writer

PBS Hawai‘i names Jody Shiroma as Vice President of Communications

PBS HAWAI‘I – News Release

315 Sand Island Access Rd.| p: 808.462.5000| pbshawaii.org
Honolulu, HI 96819-2295| f: 808.462.5090

 

For questions regarding this press release, contact:
Jody Shiroma
jshiroma@pbshawaii.org
808.462.5026­

 

February 7, 2019

 

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Jody Shiroma, Vice President, Communications

 

(Honolulu, HI)—PBS Hawaiʻi’s new Vice President of Communications is Jody Shiroma, who will increase opportunities for community access, engagement and partnerships, and oversee the expansion of the multimedia station’s community advisory groups across the islands.

 

Shiroma brings more than 16 years of professional experience, most recently serving as Aloha United Way’s Vice President of Marketing and Communications for 12 years. Prior to that, she was Editor-in-Chief for Sassy and G Magazine, a local youth publication with over 25,000 in distribution.

 

Jody grew up in Hawaiʻi and is a graduate of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism with an emphasis in Ethnic Studies. She is a recipient of numerous business awards, including the Hawaiʻi Kai Jaycees’ Outstanding Young Person of the Year, Pacific Business News’ 40 under 40, Pacific Business News’ Women Who Mean Business, and the FBI Honolulu Division Director of Community Leadership Award. She served as a United Way Fellow in 2013.

 


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


 

 

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Won't You Be My Neighbor? Fred Rogers (left) with Francois Scarborough Clemmons (right) in an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood

 

One of the most celebrated theatrical releases of 2018, this feature length documentary takes an intimate look at America’s favorite neighbor: Fred Rogers. The film tells the story of a soft-spoken minister, puppeteer, writer and producer whose show was beamed daily into homes across America for more than 30 years. In his beloved television program, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Rogers and his cast of puppets and friends spoke directly to young children about some of life’s weightiest issues in a simple, direct fashion. There hadn’t been anything like Mister Rogers on television before, and there hasn’t been since.

 

Preview

 

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Daniel James Brown

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX: Daniel James Brown

 

New York Times bestselling author Daniel James Brown has a knack for taking intriguing, but often overlooked, stories in history and crafting them into compelling non-fiction narratives that grip readers around the world. The Boys in the Boat author reflects on his unconventional journey to becoming a writer, and the satisfying rewards of looking to the past for inspiration.

 

Program

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, Feb. 17, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

More from Daniel James Brown:

 

Rowing

 

Writing

 

Olympics

 

Daniel James Brown Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

I didn’t realize that just rowing in a competitive race is extremely painful.

 

It’s extremely painful; it hurts from the moment you start.  But it especially hurts; the end of every crew race comes down to a sprint at the end, where you’re rowing all-out.  Whether it’s a two-thousand-meter race or a four-mile race, at the end, you’re going all-out.  You’re using every muscle in your body, from the muscles in your fingertips to your biggest muscles in your back and legs.  And they are all screaming at you.  With every pull of the oar, they’re telling you not to take another pull of the oar; and yet, you have to.

 

He’s learned about life struggles and overcoming hardships by sharing little-known true stories in his books.  This best-selling author next, on Long Story Short.

 

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

 

Aloha mai kakou.  I’m Leslie Wilcox.  Daniel James Brown, visiting Hawaii from his home in Redmond, Washington, is a New York Times best-selling author of the book “The Boys In the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Olympics”.  This American rowing crew was made up of mostly working-class students from the University of Washington who had beaten Ivy League teams to reach Germany and triumph over a favored Nazi team in Berlin.  Brown was inspired to retell this nearly forgotten story when he was introduced to an elderly, ailing, and immensely likeable Joe Rantz, once a powerful member of that 1936 Olympic Team.

 

I love the book, because it works on so many levels.  There’s are so many inspiring things about it.  And you know, as I first read it, I thought: Is this for real?

 

Yeah.

 

Because you know, you don’t see this kind of valor often.

 

Yeah.  As I say, the story inspired me when Joe Rantz first told it to me.  And Joe was in the last few weeks of his life at that time.  But when he first told me the story, I was inspired by it.  It was one of those stories that just got better, and more inspiring, as I learned about the other guys who had rowed with Joe.

 

You also brought to that story of The Boys In the Boat, Hitler’s regime.

 

Yeah.

 

And how the Olympics of 1936 were really a propaganda game to show what a great, peaceful, civilized government Germany had.

 

Yeah.  The Nazi party very deliberately, when they decided to host the Olympics in 1936, they saw it from the very beginning as a propaganda opportunity.  And so, they turned Berlin into almost a movie set.  They literally got down on hands and knees and scrubbed the streets.  They rounded up homeless people in Berlin and shipped them off to what turned into Dachau, the concentration camp.

 

Because behind all of that, Hitler wanted to exterminate Jews, and he didn’t believe in Blacks at all.  And when I think about it, he was there watching all of these tournaments and meets.

 

Yeah.

 

He saw Jesse Owens win four Gold Medals.  A Black guy beating his German team.

 

Right; right.

 

And then, what happened to the boys in the boat?

 

So, the boy in the boat were, you know, kind of another slap in the face to Hitler.

 

And these were rural kids, generally.  Right?

 

Yeah.

 

Representing the U.S.

 

These were not elite athletes.  These were kids that had grown up on, you know, mill towns and fishing camps in the Northwest.  They were not elite athletes by any means.  The day of the rowing events in 1936, Hitler and Goebbels, and Goring, all the top Nazis were there watching the events.  They were on the balcony of a boathouse they had built for the occasion.  And Germany promptly won Gold Medals in the first five rowing of the day.  So, by the time these Americans rowed out to the starting line for the start of the—the big prestige event is the eight-oared event at the end.  By the time these Americans from Washington State rowed out to the starting line, the crowd is just roaring: Deutschland, Deutschland, Deutschland.  Hitler and the other Nazis are up on the balcony watching.  And I mean, that’s the context in which the race starts.  And they’re racing against the German and the Italian crews, two Fascist powers, which were assigned Lanes 1 and 2, the most sheltered lanes from the wind.  So, when the race starts, it’s not at all even odds, and it very much looks as if Germany and Italy will again win a Gold Medal.  Of course, that’s not what happens.

 

And what did happen?

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

How did it play out?

 

So, because the Americans were assigned to Lane 6 out in the windiest part of course, they had a terrible first half of the race.  Halfway through the race, a thousand meters down the race course, Bobby Moch, the coxswain, was the small person in the back with a megaphone.  He’s the only person looking forward; everybody else is rowing with their backs to the finish line.  But Bobby Moch, the American coxswain, is looking down the race course.  Germany and Italy on Lanes 1 and 2 are many lengths ahead, and just sailing down towards what appear to be Gold and Silver Medal finishes.  And waves are breaking over his bow, because he’s in the windiest part of the course; so he’s in a terrible state.  Don Hume, the stroke oar, the guy that sets the rhythm for the whole boat, is sick and not responding.  About eight hundred meters left to go, Don Hume suddenly snaps up, gets his focus back.  The boat starts falling into sync, what they call swing in rowing, and the boat just accelerates, almost as if it had been lifted up out of the water.  And they come back, and they catch the German and Italian boats in the last twenty-five meters or so of the course.  And as they go across the line, they’re just jogging back and forth for first place, second place, third place.  And the American boat finishes sixth-tenths of a second ahead of the Italian boat, which is a second ahead of the German boat.  So, it’s an extraordinary comeback.

 

In fact, did they even know who won as they passed the finish line?

 

No; for a long time, nobody knew who had won.  And when the announcement finally came, it was in German, so the guys in the American boat are just looking around.  They didn’t know that they had won; they weren’t at all sure what was happening.

 

I’m glad to know there was officiating that was fair, because otherwise, I could see going another way.

 

There actually was a photo-finish.  But the fact that the Germans and the Italians were assigned Lanes 1 and 2, which were sheltered the whole length was very odd and suspicious in the first place.

 

But Hitler was watching this race.

