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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, Sept. 8, 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]

 

 

 

HIKI NŌ
Lokahi Program

 

TOP STORY

 

“Lokahi Program”
Students from McKinley High School on Oʻahu feature their school’s Lokahi Program, an outreach activity in which students bond with senior citizens at the Kulana Hale Senior Apartments in Honolulu. The students organize an annual senior citizen prom for the residents and lead activities such as arts and crafts and karaoke. Friendships between kupuna and teens, such as the one between resident Faye Kubo and student Regina Nguyen, blossom. Says Regina, “The way I see Faye is the way I see my friends at school. We can literally talk about anything.” Faye says that through her interaction with Regina and other students, “I learn that there’s hope.”

 

ALSO FEATURED

 

Students from Maui Waena Intermediate School in Kahului profile a married couple that wanted to start a family and ended up turning to adoption to find their bundle of joy.

 

Students from Waiʻanae Intermediate School in West Oʻahu discover the values a judo instructor teaches his students.

 

Students from Kalākaua Intermediate School in the Kalihi district of Oʻahu introduce us to a local sculptor who uses invasive tree branches to create a replica of an ancient voyaging canoe.

 

Students from Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School on Kauaʻi feature a singing nun who uses music to teach her students valuable lessons.

 

A violinist from H.P. Baldwin High School on Maui presents us with an introspective video self-portrait.

 

Plus—a public service announcement from students at Kealakehe Intermediate School on Hawaiʻi Island raises awareness about human trafficking.

 

This episode of HIKI NŌ also features students’ profiles on their HIKI NŌ teachers.

 

 

 

GREAT PERFORMANCES AT THE MET
Samson et Dalila

 

Darko Tresnjak’s production is set in 1150 BC, where the mighty Samson fights vigilantly to free the ancient Israelites from their bondage underthe Philistines. The High Priest of Dagon, angry with Samson after he kills the Philistine governor Ambimélech, plots to destroy Samson by utilizing the beauty of his former lover, Dalila. A passionate Samson falls prey to Dalila’s seduction, causing the secret to his superhuman strength, his long hair, to be revealed. After being ambushed by the Philistines, a weakened and vulnerable Samson must face the High Priest of Dagon and perform the ultimate sacrifice to save his people.

 

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Celebrating Dads

 

In this special Father’s Day compilation, we celebrate dads and the life lessons they’ve passed along to their children. You’ll hear stories of how fathers and father figures influenced business adviser Pono Shim, comedian Augie T, entertainer Melveen Leed, champion spear-fisher Kimi Werner and community advocate Kamuela Enos.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, June 16, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

Celebrating Dads Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

We’re about to celebrate fathers and the life lessons they passed along to their children, next, on Long Story Short.

 

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.  Welcome to a special edition of Long Story Short celebrating dads.  You’ll hear stories of how fathers and father figures influenced business adviser Pono Shim, comedian Augie T, entertainer Melveen Leed, champion spear-fisher Kimi Werner, and community advocate Kamuela Enos.

 

Let’s start with a clip from my 2012 conversation with Pono Shim, CEO of the Oahu Economic Development Board.  His parents, Alvin and Marion Heen Shim, were known as political visionaries.  Pono shares the life lessons he absorbed from his father, and lessons related by family friends.

 

What have you learned from your dad?

 

Oh, gosh.

 

I take it he didn’t sit down and tell you: Son, here’s the way it is.  This is stuff you just learned through osmosis?

