too.

 

Yes.  [CHUCKLE]

 

So, now you’re really kinda dealing in a different kind of venue.

 

Right.  And there were no nightclubs having any nudity.  It was against the law.

 

Now, you already lied about your age, but now you’re talking about breaking the law.

 

Well, there were no laws.  Hawaiian dancers were topless.

 

Throughout history.  [CHUCKLE]

 

Right.  And so, what was the law?  What was the big deal?  So, the next show I did was complete nude show.  I brought burlesque in.  It wasn’t nude; it was just topless.  The girls then had to wear pasties and silk bras.  But it eventually evolved.  And every time we would do that, they would come and arrest me.

 

You’re saying this like this is, you know, just part of doing business.  And what was the charge?  Was it lewdness, open lewdness?

 

Lewd and lascivious conduct.

 

How did you feel about that?

 

Well, they’d arrest me, and I’d say: Excuse me, can I go to the restroom?  And I’d run in my office and I’d call the TV and the newspaper, and I’d stay there until they all got to the club.

 

So, you’re actually enjoying this.

 

Oh, loving it.  And the next morning, it was in the papers and it was on TV.

 

Was that part of being a showman?

 

Yes.  And business increased.  People would see that.  Oh, look, arrested, nude.  We gotta go see that [CHUCKLE] at Forbidden City.

 

And how did your new wife think about this?

 

Well, [CHUCKLE] she didn’t particularly like it. But it was making lots of money. And so, we opened that club, then we opened another one.  I ended up with twelve bars here.

 

And how many arrests?

 

Oh, gosh; I was arrested so many times, but not once conviction.

 

Because as you said, the laws hadn’t caught up with this business activity.

 

Right.  We went topless, then we went bottomless, and then we went totally nude.  We used to have a businessman’s lunch at The Dunes.

 

Back when three martinis were tax deductible; right?

 

Right.  And it was all businessmen.  And the show was a striptease show.  And these secretaries said: We’re so tired of coming with our boss; why don’t you put a naked man on stage for us?  And I just happened to say: Well, why don’t you get me a reservation for fifty ladies, and I’ll have a naked man for you.  That’s how it started.

 

And did you get a reservation for fifty?

 

Oh, gosh; they called about two weeks later.  They said: We have your fifty; you’re gonna have a naked man?  And I said: Yes.  Well, by the time the two weeks came, they had two hundred reservations.  That filled up my room.  [CHUCKLE]  They kept out my men customers.  The ladies took all the seats.

 

And did you have your naked waiter in line?

 

No.

 

No?

 

I didn’t have any.

 

How do you hire a naked waiter?

 

In those days, this was now 1973, and there were no such a thing as Chippendales and men strippers.  But I had a beach house in Haleiwa that I was renting to five surfers. And they were behind on their rent. So, I called them and said: You guys gotta pay the rent, or you’ve gotta come in and do me a favor.  They said: What is it?  I said: Well, you gotta come to The Dunes, Friday, and you’ve got to drop your pants on stage.  Oh, hell, yeah; we’ll do that.  Those women stayed all day.  We had the biggest bar business I ever did that afternoon.  They all drank, drank, and the surfers were enter—

 

Paraded.

 

Paraded, without their pants.  So, when I saw that, I thought: Oh, this is a goldmine. So, in a week’s time, I told the gals; I said: We’re gonna have waiters every day.

 

Instead of waitresses?

 

Instead of waitresses.

 

Because the women were the ones who were paying more money.

 

Yes.

 

As clients.

 

That’s how it happened.

 

And people keep coming back?

 

Oh; unreal.  Four hundred lunches, Monday through Friday.

 

I just sense that your guiding force is money and showbiz.  But you weren’t really into the flesh stuff of it all?

 

No.  Nightclub business is not an easy business.  But I stayed the straight line, and did it as a business.  I don’t drink; I never did drink.  [CHUCKLE]  And so, people would want to buy me a drink.  I said: You know, I’m in the business to sell this; I don’t drink it.

 

Jack Cione is a showbiz mastermind who went with his gut.  He knew what he liked, saw what worked, and gave people what they wanted.

 

So did our next guest.  Much has been said about the late Tom Moffatt’s career, first as a pioneering rock and roll radio deejay who introduced Hawaiʻi to Elvis Presley, then as a promoter of big name concerts, bringing everyone from The Eagles to Bruno Mars to the islands.  But let’s not forget Tom Moffatt’s work with local acts, especially during the Hawaiian music renaissance in the 1970s.  In our 2011 conversation, he recounts his work with Keola and Kapono Beamer on a recording that still strikes a chord here at home, and beyond.

