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LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Benny Rietveld

 

Benny Rietveld’s first experience playing music was at the age of six, in the piano department at Gem’s in Kapalama. “I liked the idea that you could press something, and it creates this…cool sound,” Rietveld remembers. He was mentored by band director Henry Miyamura at McKinley High School, and played in local jazz and rock bands before moving to San Francisco and touring with Sheila E. and Miles Davis. Today, Benny Rietveld plays bass for Carlos Santana, and still sits in with the Hawai‘i musicians he grew up with.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Oct. 14 at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Oct. 18 at 4:00 pm.

 

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Do you think music is more than just fun?

 

Totally; yeah. Music is powerful, music is magic. It allows us to do so many things invisibly. You can put it in the background, you can have it in the foreground, you can stop, start. You know, it’s always there, and it helps you celebrate things, it helps you mourn. It drives people to battle, you get married and you can create babies with it. It transports you, it reminds you of things in your life, just hearing something. Like, oh, my god, you know.

 

M-hm.

 

It’s an incredibly powerful force, and it can actually change people’s lives, you know. And that’s why I think musicians have a really big responsibility to just keep on point, keep being mindful, keep getting better, showing up. Because it’s a really powerful thing.

 

Benny Rietveld, who still calls Hawai‘i home, is the bassist and music director for Santana, a band he first heard when he was a young boy growing up in Honolulu. He’s been recording and touring with Santana since the 1990s, and he’s also known locally as a member of Topaz, a jazz fusion band that he and his high school friends had in the 1970s. Benny Rietveld, next, on Long Story Short.

 

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

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Benny Rietveld has recorded three albums with the iconic Latin rock band Santana, including Supernatural which became a worldwide sensation when it was released in 1999. Rietveld was born in Holland to parents of Dutch, French, and Indonesian ancestry. They moved their family to Hawai‘i when Benny was three. He grew up in Honolulu, where he started showing musical talent at a young age.

 

I took piano lessons when I was six.

 

Why did you take piano when you were six? Now, that’s early. How did that happen?

 

Remember Gem Store on—well, I don’t know …

 

Kapalama?

 

Yeah; in Kapalama. Yeah. Well, we used to live in Kalihi, and so we’d go through there, and it was always the piano section, and I was always plinking on the piano, you know. And my mom thought, Oh, he’s musical. You know how kids, you know, they hit a hammer, and it’s like, Oh, he’s gonna be a carpenter when he grows up.

 

But were you plunking better than most kids, do you think?

 

I don’t think so. I just liked it. I liked the idea that you could press something, and it creates this cool sound. I think. That’s how I remember it. And then, so we got like a little piano, upright piano, and she gave me lessons at Palama Settlement. And I think the first teacher was named Mrs. Leong. I think. But I didn’t really like ‘em. And I was like, Oh, really? You know, really like boring music, and River keep on rolling. You know. I just didn’t get it. And then, when was ten, we still had the piano in the, you know, attracting dust. And then, the song Hey Jude came out from the Beatles, and it had that cool piano intro. I was like, wow, that’s cool. I was like, wow. And then, oh, it’s sort of like that instrument that’s in our living room. So, I was like, huh. And it was really easy for me, and it was really fun. So, I thought, well, this is great, I’m gonna keep doing this. You know.

 

Then you learned other songs.

 

And then, I learned the entire Beatles catalog, practically.

 

By yourself, or with a teacher?

 

No, no; by myself. Yeah. You know, then I was hooked. And it was like, this is fun, I don’t want to do anything else. And I was just on my way. And then, I met my cousin, the guitar player in Topaz, or calabash cousin, actually, Fred Schreuders. And he was slightly older than me, but he was already playing music. He was, you know, playing guitar, and his dad also played music. So, I was like, wow, cool. And we met, and we jammed, you know, tried to play songs together.

 

You were on the piano?

 

Yeah; and then, I branched out to drums, and then a little bit of bass. And then we started, you know, playing. Hey, let’s do a band, you know. And so, yeah, we put together a band. So, when I was about twelve, I was playing in these dances at, you know, Star of the Sea.

 

And that was kind of the beginning of that. So, you know, I met the guitar player for Topaz way back then.

 

You were just picking it up as you went.

 

Yeah; yeah. ‘Cause it was easy.

 

And you were playing for high school dances at age twelve, or middle school dances?

 

Yes; yeah. My parents were really worried. ‘Cause there were some situations where sometimes we’d play a party, and and more like a high school kids’ party. And so, there may have been some illicit drugs.

 

And it was nighttime.

 

And it was nighttime.

 

Driving.

 

Yeah. So, my parents, you know, lost a lot of hair.

 

And you gave them reason to.

 

A little bit. But, you know, I wasn’t that wild.

 

And where were you on instruments? ‘Cause right now, you’re a confirmed bassist.

 

Yeah.

 

How did you pick the bass, or did the bass pick you?

 

Well, yeah. This is the joke. Usually, the bass picks you. It’s usually because you don’t know anyone else who plays the bass. So, you’re like, oh, you play the bass. So, what happened to me was, I was playing drums in this little dance band, and our bass player left. So, we didn’t know any other musicians, but we knew one drummer. So, it was like, well, what do we do? You know, so we’ll just get him, and you play bass. So, that’s how it happened. But I kept playing guitar with Joe the Fiddler, because, you know, it worked better for chords and stuff, and I kept up on piano playing. You know, I just like always was interested in all of that stuff. But you know, I started getting kinda good on the bass, which is easy to do.  Yeah; so that was that. It just happens like that, you know.

 

What schools did you go to?

 

I lived in town mostly, and I went to McKinley High School.

 

You had a band director who is legendary.

 

Yes, legendary; Henry Miyamura. He’s like one of the big musical mentors of my life, and of Noel’s life, and of Allen Won’s life, too, the other guys from Topaz. He was … amazing. He was like that Mr. Holland guy. I mean, just deeply, deeply committed to the real essence of music performance, which goes beyond, you know, the notes and stuff, but the actual conveyance of the emotion or of the story, or of the tragedy or comedy, or whatever. And to get a bunch of high school kids, half of them who weren’t really gonna go into music anyway, or most of them, and get them to sound as good as he got those bands to sound was really a remarkable feat.

 

How do you think he did it?

 

I think he really loved music, and he loved people. He knew how important it was, you know, even if we didn’t. You know, we were kids then. He knew.

 

While Benny Rietveld was busy playing music through high school, his parents were thinking about his future. They didn’t consider music to be a suitable career path. But Benny was already doing what he loved, and it wasn’t long before his talents took him from the local venues in Hawai‘i to a larger stage.

 

Did you decide consciously, I’m going to be a musician as a livelihood?

 

I don’t think so. The only time it was a conscious thought was like as, you know, graduation from high school was imminent. Then my parents were like, So, you know, what are you gonna do? You’re gonna go to trade school? You should go to trade school, because you know, you learn a trade and make a lot of money. I guess they didn’t see me as the scholarly type, which I wasn’t.  And I said, Oh, I’m just gonna play music. I just assumed I was.

 

Were you already getting paid to play?

 

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Just like, well, I don’t know. You know, I just thought I was gonna be a musician. And they went, What? No, you can’t. And they were very upset for a little while, only because, you know, they just saw their child being an intravenous drug user and being in the gutter, and you know, whatever. So yeah, I totally get why they freaked out. But then after a while, they thought, Well, he seems to be doing okay, and he’s playing, you know.

 

And you went to college right after that, here.

 

Not right after, but yeah, I did.

 

Oh; so you graduated from high school.

 

Graduated from high school. I was living on my own. I think for about a year, I was living on my own, then I got a scholarship for UH, through Mr. Miyamoto, who suggested I do that. So, he championed me as far as getting a scholarship.

 

And didn’t graduate.

 

No.

 

Because?

 

‘Cause I was also playing music, and then I got a road touring gig with The Crusaders. It was very short. But with all my other gigs in Hawai‘i, and then going off to the mainland for a little bit, just like I lost the whole momentum.

 

How did you make the transition from having lived almost all of your life in Hawai‘i, to the mainland, to the continent?

 

With scarves and heavy sweaters. Basically, that’s how I made the transition. I went to San Francisco first.

 

And that was, I’m going to go try my luck in the San Francisco Bay Area?

 

Well, because I had a friend there already. And he said, You gotta come here, there’s a lot of good music there. And there was, at the time. Lots of great musicians there.