 

What did I learn from Dad … so much.  Guardianship; a lot of guardianship.  Here was a man who was born very, very poor, whose parents were divorced really young. And so, he would tell me that he really was raised like an orphan.  And then, he came to Kamehameha from Maui.  And when he came, he was so poor.  I remember Uncle Bill Amona when my dad died—he was my dad’s classmate. He said: Pono, when did your dad make his decisions that his life would be committed to making a difference for people, to serving people?  He said: He never really talked about that.  And Uncle Bill said: You know, when we were at Kamehameha, all of the students were boarders.  This was at Bishop Museum.  And he said: You know, I have these pictures of watching your dad almost like his hands are under his chin the fence, because all of us from O‘ahu would get visitors on the weekends, and they’d come and they’d sometimes take us home, but they’d always bring food and gifts.  And he says: I can just see your dad kinda just watching us, and nobody ever came for him, and he had this smile on his face; he didn’t hold it in a negative light, but he would just observe.  And he says: Something keeps taking me back to those moments.

 

So, he went from being essentially a loner at the fence, kind of dreaming, with nobody coming to see him, to having friends from many walks of life, and a big family.

 

Yeah. Well, you know, I wouldn’t say he was a loner, because my dad was kolohe.  I mean, really, really, kolohe.  His oldest and best friend was Uncle David Peters.  And Uncle David tells a story, and he’ll still tell you the story of how the two of them got arrested at age five.

 

Five?

 

Yeah. He said: Officer Hanohano arrested these two boys who weren’t in school; so vagrancy.  And you know, they would blame each other—Yeah, your father got me arrested.  And you know, I don’t think anybody who knows Uncle David and my dad would say it was Uncle David.  My dad was kolohe.  But yes, he had a lot of friends.  Very, very engaging; very well-connected.

 

What was the secret to his forging so many tight relationships?

 

When I was in kindergarten, my first day of school, I came home and he said: How many friends did you make today?  And I said: None.  And he said: Weren’t there other kids there?  I said: Yeah. So, he said: Let me teach you how to make a friend.  And he stuck out his hand and he said: Hi, my name is Pono; what’s your name?  And so, he practiced with me.  And probably the most significant thing ever taught to me in my life was that.  If there’s one thing I look back at—first day of school, Dad said, How many friends did you make today.  And so, I’d like to believe that’s what he was doing, and he’d make friends.  But then, how do you keep friends?  That’s the thing.  And I think it’s because he was able to really focus in on the relationship, and put a priority on the relationship.

 

Our next guest learned early on about prioritizing his relationships.  Comedian Augie T found out that his girlfriend was pregnant with their first son while they were both still in high school.  Knowing he’d have to make sacrifices to support their child, he followed his father’s admonition and gave up something he loved—boxing, a sport he says taught him life values like discipline and hard work.  As Augie explains in our conversation with him in 2018, those lessons were soon put to the test.

 

At sixteen, I became the Golden Gloves champion.  I boxed; I was like PAL champion.  At sixteen, I entered the Golden Gloves, I won the Golden Gloves. At one time, I was ranked seventh in the U.S. for boxing at junior flyweight.  And then, I made that mistake.  You know, I don’t call it a mistake, because I love my son, but like I did, I made a mistake and made my girlfriend pregnant.  And with that, came responsibility.  So, my dad was like: Eh, boxing; you have to go work, because I’m not supporting your kid.  It was tough working at Jack In the Box, you know, knowing that you have to pay for medical. And I wanted my son to carry my name, so it was important for me to work hard, so that I can be a good example for him growing up.  But I wasn’t making enough money.  So, I applied at Kapi‘olani Medical.  I got on the bus, and I wanted one interview that day.  I told her my story, and I said: I’m determined, I want to work.  And you know, the rest is history.  I stayed there for sixteen years.  The day I graduated from Farrington High School, I got part-time with benefits.  Now, having benefits is like, a lot.  You know, they were able to cover my medical expenses, and because I worked at the hospital, the hospital paid for the other half.  So, I was able to, you know, take care my son and, you know, provide.  So, you know, that for me was big, providing. Because even as a kid growing up in public housing, I never wanted to be part of that vicious circle, and I saw a lot of that happening.  And there was a side of me that said: Yeah, Augie, you screwed up, but now you gotta take responsibility, and you gotta work.  Yeah?  And that’s what I did.