 

I had just left radio.  I’d gone through a couple of owners at KPOI, and a third one was coming in, and I decided it was time to take a hiatus from radio.  So, I started my own record company.  And in the door walked Kapono Beamer one day, and said that they weren’t happy with wherever they were in recording.  And so, I got the two of them in, and talked to them about it.  And I said: Why don’t you guys go out and write, and let’s do a record together, an album.  So, I gave them some seed money to go out and write.  And Keola called me and said: I think I’ve got a song.  He was living up at Alewa Heights; I’ll never forget.  And I went up to Alewa Heights to hear the song. It was just when it was getting dusk, and that time of the evening when it was getting dark and the lights were coming on.  And he played for me Honolulu City Lights.  And I knew we had something.  So, that was my first recording endeavor, really on my own, and we came out with Honolulu City Lights.  Got Teddy Randazzo to help with the arrangements.

 

And for decades, I believe that was the highest-selling local album of all time. Is it still?

 

I don’t know, with Iz around.  [CHUCKLE]

 

And I think Kealii Reichel might have had a really big seller.

 

Oh, yes; yes.  But not that long ago, few years back, I think it was the Star Bulletin or the Advertiser, and Honolulu Magazine came out with a list of the best albums. Not best-selling, just the best albums, Hawaiʻi albums of all time.  And number one was Honolulu City Lights.  That was a thrill.  It’s still my favorite.  [CHUCKLE] I still love that song.

 

Me, too.  Actually, that came out when I was seeing a lot of friends off to college at the airport.

 

Yeah.

 

And it was always playing the airport then, and they were always crying. Those were the days where there was no security.

 

Yes.

 

You went to the gate to see people off.

 

You could go the gate with leis; yeah?

 

And local style, you didn’t bring just leis; you brought bentos, and food.

 

Yes; uh-huh.

 

And everybody had luaus, and that song was just playing—

 

Oh, yeah.

 

–almost continuously.  And if it wasn’t somebody was asking for it to be played.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

Yeah.  So, that’s such a cultural memory in Hawaiʻi.  That was your first, ever, recorded song.

 

Yes.  I’d done some singles and so forth.  Once, I put out an album, a trumpet album, but that was with other people involved. But this was the first one I did on my own, was Honolulu City Lights.  At the same time, I had a girl that worked for me just as I was leaving KPOI, and she said: You gotta go out and see this group in Aina Haina.

 

Randy Borden?

 

No.

 

No? Okay; who?

 

Country Comfort.

 

Country Comfort.

 

Yeah.

 

Playing at the old—

 

At The Sty.

 

–M’s Ranch House?

 

No, this was at The Sty.  It wasn’t Aina Haina; it was beyond Aina Haina at The Sty.

 

Niu; that’s right.

 

Yeah.  And I heard these guys.  I went out and saw what was happening with the audience, and what they had going for them. And so, I finished off an album that—this was just before Honolulu City Lights, that my partner Irv Peninsky had started.  And I finished off the album, and we put it out together.  Then after that, I left out on my own.  But Country Comfort was one of my favorite albums.  I also did an album by The Surfers at that time called Shells, which I still think is one of the best Hawaiian albums ever produced.

 

Who were the local artists that you most enjoyed working with, and had the most success with?

 

Well, The Royal Drifters were one of the first local groups.  Dick Jensen, Robin Luke, Ronnie Diamond; they were all big singers in the 50s and early 60s. And we used them as often as possible on The Show of Stars at the Civic Auditorium, and whenever we could at the new arena.  Remember the first time that the Rolling Stones came to town, I put Dick Jensen on as the opening—Lance Curtis as the opening group, opening performer.

 

Lance Curtis.

 

And he danced like Michael Jackson.  This was before Michael Jackson.  He could dance.

 

You know, all of these enterprises, these artistic enterprises, and creative enterprises, to really be stable and to make a go of them, you have to be good at money.  You have to be good at restraint, and you have to be good at planning.

 

Uh-huh.

 

Did you have that all along, or did you have to learn that the hard way?

 

I’m still learning.  [CHUCKLE]  Still learning.  But I got good accountants around me.  Yeah.