 

You played with some biggies, fairly early on.

 

No. I mean, I don’t know. Pete Escovedo, you know, I learned a lot from him. Ray Obiedo, you know, he used to play with Herbie Hancock and really good songwriter. And a lot of really great local San Francisco Bay Area musicians.

 

When was the first time you played with someone that you went, Whoa, I’m with so-and-so, I’m intimidated?

 

Well, sort of like Sheila E, because her producer was Prince. So, he’d be around, and I’m like, Whoa, you know, ooh. You know. That was my sort of introduction to the high end pop world.

 

And you went on tour with Sheila E, didn’t you?

 

Yes, yes; for about two years.

 

How did you get along with Prince?

 

He was like kind of a mysterious background guy. So, he didn’t talk much to us, but he seemed okay, you know. But he kinda kept more to Sheila and, you know, just sort of like that.

 

Now, did that tour lead to anything?

 

Then I was playing around the Bay Area for a while, and then, I guess Miles Davis was looking for a bass player, and he kinda wanted that sort of Prince-influenced sound. Then we rehearsed, and I met Miles, and it was crazy. And I think I was too much in shock to be actually intimidated, tell you the truth. It was only until I think a year later, I was on the stage, and I was like, Holy crap, that’s Miles Davis. You know, and then I had that moment. But I think, you know, your body blesses you with the gift of shock, so you’re just, you know, immune.

 

And how was it? You know, you have to feel each other in music, you have to work together. How did that go?

 

It went fabulously. You know, he would, you know, give direction while we’re playing, and sometimes before the shows we’d talk about let’s do this part a little faster, or let’s do this kinda rhythm and, you know. And we would keep trying, and so really, back then it was like a laboratory, you know. Because we would do the same song, and it would just evolve. It was like a petri dish. I mean, the songs would evolve so that if you hear the same song two years apart, they’re almost radically different. You know, the tempo is like way slower or faster, and this part is really loud, you know. It was really, really interesting, and it just demanded that you focus a hundred percent on him and the music all the time. You know. That was the big deal.

 

You had to be really mindful.

 

Yeah; like mindful to an incredible degree, because if you weren’t, then then he’d know, you know, and then those eyes would, you know, turn. You know, zzzz, laser, laser. So yeah, you really had to have presence of mind.

 

So, you had a real sense of what he wanted, who he wanted—

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

–how he wanted.

 

Yeah, yeah. And yet, there was that … still, the challenge was to inject yourself in that, within that framework, you know.

 

And he expected you to.

 

Yeah; yeah, yeah, yeah. And so, that was really intimidating, ‘cause I felt like I wasn’t really mature enough as a musician to inject a lot of myself. I don’t know, maybe I did. I don’t know.  That was another coming of age thing, because I had to, I think, almost completely relearn music. You know, really music and bass playing, and the ethos of what it means to be a bass player and what it means to be a musician.

 

Why?

 

Well, because I hadn’t learned all these really basic fundamental things well enough, you know.

 

So, you were good enough to get in the band.

 

Yeah.

 

And once you were there, you had to up your game.

 

Yeah; yeah, yeah. It was like raw talent is one thing, but to really like hone it is another thing.

 

After two and a half years playing with Miles Davis, Benny Rietveld moved on. Two months later, he met Carlos Santana.

 

Coincidentally, I did a recording session with Carlos Santana.

 

You sound so casual when you say that.

 

Well, no. I mean, because it just happened, you know. It was somebody else’s session, and we met. And that was another intimidating moment, ‘cause it was Carlos Santana, and I grew up looking at that album cover, you know, and all that stuff, listening to all those albums over and over again. And he said, Yeah, you know, I might need another bass player, and you know. Luckily, we lived both in the Bay Area, so I called him and I said, Yeah, I would love to play. Are you kidding? You know. So that’s how that happened.

 

Aren’t you the musical director as well now?

 

Yes. I don’t know, I’m not really the musical director so much as like traffic cop. You know, ‘cause I consider Carlos actually is the musical director, ‘cause he’s very hands-on and he has an uncanny ability to know what he wants. It’s more about during the show itself, when he calls an audible, which he does every time, then I just help direct traffic. Okay, we’re going here now, instead of, you know, how we rehearsed it.

 

How much of the year do you go on tours?

 

With Santana, it’s roughly four to five months out of the year. But it’s broken up. You do get burnt out, you know, no matter what you do. And it’s always gotta be really, really high level, energy, fun. And the minute it’s a little bit below that, then we’re not doing it.

 

Do you ever get sick of being asked to play a song you love, but you’ve heard it and you’ve sung it … Black Magic Woman, so many times before?

 

No; love it. It’s great. I don’t care about all the other times I’ve played it. It’s like, oh, wow, this is the first time I’m playing it. You know. That’s special, and we have to convey that to people every time. That’s the hard part. That’s the higher level stuff. Not playing the music; the notes are like whatever, you know. That’s like hammering a nail; okay? But it’s how to get into that thing, and it sounds so, fluffy and goofy, you know. But that is, to me, the higher level of music.

 

Did working with Santana when you started require a different sensibility than working with Miles Davis? Did you have to shift in any way?

 

Only superficially, actually, with the style of music, the genre, you know. Because it’s more rock-oriented, Latin, which we hardly ever did in Miles’ thing. But in essence, it was actually very similar, because they both demanded passion and fire, and presence of mind, like all the time. And not being afraid, you know. I think that’s another thing. You cannot have any fear.

 

Is there a way to describe how they work musically, and how you work with them musically?

 

With both of those guys, it was about trying to … articulate the in-articulable.  That’s the weird part about music, is that like underneath the hood, underneath all the technique and theory, and all the numbers, which are all useful, underneath it all, I like to say the last thing that music is about is music. You know.  It’s really about feeling and life. And it sounds so, you know … fluffy. You know, like, Oh, it’s feelings. You know. But all the major guys hardly ever talk about nuts and bolts of music, you know. The jazz guys, a little bit more, because it’s more their realm, you know. But all those guys share the predilection for using aphorisms to describe music. It should sound like, you know, red wine streaming through. You know, something like that. And sometimes, it just sounds so bonkers, you know, to the uninitiated. But then, you realize it’s just a personal lexicon and a cosmology. And actually, now that I’ve known Carlos for a while, it makes complete sense, you know. Now when he says something, you know, like really poetic, I’m actually kinda knowing what it means in dry, boring music terms. Sometimes Miles would say—an actual musical thing would be like, Give that part a little lift. Instead of, you know, doong, doong, doong, doong; maybe like doong, ka-doong, ka-doong, ka-doong, doong, ka-doong. You know, all these little things between. I think everyone knows that deep down inside, it’s really silly to talk about music, because it’s the most abstract of all art forms, you know. But we try, anyway. We have to, sometimes. You know, we’re trying to convey what we want, you know.

 

Although Benny Rietveld lives in L.A. when he isn’t touring with Santana, he likes to come to the place he calls home: Hawai‘i. In 2014, he and some of his former bandmates from Topaz reunited for a show.

 

What brings you back to perform with your old high school buddies?

 

Love of music, and love of them. You know. We’ve kept in contact all this time.

 

And tell me what the names are. Who’s your gang?

 

The gang is Noel Okimoto on drums, Allen Won on the saxophones, Fred Schreuders on guitar, and Carl Wakeland on keyboards.

 

That’s a pretty amazing group from McKinley High School, isn’t it?

 

Yeah. Well, me and Allen, and Noel are from McKinley. Carl is from Mililani. Fred ended up graduating from Kaiser High School. We got kind of popular because we were this bunch of high school kids that could play this kind of difficult and technical music known at the time as fusion. And we loved jazz and all that. So, there weren’t many eighteen-year-olds playing that at the time in Hawai‘i. So you know, we got a kind of rep, and we were the little darlings there for a while, and we even played at La Mancha for two weeks. We disbanded ‘cause we all had stuff, and we were doing our lives. And Noel stayed here, so he’d play. And his late dad, unfortunately, George Okimoto, would go to his gigs all the time. And George actually managed us back then, because he was the manager of Easy Music Center, you know, by McCully. And so he was like, You know, you kids really got something. And he got us equipment to use, you know, cool new gear. So he was like our manager, and really championed us. Cut to couple of years ago. We’re at Gordon Biersch, I’m visiting, and I see Noel, and like you know, listening to him, Byron Yasui and all these great local guys. And there was Noel’s dad, George Okimoto, and he goes, Eh, hurry up, you know, get a reunion. And it was like, actually very bittersweet because he actually made a joke. He was like, Eh, hurry up, before I die.  And what I got from that was like, he wasn’t really joking around. He was like, you know, everyone is about to move on here, and you guys should do something, ‘cause it was really special. So, we did a show last year. It was really, really fun. So, this year again, earlier in the year, we recorded a CD. But you know, we all have these other crazy lives, and we’re not gonna like, Yeah, let’s have a band and tour together. That’s not gonna happen.