 

Hitler was watching the race.

 

Any word from him?

 

They just disappeared from that balcony.

 

And what happened to those nine men?

 

Nine young men.  They all went on to happy, prosperous middleclass lives.  Most of them lived into their nineties.

 

Author Daniel James Brown says that not only was he inspired to write “The Boys In the Boat” when he heard the story of crewmember Joe Rantz, he also felt an immediate personal connection to Rantz.

 

I’m a huge admirer of that generation of Americans from all walks of life.  And when you think about what they had to confront as a generation, first the devastation of the Depression, and then immediately on the heels of that, the trauma of World War II, which I think most of us still have a hard time really understanding, there was a period of ten, twelve years there where the world was upside down, and lives were being torn apart.

 

M-hm.

 

And that generation found a way to get through it, and they emerged on the other side, called The Greatest Generation for a reason, I think.  I think that those experiences tempered them and taught them a kind of toughness, but also a kind of humility that served them very well.  When I first met Joe Rantz, the principle character I follow in the book, he was in the last couple months of his life.  Joe was this incredibly humble, gentle-speaking, polite gentleman who had been through the Depression.  And when he started talking about his personal experiences growing up, I immediately thought about my dad’s experiences.  My dad had lost his father in 1929, right at the beginning of the Depression, when my dad was just fourteen at the time.  And so, my dad’s mom had been left to raise him and his brother and sister with real no means of doing that.  I think she took in laundry and things to get through the Depression.  So, when I met Joe, I thought immediately of my dad.  They were the same kind of man at the end of day.  And in some ways, I think they were sort of typical and emblematic of that generation who were tempered by the Depression, and learned these virtues of humility, coupled with toughness and civility.  So, in some ways, I wrote the book for my dad, without ever mentioning him in the book.

 

Daniel James Brown’s father and mother struggled through The Great Depression of the 1930s.  Their experiences during those lean, difficult times helped them shape better lives for themselves and fort their children.

 

I had a really nice family.  I grew up in the Bay Area.  My father worked in the flower business in San Francisco.  And so, actually from a very early age, he would take me around to florists in the Bay Area as he called on his customers, to visit them.  He was a very gentle, very kind man.  He was very much a product of The Depression.  He was humble, he was civil, and he was a great role model.

 

Was he frugal, because he came from The Depression?

 

He was very frugal.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

He would go around the house, turning off the lights.  You know, we would walk out of a room, leave the lights on, and he’d go and switch the lights off when we walked out of the room.  But you know, he was just an extraordinarily kind man; everybody loved him.  My mom was a stay-at-home mom, homemaker; sweet as can be, just a lovely person.  It’s interesting; she had had to drop out of college because of The Depression, at UCLA.  And later, when I was going to UC Berkeley, my mom was about fifty at that time, she decided she wanted to finish her college degree.  So, she went to Berkeley at the same time I was going to Berkeley.  In fact, I used to see her walking.  Sometimes we’d meet for lunch.  And that was in the middle of all the turmoil at Berkeley, and I remember seeing her once talk her way past a line of National Guardsmen as one of these riots was going on, on the Berkeley campus and tear gas was flying.  So, you know, she finally did get her college degree.

 

“The Boys In the Boat” author, Daniel James Brown, faced his own set of challenges growing up.

 

I’m actually a high school dropout.  I suffered a lot from anxiety as an adolescent, and I was bullied a lot as an adolescent.  So, I would get panic attacks, and I got to the point where I just absolutely dreaded going to school.

 

I was small, not very well-developed.  Didn’t you know, develop as quickly as some of the other guys, so I was small.

 

They called you names?

 

They called me Cupcake.  To this day, that word sends a chill down my spine.  So typical, you know, adolescent bullying.  But it got to the point between the bullying and I just was predisposed to … you know, those days, people had anxiety disorders.  They didn’t even have names for them or medications, or anything.  So, I was sick to my stomach every morning before I had to go to school.

 

Did it arise from the bullying, or did it preexist?

 

I think I preexisted, to some extent, but the bullying made it much worse.

 

Did the school do anything about it?

 

Not really; no.  You know, this was in the 50s and early 60s, and no, you’re just—

 

You’re supposed to suck it up.

 

You suck it up, you’re on your own, kid.  And it got to the point, finally, I was in my junior year in high school, in the middle of a biology lab one day.  And I don’t know; something just clicked in me, and I said: I’m gonna deal with this in an unconventional way.  I got up, and I walked out of the school.  I walked across the street, got in my car and drove home, and told my mom and dad that I wasn’t going back, that I wasn’t ever going back.  And that, of course, caused them a lot of distress.  My mom cried, my dad was sort of very silent for a while.  But as I say, they were very kind and understanding people.  And my mom, bless her heart, set out to come up with a plan by which I could move forward.  And so, she arranged with the school; I could get my high school degree by completing a series of correspondence courses.  The deal was, I had to go to the university library in Berkeley and spend eight hours a day working on these correspondence courses until I had completed all the work.  So, I did that.  I’d drive in to Berkeley every day and walk across the campus, and go into the Dole Memorial Library, big beautiful graduate library there.

 

Heavy stuff for high school.

 

High school.

 

For a non-high school student.

 

Yes; absolutely.  And you know, I felt like a college student.  And I would do my correspondence courses in a few hours, and then that left me usually several hours every afternoon to just browse the library.  And that’s really, I think, where I became a bookish person.  And so, I would just go pull books out of the stacks and sit and read them, whatever interested me.  And I think it took me about a year of doing that, and then I got the high school degree, and I enrolled in my local community college, Diablo Valley College.  And I had a wonderful English teacher, freshman English teacher there.  And he sort of took me under his arm.  And now, I couldn’t wait to get to school every day.  I mean, I just loved my community college.

 

You’re in school with adults now.

 

I’m in school with adults, I’m there because I want to be, and some of my teachers were great.  So, I really thrived there in the community college.  I’m a huge fan of community colleges.  I think they’re wonderful institutions.  And then, I transferred to Berkeley for two years, and then, I went to graduate school at UCLA for a couple of years.  Got a master’s degree in English, and then wound up teaching college English.

 

And did you think that would be your career?  I’m a college teacher.

 

Yeah; yeah.

 

English.

 

So, as I say, I had so loved my community college experience, I really wanted to be a community college English instructor.  But there was essentially no job market for that; there were way too many of us.  And I finally did find one in Prescott, Arizona.  But at that point, I was about to get married to the woman who’s now my wife, and she did not want to go live in Prescott, Arizona.  [CHUCKLE]  So, I had to turn that down.  And so, I never did get that fulltime community college job that I wanted.

 

Then, what did you do?

 

So, I married Sharon, and she was also teaching English at San Jose State.  And we were going to have a baby, and we wanted to buy some kind of a house.  We’d been living in apartments.  And San Jose at that point was turning into Silicon Valley, and housing was just not affordable for two people teaching, you know, college English.  So, I saw an ad in the San Jose Mercury, a little one-line ad for something called Microsoft, which I had never heard of.

 

Really?  Oh, the beginning days of Microsoft.

 

It was Microsoft.  They wanted editors.  So, I sent them a resume, and they flew me up to Seattle.  And actually, one of the first things they did is, they put me in a car with a Realtor, and they drove me all over the Redmond, Washington area, showing me houses.  Which were about half what they were in California, and just barely manageable for us on what would be my salary.  So, I took the job at Microsoft, and I was there for the next twelve years or so.

 

What did you edit?

 

We edited users’ manuals and help systems.  And in the early days, we edited these, you know, paper users’ manuals, which were pretty deadly stuff.

 

Were you one of the first people to describe how to use Microsoft products?

 

Yeah; actually, Microsoft Windows.  The first product I worked on at Microsoft was Windows, before it was a thing in the world.

 

Was it hard to explain?

 

[CHUCKLE]  It was.  It took a lot of back and forth between us and the engineers.  ‘Cause the engineers wanted very engineer-y sounding instructions.  And we knew that most people, if this was gonna be a mass product, were not in fact engineers.  So, a lot of it was just translating things into understandable—

 

That sounds like a challenging job.