 

And you did it by working pretty much all the time.

 

Yeah.

 

In many ways.

 

Yeah; and I still do, Leslie.  I still do, and I love it.  I love being out there and talking to people, you know, watching people’s lives change. You know, it helps me as an entertainer doing comedy.  So, you know, I’m thankful every single day.  Yeah.

 

It’s amazing to have such a long run of it. Because you’re on a treadmill, and you have to be creative and be okay without sleep many times.

 

Yeah.

 

Because you got a day job, you got a night job, you’re promoting.

 

M-hm. Twenty-six years of doing comedy.

 

How has your humor changed over those twenty-six years?

 

Yeah; you can tell.  I mean, when I first started, I was like the moke action guy.  You know, a little older now, I’m seeing life differently. You know, there’s a lot of observance.

 

You do more social observations.

 

I talk about my kids, I talk about my family.  You know, that way, you cannot get in trouble.

 

You can get in trouble talking about your family.

 

You can. You can, by your mom.  That’s it.  You know, you shouldn’t say that, Augie; so stupid, you.

 

You know, but they love it.  They love it when I talk about them.  You know, I have an overachieving daughter that created B.R.A.V.E. Hawai‘i.  It’s a anti-bullying foundation.  My stepdaughter does my bookings.  Bo and Taj, you know, they help Dad look good; they do my hair.

 

They both are hairstylists, and I talk about them.  They’re both, you know, openly gay men.  You know, twelve, thirteen years ago, talking about your kids being gay was like, almost like, whoa.  But now, I get stories on how people say: Aug, because was so easy for watch you accept who your kids are made it easy for me.  So now, I get guys, construction workers, cops: Augie, I like tell you something.  What’s that, brah?  Eh, my boy mahu too.

 

All right. Yeah!

 

How was that for you?  Did you immediately accept when they told you they were gay?

 

Yeah. You know, at the end of the day, that’s your kids.  That’s why it’s so hard for me to see parents that you know, like, disown their children. That’s your kid, that’s your blood, you know.  Yeah; I might not agree with everything, but that’s my kid at the end of the day.

 

In the fall of 2018, Augie T performed at what he called his last headlining show at Blaisdell Arena an announced he would no longer focus on comedy; he would be pursuing other projects.

 

Our next entertainer, Melveen Leed, had an outdoorsy childhood.  Growing up, she split her time between her mother on O‘ahu and her grandparents on Moloka‘i.  With her birth dad out of the picture, Melveen’s grandfather was her father figure. In our conversation in 2018, she recalls how her grandfather introduced her to music, the wild outdoors, and the meaning of hard work.

 

I was brought up a real, real old-fashioned way, and I’m so glad I was.  Washing our clothes in the streams, you know, growing up like that, growing our own vegetables and fishing, hunting, you know. And we knew how to work hard.

 

What did the family hunt for?

 

Well, my uncles and them, especially.  I went on just a few, but I would never do that again.  As I said, my grandfather used to say: You carry down what you shoot. Oh, shucks.  You know, no, I’m not going carry the deer down by myself. Uh-uh.  So, I wasn’t interested in that.  I was more interested in fishing.  And my grandfather taught me how to make fishnets, from scratch. Yeah.

 

Did you try to throw them, too?

 

Oh, he taught me how to throw.  And so, we had a needle to make the nets; that’s called a hia.  Okay?  And then, we had the rectangular wood, and that was the size of the eye of the fishnet. And that was called the ha ha. See?  So, my grandfather would teach us how to patch the nets, and he had a pocketknife that he used and we made the hole, and we patched the nets, you know.  And so, things like that.  My grandfather was a remarkable man, and he was the one that actually made an ‘ukulele for me when I was only about three years old.  And so, I played the ‘ukulele and sang for all my grandparents’ guests.

 

How did you learn; did you watch somebody else?