 

Did you ever conceive, did you ever think in your young life, that you would be in your fifties, and it’s a tour, it’s concerts and crowds, and music, and vans?

 

I had no idea. Who really knows what their thing is, you know.

 

And how long do you see that going on?

 

Playing music, being involved in music for me will go on until either I die, or I find suddenly that I don’t like it. You know. I don’t really see the latter happening.

 

Benny Rietveld has not stopped having fun playing music since figuring out how to play Hey Jude on the piano at age ten. Along with his raw talent, his dedication to his craft, his ability to work with people, his fearlessness and his determination took him to a world stage. Mahalo to Benny Rietveld, a proud graduate of McKinley High School in Honolulu, and longtime bassist for Santana. And thank you, for joining us. For PBS Hawai‘i 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 PBSHawai‘i.org.

 

[END]

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Laura Beeman

 

Head coach of the University of Hawai‘i’s Rainbow Wahine basketball team, Laura Beeman knows what it takes to win. She has revitalized the team drastically since her arrival in 2012, by pushing and inspiring her young women to reach their full potential, on and off the court.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Oct. 11, at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Oct. 15, at 4:00 pm.

 

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Heartbreak a year ago. Elation this season.

 

It was a thrill of a lifetime. You know, and I still talk about it, I can get a big lump in my throat. And remembering in the locker room just this lump of winning the tournament. The range of emotion of seeing their hard work pay off, and being so incredibly proud of them for being that first team, to the community support and feeling the aloha twenty-five hundred miles away, and then feeling the stress that I had been under of … We’re supposed to win this tournament and go the NCAA, and what if I don’t, what a failure is that? And being able to sit in a corner by myself and go, Oh, my gosh, we did this. And just tears; just tears. Tears of happiness, of joy. It was, right now, a little emotional. It was an amazing experience. I want to get back there, I want to have this feeling again.

 

University of Hawaii Women’s Basketball Coach Laura Beeman likes winning. Yet, her drive to make her players the best they can be isn’t limited to the basketball court. She’s teaching them life lessons that will continue to guide them long after they graduate. Laura Beeman, 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. Laura Lynne Beeman moved to Hawaii in 2012 to become the head coach of the University of Hawaii Rainbow Wahine Basketball Team. At that time, the team was losing more games than it was winning. It didn’t take Laura Beeman long to turn the team around. In 2016, only four years after she took over, the Rainbow Wahine won the Big West Conference Championship, securing a spot at the pinnacle event in college post-season basketball, March Madness. It was the program’s sixth appearance overall, but only the first in eighteen years. Laura Beeman has always been competitive; that’s the way she was raised.

 

Both my parents are very, very competitive. They’re self-made. And you know, my dad opened up a pharmacy with his brother right out of college, and it was an independent pharmacy. And basically, my mom supported him. You know, his parents told him, If you guys get married, you’re on your own. And they decided to get married, and my mom said, Well, I’ll put you through USC pharmacology. She did.

 

How did she do it?

 

She sacrificed her education, and she worked. So, I think that drive comes from them. You know, as a kid, I watched my father work seventeen, eighteen-hour days to support his family, so that his wife could raise children, and my mom doing everything she could to support her husband. So, I saw that hard work from a very, very young age, and was always told by my parents, If you’re gonna do it, you’re gonna do it right. You know, you’re gonna have a great attitude, you’re gonna give it all the effort you have, or don’t do it. And so, I think it was instilled at a very young age, even though I didn’t know that was going on. Youngest of four, and was immediately just thrust into sports. I have an older brother. And so, you know, growing up, we went to school with one another, we went to a Christian school, all the way up until middle school. And sports just became a huge foundation of mine and my brother’s life. You know, Sunday church, and then come home after church, go to a little grinder shop down the street, come back, open up the grinders, eat, and watch football. And so, that was kind of my life growing up.

 

When you went to college at California State University at San Bernardino, you earned a bachelor’s in business marketing.

 

Yeah.

 

And? [CHUCKLE]

 

I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. And someone said, you know, business is probably one of the areas that is most marketable. You can do anything from being a sports agent, to get into law, to go into sales. And so, I thought, I have no idea, you know, what I want to do. I had been told by a woman who worked for my father, You can sell, you know, ice cubes Eskimos. And so, we always laughed about that. And so, I thought, let me go into business. So, while I was playing sports, I got my business degree with a concentration in marketing, thinking I could do sales or maybe sports agent. And then, graduated and was like, What am I gonna do with my life?

 

Then, what happened?

 

Well, I got a phone call from an assistant coach at the University of Redlands. And they said, We heard you’re in town, we have a graduate assistant position open, would you like to get your master’s paid for and get into coaching? And I thought, I have no idea what I want to do with my life, so let me market myself, make myself a little bit more well-rounded. So, I went and received a master’s in educational counseling. And I loved the counseling aspect; had no idea I would, and had no idea how useful that would come in coaching. So, when I started coaching at the University of Redlands, the basketball coaching bug; it bit. You know, I loved playing, but I had no idea I would want to coach.

 

What would you have done if you hadn’t gotten that call? And then, you get a free master’s. I mean, that’s quite amazing.

 

It is. Again, right place, right time. I have no idea. You know, I was working for my dad at his pharmacy. I probably would have continued to work for him. Had no desire to become a pharmacist. I don’t know what I would have done, but I would have worked for him until I landed on my feet someplace.

 

Do you remember how and when that coaching bug bit you?

 

I think pretty immediately. You know, when I went to the University of Redlands, it was sitting back and watching with the coaches did, and what I liked and what I didn’t like, and how kids responded and how kids didn’t respond. And then, really figuring out, Okay, these kids respond to me with a little bit of a different approach. And all of a sudden, it was like, Okay, this is kinda cool. You know, I can kind of figure this out as I go. I was there for two years, and that’s when Mount SAC, Mount San Antonio Community College in Southern California, the job opened up. I was not hired as the head coach; I was hired as the assistant women’s basketball coach. And again, watched how coaches did things, and how players responded. Fortunate for me, and unfortunate for that coach, it didn’t work out for her, and they hired me the next year as the head coach.

 

You were twenty-five years old.

 

I was young; yeah. I had players that were older than me, so I had to establish some pretty strong boundaries. And again, that goes back to my parents; it goes back to watching them have very, very good boundaries in their life and their relationship, going back to coaches I’d played for and coaches that had really good boundaries, and coaches that maybe didn’t.

 

What kind of boundaries do you need when you’re younger than your players?

 

Well, you can’t go party with them. You know, you can’t go drink with them. If you’re a male coach, female coach, you can’t date players. So, there’s a lot of things you can’t do. And you see that all the time; you hear of both female and male coaches that get involved with players, and that’s just a boundary that’s not appropriate. Going to clubs with them. So, it’s just setting these boundaries of … I’m in a different category; in a position of power, I guess, a little bit. And I think that a lot of people abuse that. And that was something that I was always very cognizant of, is respecting the young ladies. You know, I would never walk into a locker room and just walk in unannounced. Hey, I’m coming in, put your clothes on, you know, get yourself appropriate, whether it’s a male assistant coach walking in with me or not. There was just a very strong, strict boundary that I was always … always made sure that I held, and I wanted my players to see that. Because that’s something that as they grew in their life, there has to be boundaries in their life as well with relationships and other things.

 

From the beginning, were you pretty good at reading players? I mean, you’ve been in sports all your life, so you knew a lot about dynamics. What about reading individuals?

 

You know, some people think I’m crazy for saying this on the show. I went through a lot of counseling, you know, later on in my life. And that is probably what helped me read people, and understand human behavior. And it also allowed me to develop a philosophy that if I wanted players to be their best, then I had to help them get to their best; if I wanted my players to be their best, I had to be at my best. And so, reading players and reading people, human behavior, I feel like that’s something that I’m pretty decent at.