 

It was, and it was fun.  The people I was working with were all very, very smart.  I’ve never worked anyplace that I was surrounded by so many smart people as at Microsoft.  And that was exhilarating.

 

Daniel James Brown wrote and edited manuals and the first interactive tutorials for software giant Microsoft for a dozen years.  And then, he decided it was time for a change, and turned his focus toward a different kind of writing.

 

You know, at the end of the twelve years, as I say, it was fun, and exciting, and exhilarating, but I’d had enough of it.  I was still remembering how excited I was by all those English classes I’d had.  And I don’t think I had ever really sat down and thought I want to be a writer.  But, I got to the point where I wanted to do something new.  So, I quit Microsoft, and I decided I’m gonna take a little time to figure out what I’m gonna do next.  And that first winter, a dark rainy winter in Seattle, I discovered that sitting around not knowing what you want to do gets boring pretty fast.  So, I started writing.  And I wrote what turned into my first book over the course of the next year, not really expecting that it would even get published, let alone turn into a career.  But that is in fact what happened, to my great surprise.

 

That seems like a luxury of time, where you could devote time to something, and not earn a living.

 

Yeah; yeah.  I mean, it was the result of having worked at Microsoft.  You know, the company did very well.  But I couldn’t have done nothing forever.  [CHUCKLE]  But I had a window there, where I could sit back, as a lot of people were doing at that point.  Most of the people who started at Microsoft when I did were starting to leave the company to go figure out what they wanted to do.

 

Was it a burnout situation?  You’d been working really long hours.

 

I’m not sure burnout is exactly the term.  Well, yeah, that actually probably is the correct term.  [CHUCKLE]  Long hours in a industry that was growing and exciting, but not something I had ever intended to devote my life to.

 

Well, what did you decide to write about?  I mean, think about that; if you could write about anything you wanted, that’s a tall bill.

 

Yeah; it is.

 

What do you choose?

 

So, what happened was, that Christmas, my brother and his family were staying with us at our house in uh, Washington.  And we started talking about this forest fire in the 1890s.  We had grown up; my mom had talked about this forest fire in Minnesota in which her grandfather had died, and her father had escaped on a burning train.  And that was about all I knew about it.  But when we moved my mom from California up to Washington, I found a box of stuff that she had kept.  And my brother and I dove into that over Christmas, and I started pulling out letters and diaries, and news clippings, and old photographs about this forest fire in Hinckley, Minnesota in 1894.  And it turned out to be this spectacular event.  It was actually two fires that converged on this little town, trapped most of the people in the town.  They tried to evacuate the town with a couple of trains that were there.  One of the trains caught fire as it was backing out of town.  That’s the one my great-grandmother and my grandfather were on.  And there all these heroic things that people did, trying to save people that day.  And I thought, well, nobody knows this, and that’s a pretty interesting story.  So, I just sat down and started.  I went to Minnesota, spent several days in the archives at the Minnesota Historical Society there, and started researching it, and came back to Washington and just started writing.  And that turned into a book.  I didn’t have a publisher, I didn’t have an agent, I didn’t have any idea how you got a book published, but I just started sending it out to agents.  And it took months, and I got a big stack of rejection letters, but eventually, an agent agreed to take it on.  And she sold it for a very small amount of money to a quite small publisher.  But it was published.

 

And it was your entry.

 

It was my entry.  And it did well.  What happened was, actually, Barnes and Noble, the bookstore chain, they have a thing called Discover Great New Writers, where every three months they pick a dozen writers that are unknown, and they put their books out in the front of the store on a special rack called Discover Great New Writers.  They chose my book for one of those.  And that got some sales going.  And then, HarperCollins, big New York publishers, saw that, and they bought the paperback rights to it.  And then, it really took off and started doing well.  And so, then I had a contract to write another book.

 

Would this be narrative nonfiction, or historical?  What would you call it?

 

I call it narrative nonfiction.  I mean, narrative is a story, and nonfiction is a true story.  So, people call it all kinds of things.  Some people call it dramatic nonfiction, some people call it creative nonfiction.  But I don’t like that one.  I don’t like the term creative nonfiction because it implies you’re making stuff up.

 

So many people want to write books, and want to write.  And this is a time when, you know, people want to read books less because of the length.

 

Yes.

 

What’s that like as a writer?  How do you navigate that?  I mean, if that’s your passion, I mean, do you have enough of an audience?

 

Oh, yeah.  I mean, you know, I think the way you navigate that is by telling the story as well as you can, crafting the story as well as you can so that it engages the reader from the first page.  And people will read a book if when they open it, they get to the end of the first page, they want to read the second page.  As long as you keep doing that through four hundred pages, you’re good.  [CHUCKLE]

 

How old were you when you started writing a book?

 

I was probably fifty.  I mean, that’s another thing I tell young writers all the time is: Don’t wait ‘til you’re fifty.  ‘Cause I really wish I had time for, you know, five more books.  That’s not gonna happen.  [CHUCKLE]  So, on the one hand, I tell young writers, you know: Get going.  On the other hand, I’m not sure that when I was twenty-five I would have been able to write any of these books.

 

Daniel James Brown’s debut book of narrative nonfiction in 2006 was titled “Under a Flaming Sky: The Great Hinckley Firestorm of 1894”.  It was followed by “The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party”.  “The Boys In the Boat” was published in 2013.  It remained on the New York Times Best Seller List for two and a half years, and inspired a PBS American Experience documentary, “The Boys of ‘36”.  The TV program is available for viewing in PBS Hawaii’s Passport web portal.  Brown continues to look to the past to find stories that will enlighten readers in the present.  At the time of this conversation in the fall of 2018, he was in Hawaii, research the forced relocation and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.

 

Mahalo to author Daniel James Brown of Redmond, Washington, for sharing his personal story.  And thank you for joining us for this edition of Long Story Short, on PBS Hawaii.  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.

 

What do you think the future is for online-only books?

 

You know, as an author, I don’t really care, in one sense, how people read the story.  I think we probably sell more e book copies of “Boys In the Boat” than paperback copies.  I’m not sure, but we sell a lot of e book copies of that book.  And I’m absolutely fine with that.  I actually read mostly on an iPad or a Kindle myself.

 

[END]

 

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Jim Leahey

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX: Jim Leahey

 

As the most recognized sports voice in Hawai‘i, Jim Leahey did more than call plays; he was a masterful storyteller who informed as well as entertained. After lending his voice to thousands University of Hawai‘i and other athletics games, and a career of more than 60 years, he retired from sportscasting in June of 2018.

 
Program

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, Feb. 3, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

Jim Leahey Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

People that come up to me and said: You know, I’m gonna do my first game.  I said: Well, you have to know the players, you have to study the statistics, you have to know the trends that are going to happen.  You have to study the language, you have to read, read, read.  And you don’t have to read sports all the time; you read other words that you can compare and contrast for the theater of the mind, the people that listen, the people that you’re providing the picture for.

 

Jim Leahey is an iconic name in the world of Hawai‘i sports broadcasting. For thousands of games, his voice brought University of Hawai‘i athletics into our living rooms.  And he’s one-third of a local sports dynasty; his father was legendary sportscaster Chuck Leahey, and the ball is now in the hands of Jim’s son Kanoa.  Jim Leahey, 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.  James Charles Leahey, sometimes called Kimo, but better known as Jim, retired in June 2018 from a career that spanned more than sixty years in sports broadcasting. He started out teaching school, which he calls his first love.  After he changed careers, he became the most recognized sports voice in Hawai‘i, announcing games and hosting sports talk shows on radio and television for decades. His first radio announcing job came unexpectedly in his teens, when his sportscaster father, Chuck Leahey, fell ill. Chuck Leahey had gotten his start in Hawai‘i as a U.S. Navy reporter during World War II.