 

And you’re not by nature prone to take unreasonable risk.

 

No.  We put quite a bit of money into some of the recording projects, but I believed in them, and they turned out okay.  Opening the Outrigger main showroom was kind of gamble.  It was a room that was sitting there was a convention room that they never used.  And Tommy Sands had come to Hawaiʻi, and was looking for a place to work.  And so, we opened that showroom.  And it’s been going ever since, after Tommy and I kinda drifted off.  And another time when the Beamers got going with Honolulu City Lights, there was another room that was sitting empty which we opened as the Reef Showroom at the Reef Hotel.  The Ocean Showroom at the Reef Hotel; that’s what we called it.  I put the Beamers in there.  That was kind of a gamble at the time, but I felt, you know, this record was happening.  So, we opened the showroom with Keola and Kapono Beamer, and Andy Bumatai as the opening comedian.  It was very successful.

 

Was there a time you considered getting out, because maybe the risk was too high, or the cost was too high in some way?

 

No; I’ve never felt that way.  I always have been very optimistic about this business, that people want to be entertained, they want to see live concerts, they want to go out and be there, and experience that music firsthand.

 

The concert promoter, the nightclub entrepreneur, and the Polynesian entertainment company co-owner; three masterminds in showbiz who trusted their tastes and instincts to entertain the islands.  After months of declining health, Tom Moffatt left us in 2016. What an honor to revisit his tremendous career.  And we thank Jack Cione and Cha Thompson for their savvy business stories.  Mahalo to you for joining is.  For PBS Hawaiʻi and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha nui.

 

You learn that from Kalihi.  Somebody puts you down and, ah, you know, I could do something better than they could.  I knew I could.  I don’t know how this is gonna sound, but what was important is, you gotta know how to beef, quite frankly.

 

You can beef?

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

You can beef?

 

Yeah, man.

 

You’re so elegant.

 

Yeah, man.  [CHUCKLE]  Or at least, I used to a lot.  And you know, when you come from a large family, nobody wants to beef with you. ‘Cause in the housing, families fight families.  I mean, I know it sounds imbecilical, but we did.

 

Did you beef boys, too?

 

Yeah.  Yeah, yeah. Most of the boys didn’t want to take me on, though.  I had brother, big brothers.

 

I mean, you were just a kid.

 

Yeah.

 

Playing at nightclubs.

 

I did.

 

What time did you go to sleep?

 

Well, I changed my age.  I was twenty then.  ‘Cause I had a mustache at fourteen, I didn’t look like a high school student.  And I was making seventy-five dollars a week. That was good money.

 

And how did you keep up with school, when you were actually working in the city?

 

Yeah.  Well, I didn’t keep up with school.  That was the sad part.  I remember one day, a teacher said to me: Jackie Cioni, you’re gonna be a bum; you’re gonna be a bum if you don’t learn Algebra and English.  And I said: Get out of my face, honey; I make seventy-five bucks a week; what are you making?  Schoolteachers made thirty-five dollars a week.

 

Ouch!

 

I introduced Elvis Presley.  The place went crazy.  It was so exciting.

 

Really high decibels?

 

Yeah; yeah.

 

Shrieky.

 

Yeah.  And there he was, just a microphone, and a simple sound system.  But he held that audience.

 

And when had you met him before that?

 

Well, the day before, Ron Jacobs and I … Ron figured this one out.  Do something different.  And we’d me the Colonel, and we’d kinda hinted there might be something like this in the works.  And Don Tyler was one of our guys at KPOI, and we dressed him up to look like Elvis. Ron had his convertible, a Ford convertible, hardtop convertible, top went down.  And got a fellow who looked like Colonel Parker, and Ron driving. And we had it all planned.  I’m on the radio.  From the moment Elvis arrived, I’m on the radio playing nothing but Elvis records.  And I did this all morning, into the afternoon.  So, I kinda planted it; well, we understand that Elvis is heading for Kailua, for people to be out in the streets looking for Elvis, and drive down the streets, and people are screaming.  And we did this in different neighborhoods.

 

Did you get any fallout from it?

 

Well, we got back to the studio.  By then, I’d played Elvis for six straight hours, at least. It was mid-afternoon, and we were patting ourselves on the back.  And we get the message from our news guy that Colonel Parker wants to see you guys downstairs, immediately.

 

Dun-da-dun-da.