 

Sometimes, the things that help you get to where you are aren’t the best thing for where you need to go.

 

No; sometimes they’re painful, sometimes they’re hard. You know, I’m not a believer that everything happens for a reason, although I guess it does. But I’m not a believer in that. I think things just are cruddy sometimes, and they happen. But it’s how you deal with that, and it’s the after effect that can take you to a really good, solid place in your life where you can continue to live in that yuck. And I just decided there was a point in my life where I didn’t want to live in that yuck.

 

You were already an authority figure when you went for counseling; right?

 

Yes.

 

Was that hard, to ask for help?

 

Yes. [CHUCKLE] Absolutely. It’s hard to go in and kinda put your heart on the table, and get very vulnerable with someone, particularly someone you don’t know, and let them kinda not pick you apart, but say, Okay, let’s go here, and you’re like, I don’t want to go there. Very, very difficult, particularly as a coach, ‘cause you’re always in control.

 

How do you deal with stress? I mean, there are so many things you can’t control in your life as a coach.

 

Yeah. I think one of them is—you just hit it on the head, is admitting and knowing what I can’t control. There are just certain things that I cannot control, because I don’t know what’s gonna happen with it. I have two huge dogs that walk me, and I love that. So, I get them out, go on hikes, try to just enjoy the beauty of Hawaii. The quality of life here is very different than the mainland. And so, for as busy and as stressed as I am, I have learned to enjoy that. And it’s a forced … take a deep breath. Again, going back to what I said earlier, being my best me. I know when I’m tired, I know when I’m overworked, I know when I’m cranky and people don’t want to be around me.   And it’s that moment I need to say, Okay, pause, and admit it.

 

For fifteen years, Laura Beeman was head coach of the women’s college basketball team at Mount San Antonio in a suburb of Los Angeles. She became a legend, leading the team to a record number of wins and state championships. Three years after she left, she accepted the position of head coach for Hawaii’s Rainbow Wahine Basketball Team. The program was in serious need of revitalization, but before Beeman could turn things around, she would first have to change the team culture.

 

The first year of recruiting, you did bring us out of a big stall. [CHUCKLE]

 

Well, you know, the cupboard wasn’t bare. You know, the coach prior did a great job of putting, you know, things there, pieces there for me. And so, we were able to take that group of young ladies and kind of regenerate and rejuvenate them and say, Let’s go. And they really bought into the philosophy of it’s not okay to be okay, we want to be better than okay, we want to be great, we want people to recognize us as great. And they bought into that.

 

So, was that kind of a culture of, we’re good enough, it’s good enough?

 

Very much so. When I met my team the first time, that was the running theme. I said, Okay, what’s gone on? And I remember Shawna Kuehu; love her, came into my office last week. She said, Coach, I’m tired of just being okay, and it’s okay to be okay here. And I said, I’ve never been okay. I’ve never been average, I’ve never been okay, and now I know what the problem is. So, give me your laundry list of things we need to change, I’ll let you know the things that I can try to change and the things I know I can change. And the one thing I can change is that culture. We’re not gonna be average here. But you’re gonna have to work.

 

Yeah; you can’t change the culture by saying, That’s not okay. How do you change a culture? I mean, this is not just one thing, this is a system of beliefs.

 

Yeah. One, I think you have to walk the walk as the coach. You know, you can’t walk in and be on your cell phone, and again, the things I spoke of earlier, you know, using foul language. You have to present yourself as a winner. You have to present yourself as a champion. Whether or not you feel you are, you have to present yourself as that. And I truly believed that if I could get this group of young ladies to buy into, I don’t lose, you guys, and I’m not trying to be arrogant. Not at all. I’ve been fortunate to have wonderful assistant coaches and resources, and have been able to get kids to come together and say, Hey, look at my record, this is what we’re gonna do here if you buy in. And here’s another thing; if you don’t want to buy in … what you’re doing isn’t working, so try something different. And they did. And so, it was a daily challenge to say, No, tuck your uniform in, tie your shoes this way, get in here, get to class, do what you’re supposed to do. Get on the end line, work hard, or please leave the gym, because you’re the one that said you didn’t want to be okay, not me. I have my degree, I’ve won. Let’s go. And so, when you talk that way to kids and you paint that picture of, I really think I can do this, and we have a leader that knows how to do it …

 

And you challenge them.

 

Big time; big time. I’m not gonna let a kid sit back and say they want something, and then not work for it. You have two choices; tell me what you want and we’re gonna go, or tell me what you want and not do it, and then I’m gonna ask you to go ahead and sit over there in the corner by yourself, and do your thing. Because you can do that without me. But if you want to win, and you want to be good, then let’s get together and let’s do this the right way. Don’t tell me what you want do; do what you’re gonna do. And that was a challenge, and that’s where we took that first group of young ladies is, let’s go, that’s enough of this, we have talent. And they bought into it.

 

So, you started with these young women.

 

M-hm.

 

And you made inroads. When you find somebody you really want to bring over, how do you get them here when they’re really looking askance at Hawaii?

 

We sell Hawaii on connection. We sell Hawaii on relationships. We sell Hawaii on the community. You know, we have been fortunate that four of our five years, we’ve done very well. And so, we can approach the, Okay, we’ve won.

 

How did your system of recruiting change as you went along, where you got to be the Big West Conference winner and coach of the year?

 

Yeah. That was fun. You know, as young ladies evolved as players, we all of a sudden said, Okay, this is the system we want to run, this is what we need to do to be successful in the Big West. And so, you go out and you kind of recruit pieces that fit your puzzle, and fit your system. And so, we were able to, after that first year—we were late in the recruiting process. You know, you recruit two and three years in advance.

 

And you came, I think, before the 2012-13 season.

 

April; yeah.

 

April.

 

And so, recruiting, though, for you know, 2012, 13, 14, coaches are already in the mix. They’ve already offered kids that were ‘14s, you know, graduating in ’14. So, we were behind the gun. We went after some key pieces. We found a couple JUCO kids.

 

What does JUCO mean?

 

JC.

 

Okay.

 

Community college, two-year. Found a couple, you know, JC kids, went and found a fifth year transfer; immediate fixes, immediate pieces. Good character kids, but they were gonna have to work. And they were able to get the group together. And then, we were able to play catch up a little bit in the recruiting process, and then bring in people that we wanted; high character, great work ethic. Pieces as far as whether it’s post player or guard, bring in those right pieces. And then, by the year that we finished second in conference and went to the NCAAs, we had put our puzzle together, and that was a really fun year.

 

When you were looking for those pieces, you were looking for specific athletic strengths; right?

 

Yes; absolutely.

 

And you said, high character.

 

M-hm; m-hm. That’s important. You know, if I look at a kid that’s high character and I can get the effort piece, then I know I’m not gonna have problems off the court. When I’m bringing in a young lady where I’m constantly, Go to class, don’t go to the club, what are you doing, it’s taking energy away from where we want to put our energy. So, you know, I say as a coach, the two things you should never have to coach as a coach are attitude and effort. I’ll coach your ability, I’ll motivate you, but I’m not gonna coach your effort, and I’m not gonna coach your attitude.

 

But you don’t know how a young person is gonna act when they get to this new exotic place away from their parental eyes and family.

 

You hope that you’ve developed enough of a relationship in the evaluation process of going out and watching them play, over the phone, through some text messages, talking to parents, that at least you’re not gonna completely get it wrong. Now, have I it got it wrong? Absolutely. And I’ll get wrong again. But you really try to develop a relationship. Recruiting is a relationship, it’s a fit. It’s not just a, I like the way you play, come play for me. There has to be more to it, so that you can keep kids here.

 

And I’m sure there’s always the temptation to say, This person has great raw talent.

 

M-hm.

 

I’m gonna take a big chance on somebody who doesn’t have a lot of the other elements.

 

M-hm.

 

Have you done that in your coaching career?

 

I have. I did that at Mount SAC a lot, because I’d already developed a culture, and I knew when I had a kid, say, that would come in with a bad attitude, I had fourteen young ladies in that locker room that were gonna help me manage them. And a couple really good captains that were gonna keep them in check. I couldn’t do that my first two years here, because we hadn’t developed the culture. When you get a good culture, you can take some risks, you can take some chances, because you have that base of great locker room talk. Where they come in and they’re like, Hey, let’s do this; and your captains go, No, that’s not what champions do, let’s not do that. So, when you get a little bit of a better culture and a foundation, you can take more risks.