 

He was at the attack on Pearl Harbor.  He was on the destroyer tender Dobbin, seven hundred yards from the Arizona when it blew up.  For one month, his job was to pick up dead bodies and body parts. Okay?  And that really affected him.  He was also at Midway, he was also at Tarawa, he was at Iwo Jima, but he never talked about them.  So, later on, I said: Dad, they’re having the anniversary for Pearl Harbor, and all of these people, you know, they wear the hats, survivor.  How come you never joined that?  He says: Let me tell you something.  And he looks … Let me tell you something.  That was the greatest defeat in the history of the United States Navy; it has affected me greatly.  I’m not going out wearing a celebratory hat.  And so, that’s the kind of person he was.  I mean, he really loved his children, he really loved his family, but he knew as a chief petty officer, a journalist chief petty officer in the Navy, which he stayed in after World War II, and he married my mother a month after the attack, he needed something else.  So, he went into play-by-play; he went into radio.  He refereed basketball games.  He did that kind of thing.  And because of that, he would have to take us along, because he had these kids.  He had to take me along.

 

How many kids?

 

Well, he had a total of five.  One is deceased now.  My brother Robby was blown up in that ammunition firecracker incident.

 

In Waikele.

 

In Waikele; yeah.

 

I’m sorry.

 

So, the thing was that we sat there, and we absorbed, we absorbed, we absorbed.  And we were all sportscasters.  I mean, we were all sportscasters.  And even when my brother lived in Mililani, had a little pool, we used to play games, and we used to announce the games.  And you had to come up there as a new guy with a new bat, and a new way of doing things, and describe what was going on.  So, he was able to make a living at it, and he was able to, you know, push it out.  And then, he went into Armed Forces Radio in Los Angeles, and we went with him, then we came back.  And the first time that I had done it, or I did it, was a boxing tournament in Schofield Barracks at Conroy Bowl.  He had pleurisy; he said I can’t do it.  Pleurisy, liquid in the lungs.  And he—This is your pass to get in.

 

How old were you?

 

I was fifteen.  I was a sophomore at St. Louis.  Okay?  So, he says: This is your ticket to get in, this is your ticket to get into the arena. This is the equipment; you plug in this, there’ll be a radio thing down there, you plug in that, and then you’ll hear the engineer, and then you talk to him again.  I did it.  I went, I got in, I went there.  And you know, it sounded fifteen-ish.  You know, it was like: There’s a hard right to the body, there’s a hit to the head, the referee.  Oh, he may be down.  You know, yeah.

 

But you were accurate the whole way?

 

I was pretty accurate.  You know, I was pretty accurate.  I could tell who won.

And uh, then, you know.

 

Fifteen; you went there on your own without a buddy or—

 

Nope; just me.

 

–chaperone, or anything?

 

Just me.

 

Wow.

 

So, that started it off.

 

But that’s live.  You sink or swim in live.

 

Live.

 

Yeah; no retakes.

 

No.  Yeah; that’s right.  And people that come up to me and said: You know, I’m gonna do my first game.  I said: Well, you have to know the players, you have to study the statistics, you have to know the trends that are going to happen.  You have to study the language, you have to read, read, read.  And you don’t have to read sports all the time; you read other words that you can compare and contrast for the theater of the mind, the people that listen, the people that you’re providing the picture for.  So, I said: That’s what you have to do.  And usually, they get right through the opening, the lineups, everything is good.  Tipoff; now, all of that is gone.  All of that research is gone, and it’s your mind and your talent.  And I’ve always believed in three things.  One is, always be yourself.  Always be yourself.  You’ve been given this talent.  Don’t imitate anybody else.  Two, never tell a lie.  Never tell a lie when you’re in play-by-play.  And three—and you’ll get this; never, ever trust broadcast management.

 

Never trust them.

 

Never trust myself; no.

 

Never trust them; yes.

 

No, no; of course not.

 

And it’s not their fault; it’s not their fault. They look at the broadcast, they look at games in a different way.  How many people will listen, how many sponsors will we get, how much do we have to pay the announcer, how much do we have to, you know, pay for the rights, and all kinds of stuff.  So, theirs is different.

 

Different parameters.

 

Yeah; yeah.  But don’t trust ‘em.  Don’t come buddy-buddy with ‘em.  No.

 

Okay; you say that.  But when you’re asked who are the people who’ve influenced you most, two of them are from broadcast management: Bob Sevey and Rick Blangiardi.

 

Absolutely; absolutely.  Bob Sevey; let me tell you the story of Bob Sevey.  Bob Sevey was my idol, Bob Sevey was my mentor, Bob Sevey was—well, you worked for him too.

 

And you did trust him, apparently.  He was the news director.

 

Well, he was the news director, but he also had to present the news every day.  And he had to say things like: I want three sources on this story before we put it on the air; I’m not gonna go with this, I want three sources.  So, he had the best crew in Hawai‘i, and you were one of them, that supplied that for him.  For me, he says: Don’t say U-nited Airlines, it’s United Airlines.  I said: What’s the difference?  He goes: You can tell the difference if you’re a pro.  I go: Well, I gotta be a pro.  You know.  I was teaching school at Campbell High School in ‘Ewa Beach.  He came to see me.  So, he came in, and he came into my classroom and he sat down, and he said: Can I talk to you?  And I go: Sure; how you doing?  You know.

 

 

So, he looks at me and he says: Joe Moore is leaving for Channel 2 to do the news; we want you to do the sports at six and at ten. And I told him: No.  He says: What?  What?  He says: How much do you make?  I say: Seventeen thousand dollars a year teaching school, and I like it.  And he says: I’ll double it.  Now, it’s up to thirty-four thousand.  And he says: I’ll double it.  I say: No, I don’t want that.  I’ve been in this part-time, and I don’t like it, it’s kind of a phony business.  You know.  And he’s looking at me kind of funny, he’s looking at me kind of funny. And I said: Look, I live in this community, I ride my bicycle to school every day.

 

Okay; but Channel 9 was the biggest station of its time.

 

Oh, it was.  It was.

 

But still, were you negotiating at this point?

 

No, no, no, no.  There was no negotiation here.  No, no.  What I was trying to say is that I liked my job, I liked where I was, and I liked what I was doing as a teacher.  He says he’ll double it.  I say: No, because I like it.  He says–and this is what got me, this is what got me: When are you going to think of your own children instead of everybody else’s?  Uh … uh … uh … and I knew that this offer was not gonna be there, because this is Friday, and he wants me to be there on Monday.

 

And lots of other people wanted the job.

 

That’s right; that’s right.  So, he said: And I’ll triple it.  So, I said: Well, I’ll take a sabbatical one year, see how it is. And I never went back.

 

Jim Leahey’s sportscasting career took off as he informed and entertained.  And in live sporting events for the University of Hawai‘i, he did more than call plays; he was a masterful storyteller. But he was no master of his emotions. He wore his heart on his UH sleeve.

 

He loses the ball!  Rainbows have it!  *  How sweet it is!  How sweet it is!

 

This is delicious!

 

Here comes Muhammad.  Muhammad step on the plate, he’s safe.  The Rainbows have defeated UCLA.  I don’t believe it!  I don’t believe it!

 

Jim Leahey made the job look easier than it was.  While some of it came naturally to him, he also did a great deal of homework, prepping for a game.

 

It’s a tremendous thing, and what you had to do, and the amount of hours.  Oh, I should have brought in my scorebooks, where I had to handwrite all the updated statistics for the next game.

 

You just immerse yourself in all the information.

 

And it takes hours, and hours, and hours.  And then, you know, you go and do the best you can in describing—

 

And then, how did you come up with some of the expressions you’ve used on the air? I imagine you thought about them ahead of time.  I mean, when you said at the Brigham Young game that Hawai‘i won, you know: This is better than statehood.  That was perfect.

 

You know, that just came.  That just came into my mind, because that’s how I felt.

 

Yeah.

 

That’s how I felt.

 

And the enthusiasm in your voice is just palpable.

 

Yeah.

 

Do you consciously build enthusiasm in games, or is that natural?