 

And we looked at each other.  We wanted to escape.  So, we went downstairs and there’s guards at the elevator.  We went down one floor.  And they took us into Colonel Parker’s suite.  We didn’t know what to expect.  Colonel said: Boys, that was a pretty good promotion you did.  Oh, my gosh!  Oh, and here’s Elvis.  In walked Elvis.  And that’s the first time I’d met Elvis.  [CHUCKLE]

 

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.

 

[END]

 

 

 

GREAT PERFORMANCES
Pavarotti: A Voice for the Ages

GREAT PERFORMANCES Pavarotti: A Voice for the Ages

 

Luciano Pavarotti brought opera to the masses with “Nessun dorma”. In this concert, he performs that hit, along with arias from La BohèmeRigoletto and Aida; Neapolitan songs in arrangements by Henry Mancini, including “Mamma” and “O Sole Mio;” and duets with Bono, Sting, Vanessa Williams and Eric Clapton.

 

Preview

 

 

 

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
Sammy Davis, Jr.

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Sammy Davis, Jr.

 

He was “Mr. Entertainment,” a show-business meteor who blazed across the twentieth century. Sammy Davis, Jr. had the kind of career that was indisputably legendary, so vast and multi-faceted that it was dizzying in its scope and scale. Yet, his life was complex, complicated, and contradictory. Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me explores Davis’ journey to create his own identity – as a black man who embraced Judaism – through the shifting tides of civil rights and racial progress. A veteran of increasingly outdated show business traditions, Davis strove to stay relevant, even as he found himself bracketed by the bigotry of white America and the distaste of black America.

 

Preview

 

 

 

 

GREAT PERFORMANCES
Movies for Grownups Awards 2019 with AARP

GREAT PERFORMANCES: Movies for Grownups Awards 2019 with AARP

 

Filmmakers and actors receive awards established to celebrate and encourage filmmaking that appeals to movie lovers with a grownup state of mind. Shirley MacLaine is this year’s recipient of the Career Achievement Honor.

 

Preview

 

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Hawai‘i’s Golden Age of Entertainment

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX: Hawaiʻi's Golden Ages of Entertainment

 

Before their music reached audiences around the world, Marlene Sai, Danny Kaleikini and Emma Veary were known as staples of the local entertainment scene. Hear these three entertainers discuss the beginnings of their music careers in Waikīkī and other Honolulu venues.

 

Program

 

More from the guests in this show:

Danny Kaleikini

 

Marlene Sai

 

Emma Veary

 

Hawai‘i’s Golden Age of Entertainment Audio

 

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Transcript

 

Was there a lot of music in Waikīkī in those days?

 

There was a lot of it.

 

Showrooms?

 

Because, you know, Duke Kahanamoku’s was a supper club. Don the Beachcomber was a supper club.

 

What a different time that was.

 

Yes; yes.

And at that time, we had so many theaters. You can’t believe how many theaters we had, that had shows.

 

Live shows.

 

Live shows.

 

When I was at the Kahala, I used to tell people: Hey, go see Brother Don Ho, go see Al Harrington.  I says, The Surfers, you know, I said, The Society of Seven.  I said: We got some of the greatest shows in Hawai‘i.

 

We often hear about the Golden Age of Hollywood.  Today, younger people may not realize that Hawai‘i had its Golden Age of Entertainment, though ours was mostly on stage instead of on the big screen. Coming up on Long Story Short, we will revisit the days when live music filled the showrooms of Waikīkī with three of the musical talents to command those legendary stages.

 

One-on-one engaging conversations with some of Hawai‘i’s most intriguing people: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.

 

Aloha mai kākou.  I’m Leslie Wilcox.  On this edition of Long Story Short, we travel back to the Golden Age, an exciting time when live entertainment lit up hotel showrooms, when beautiful Hawaiian songs and popular performers backed by live orchestras drew tourists and locals to Waikīkī, night after night.  To recall this bygone era, we feature encore interviews with three musical icons who helped define that time: Emma Veary, Marlene Sai, and Danny Kaleikini.  These stars are considered by many to be among Hawai‘i’s showbiz royalty.  They were staples of the local entertainment scene, and their stellar careers spanned continents as well as decades, from World War II into the 21stCentury.