 

My grandfather; yeah, I just watched him.  For some reason, I’d watch someone play an instrument, and I’d grab the instrument and I’ll play it.  You know?

 

From the beginning?

 

Yeah; by ear.

 

From an early age?

 

Yeah; early age.

 

Tell me, did you know your biological dad? Was he in your life?

 

I learned about him only when I was about fifteen years old.  That’s when I knew who my real father was.  ‘Cause it was kept a secret from me.  Walter Chun Kee; that was my dad.  He was from Maui.  And then I found out I had siblings on Maui.  So, I have one sister and three brothers.  And so, one brother, we lost; that’s Jimmy.  So, I found that we have siblings, siblings there.  And then, we found one more sister in Puerto Rico.  My dad was busy.

 

You’ve been married several times.

 

Yes.

 

Do you have stepchildren and …

 

Oh, yes. They’re all like my children, still, you know.  Yes.

 

Lots of family, all along the way.

 

Yes. And you know, it was a learning time for me, too.  Because I had gone down to the bottom.  I picked myself up, you know, every time and I said: I can do this.  Yeah?  And I’d start from scratch.  I’d leave everything behind, and I’d start from scratch.  I mean, everything; my clothes, everything behind.  I just walked out and started from scratch.

 

Wow.

 

Yeah.

 

You seem like a very hopeful and optimistic person, because you got married again.

 

Yeah.

 

And then, again.

 

Yes.  I probably was looking for like, my grandfather’s image.  You know, ‘cause he was a perfect father, grandfather, husband to my grandmother. You know, he was a great caretaker, and he was an inspiration.  And I could sit and talk to him.  He was a man of few words, but when he spoke, they were words of wisdom.  You know, I look up to him.  And I finally found that man, and that I’m married to now. Yeah.  And he reminds me so much of my grandfather; very dignified, you know, and very caring, and puts me on a pedestal, puts me first like how my grandfather put my grandmother on a pedestal first.  She always came first.

 

Our next guest also spent much of her childhood in nature.  Kimi Werner, a former national spear-fishing champion, spent her early years in rural Haikū, Maui. In a 2016 conversation, she recalls her childhood living off the bounty of the land and sea.  Thanks to her father’s influence, she would develop a lifelong love for freediving.

 

My life was just one that was really focused around nature.  We lived on this property where we had absolutely no neighbors in sight, and so, the only things that I really knew were just my family and the natural world that was right outside of my doorstep, really.  Our house was like, a little shack, pretty much just falling apart at the seams.  And I remember I could never really explain to kids like, what color it was, ‘cause it just depended on what kinda moss was growing on all the rotten wood.  But at the same time, it was just an absolute magical childhood.  We spent out days outside, and gathering food with our family.

 

So, you say you didn’t have a lot of money; you had these natural resources.  Did you feel poor?

 

I never felt poor.  I mean, I remember when I did start school in kindergarten, like kind of realizing then that I had less material things than all of the other kids.  But I never felt poor.  In those years, especially, I would say I felt so rich with just activity and fun.  I mean, every morning, my job was to go out and gather the chicken eggs from under the house, and pick whatever fruit were ripe, and to spend the days underwater diving with my dad, and just watching him bring me up fish and lobster for dinner. Like, that doesn’t feel poor.

 

You would float above him as he went way down?

 

I was just a tagalong.  I was about five years old when he started taking me diving.  And I would just float, and just watch him.  My main goal was to keep up with him.  And I remember, as long as I could see the bubbles of his fins, I knew I was going in the right way.  And then, when he would take a drop, then I’d be able to catch up, catch my breath, and put in my orders for dinner, really.

 

And would he actually be able to get you what you wanted, the type of fish you wanted?

 

He would. He would pride himself on that, basically.  If my mom wanted to eat octopus or if she wanted to eat lobster, or fish, whatever it was that she wanted, he always, you know, would see it through and make sure he got that for us.