 

How have local recruitments gone?

 

Tough; it’s tough. Th—the theme right now and the trend right now, they want to go to the mainland. They want a mainland experience. And some of them do well and stay, a lot of them come back home. Um, I would love to keep our local talent here, but it’s—it’s tough to fight the—the allure of the mainland. So, right now, we’re going after ‘em; we’re offering kids. I just have to keep them home.

 

And you don’t have a lot of people who are really tall awaiting—

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

–your call either in Hawaii.

 

Yeah, you know. But I have some tremendous athletes, and I have young ladies that understand the culture, and understand what it feels like to represent the State of Hawaii, and uh, play in front of their family and their aunties and their uncles, and that’s—that’s huge. So, um, I can find the guard or the forward, possibly, that wants to stay; yeah. Would I love there to be a six-four, six-five local kid that wants to stay home that can play basketball? Absolutely. Um, whether or not that happens, those are things I can’t control, I don’t worry about it. Right now, my challenge is to keep ‘em here.

 

 

Recruiting players and training them to perform during practice and games are only part of Coach Laura Beeman’s job. Teaching young people to become top athletes often requires coaching them off the court as well to learn the life skills they’ll need to achieve their athletic goals.

 

John Wooden, a great basketball coach, coined for this phrase of, Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. And so, when you get people, business, team, whatever it is; when people really know you care about them, then you get a common goal, and people want to work hard for you. And that’s not just. Let me fake caring about these kids, and then they’re gonna work hard. My players know I genuinely care about them.

 

How do they know? Do they test you?

 

Of course they do. [CHUCKLE] What children don’t test; right?

 

How do they test you?

 

They’re gonna see how far they can take the discipline. You know, if they miss a class, is Coach really going to, you know, suspend me?

 

And that’s constant management for you.

 

Oh, yeah.

 

Isn’t it?

 

Yeah. And it’s constant discipline for me to stay consistent. Kids say they don’t want discipline. Kids love discipline, and they want consistency. So, it’s a test for me to say, We just talked about this last week, here we go again. That’s where I have to be very disciplined in what I do.

 

And the punishment is, they sit out?

 

Yeah. And you know, I don’t like a lot of rules. I want my players to manage themselves and discipline themselves, and know the right way to go. There is an area, though, that I don’t have any wiggle room; and that’s academics. A lot of coaches, when kids don’t go to class, they put ‘em on the track and they run ‘em. Well, my kids are already in shape, so running ‘em is very easy. I sit ‘em. And for my mainland kids, I sit ‘em when they go home. I let ‘em warm up, and don’t tell ‘em, and they go through all the warmups so people know they’re not hurt, and then they don’t play. And then, the parents come and say, Why did my kid not play? Go talk to your kid about her academics. Doesn’t happen again. And I tell my players that up front. I will put you in the position where you’re going to now get in trouble by your parents, not just me. So, we have a 3.1, 3.2 GPA. And that’s a pretty good GPA when we do as much traveling as we do. And I have a committed group of young ladies that understand that rule very, very clearly.

 

Through the time you’ve been coaching, have the issues that your players bring to you, personal issues, have they changed?

 

No. When I was at Mount SAC, I dealt with a population that—most of the population, single parent, first generation college, a lot of learning disabilities, and a lot of abuse. Whether it was substance, domestic, sexual; a lot of abuse. And so, basketball became the carrot that they wanted dangled in front of them, because that was their way out. That was their way into a better life. So, I would say that I didn’t deal with it as much. Not that it wasn’t there, but the kids didn’t have the need to come and talk to me as a coach. It was USC, different socioeconomic status. Coming back to Hawaii, the problems are the same, and it’s just do kids know that they’re there, do kids want to talk about ‘em. And my door is always open in case they do.

 

What about a difference in—you know, we’re seeing a change in generations and use of media. I mean, all kinds of changes in society. Is that reflected in the players you coach?

 

It is. You know, they’re very connected all the time to their devices. And I remember the first time I ever thought, Wow, there’s a separation with connection. A player texted me and said, Coach, you know, my grandmother died. And I’m like, Don’t text me that; come and see me. We need to give a hug here, we need to have a conversation, I need to check in with you. And all of a sudden, you get those types of conversation in text; there’s a disconnect. There’s an appropriate way of text messaging; Hey, meet me for coffee. Great. But don’t tell me a life issue through a text message, because I can’t see how you are and you can’t relay how you are, and it just allows kids to build this huge wall where they don’t get vulnerable, they don’t share emotion. And it doesn’t have to be with me. But I don’t think anyone can hide behind a wall their entire life and have healthy relationships. So, there’s a huge disconnect, more today than when I started at Mount SAC. And I’m dealing with the same age group; right? I get older, they stay the same.

 

And so, you’ve gotten a chance to see what happens to your eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-one-year-old players. What have you seen as far as after their sports involvement? What happens?

 

Lot of them have gone on to coaching. Couple of them are in administration. You see them get married, have children, or great relationships, you know, get jobs where they’re successful. And a lot of them come back and say, Coach, you know, this is what I’m doing. Going to weddings, and you know, it’s been great to see them grow as young women, and see them apply some of the things that they fought you on [CHUCKLE] so many years ago.

 

And now, they enforce.

 

And now, they enforce. You know, I watch them coach, and I’m like, Okay, now they get it, they get how hard this is. And watching them have those boundaries and those rules, and it’s really fun; it’s really fun.

 

Did you have to go through a learning curve to be accepted here? Did you have to change anything about yourself?

 

That’s the weird thing for me, is I feel like I’m more myself here than I’ve ever been, because of how accepting people are. I got some great advice when I was hired. You know, don’t get political, stay out of it. You know, understand the culture, and some key things about the culture. And I listened to that. And also, saw that the people that were mentoring me, and on my interview committee, and women that came up and said, We want to be on your hui, we want to help you, were authentic. And they were just transparent in everything they did with me. And I saw that. And I thought, Okay, you need to be Laura Beeman, you can’t be anybody else, you have to be Laura Beeman. And if you’re honest and do things the way that you feel is right, even if you make a mistake, people are gonna be okay with that. I don’t know why I was embraced here so quickly. But I’m thankful for it.

 

You have a statewide constituency as coach, especially in the islands, because we don’t have professional sports. And so, you know, statewide audiences are watching, and proud, or willing to complain.

 

And when they see you embrace the culture, and they see you embrace—I’m just gonna say it, the aloha spirit, they love that. And so, when you have an off year—I’ve probably had more people come to me this off season and say, Coach, great job. And this is the worst year we’ve had. Because they see it in my face that this was a tough year, we struggled. This is not what I wanted. You know, this is not meeting my expectations. And so, pounding my head against the wall, what I did wrong, I’ve had more people come up to me and say, Keep doing what you’re doing. That doesn’t happen in a lot of other places. You walk through the airport, and instead of someone looking at you and giving you stink eye, they come up and they … Thank you, Coach. And you know, Can we take pictures with you and your team and, can you sign this and, my little girl wants to meet you. And that comes at wonderful, wonderful times when it’s tough. I feel that the community here sees these kids in the community, they see these kids going to class and graduating, they see the work that we’re putting in, and embracing what we have here. And I think that that’s something that when you live here, you understand it. If you don’t live here, you don’t.

 

You’ve been through a lot of victories in your life, though.

 

Uh, yeah.

 

Does it get old hat?

 

No, no, no, no, no. [CHUCKLE] Winning is fun.

 

When Laura Beeman first arrived at UH, the buzz was quite positive. Her hire was considered a good get for the University of Hawaii. And since then, there have been rumors about certain Pac-12 schools being very interested in hiring her away. At the time of our conversation in 2017, five years in, Coach Beeman said Hawaii has been good to her. She did mention that coaching at this level is tough on the body and the daily schedule, and there will be a time when she’d like to explore athletics administration. Mahalo to Laura Beeman of Honolulu, and thank you for watching Long Story Short on PBS Hawaii. 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.

 

You have to make a lot of real time, fast decisions when you’re in the middle of a game. How do you do that? And do you have trouble doing that at all?