 

In 2008, we visited with Emma Veary, who spoke of how she began her professional career when she was still a child.  Her career took off, just as the era that would be called Hawai‘i’s Golden Age was getting going.  Decades later, Veary would still be headlining at the Halekulani and Royal Hawaiian, and her gorgeous voice would earn this elegant performer the nickname Hawai‘i’s Golden Throat.

 

I started working when I was five.  I’ve been singing since I was five, because I discovered that people wanted to hear me sing, and they would pay me.  And being from a family that didn’t have a lot of money, wow.  I had a special letter from the Liquor Commission so that I could go sing in clubs.

 

At age five?

 

At age five.  And Mother would go with me.  And I sang at all the big clubs.  And at that time, later on, as time went on, all of the celebrities used to go to the Waialae Country Club.  That was the place to go.  And I used to sing there on weekends, so I had the pleasure of meeting all these lovely stars.  And of course, a couple that you don’t know, but there was Rochelle Hudson, there was Bette Davis, and there was Dorothy Lamour.  And I had the pleasure of meeting Dorothy as a child, when she was a very young woman.  And again, when I was working at the Halekulani one night, they told me: Emma, Dorothy Lamour is here tonight.  And I went: Oh, my god.  So, I pulled out a medley of her songs, and sang them to her, and reminded her about when we met when I was a child.  And she said: Oh, my god.  She says: After hearing you sing those songs, I never want to sing them again.

 

Aw …

 

And at that time, we had so many theaters.  You can’t believe how many theaters we had, that had shows.

 

Live shows.

 

Live shows.  There was the Princess, the Hawai‘i, Liberty, Queen’s, King’s, Palace, Pawa‘a Theater, Kewalo Theater.  These are all no more.

 

They weren’t movie houses?  They were musical acts?

 

They were movie houses.  No, they were movies houses, but they would have music, you know, between the shows, like Radio City Music Hall.  You know, they would have some come on and perform in between the movies.

 

That was standard in those days, in theaters?

 

Well, they used to have a lot of that going on. Yeah.  So, I used to go and sing at all of these theaters.  And I sang at Hawaii Theatre so many times.  And then, while I was going through that phase in 1941, Joe Pasternak came to Hawai‘i and saw me perform somewhere, and asked me to come to Hollywood, and he would groom me to become a star.  And we had said okay, and I was supposed to leave on the 8thof December in 1941.  And the 7th, the war started.  So, he called me and he said to my mom: Does she still want to come?  So, my mother said: You have to ask her.  So, I got on the phone; I said: Well, Mr. Pasternak, inasmuch as there’s a war going on, I’d rather stay home with my family. So, I lost out on that one.

 

For those who weren’t living here or weren’t alive in the 70s, your name was the class act around town.  You were the headliner, maybe the first headliner at the Halekulani Hotel.

 

Yes, yes.  They didn’t ever have an act there.  And Hal, Aku, my husband at the time, and I talked to him about doing the act. And so, we went down and we were at the Royal Spaghetti House, and we decided we wanted to leave that venue and come to Waikīkī.  So, he went and talked to the Halekulani, and talked them into putting me on the lanai there. And because of the way the room was, I said: I’ve got to design a stage that would work for me.  So, I had an H, and I would put the piano on either side of the—it was an H like that, the piano here, the piano there, and I had a round H and I could work here, I could work here, and I could work between the pianos. And so, they built the stage that I wanted, and they built me a dressing room.  And on opening night, I went to work at the Halekulani, and they put a drape down in the back where the ocean was, to keep people from looking in.  And so, I said to them: Excuse me, what is that there?  And they said: Well, that’s to keep the people out.  I said: You know, you have one of the most beautiful views in Waikīkī. And I said: I want you to take that away.  They said: Well, we paid five thousand dollars to build that thing.  I said: Well, I don’t want to go on if you’re gonna have that there, because there are people passing by, they will become fans, they will become clients and come in to the show.  I said: So, I’m not gonna go sing until you put that silly thing out.

 

So, they wanted to block you from the beach.

 

Yeah.

 

Even though it was an outdoor venue.

 

Yeah; because the people would look in.

 

Well, I have a different point of view on that.  My vantage was, I was one of the beach people.

 

Right, right.

 

You know, the rubber raft.

 

Right.

 

The kids, and the young adults who were taking advantage of the free music in Waikīkī. You could go up and down the beach, and sit on the sand.

 

I used to call them my scholarship crowd.  And eventually, they call came in.  And they would come in and have dinner, an see the show.