 

It’s amazing how formative that experience of foraging as a little kid and diving with your dad, I mean, it seems to have shaped your life.  That’s what you do as a career, to a great extent.

 

It really has. You know, I think like anything, you adjust and you adapt.  And I definitely did adjust and adapt to the new more modern life that was given to me, and I got bicycles, and nicer clothes, and friends, and you know, got used to the store-bought eggs.  And we just evolved that way.  But I think it was later in life when I was an adult, still kinda going through the motions of what seemed like progress, and was there with my, you know, degree and my job, and doing everything I could to kind of connect the dots of what should make a fulfilling happy life, but still, there was just something in me that just was longing in a way, for the past, and realizing that it had been that long, and there was still just something calling me back to those really early childhood memories.  It is what shaped my life.  I think for the longest time, I believed that you have to let go of the past, and you can’t go backwards.  And even though I did accept that, finally, when I was about twenty-four years old, I just kind of started to realize that, you know, maybe it wasn’t something that’s just left in the past; maybe it is something that I can incorporate into my world today.

 

Our final guest also took up his father’s passion, not right away, but later in life.  Kamuela Enos is director of social enterprise at Mao Organic Farms on O‘ahu’s Wai‘anae Coast.  Mao helps at-risk youth in the community reconnect to the land, their ancestral roots, and themselves.  Kamuela’s father, activist Eric Enos, was a pioneer of this land-based approach to community healing through the operation he co-founded, Ka‘ala Farm, also in Wai‘anae. When Kamuela sat down with me in 2018, he reflected on his father’s journey and the indirect path that would lead Kamuela to the same work in what’s now known as ‘aina-based education.

 

It was borne out of this idea of reclaiming land and identity as a response to the Hawaiian renaissance, of having had that part of our identity kind of been told explicitly to step away from.  You know, it’s important for you to assimilate into contemporary American society, and to, you know, be a good American, and to take all the vestiges of your ancestry, your language, your practices, and put that behind you.

 

When did your father start reclaiming the land?

 

You know, I remember that, ‘cause I was really young.  And he, you know, was from Wai‘anae, he went to Kamehameha Schools, and then actually, he went to college.  And going to college at UH in the late 60s, early 70s, you can only imagine, like, colleges across the campus, you know, that was the heart of the civil rights movement, and the birthplace of the Hawaiian renaissance too, when you started actually learning your history and realizing that we weren’t allowed to understand our ancestry from a place of strength.  He was coming of age, and he was heavily radicalized, and he got a job teaching at Wai‘anae High School, where he got a chance to really see it, from how I understand it, his stories.  He was one of a few men who was of Hawaiian ancestry from the community actually teaching, and he was able to hear how teachers were talking about kids from Waianae.  So, he often tells me like, he had to quit, or he would have been arrested.

 

He was so angry at the messaging.

 

And just like, the disregard and the blatant racism that he saw behind the scenes. And then, he took up work with an organization that worked directly with at-risk youth.  And it was from that point that … it was called The Rap Center, where he began to take students—young adults, actually, not students, that were kind of out of the system, hanging out at the beach parks, walking in the mountains, to kinda get them away from where they would just hang out and associate, and do all the things that were leading to their delinquency, back up into the mountains to kinda understand, take them out of their environment and put them in a new environment.  And there, he started seeing all the remnants of the taro patches.

 

How did he come to acquire the land?

 

That’s a really interesting question.  I think back in the 70s, it was just like: You know what?  We’re just gonna clear this place out, bring water down, and reclaim it.  And if people don’t like it, then they can come and talk to us.

Was it abandoned land?  Who owned it?

 

It was in the back of the valley.

 

Probably State-owned?

 

State-owned land.  And they just decided to have these youth repurpose their time at this—I don’t know what they were supposed to be doing, but what they ended up doing was cutting, clearing out haole koa, and putting in PVC pipes and bringing water back down. And then, learning from people on the east side of O‘ahu who were still doing traditional taro farming, like, how do we grow this.  And I think that was a really important thing for me to understand.  Like, he wasn’t just trying to reclaim ability to grow food, but he was trying to reclaim the ability to grow people, and therefore, the ability to regrow community.