 

I think that you … in order to present the theater of the mind—I keep going back to that, especially in radio.  In radio, you have to describe everything.  And when you do, people have different ways of looking at it.  They have different ways of looking at the stadium, different ways of looking at the grass in the stadium, different ways of where the baseball players are playing defensively.  How does the batter look, what kind of bat does he have, what kind of stance does he use, what kind of pitch is going to come his way.  All of that have to be conveyed.  Now, on television, everyone sees the same picture.  But you still have to enhance it.  You have to enhance who these people are, what kind of record does the pitcher have.

 

With a few words, too.

 

And the words that you use come from reading, reading, reading, reading, reading.  And it doesn’t have to be sports; it can be anything else.  Because then you can compare and contrast.  That ball is aloha.  Homerun; that ball is aloha.  No one in the other forty-nine states is going to say: What?  What is that?  But the people here do.  So, you have to be very concerned with your audience, too.  You have to really be concerned with that.

 

Now, Bob Sevey was probably better known than most governors.

 

Yes.  He was a tremendous guy, and I owe a lot to him.  Really.

 

And yet, it wasn’t smooth sailing all the time.

 

No.

 

Because he was broadcast management, so you had your tiffs with him.  In fact, one time I said–I think we called you Kimo.

 

Yeah.

 

Kimo Leahi at the time.

 

Yeah.

 

What’s Kimo angry about?  And he goes: I don’t know.

 

There were a lot of guys in that newsroom that were the same.

 

Always angry about something.  And they reported the news, I think, the best that it could be reported.  But for me, working on that particular crew—and then you have Blangiardi coming in, and his idea about taking the events of the University of Hawai‘i football team, basketball team, volleyball team, and to televise it to the Hawaiian Islands was amazing.  And he had a man who worked very, very hard at it, and that was Stan Sheriff.  And Stan Sheriff built already a big arena at Northern Iowa when he was there, before he came as the athletic director at the University of Hawai‘i.  And he fought with the politicians all the time, because the politicians were saying: We don’t need a big arena; the only good team we have is volleyball, we only need four thousand seats.  And he says: No, we—

 

Think big.

 

Think big.  Because we need fifteen thousand, because then we can have regionals, then we can have—you know, it would be national; it would be national.  That’s what he was looking for.  He was so dedicated to what he did, it killed him. Because one night after coming back from the mainland, he went to pick up his baggage and died, right there. And so, that was really a tragedy. But we kept working at it, and Blangiardi kept working at it.  And so, Blangiardi, even though he was management, he was my color man.  He was my color man in what I consider the greatest game, which was in 1989 when the Bows finally beat Brigham Young after ten years.

 

Farmer at the forty.  Farmer at the forty-five.  Farmer at the forty.  in front of it.  The thirty, the twenty, the fifteen, the ten, the five!  Touchdown!

 

I’m not sure. They say no!  And they put it on the three-yard line!  No way!  No way!

 

He has it at the fifteen.  He will score!

 

Final seconds will tick away.  And so, if you ask yourself: Is this the year?  Is this the year?  You better believe this is the year!

 

I remember the time watching that clip.  Rick Blangiardi sat at Jim Leahey’s side, providing color commentary during many live sports events.  Once the broadcast was over, though, Blangiardi’s role went back to being the boss at the TV station.

 

And he fired me twice.  And his method of firing, I mean, it was Broadway show. Get out, you’ll never work in this town again.

 

 

I chase him down the stairs to his car, make sure he leaves.  And I go: Boy, I don’t want to get fired like that.  And yet, I was.  One night, he’s gonna show the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and I went … No, no; you don’t want to watch this.  I did the sports lead-in to the movie.  I said: You don’t want to watch this.  Tomorrow night, we have a better, it’s better for the kids, we have a better movie.

 

So, you were an employee of the station telling people not to watch the station.

 

Absolutely.

 

Right; okay.

 

That’s the first thing he said to me when I came in the next day.  And then following that is: You’re done, you’re finished, you’ll never work in this town again.  So, I drive home, I drive home and I tell my wife: Toni, I’m sorry, but I got fired today; I got fired by Blangiardi.  And she, being the Catholic school girl that she was, said: What did you do now?

 

Okay?  So, I said: Chainsaw Massacre.  Ring; the phone rings.  It’s Blangiardi.  Eh, this is Blangiardi.  You know.

 

And he says: We had a good one today; yeah?  And I go: Yeah, you fired me.  Ah, don’t worry about that, come back tomorrow.

 

But see, he’s like nobody else.

 

Some chances you don’t get more than once.

 

No.

 

Yeah.

 

Yeah.  But the thing is, I think that now that I’ve retired, I find it very difficult.

 

Okay. This is really the nub of it. You’ve just retired from sportscasting, after more than sixty years.  Sportscasting has defined your life; you’ve loved it.  Other people have a love-hate relationship with their job, or they really lost interest a while back.  But you have always been all in, all love it.  You know, whatever you’ve had to put up with to do it, you’ve loved. So, now what?

 

Ooh; that’s a good question, isn’t it?

 

You’re supposed to think about it before you retire.

 

Yeah.  I … I did think about it, but it was like on and off, on and off, on and off.  And then, when I had my last tiff with the management of the radio station that carried University of Hawai‘i basketball—

 

Oh, that’s right.

 

I mean, baseball.

 

You’ve probably been fired from other places too; right?

 

Yeah, yeah.  I’ve been fired from other places, too.

 

So, this one, the manager says: Well, it was only a two-year deal.  I said: two-year, I never signed anything.  Where is it; show me the paper.  So, I’m telling them: Look, I can do it one more year; I know I can do it one more year.  And he goes: Well, you know, I don’t know, in one or two years, the new guys that’s coming in, they actually work here, and… And I go: Well.  And he says: Well, call me.  I hang up.  My wife is across the room, and she’s giving me the what-for.  I mean, her eyes are like, neeeee.  She says: Don’t you ever do that again.  And I said: What?  Beg people for a job.  Do you know the kinda people they are, compared to you?  What are all these awards?  What are all these; you haven’t done anything?  You’re just coming up, just starting?  No, you don’t even need ‘em.  Now’s the time for you to step away.  That’s what she tells me; now’s the time for you to step away.  Now, we have been married fifty-two years.  And when her eyes get big, I tend to take that as a signal that I’d better maybe start to think in a different way.

 

Jim Leahey’s home life was in many ways a reflection of his life as a sports fan, enjoying the give-and-take and the back-and-forth opinions, even relishing the disagreement and not wanting to give an inch.  He credits his wife Toni and their three children for opening him up to new perspectives, and making him a better person.  Those real-life spirited discussions around the kitchen table became the format for Leahey & Leahey, a show he co-hosted with his son Kanoa Leahey for nine years here on PBS Hawai‘i.

 

I would love to have been at your family’s dinner table over years, because I know it was vociferous debate many times.

 

Oh, yeah.

 

We saw it when you and Kanoa were doing the show here together.  You would take positions, and you would advocated mightily. And both of you were so articulate in doing so.  And it could get very …

 

Yes, it could.

 

So, I think you’re comfortable with conflict.

 

Yes.

 

And I think …

 

Because in conflict, if you have the right conflict, if you have the kind of conflict where you leave and you don’t like the person anymore, you know.  But if you leave with respect, you can converse, you know, all the time.

 

It’s true that you don’t solve anything unless you work it out.

 

That’s right.

 

So, what were your dinner table conversations like as a family?

 

Oh, when we disagreed with each other, it was: How can you possibly be saying that, when you called yourself a human being? You know.

 

Ooh, that sounds a little personal.

 

Well, yeah.  I mean, but the other ones were: No, no, no, that’s not right.  Because especially when they got into high school, then they could argue back, then they could really make a case.  Then they could say: Yeah, well, you don’t know anything; you don’t know anything about this.  And I didn’t like that, because … they were right; I didn’t know anything about that.

 

But did you admit it?

 

No; not then.

 

No, of course not.

 

But later on; you know, later on, you do. No; the family dinner is something that is very special.  The family dinner is something that, what happened during that day, you discuss it. And sometimes, you agree, sometimes you don’t agree, sometimes you leave it unsaid, or solutions un—

 

Is any conversation forbidden, any subject forbidden?