 

At times, for sure. At times, you can get caught up in the emotion, you can get caught up in a certain play and miss what’s going on over here. That’s why I have incredible assistant coaches. They don’t miss a thing.

 

It’s teamwork. This is not the Laura Beeman Show; trust me.

 

[END]

 


FAMILY INGREDIENTS
California – Smoked Fish

 

 

FAMILY INGREDIENTS: California - Smoked Fish

 

In the Season 2 premiere, singer-songwriter and surfer Jack Johnson shares memories of his father on a road trip along the California coast. Enjoy the music, smoked fish and tales about early surfer migration to Hawaiʻi.

 

Airdates:

Wednesday, October 11 at 7:30 pm (premiere)

Wednesday, October 11 at 11:30 pm (encore)

Sunday, October 15 at 4:30 pm (encore)

 

Broadcasts of Family Ingredients on PBS Hawaiʻi are sponsored locally by:

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Dr. Elliot Kalauawa

 

Dr. Elliot Kalauawa’s childhood in Palolo Valley’s public housing helped fuel his desire to enter the medical field. He discovered his life’s purpose at Waikiki Health, where he has worked for over 30 years, offering compassion, guidance and hope to his patients.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Oct. 18, at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Oct. 22, at 4:00 pm.

 

Dr. Elliot Kalauawa Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

With my mom, I always felt real protected, because my mom was very tough herself—emotionally, physically. So, I had no problem. And especially going down to Hotel Street, I would enjoy. Because she liked to drink, she liked to play cards, so I would spend a lot of evenings in the bars on Hotel Street with her. And for a child, it was fun, because I was the only kid there, so different people were buying me sodas.

 

Dr. Elliot Kalauawa grew up in a tough neighborhood. His mother spent most of her time drinking and gambling in bars. Yet, he says he never felt deprived or neglected. Dr. Elliot Kalauawa of Honolulu, next, on Long Story Short.

 

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

 

Aloha mai kakou. Dr. Elliot Joseph Kalauawa is the chief medical officer at Waikiki Health. It’s a nonprofit community clinic that provides medical and social services, even when a person has no means to pay. Dr. Kalauawa is the recipient of numerous awards for his work with HIV/AIDS patients, and is widely recognized as one of the most respected HIV physicians in Hawai‘i. Dr. Kalauawa is well-known for his compassion and caring for patients. The circumstances of his childhood could have shaped his character much differently.

 

In the beginning, it was just my mom and I, because when my mom got pregnant, she didn’t want to marry my dad. So, she basically ended that relationship, and then she was on her own. And so, we lived in Hotel Street area, different kind of small rooms she could rent. I always felt real protected, because my mom was very tough herself—emotionally, physically. So, I had no problem. And especially going down to Hotel Street, my mom was like, you know, one of the bulls back then. And so, lot of people were afraid of her. So, nothing happened.

 

Does that mean she fought?

 

She did; physically, she fought. In fact, she likes to tell people a story.   You know, somebody she meets, some of my friends, and she’ll tell them, You think my son’s a good boy? And they’ll go tell her, Yeah. And then say, No, he was in jail. And then, they will look and say, What do you mean he was in jail? Because when she was pregnant with me, she was in jail.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

And then, she was in jail again when I was about five. And then, I stayed with my godmother. So, I would go and visit her for the few months that she was in jail. But that’s how she was. In fact, she even had stabbed a sailor once. She used to carry this knife with her. And I remember seeing it later. And he basically got fresh with her, she pulled it out, and stabbed him. And her nickname was Unknown, on Hotel Street. And the reason was, whenever there was a fight, the police would come, and they would ask who was involved in that fight. And because people didn’t want to squeal on her, they would say, Unknown. You know, in a sense, we don’t know. And that’s how her nickname became.

 

That’s what it shows up on police reports.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

Wow. Did you have a sense of fear?

 

No. And see, this is the thing. When I talk to others, you know, especially people who maybe come from broken homes … and people ask me what was it. And for me, it was, I always felt loved. Because even though my mom lived that lifestyle, I always felt loved by her. I never felt like she was neglecting me. I felt like that was just normal, to grow up that way. And then, because of my other family, my godmother, my aunts, my uncles, they all showed me love. And so, I always felt like I was loved. And that’s why I never felt like I had to join a gang to get love there. You know how some of the young ones go to, or to belong. You know, I felt real love. And that, to me, was the key.

 

Did you feel like your life was normal?

 

Yeah; I did. You know. And I felt it was normal to go to Hotel Street. I remember one time, I was about ten, I think, and she had this car; it was a standard. And we left the bar about three in the morning, and the car couldn’t start. So, we had to jumpstart it. And so, it was just her and I. So, she was behind the wheel in the middle of Hotel Street. And that was when Hotel Street was two ways. And you know, no traffic. So, I got out to push the car. So, I’m pushing the car at about two, three in the morning. And there was a young man about maybe in his, I don’t know, twenties, and he saw. And my mom was drunk behind the wheel. And he yelled, Woman, do you need help? And she thought he was getting fresh, so she swore at him. And so, he just kept on walking. And I thought to myself, I need the help, why’d you do that? You know. But finally, we were able to start the car. But again, that to me wasn’t anything unusual.

 

Did your entire childhood go this way?

 

The thing was, when I was growing up, part of me felt like I didn’t know where I really belonged. ‘Cause I was growing up in the housing, and all my friends in the housing were people that, when we’d go to school at Palolo Elementary, they were in the special education class.

 

And when did you go to Palolo Housing? How old were you?

 

I was about six.

 

Six?

 

First grade.

 

What was that like? Did you feel comfortable there?

 

I did; I felt completely at home. You know. And there, you know, we all knew each other, and everything, you know.

 

Okay; and then, did your mom’s lifestyle stabilize?

 

No; continued the same.

 

What was your routine like at home in Palolo Housing?

 

The way it was, was Monday through Friday, I’d get up to go to school. My mom would be sleeping. I’d make my breakfast. Then, I would get ready, I’d kiss her, you know, on her cheek while she’s sleeping, go to school. Then when I would get home from school, she would be gone already, ‘cause then she would leave to go to the bar. And then, sometime early evening, she’d call me just to let me know that either my dinner would be on the kitchen table that she had made, or she would tell some of the people in the housing, you know, some of the other families, to bring dinner over for me. And then, I’d go to bed whenever I wanted. So, usually, I’d go to bed about ten. I did have this one fear, though, living alone. I used to love watching horror movies. And it wasn’t too smart to watch it when you’re home alone, you know, especially then. And so, I didn’t want to hear these different sounds. So, when I’d go to bed, I would be in my room, my overhead light would be on, and my radio would be playing. So, it got the point where I could fall asleep with lights and noise. So, I never needed a quiet, dark room. But that was because I wanted the radio to block out hearing any kind of ghost walking outside my window. [CHUCKLE] And then, I’d wake up the next morning, and she’s be home, but she’d be sleeping again. And so, it was only on the weekends when we would talk face-to-face.

 

So, how did you handle that, as an older kid? ‘Cause you can get into a lot of trouble when you’re a little older, especially.

 

Yeah. And I’m not sure why, you know. Because I used to hang around with these kids in the housing, and you know, they were all getting into trouble. And now, some of them have been in jail. One, I heard, you know, he was murdered maybe in his late 20s. So, they all kinda went. And so, I used to hang around with them, but the interesting thing is, then when I’d go to school, because I would be in what they called the A Class then, with the smart kids. So, I’d hang around with those kids, and they were outside the housing. So, they had a lifestyle that was more like middleclass income class. And so, in the housing, I’d be one group, in school I’d be with another group. And it’s funny, because when we’d go to school, the kids I was with in the housing, we’d walk to school, then I’d drop them off at the special education class, I’d walk to my class. After school, I’d walk back, and I’d pick them up, and we all go back into the housing. You know, so that’s kind of how things went. So, yeah, I look back, and I think I could have got into trouble with them. But I think the main thing, I give my mom a lot of credit. My mom was very strict, even though she was doing that type of lifestyle. Her feeling was, she never wanted me to have the kind of lifestyle she had. So, she would always tell me that. Because she only went to eighth grade, to Kalakaua Intermediate, and then she quit school. And so, she would tell me, You study. And even though she wasn’t home when I’d come home from school, I guess because I knew she could be so firm, you know, and because I knew she really wanted me to do that, when I came home, I would study, I got all my homework done, then I would go out and play with the housing kids. So, the housing kids would just wait until my studies were done. ‘Cause they didn’t have to study. So, would study, and then I’d go. But I think it’s because she drilled that in me. She says, Education is what you need. And so, she would force me to make sure I did that. But her influence was so strong, even though she wasn’t physically there, I sort of always felt the need to obey, even though she wasn’t around. But I loved to read. I enjoyed studying.