 

And that was a phenomenon that I think a lot of people have forgotten or didn’t know. When there were live showrooms in Waikīkī, and there were the cheap seats on the beach.

 

Right, right, right.  But you know, I felt like: Hey, where would I be without these people? They are also people who will eventually come to see me.  My fans are very precious to me.  And I communicate, people call me, I talk to fans.  And I have a relationship with my fans because I wouldn’t be who I am without them.

 

In those days, wasn’t it called at the Halekulani, the Coral Lanai where you performed?

 

Yes, it was the Coral Lanai.  Yes.

 

It wasn’t the House Without A Key; it was Coral Lanai.

 

No; it was Coral Lanai.  Yeah.  Because the House Without A Key is next door, was next door; yeah.

 

And then, you were headliner at the Monarch Room as well, at the Royal Hawaiian.

 

And then, after I left there, I went to the Monarch Room and performed there for a number of years.  And that was interesting; that was very interesting. Of course, there, I had a big orchestra, which was another style of work.  Because the other, I had either two pianos or a piano and a harp.  And then, I went to a thirteen-piece orchestra after that, with a piano player.

 

What was the most requested song when you were at the Monarch Room?

 

You know, everybody had their own different songs that they wanted hear.  Or course, everybody wants to hear Kamehameha Waltz, because that was a signature song.

 

Next, we reminisce with Marlene Sai.  Born into the Golden Age, Sai was just seventeen when she was discovered by the up-and-coming Don Ho, and his mentorship led her to embark on a successful singing career that once seemed out of reach.  During this 2009 conversation, Marlene Sai told us as a Kaimukīkid, she’d been laying the foundation her whole life to impress Don Ho, learning literally on the laps of talented musicians like her uncle, Andy Cummings, who composed some of her signature songs.  Sai’s journey to the stages of Waikīkīwould first pass through a small club in Kāne‘ohe.

 

So, Uncle wanted me to listen to the song, and I said okay.  And I would come home from school, sit me down on our steps outside of the house, and he’d play and he said: Now, I want you to learn the song.  And that’s how I started to learn Kainoa, which was the song that started me in the business.

 

It’s a signature song for you.

 

It’s one of the signature songs.  Yes.

 

How does it go?

 

I’m waiting on a warm and sunny seashore, yearning for the one that I adore.  My heart is true, I’m thinking of you.  Forever, I will love you, Kainoa.

 

Absolutely.

 

Yeah.

 

Beautiful.

 

Yeah.

 

Now, Andy Cummings is a heck of an uncle to get started in the music business with.

 

Yeah.

 

He’s, of course, one of the greatest hapa haole composers, ever.  And he wrote Waikīki, which is another song you are known for.

 

Signature; yeah.

 

Waikīkī

My whole life is empty without you

I miss that magic about you

Magic beside the sea

 

One day, I’m driving down Kalākaua, and I’m looking in my rearview mirror, and I see this … it looked like a Thunderbird.  And the top was down, and I see this car darting in and out, and it’s approaching me.  And this guy’s hair is blowing, no shirt on, and he’s coming up closer to me.  And I’m getting nervous.  So, I roll up my window, roll up this window, and I’m going further.  And he comes and he’s telling me to pull over.  So, I pull over, and I’m thinking: Who in the world is this?  ‘Cause I didn’t recognize him.  He got out of the car, came over to me.  And I had the window up, and he’s knocking on the window and he’s saying to me: You remember me?  I was playing the organ for you; you remember me?  And I’m thinking: What church is he talking about?  I couldn’t remember.  Organ?  And then he said: You came to my place with Jesse.  When he said Jesse, my player, I said: Oh—

 

Don Ho is at your window.

 

And I’m looking at him, so I rolled my window down. And he said: I lost your number. He says: I don’t know where I put the paper; I lost it.  He said: I’ve been trying to get your phone number.  So, he asked me; he says: You come down to Honey’s tonight, or tomorrow night.  He said: I’d like to know if we can get some songs together; if you’re still interested, I’d like for you to sing and maybe make some extra money.   And that’s really how it all started.

 

Singing at Honey’s, and your boss was Don Ho.

 

And my boss was Don Ho.  Yeah.

 

Was there a lot of music in Waikīkīin those days?

 

There was a lot of it.

 

Showrooms?