 

No; absolutely not.  And I think my wife watches that pretty good.  She goes: Don’t say that.  You know, that kinda stuff.

 

And everybody listens to her.

 

Yes.  I mean, she’s the one that sets the standard.  My wife and I set the standards.  Fifty-two years; fifty-two years of the greatest arguments that you will ever hear.

 

Who wins?  Who wins your arguments?

 

— vocabulary, I may say.

 

Oh, I bet.

 

Yeah.

 

She’s a teacher, and you’re a word guy.

 

I’ll tell you what.  When we go to sleep, we’re solving it.  So, when the lights go out, about a half hour after that … Sorry, I said [INDISTINCT].  And I think that’s the best way.  You can disagree, but then there’s also that it’s not permanent.  It’s not permanent.

 

And you learn something from every argument?  Is that what you think?

 

You learn most of it; you learn most of it in there.  But I wouldn’t trade her.

 

Right now, people are so polarized, and we have a hard time talking to each other about our differences.  And you feel really comfortable doing that.  It’s had some negative effects, but it’s really healthy to talk when you don’t agree.

 

Yes.

 

Right?

 

Yes.  That’s the only way that you really make progress.  If you’re afraid not to state your views, if you’re afraid to say that what I believe … I really don’t, I really don’t think it’ll work.  You gotta go in there with some certainty.  You gotta go in there and say: Yeah, that’s a good point, and I’ll give you that, but.  And then you challenge, you challenge, you know, whatever they have to say.

 

Have you ever regretted that you spoke up or disagreed?

 

Sure.  Sure.

 

Why?

 

Oh, I think that I … emotionally, I leapt emotionally before I leapt intellectually.  And at the end, I think I hurt the person a little bit too much. Lady.  So, I called her up and said: If that’s an example of me, I was not up to standard.  You know. But you have to have respect for the person.  You have to have.  You know, what they say to you, you learn from that.

 

Do you think it made your kids stronger, that you’re such a strong personality, and outspoken?  And obviously, Toni is very much a part, and probably quieter and more definitive when it’s over.  But you know, your kids hear a lot from you.  Do you think it’s made them stronger?

 

I think it’s made me stronger.  I think it’s made me stronger.  Because when I talk to them on the phone or something like that and they have a point, they go boom-boom-boom-boom.  You know.  Yeah. That’s right; that’s right.  Yeah, yeah, okay.  Yeah, okay.  Yeah, that’s okay.  All right. Let me look into that.  You know, that kind of made me stronger.  At times, you know, I think it’s helped them with their problems.  Everybody has problems.  But I just think, you know, you’re Leaheys, and we have a pride, we have a way of doing things, and what you’ve said has made me stronger.  I finally understand where you’re coming from; finally understand.

 

You know what I noticed about you when you were doing a show here?  ‘Cause I got to observe you.  If a guest didn’t show, if for some reason a featured guest was not available for the taping, it didn’t concern you whatsoever.  You and Kanoa knew you could put on a half-hour program.

 

Sure; yeah.

 

Adlib it, and it would be a really good show.  And it was not necessary, even though it would have been welcome.

 

It would have been better.

 

That would be so daunting to almost anybody else.

 

No; because see, that’s who we are.  That’s who we are.  We deal with ideas, we deal with viewpoints.  We deal with things that happen.  And maybe our viewpoint is a little bit off, a little bit different, but we’re going to explain it to you.  You know, we’re going to show you.

 

What do you think about Kanoa?  When you listen to him call sports, do you hear yourself, and then do you hear things that you wouldn’t say?

 

I hear myself; I hear the same things that I’ve said in the past.  But I also hear something that … is really good.  It’s really original.  But I can still hold my own.  I can still hold my own in basketball, or have good games in baseball.  I think I’m a little bit better than he is in baseball. But don’t tell anybody.

 

Jim’s son, Kanoa Leahey, has taken his place in the Leahey dynasty as a consummate sportscaster very skilled at handling live coverage, and a sports talk show host.  Mahalo to Jim Leahey of East Honolulu for sharing your stories with us.  And mahalo to you, for joining us.  For 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.

 

A horse walks into a bar.  Tell me the joke.

 

A horse walks into a bar.  The bartender looks up and says: Hey, big fella; why the long face?

 

That’s it; that’s the joke.  She got it.

 

That was perfect.

 

That was flawless delivery.

 

How many years; how many years did it take for you to remember that joke?  ‘Cause I used to tell it every day for about three months, and you never got it right. The bartender wasn’t right, the horse didn’t have a long neck.

 

Twenty-five to thirty years?

 

It was about that.  Yeah, it was about that.

 

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Nani Lim Yap

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX: Nani Lim Yap

 

Musician, singer and dancer Nani Lim Yap tells how her Lim family’s music grew from an entertaining pastime to a career that takes them around the world to perform. She also reminisces about her upbringing in Kohala, Hawai‘i Island, and the way she keeps the traditions and stories of her ancestors alive as a kumu hula.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, Jan. 27, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

Program

 

 

Nani Lim Yap Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

I can remember when we were trying to do chants and mele.  We would choose other places, and something would tell us: Why are you choosing to do an O‘ahu mele, when there’s so much right here?  Not somebody came to us and told us; it was this feeling that you got, like, there’s stories here that need to be told, so tell these stories first. And that’s how we began going in that direction, telling those Kohala stories, singing those Kohala mele.

 

Nani Lim Yap, descended from the ali‘i of Kohala, keeps the traditions and stories of her ancestors alive through mele, chant, and hula.  A member of the remarkable Lim musical family, Nani Lim Yap says she’ll always call Kohala home, no matter how far her travels take her. Nani Lim Yap, 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.  Nanette Lim Yap, better known as Nani, was one of six children growing up in Pu‘u Hue in Kohala, on the Big Island of Hawai‘i, where her father was a cowboy at Parker Ranch.  In their isolated mountain community, playing Hawaiian music was the family’s primary source of entertainment.  The musically gifted family was discovered by the rest of the world when Nani’s mother, the late Maryann Lim, was asked to play at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel when it opened in 1965.  Performances soon became a family affair, and the music group known as The Lim Family became a well-known, much-respected, and popular Hawaiian music group. Learning the songs at a young age came easily to Nani, she says, because it was not only through her parents that she learned Hawaiian language.

 

My father worked for the Parker Ranch.  And they had these little stations, and little housing for the workers.  And some workers would have their families, whole families.  So, we were one of them, another family.  Just two other families, other than us.  And so, we were raised out there.

 

So, very remote.

 

Very remote.  So remote that when we did move into town, streetlights bothered us.

 

Well, when you say town, do you mean Kohala town?

 

I mean Kohala town.

 

Because it was so far.

 

And the streetlights bothered you?

 

Yes; all of us.  And we’d be up at night, like …

 

‘Cause starlight was all we knew, you know.  But we grew up at Pu‘u Hue.  And very close; all of us were very close, me and my brothers and sisters.

 

Your parents would take you on long rides, and you had a Rambler station wagon. They don’t even make Ramblers anymore.

 

No.

 

Not for many years. 

 

No.  So that story is all of us in that car.  Like when it was time to go holoholo, oh, my gosh, we’re gonna go someplace.  And it was my father; he just loved to drive. My father, my mother, one child in the front, and all the rest of us just filling up the back seat.  And we would go.  We would have one ‘ukulele.  We fought over the ‘ukulele like: Who’s going to play the next song?  So, if you make a mistake, you gotta pass that ‘ukulele on.

 

This was as you’re driving along.

 

As you’re driving; yeah.  So, goes like this, goes like this.  But if you were the longest, then you were the winner.

 

So, very competitive kids.

 

From when we were young.  And you know who won the ‘ukulele; right?

 

Who?

 

Me.

 

Always?

 

Yeah.  That’s why I’m the ‘ukulele player.

 

It’s so interesting, ‘cause none of you has had formal training in any of this.

 

Nope.  Nope. Not in music.