 

So, you felt very wanted.

 

I felt very wanted. And I think that’s what made me not have a desire to feel like I had to get into, you know, trouble. That’s the key; I felt very loved.

 

That’s very different. I mean, you know … it was neglect.

 

I know. I look back now; it was neglect. And I look back, and I think, Why do I get the sense that my mom really loved me? I think it’s because when I interacted with her, you know, I could see the love. And because she was very strict—and you know, back then, parents were disciplining kids with what would be child abuse. ‘Cause you know, I was hit with the clothes hanger, the iron ones, with the belt. And one day, she had shared something with an adult person, who happened to mention it to me, that when she would do that to me, and then I’d go to bed crying, that after I fell asleep, she would come into the room and basically cry because she had done that to me.

 

What had you done to cause her to whack you?

 

When I would try to get into trouble; steal things, and if she found out about it. ‘Cause she always told me, Don’t do anything bad. So, she would always tell me that. Even though she did, she said, Do not do anything bad. It’s funny; it’s a double standard.

 

I know.

 

It’s a double standard.

 

It’s such a contradiction in terms.

 

It is; it really is, you know. And I think it’s because she so much didn’t want me to be like her, her lifestyle. ‘Cause the bottom line is, when she got older, she shared with me, she was not happy with her lifestyle at all. So, it wasn’t like she was happy living like that.

 

I want to know what your mom would have said if you said, Hey, Mom, if you really don’t want me to turn out wrong, stop doing what you’re doing and be here with me, and don’t show me that example.

 

She would have just ignored it. She would have said, I don’t care, you’re gonna do it. That’s what she would have said. That’s the kind of person was. You know, she’s the kind of person who really didn’t care what others thought. This is what she told me, and she would tell me this several times. She said, Don’t care what people think if they’re not feeding you. And so, that’s why I grew up having, you know, that tough thing where it’s hard to offend me, because I have a tough skin. And I tell people, you know, Just tell me what you think. Because I like it to be constructive. And to me, in order for it to be constructive, the person has to tell you what they feel. And likewise, I tell them what I feel. But that’s from my mom. It’s all just to make things better. So, it’s never with malicious; it’s always to make things better.

 

But when you dish it out, you have to be able to take it.

 

Yeah.

 

Can you take it?

 

Oh, yeah; definitely, I can.

 

You don’t feel hurt or angry?

 

No. I prefer people be honest with me.

 

Elliot Kalauawa’s hard work and discipline did not go unnoticed by his teachers. This was especially helpful, because he decided at a young age that he wanted to become a medical doctor, a profession that had a cultural precedent in his family.

 

From when I was a child, I was told that my last name, it’s Kalauawa, and it means breath of life and strength. My grandmother was a kahuna, you know, so she was involved with a lot of healing. And she used to use plants a lot. You know, so she used to do that a lot. So, I’m assuming that’s probably the connection there.

 

And then, you wanted to be a doctor from the time you were a kid.

 

Yeah.

 

Huh.

 

So …

 

Did you ever see your grandmother treating people?

 

No, ‘cause she died when I was about year and a half. But my mother would tell me about it. They had a house on Gulick Avenue, and she had a separate room where when she wanted to heal people, she would take them into the room. And she wouldn’t let anybody else go into the room. It was just her and the individual.

 

And did your mother tell you about stories of people getting healed?

 

Yeah; she did. You know, but all kinds of, you know, unusual things, all kinds of things happened. You know, that kind of thing. And I guess part of the reason my grandmother, from what my mom told me, didn’t want anybody else, especially young kids, she was afraid what effect it would have on them. So, I really don’t know what kind of, you know, rituals she did. I know she used plants, she grew a lot of plants. The two sacred things in her life were her plants and her Bible. ‘Cause she was also a deacon at a Hawaiian church, Ka Makua Mau Loa. So, those were the two sacred things in her life. She was pure Hawaiian, and she spoke Hawaiian fluently. And so, my mother and my uncle—‘cause my mother only had one sibling, her older brother. And his children were all older than me, and they all grew up knowing Hawaiian, fluent Hawaiian, because she only would speak English to people who didn’t understand Hawaiian, like if a visitor came over. So, that’s the thing that I kind of feel I wish I had been exposed to. But once she died, the motivation to speak Hawaiian died. So, nobody spoke. ‘Cause this was in the 40s and 50s, so nobody in the family. So, my mom, by the time I was old enough to understand, she could understand some Hawaiian words, but she pretty much couldn’t speak it anymore, including my uncle.

 

What about other Hawaiian cultural parts of your background?

 

Even that. Because back then, when we were being raised, you know, the Hawaiian race was suppressed. It was like they were trying to teach us to be White. You know, even my wife, she went to Kamehameha from kindergarten to twelfth grade, and she said even at Kamehameha, they were training you to be White. So, it wasn’t until the resurgence in the 70s. So, by that time that happened, I was already an adult, so I wasn’t really raised around that type of cultural thing, other than just what my family did.

 

You decided at a young age what you were going to do, and unlike almost all of us, you actually did it.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

Can you tell us that story?

 

Well, we used to go to Queen Emma Clinic. And lot of times, we’d wait about three hours to see the doctor. And I remember, and I can picture this in my mind. I was probably about eleven; between ten and twelve. We were in the waiting room, and it was another one of those long waits. So, I looked at my mom and said, Why do we have to always wait? And she says, We just have to. And I said, Must be they don’t have enough doctors, so I think I’ll be a doctor. And it just stuck. I didn’t even think at that point if it’s something I would enjoy. I just said, Must be they don’t have enough doctors. I never even doubted that I couldn’t get into medical school. It was always like, This is what I’m gonna do; what do I need to do, what do I need to do to get into college, to get into medical school, to residency. It never was if; it was, you know, what do I need to do.

 

And while you lived in Palolo Housing and were in intermediate school, some adults in your life saw your potential, and they changed your life.

 

They did; they did. When I was in eighth grade, I played Pop Warner Football for the Palolo Vikings. And at the end of the season, the coaches would have an end of the season banquet. And I remember it was at a restaurant in Waikiki. And as I was about to enter the restaurant, our head coach was outside greeting the kids, telling us where to go. And he came up to me and he said, We’ve submitted your name for a scholarship to Iolani School; what do you think about that? And I just thought, Fine with me. Not that I had any desire to do that, but I thought, Oh, okay, you know, I’ll do that. And then, a few months later, the ninth grade counselor at Jarrett Intermediate called me into his office. And I was only in eighth grade, so at first, I was wondering, Why is he calling me in? And he was always a strict person, so I thought, What did I do? I didn’t think I did anything to get into trouble. And he called me into his office and he said, We want to submit you for a scholarship to Iolani School. And I said, Oh, my football coach already did that. And then, that’s how Iolani started.

 

Well, I gotta say, it must have been quite the transition from Jarrett to Iolani when you were living in Palolo Housing.

 

It was; it was.

 

You know, you see parents dropping off their kids at school, and they have these beautiful cars, and different clothes every day.

 

Right.

 

It must have been kind of mindboggling.

 

It was; it was. You know, we had to have a lot of help, because for Iolani, I had this scholarship, the Albert H. Stone Memorial Scholarship, and that’s the one that pays everything, including the books. But before I could really go, my mom was concerned about how I was gonna get lunch. Because public school lunch was twenty-five cents; Iolani School lunch was about a dollar. So, what she did was, she found out about Queen Liliuokalani Children’s Center, and she submitted a request to them, and then they would send us a check every month for twenty-five dollars to cover my lunch at Iolani. And then, so once that was set up, then it was a go. But it was different. One thing, Iolani at the time was all boys, so that was different, going from a co-ed public school. But I know some of the kids there would look at me. ‘Cause I would hear things like, Oh, there’s the kid from the housing. But I had a lot of good friends. My class and I now, we’re still close, so I had a lot of good friends. But it was really only a minority. But the thing was, I was raised—and even now, I have a little hard time; I was raised speaking very heavy Pidgin. And so, going there and trying not to speak, you know. I mean, you could to a degree, but not the degree that I spoke in the housing. And I remember one year, we had a teacher from the mainland teaching English class that I was in, and then she wanted to talk about the Pidgin English. And so, she wanted to kinda discuss it. And one of my classmates raised his hand and he says, Ask Elliot, he’s the expert on Pidgin. But the thing is, Iolani was also very supportive of me, very loving.