 

And it’s so interesting that it’s not like you suddenly see your future open up.  I mean, you are following clues along the way, listening for the sounds in the forest, kind of.

 

And getting slaps in the head when I step out of line.  You know, I think it’s never about us; I think it’s always about how people guide us.  And like, you know, we have to learn how to humble ourselves to the fact that we’re put on paths, and kicking and screaming, and resenting it is part of it at times.

 

Or taking the wrong path.

 

Taking the wrong path.

 

Taking the wrong path.

 

You know, I think there is no straight path.  My dad used to always tell me: You gotta walk the crooked path straight. It’s like, it’s not a clearly laid out path for you.  And you know, it’s one that you have to open yourself up to the process of learning. I was put on the path intentionally that has really allowed me, more than anything else, an opportunity to be in a place to help people I care about.

 

Thank you to Kamuela Enos, Kimi Werner, Melveen Leed, Augie T, and Pono Shim for sharing personal stories about fathers, father figures, and fatherhood.  To all loving fathers, mahalo nui for your guidance and wisdom.  On behalf of PBS Hawai‘i and Long Story Short, 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.

 

AUGIE T:

I worked for Mayor Billy Kenoi, and we did a senior summit.  And he goes: Aug, you like come up and say something?  And of course, he was worried, because you know, I talked about my dad.  You don’t want to talk about being old in front of old people.  But, my dad lives with me, and he’s dealing with dementia. And I talked about my dad, and how, you know, he remembers stuff like forty, fifty years ago, but he cannot remember anything in the last ten minutes.  I came home one day, and he was like: Who made this soup?  I go: Dad, I made the soup.  I never know you know how make soup, Augie.  This good soup.  Where your brother Ernie?  Ernie lives Mililani.  Ernie live Mililani?  I never know Ernie live Mililani.  Who made the soup?  Dad, I made the soup.  Good soup, this.

 

 

 

LES MISÉRABLES ON MASTERPIECE
Part 6 of 6

LES MISÉRABLES ON MASTERPIECE: Part 6 of 6

 

This dramatic adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel by award-winning screenwriter Andrew Davies stars Dominic West as fugitive Jean Valjean, with David Oyelowo as his pursuer Inspector Javert and Lily Collins as the luckless single mother Fantine. Ellie Bamber and Josh O’Connor costar as the young lovers Cosette and Marius. Love, death and the struggle for social justice in early 19th-century France feature in this new retelling of one of the world’s most beloved stories. In the opening episode, Jean Valjean is released from prison and learns a valuable lesson from Bishop Myriel.

 

Preview

 

Part 6 of 6
Marius mans the barricades, where a hostile Valjean intercepts him. They end up fleeing together through the sewers of Paris. Cosette’s story reaches its conclusion. So does Javert’s.

 

 

 

LES MISÉRABLES ON MASTERPIECE
Part 5 of 6

LES MISÉRABLES ON MASTERPIECE: Part 5 of 6

 

This dramatic adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel by award-winning screenwriter Andrew Davies stars Dominic West as fugitive Jean Valjean, with David Oyelowo as his pursuer Inspector Javert and Lily Collins as the luckless single mother Fantine. Ellie Bamber and Josh O’Connor costar as the young lovers Cosette and Marius. Love, death and the struggle for social justice in early 19th-century France feature in this new retelling of one of the world’s most beloved stories. In the opening episode, Jean Valjean is released from prison and learns a valuable lesson from Bishop Myriel.

 

Preview

 

Part 5 of 6
As revolution sweeps Paris, Valjean and Cosette hide out, Marius searches for Cosette, Thenardier disappears and Javert obsessively tracks Valjean.