 

You picked it up, and figured it out, and listened, and learned.

 

Yeah; my father taught us how to play all the basic keys.  So, if you try to give me a sharp or a what, it’s like: show me it.

 

You show me it, and you tell me it, and I’ll get it.

 

And do you read music?

 

No; no.  Even my brother, when we were growing up, I would take him to his piano lessons.  So, he’d be playing along and playing along.  And then he’d finish, and she’d say: All right, Elmer, now read the notes. ‘Cause he’d be playing by ear, by what he heard.

 

Really?

 

Yeah.

 

And Elmer is Sonny?

 

Yeah.

 

Was music always a part of your life?

 

See, my father and his friends played, and my father and my mother sang to us.  That’s what they did.  Yeah. So, my mom sang, and my father played, and that’s how we knew that they had that.  And my mom had a hula background, and she was our first teacher.

 

Were they singing in Hawaiian?

 

In Hawaiian.

 

And did you understand Hawaiian?

 

This is how we understood Hawaiian, is my grandparents. My grandfather and my grandmother spoke fluently.  And they were our babysitters.  So, when we were little, it was so easy to understand what they were talking to us about.

 

That’s manaleo style, isn’t it?

 

Exactly.

 

It’s the real thing.

 

So, understanding them, even being around them and hearing them talk, we knew exactly what they were talking, ‘cause from babies, we knew that.  But however, my parents, my mom them didn’t follow through.  ‘Cause it was at that time when it wasn’t good to speak the language.

 

You were supposed to go Western.

 

Yeah.

 

And succeed in that world.

 

It’s so sad.  Just one generation away, you know.  And we’ve lost so much.  But however, if a song played, you knew exactly what the song was talking about. Because it was just automatic; you just knew Hawaiian already.

 

So, you didn’t just listen to the music; you could know what the songs were about.

 

Easily; easily.  Even my mother was surprised.  Like, we had this old radio, just this old radio, and you only could play it as certain times, ‘cause you didn’t want to break the radio, ‘cause that was like your communication to the world.  So, it was like, okay.  And then, the songs would play, and we’d be like, we know it.  And so, I’d tell my mom: I know exactly what this song is saying. She said: You do?  I said: Yeah.  And I’d tell her what it is.  She said: That’s amazing that you would know that. I said …

 

That’s what it says.

 

Yeah.  And then, I’d um, gesture things to her.  I said: Because I think this is what they’re saying.  She said: Oh … oh, so … you have that hula sense already.  Yeah?  So, just by knowing what that was, making interpretive movements, and then her being our first teacher, that gave me the—you know, it’s not that gave me the know-how, but it’s just automatic that everything came into play.

 

So, for you, it wasn’t choreography and the movements of hula that came first; it was the story behind the music.

 

Definitely, definitely; story behind the music.

 

You’ve had your fascination with non-Hawaiian.  You did Beatles, and Elvis, and Supremes; right?

 

Everything.  I love Supremes.  I love all that kinda music.  I loved it, and I would sing it, too.  We’d all sing it.  And then, we just realized that Hawaiian was where it’s at.  Because it was always around us, always around us, Hawaiian music.

 

But one day, there will be dancers who are saying: I’m from the Nani Lim Yap, that’s who gave birth to me.  Even though you’re saying: I didn’t really do anything except pass it through.

 

I’m hoping.  And they know; they know what my intention is for them, is that they continue. Any of the mele that I’ve taught them in their lifetime that they’ve been in hālau with me will remain the same.

 

Nani Lim Yap of Kohala, Hawai‘i Island, was twelve years old when she started performing with her family at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.  Dancing hula or singing with her family, whether it was on a formal stage or at a baby luau, became a regular part of her life.  Yet, she didn’t necessarily see herself growing up and becoming a professional musician, or a kumu hula.

 

After high school, you moved to O‘ahu.

 

Yeah.

 

To beauty school.

 

Yeah; I came to beauty school.  That’s what I wanted to be; I wanted to be a beautician, they said back then.

 

So, you didn’t see being a musician or performer as a career, then?

 

No.  No.

 

Even though you’d actually made money for it already in your teens.

 

Yes.  I don’t know; I wanted to do hair, I wanted to do hair from when I was younger.  If somebody was available during the afternoon on a Saturday or Sunday, they were sitting down in this chair, I was gonna give them some kinda up-do or something.  That was what I thought I knew, that’s what I wanted to do.  But then, when I came home and I had my first job at Mauna Kea, in the evening time my parents would say: Come over here and sing with us.  And the first time, my father said: What’s wrong with you?  I could not look at the crowd.  I would sing backwards like this, or sideways.  My father said: Is something wrong with you?  I said: I can’t look at them.  He said: Stop it; stop it, stop it.  Like, I would just try not to, I was afraid of the crowd.  Isn’t that crazy?

 

But you’d performed before.

 

No; I performed before as a dancer, but not as a singer.

 

I see; I see.

 

So, it’s like, okay.  Then I had to break that habit, break that habit.  And then, the next time, my father would say: You guys gotta smile; you have to smile, you have to smile.  And I was like: Okay, smile.  This was when I’m singing, and I’m trying to.  Because I don’t know; I didn’t think I was like, that great.  So, I’d be like, I don’t know if they like it, I’m not sure if they’re gonna like it.  And then after, you get your confidence up.  And then, the more I played, the more money I made standing up and playing than standing up all day to do hair, and my feet would be sore. So, it was like, okay, that’s just the easiest route to go, just play music.

 

I know you were a co-kumu hula with your elder sister Lei for many years. And now, all three of you; Lorna, Leialoha, and you have your own hālau.

 

Separate; yeah.  Which is fine.  I think we still all have the same mindset.  We were raised in that kind of environment, you know.

 

Same mindset, but different visions?

 

Yes.  I guess our missions have changed, I think.  You know, what is it that you really want to accomplish; yeah?  For us, lineage is important; yeah?  What are we passing on, what is the style that our kumu from Kohala taught us.  ‘Cause that’s it.  Somebody said: Is that your Kohala style?  And I would say: I think so.

 

What is Kohala style?

 

See?  Everybody would ask me that, and I said:  I’m not sure. But some others, if you were on the outside looking, they would say that’s distinctly different from Ka‘ū.  And I thought: Really?  I never saw dances from Ka‘ū.

 

So, you still can’t quantify it, but people from all over see it as being different.

 

That’s different, that’s a Kohala style.  And I was like, okay.

 

But you can’t point to any one thing about it?

 

Nope; nope.  Because it translates to us as being something that we’ve always done. And so, if you’re wanting to perpetuate, I think future wise now, I think that’s where hula is now, at the lineage state, at a place of lineage.  Like, what are you passing on; yeah?  So, my thought is: Do you mix both styles together, or do you carry this lineage through and make sure that your students now understand that you learned from this?  And this would be part of your koi or your—

 

Are you allowed to combine your own mana with that, with someone else’s?

 

See?  I think you have to honor them.

 

Ah …

 

If you took hula from them, I think you have to honor them and keep that as a separate entity that moves forward.  When I look at hula, yeah, I look at just being a vessel. That hula moves through me. Yeah.  Lineage comes from kūpuna. And then, the lineages that come from Kohala before that; it’s all of this that goes through this.  Yeah.  I cannot claim I own that.  I cannot claim that it’s actually from me.  It comes from a place, and it moves through me.  It has to.

 

And do you change it, by virtue of its having moved through you?

 

Oh; so a lot of the mele that we’ve learned from them, those mele still remain.  Mele that, like, from research and all those movements, all those things that we’ve shared with you, and what we’ve choreographed now; same style.  The style remains the same.  That’s how you continue that.

 

Nani Lim Yap of Kohala, Hawai‘i Island, has made a successful career as a member of The Lim Family, playing Hawaiian music with her brother Sonny and her sister Lorna at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and Mauna Lani Bay Hotel.  She also has been successful as a kumu hula, entering hālau into the Merrie Monarch Festival that have been perennial winners.  But even with all the success, surviving as a musician often means traveling outside the State.