 

Elliot Kalauawa never strayed from his path of becoming a doctor, and after finishing high school and college, he earned his medical degree at the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the UH. He joined a private practice in Honolulu. In less than two years, he left and chose a different setting, a different patient base.

 

I was in private practice for a year and eight months with another internist, Dr. Jonathan Cho, who’s an oncologist now. But that’s around the time I became a Jehovah’s Witness, so I wanted more time for my ministry, but I also wanted the kind of population that I grew up with. And the practice we had wasn’t that kinda population. And then, I saw an ad for Waikiki Health, and they were advertising for a medical director. So, this was a chance; I could go back basically to my roots, and then also have time for my ministry, too. I’ve been at Waikiki Health now thirty-one years. In fact, two days makes thirty-one years. And I look back, and I say, I feel real fortunate, ‘cause I’ve got a career that I truly enjoy. I mean, it’s not work for me. You know, you hear the cliché that, you know, when you enjoy, it’s not really work. Well, for me, it really is. I go to work, and I just enjoy every single day.

 

So, what is the overview; what are your patients like?

 

Oh, I have a full range. I have patients that are homeless, I have patients that are doctors, lawyers, I have the full range in between. I have, you know, a full range of different types of diseases, as well as HIV.

 

When you first started treating HIV, and it was a new disease, I imagine you lost more patients.

 

Oh, we did; we did. ‘Cause we had no treatment back then. In fact, back then, we didn’t even have the tests that we have now. And so, it was really sad. And HIV, of all the different diseases I treat, the HIV patients are the ones I feel a little closer to. And that’s because HIV now, it’s not so bad, but in the early days, it was like how leprosy used to be. Because there was a stigma, people didn’t want to be around them. And I used to feel sorry for them. And then, the fact that it was a death sentence. So, I used to get real close to those patients. But once when treatments came out, you know, it’s so much better now.

 

There’s a significant percentage of clients at Waikiki Health Center who don’t have insurance.

 

Right; a lot.

 

How does that work? How do you treat them?

 

It’s real difficult. And so, what we have to do, we have to be creative, you know, when we have students, especially, when they come through. It’s interesting, because when we have students or residents come through, the first time they’re with us, it’s funny, because they’ll say, Okay, this patient, I want to order these tests. So, I’ll look at him and I said, Well, who’s gonna pay for it? And he says, What do you mean? I said, Did you check his insurance status? ‘Cause it’s in the chart. And he goes, No, I didn’t. You need to check. And he’ll look, and he’ll say the person’s uninsured. So, I said, So who’s gonna pay for that test you want to do? The patient can’t afford it. So, what we have to do is, we have to be less reliant on tests. You know, I’m fortunate; when I went through medical school, we didn’t have lot of the tests they have now; we didn’t have CAT scans, we didn’t have MRIs. So, we had to learn a lot on the history, you know, from what the patients tell you. Because if you really get good information from the patient, you can probably come up with eighty-five percent of the diagnosis. And then, the physical exam can add. So, we did all these extra maneuvers to try to find out what the person had, you know, like maybe leaning forward while we’re listening to his heart, that today, you don’t have to do so much now, because today, medicine is so test-oriented. And I say it’s real sad, because we’ve got this population of patients that cannot get the things they need, and yet, we’re surrounded by wealth in this land. But we never give up, we never turn our back, we never say we can’t do it; we still do what we can.

 

Do you ever judge people?

 

Oh, not at all. No. Especially when I look at, you know, my lifestyle, you know, what I grew up in. You know. There’s no point judging anybody. Because on the surface, we might be different, but below the surface, we’re all the same. One of the things I like to tell students and residents at our clinic, ‘cause we see homeless patients, I tell them; I say, If you take a homeless person, put him in one exam room, tell him to undress, and you’ll be back in to examine him, you take another person, say, a doctor or lawyer, tell him to undress, you’ll come back in and examine them. And this is where people who have a stereotype about the homeless won’t really understand. So, if you did that, and then you go back into either room, sometimes you can’t tell who the doctor or who the homeless person is.

 

Do you think you would be unhappy in a place that had well-heeled patients who could pay their bills with insurance, and cash?

 

Yeah. Because I would feel like I’m not doing all that I can do. And the patients that I see, in general, a lot of them are from the same background that I’m from. So, that’s more so. In fact, two homeless patients I saw over the years were kids I grew up with. One of them, I saw his name in the chart, and I went in, and he didn’t know who he was gonna see, and he had his back towards the door. I went in, I called his name, he turned around, and he didn’t recognize me, ‘cause it was years. And he was homeless. I told him my name; he said, You know, I remember as a kid, you always talked about being a doctor, and I wondered if you made it; and I guess you did. You know. And then, another one of my patients, I played Little League Baseball with him. And then, couple weeks later, after I saw him, I’m coming into the clinic, I’m walking through the waiting room. He’s with another homeless patient, and he stops me, and he says, Hey, tell my friend here that you and I used to play baseball together. And I said, Yeah, we used to play baseball together. I guess his friend couldn’t see that his homeless friend grew with a doctor.

 

Let’s pick up on the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

 

Yeah.

 

So, when you talk about ministry, are you talking about going door-to-door?

 

Yes.

 

And how do people receive you? Knock-knock-knock, I’m from the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

 

You get a mix. Fortunately for us in Hawai‘i, many people are very polite. They don’t like to be, you know, rude. So, you know, we start talking, and then lot of times, they’ll just say, Oh, I’m not interested. And then, we just leave. Other times, they’ll listen, you know, and then we share a few things. And occasionally, we do have some people that are just rude. And they just say, Oh, no, don’t come here, or get out of here, or they slam the door. You know.

 

And why is it worth it to you to keep doing that?

 

The Bible has such an important message. You know, because it doesn’t matter what religion a person is, there’s Bible principles that can really benefit them. In fact, one man that I used to visit regularly, he actually was an atheist. But he used to love me coming by, ‘cause he said he loved the principles in the Bible. When I talk to people at the door, I know most of them have no desire to be a Jehovah’s Witness. But if they can at least apply some of the things in the Bible, they would have a better life. And that’s why I do it. Again, it’s concern for people. It’s like when I see all the suffering, and I see how people are, I think, You know what, if you could follow some of these principles in the Bible, you know, you would have a happier life. It’s not gonna solve all their problems, you know, obviously, you know, if they’ve got some chronic medical illness. But at least it’ll help them cope with it better. How to have a healthier lifestyle, ‘cause the Bible condemns things such as drunkenness, drug abuse. There’s principles about always trying to have a smile, always trying to laugh. And it does help the body. We do know; medicine has shown that when people tend to laugh more, that it does help the person and all that. So, those kind of different things that can help a person. And then also, it gives them hope for the future. It’s amazing how strong hope is. So, whether it’s in a spiritual nature, or you know, medical, hope is a powerful force. And that’s one of the things, when I go door-to-door, I like to let people know that, you know, you can have a better life now, as well as hope for the future.

 

Mahalo to Dr. Elliot Kalauawa of Honolulu for sharing your inspirational life story with us. And thank you for joining us. For PBS Hawai‘i 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.

 

Did you and your mother ever have a talk about how things had turned out, and you know, life in general?

 

We had, later on in her later years. And she was always very proud, you know, and things like that. And I never told her that, you know, she had a dysfunctional lifestyle. ‘Cause she knew she did, so there was no point talking about it.

 

And did her life become less and less dysfunctional as she got older?

 

She did; yeah. And I think it’s just, you know, learning from her past mistakes. So, she stopped drinking. I think maybe she was in her seventies, she just stopped alcohol completely. Her gambling, she didn’t stop, but she cut way back. So, she would only maybe go on the weekends, you know. And they’d just basically go to friends’ houses and they’d play Poker. You know, usually the same group; and they’d go to different homes.

 

And she had a long life; eighty-four.

 

Eighty-four.

 

[END]


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Broadcasts of Family Ingredients on PBS Hawaiʻi are sponsored locally by:

 

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