 

 

 

LES MISÉRABLES ON MASTERPIECE
Part 4 of 6

LES MISÉRABLES ON MASTERPIECE: Part 4 of 6

 

This dramatic adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel by award-winning screenwriter Andrew Davies stars Dominic West as fugitive Jean Valjean, with David Oyelowo as his pursuer Inspector Javert and Lily Collins as the luckless single mother Fantine. Ellie Bamber and Josh O’Connor costar as the young lovers Cosette and Marius. Love, death and the struggle for social justice in early 19th-century France feature in this new retelling of one of the world’s most beloved stories. In the opening episode, Jean Valjean is released from prison and learns a valuable lesson from Bishop Myriel.

 

Preview

 

Part 4 of 6
Now a young woman, Cosette moves to Paris under Valjean’s protection. There, she meets the handsome law student Marius, who unwittingly brings a nightmare to life.

 

 

 

LES MISÉRABLES ON MASTERPIECE
Part 3 of 6

LES MISÉRABLES ON MASTERPIECE: Part 3 of 6

 

This dramatic adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel by award-winning screenwriter Andrew Davies stars Dominic West as fugitive Jean Valjean, with David Oyelowo as his pursuer Inspector Javert and Lily Collins as the luckless single mother Fantine. Ellie Bamber and Josh O’Connor costar as the young lovers Cosette and Marius. Love, death and the struggle for social justice in early 19th-century France feature in this new retelling of one of the world’s most beloved stories. In the opening episode, Jean Valjean is released from prison and learns a valuable lesson from Bishop Myriel.

 

Preview

 

Part 3 of 6
Valjean saves an innocent man at enormous personal cost. Again evading justice, he tracks down Fantine’s daughter, Cosette. Pursued by Javert, they need a miracle to escape.

 

LES MISÉRABLES ON MASTERPIECE: Part 3 of 6

Jean Valjean (left) and Javert (center)

 

 

 

LES MISÉRABLES ON MASTERPIECE
Part 2 of 6

LES MISÉRABLES ON MASTERPIECE: Part 2 of 6

Fantine and Cosette

 

This dramatic adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel by award-winning screenwriter Andrew Davies stars Dominic West as fugitive Jean Valjean, with David Oyelowo as his pursuer Inspector Javert and Lily Collins as the luckless single mother Fantine. Ellie Bamber and Josh O’Connor costar as the young lovers Cosette and Marius. Love, death and the struggle for social justice in early 19th-century France feature in this new retelling of one of the world’s most beloved stories. In the opening episode, Jean Valjean is released from prison and learns a valuable lesson from Bishop Myriel.

 

Preview

 

Part 2 of 6
Living respectably as a provincial mayor and factory owner, Valjean hires the single mother Fantine. Trouble follows that reunites him with his old adversary Javert.

 

LES MISÉRABLES ON MASTERPIECE: Part 2 of 6

Fantine, Thernardier and Madame Thenardier

 

 

 

LES MISÉRABLES ON MASTERPIECE
Part 1 of 6

Les Misérables on Masterpiece

Jean Valjean, Fantine with Cosette and Javert

 

This dramatic adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel by award-winning screenwriter Andrew Davies stars Dominic West as fugitive Jean Valjean, with David Oyelowo as his pursuer Inspector Javert and Lily Collins as the luckless single mother Fantine. Ellie Bamber and Josh O’Connor costar as the young lovers Cosette and Marius. Love, death and the struggle for social justice in early 19th-century France feature in this new retelling of one of the world’s most beloved stories. In the opening episode, Jean Valjean is released from prison and learns a valuable lesson from Bishop Myriel.

 

Preview

 

 

Part 1 of 6
After serving a draconian prison term for stealing bread, Jean Valjean is released. He resorts to petty crime, but Bishop Myriel teaches him a valuable lesson.

 

LES MISÉRABLES ON MASTERPIECE: Part 1 of 6

Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert

 

 

 

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