 

Because, you know, Duke Kahanamoku’s was a supper club. Don the Beachcomber was a supper club. And the International Marketplace, where it is now, you know, as we know the International Marketplace, way in the back of it to the left was Duke Kahanamoku’s.  That was where the supper club was.  In the front of it, on the street, was Don the Beachcomber’s.

 

That’s right.

 

You know.

 

So, there were all kinds of venues for live Hawaiian music.

 

Oh, yeah.  And then, down the road, Sterling Mossman was there at the Barefoot Bar.

 

At the Queen’s Surf.

 

And you had Queen’s Surf.  I mean, it was all over.  Across the street was the Moana Surfrider, so you had Pua Alameida playing there.  At the Royal Hawaiian, Haunani Kahalewai was playing.  I mean, it was all over the place, and it was just wonderful.

 

What a different time that was.

 

Yes; yes.

 

And you sounded fearless.  I mean, you were up for the challenges.

 

Well, because you’re young, I think.  You know, because you’re young and you want to explore, and you want to just give it whirl and try it.  And of course, the career was just unbelievable.

 

So, you were a teenaged recording star.  What if you hadn’t had access to all of these wonderful people—Andy Cummings, Gabby Pahinui, and the people who perhaps they didn’t—I guess, Uncle Andy coached you in so many words.

 

Sure.

 

But the others who you got to see in action and learn from that way.

 

I think what happens in life, if you are meant to be in a certain place, and things kinda unfold for you, which is truly the way I believe that things started to happen for me.  Because no way along this did I plan it.  I was just so grateful that it unfolded this way, and it was happening.  Because I just felt like the greatest gift was being given to me.

 

Do you ever miss seeing your name in those huge marquee lights in Waikīkī?

 

No; no.

 

Been there, done that?

 

Been there, done that.  Yes; yes.  I enjoy being Grammy, and I enjoy my grandchildren, you know, and enjoying the family.  Yeah.

 

Do your grandchildren know that Grammy was a huge star in Waikīkī, everybody knew your name, and many obviously still know it?

 

They know; they do know.  But you know, they also know that they have to know their place too.  You know. But they’re very good about that; they really are.

 

Showing respect?

 

Oh, sure.  But not, you know, boasting or anything.

 

But they have a sense of who you are?

 

They do have a sense; they do have a sense.

 

And the legacy?

 

Yes.

 

What’s your legacy?

 

What is my legacy?  God, she’s been around for a long time.

 

Our final entertainment icon has also been around a long time.  Danny Kaleikini left college to launch his career, and wound up as the longest-running showroom host at a single venue.  He would also come to be recognized worldwide as Hawai‘i’s Ambassador of Aloha.  In 2010, Kaleikini told us that long before the Golden Age of Waikīkī, he was living in Papakōlea, and his family was so poor he began working at the age of six—not performing, but delivering newspapers and shining shoes in Downtown Honolulu.

 

Before I went to Kāhala, I learned from the best from Hawai‘i.  I started at places, and I want to thank people. Even when I was shining shoes, I used to go every Friday; right across Hawaiian Electric was Charley’s Taxi. And they had jam sessions; Jesse Kalima and A Thousand Pounds of Melody.

 

Wow.

 

So, my brother and I, we’d go there just about five-thirty with our shoeshine box.  And they would say: Hey, the two brothers from Papakōlea; come over here, sing us a song.  We’d go up and there and we sing our song; ‘O Makalapua.  You know. And after the song, we’d pick up like two or three dollars, man, you know.  Ho!  So, we’d take it to Jesse; he tell: No, no, you guys take that home.  And I tell you, I never forgot.  Then I went to work at WaikīkīSands. From there, Ray Kinney saw me, and he took me to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.  And he said: You watch what I do.  He said: You gotta learn.  Then I learned how to be an emcee.  Oh, you know, I gotta thank Reverend Akaka, you know.  And Danny Akaka, when I went to Kauai, was my minister of music.  So, I was part of, you know, the choir.  But Kahu, you know, is really the one taught me about the magic word, aloha.  And the ukulele, you know, he told me the ukulele represents the world.  You know, there’s only four strings, but each string represents all the different people that make up our world—black, white, yellow, brown.  He said: You play each string, you’ll get a sound, you know, but try playing it all together, then you find a chord, then you find harmony, then we can all come together.

 

Who was in your high school class that people might remember today?

 

Ron Jacobs, Wesley Park.  You know, Wesley was my business manager.  Because of Wesley Park, and I thank him very much, he got me my job at the Kahala Hilton in 1967.  He got me a contract for five years, and the rate was $1.5 million.  I was guaranteed, which was unheard of.

 

What was it like?  Do you remember the moment when you realized: I’m gonna play the Kahala?

 

Oh, no; I was so scared.  I mean, it was like One Step Beyond, you know, to go from Downtown Waikīkī.  And Kahala was, you know, The Hilton International, I mean premier.

 

Did you replace anybody when you went to the Kahala showroom, or did you create that showroom?

 

I created that showroom.  I created that room.

 

So, what was the thinking process in figuring what will work in the showroom?

 

Well, first of all, I said: We’re too far from Waikīkī.  I said: We have to work hard to get people, ‘cause just to catch the taxi, and then local people said: Kahala Hilton; you know how much the cup coffee?  One dollar.

 

How did you draw them in?  What do you think brought them in?

 

I did it Hawaiian style.  I mean, you know, I did it from the pupu’s, and all the kanaka maoli.  I mean, I used to sing, “Ua Like NōA Like”, I did “Lei Aloha Lei Makamae”.  But I did all the … even like Andy Anderson was one; I love Mr. Anderson, I love his songs. And I used to sing “Malihini Mele”. And then everybody used to get a bang, ‘cause I used to add my own words to it.  But that thing was an upbeat tune, you know.

 

Real hapa haole.

 

All the hapa haole songs, I tell you.  And every night, I sang the Wedding Song.  And the other song was either “Lovely Hula Hands”, or “Beyond the Reef”.  Either one. Yeah; and everybody knew the song. Not only the malihini’s, but the kama‘aina’s as well.  ‘Cause Lovely Hula Hands, Andy Anderson wrote that song, you know.

 

So, you started out with a local crowd.  And then, what happened?

 

And then, the tourists started to come from Waikīkī.  Then, I had to go market the show.  Then I started to get the Japanese.  Once the Japanese, the second show was sold out every night.  Was unreal.

 

And that showroom was based around you; right?

 

Yeah.

 

It was the cult of Kaniela.

 

Yeah.  I mean, I got to meet Queen Elizabeth and her husband.  And Prince Charles used to stay there, ‘cause he played polo, and he used to come with Princess Diana.  You know, I got to play golf with President Ford.  All the presidents stayed at the Kahala, and I got to meet them all.  And Imelda, you know, she would come; she would stay at the Kahala Hilton, Mrs. Marcos.  And she would come to my show, and she always brought like about, you know, forty to fifty people, and they had a section.  And the security was tight, and everybody was comfortable and yet, uneasy because of the security and everything else.

 

Was it Governor Waihe‘e who gave you the title, Ambassador of Aloha?

 

Yeah; in 1988.  I was so honored, you know, ‘cause Duke Kahanamoku has been our Ambassador of Aloha.  And I had the privilege of working with Duke.

 

You’re still known as Mr. Aloha, the Ambassador of Aloha.  What does that mean to you?  Do you think of that every day?

 

Oh, I’m very honored just to share this aloha, not only here, but around the world, no matter where I go.  I can honestly say I’ve seen the world, and because of music.  You know, I thank Akua, I thank God.  But I go with aloha ke kahi i ke kahi, the breath of life that we share with one another.

 

What is the reason the show ended at Kahala?

 

They sold the hotel.

 

You would have kept going?

 

I would have; yeah.  I even asked the people if they wanted, you know.  But big management, they had a whole different outlook on what they wanted to do.  It’s a shame, ‘cause in 1967, we could have bought the hotel for $17 million.  But nobody would lend us the money.  Yeah; but you know, I look back and you know, I say I had a wonderful, wonderful stay, and I thank all the people that supported me, all the people that helped me.  We all worked together as one family, you know.  And I think that was the key in the success.  But the secret ingredient: A-L-O-H-A.  That made it work.

 

Danny Kaleikini, Marlene Sai, and Emma Veary; three iconic Hawai‘i performers, all members of the Hawaiian Music Hall Fame, and each honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts.  By sharing their on and off stage stories, they help keep alive the memories of this magical time in Hawai‘i.  Mahalo for joining us for this reminiscent journey back to Hawai‘i’s Golden Age of Entertainment.  For Long Story Short and PBS Hawai‘i, I’m Leslie Wilcox.  Aloha nui.

 

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.

 

 

 

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