 

The way to make money and to support your family the best, I take it, is if you fly away.

 

Yeah.  Now; now, yeah.  Because they want that music, they want to dance that hula.  Yeah.

 

What does that say that it’s not valued that much in Hawai‘i, in our commerce centers? Waikiki, which used to adore the entertainment.

 

Yeah.  Gotta bring that back.  I’m not sure how.

 

But Japan and who else?  Japan loves hula.

 

China, now.

 

China.

 

Yeah.  Sweden, Taiwan.

 

And you’ve been to all these places?

 

I’ve been to Taiwan to teach, I’ve been to Japan to teach.  People want me to come to China.  And I’m like: China?  Are you sure they’re ready for us?  I’d have to start, like, teaching them from the very beginning.  No; that’s what they want, they want it.  And yes, that is the place to make the money.

 

You know, I’m surprised you don’t have a fulltime family travel agent.  Because I know we’ve talked to your husband a lot in arranging appointments with you and your family, and he’s always booking flights, isn’t he?

 

He’s really good at it, that’s why.  There was a time when we … I’m not sure.  I think it was earlier in our hālau career, where we were booked by Hayden Holidays to go to the mainland, just like for about six years, we would do it. And he’d be the one; they’d book all the flights and everything for us, but he’d be the one.  Like, all right everyone, this is the last day, get everything together.  He gets everybody up, he gets everybody on the plane, he makes sure everybody is … so everybody knows him as Ed, the tour director.

 

Because he did that so well.

 

How does it work as a family?  I mean, I know there’s a family business, but there are several family members involved. And you all play in different combinations, in different cities, at different times.  I mean, so hard to keep track of you.

 

It is.

 

How does that work as a business?

 

Well … there was a time, I think, when we stopped doing the job at Mauna Lani, that we all decided to do other things.  So, my brother is a soloist.  He’s still there as a soloist, which was good for him. Yeah; it’s good for him, ‘cause then he can be expressive to his own type of thing.  And then, we’d have the Atrium job, which would be a combination of people.  So, Lorna would do that, and then my husband Ed would do that, and then my daughter Asia would help them do that.  And Asia learned how to play bass from her father, so that’s her instrument right now. So, all the different combinations. If she can’t go, then I would go down there and sing in that.

 

So, you can always find a family member who’s very versatile to jump in.

 

Best to do that.  Yeah; best to do that, is to keep your family together.  Keep your family together.  Then of course, my brother had his own Hawaiian group, too, with some of our local friends from Waimea and Kohala.  They were so good.  They played all the Eddie Kamae songs, ‘cause that was what their group loved to do that.  Yeah. And then, now he plays with a lot of other people.  Which is fine, as long as we’re not playing.  You know, The Lim Family together.

 

But it all seems to work out, no matter what.  You know, you’re hired to do all kinds of gigs, and it seems like you can kind of manage so many things at once, I guess because you have so many people who can jump in last minute.

 

Yes.  For our regular jobs, yes, people could take over for us.  Well, well, Mauna Lani just closed, yeah, so that job, we don’t have anymore.  For me, I’m kinda happy, because it was from the beginning of time, when they first opened.

 

And they’re doing renovations; right?

 

Yeah, renovations; yeah.  It’s gonna for a year and a half, I think, or almost two years. Something like that.  Yeah; so you know, we just have just the Mauna Kea show, and that’s all taken cared of.

 

Which means you can all travel more.

 

We can all travel more.  So, if Lorna goes away, then we have another emcee that we bring in from O‘ahu to do that.  And then, yeah.  And I’ve not gone back to that show for a while.  Yeah.  That is our show, though, but I’ve not gone there, ‘cause they’e good.

 

And what do you do instead?

 

I just hang out at home until somebody calls me to go to Japan.  No.

 

I just figure out when to go.  Like, at least every other month, I’m going to Japan. But if you met my students, they’re like Hawaiians.  They have so much aloha.  You know. And a lot of aloha for the culture. Yeah.

 

You’ve been with them a long time?

 

Long time.  Long time, they’ve been my students.

 

Why do you think Japan has embraced hula so closely?

 

Ooh; I think at first, it was, what they saw is what they liked.  Yeah? And then … gosh, I’m not sure.  I just think they just love everything about our hula.  The costumes, the flowers, the leis, the movements, you know, and some really want to graduate knowing, you know, hula as part of their lineage, you know.  So, I think they’re just moved by it.

 

And you know, Japan is very proud of its own lineage.  They’re very much into the past, as well.  So, to be so interested in another culture’s past, and to practice it.

 

Yeah.  And then, when we go over there, they want us to go to their temples.  Go to our temple, and could you do a blessing? What are you saying?  What is a blessing?  Maybe oli?  I said: Ooh, okay.  And then maybe do a dance.  Now, when you come to that kind of thought like in their temples, yeah, they’re wanting us to do their kind of culture, I had to stop and sit back, and think about. What is my purpose?  What am I going to leave or change in that space, that is going to make a difference?  Why are you wanting me to do this; yeah?  So, everything would have purpose and intention.

 

Have you ever thought of staying there for an extended period?

 

I thought about it.  I thought about living there.  And then, I thought: No, I wouldn’t like it.  And here’s the thing, is that if you live there, people will get your place, they’ll rent it, they’ll make sure it’s there, they’ll get you places to go and make a studio.  It’s amazing how much kōkua you can get from Japanese who want to …

 

They’ll take care of you because of what you do.

 

Who want to be able to learn hula.  Like, it’s almost amazing.  Then I said: No, I don’t think so.

 

They have so much hunger for it.

 

Yeah; it’s amazing.

 

I see in your career, you know, you’ve done very natural things.  I mean, you know, you’ve learned to research.  I mean, everything seems like, okay, that’s a good opportunity, I’ll take it, I’ll move into that.  But going to Japan doesn’t seem like a natural … you know. But it is, in terms of how the world has become.  Because Hawaii doesn’t put that kind of premium on the hula.

 

That’s true.  I was thirty-five years old, I think, was my first time to Japan.  And oh, my god, we loved it.  My mother went, too.  Was the first time in snow; fell on the ground.  My mother ran outside and she said: Oh, my god, it’s snow.  And we were like, so cold.  My mother was still out there, taking pictures of her in the snow. Well, we’re just not used to, to those kinds of things; yeah?  But that was our first time we ever went, was way up in Fukushima.  And we went for three weeks, four weeks.  That was hard.  Was hard, ‘cause we wanted to go back home so bad.

 

And yet you love the place, too.

 

And—yeah.

 

Yeah.

 

But that’s how long we’ve been going.  A long time.

 

That’s right.  So much travel.

 

Yeah; a long time.  And from that one event, our very first event, we had several people who wanted to be sensei who came to see us.  And now, they’re great sensei of hula in Japan.

 

Wow.

 

Yeah.  They have some of the biggest hālau.

 

What are your predictions for the future for hālau, and for The Lim Family?

 

Lim Family, we have another generation of musicians and dancers.

 

Who are they?  Who are your dancers and musicians?

 

Well, of course, Asia.

 

Your daughter.

 

Yeah.

 

Your son.

 

And Manaola, of course.

 

Nani Lim Yap’s son, Manaola Yap, is a widely known fashion designer.  He learned costuming from his mother, researching and designing fabrics to tell the stories of the dances and chants.

 

You know, he sings as well, he writes as well too. And of course, Asia plays the bass, she can sing as well, she sings with all of us.  Anuhea, my brother’s daughter, she plays slack key.  So, that’s another.  And then, of course, Lorna’s children are the two.  This past weekend was Keiki Merrie Monarch, and her youngest daughter won third place, and her hālau won third place.  And so, lots of hula.  The future is really wide open.

 

Mahalo to Nani Lim Yap of Hawai‘i Island, for sharing her Kohala style. And mahalo to you, for joining us. For 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.

 

No Kohala Ka Makani ʻĀpaʻapaʻa

 

by Sarah Pule

No Kohala ka makani ʻĀpaʻapaʻa

Ua kaulana ʻoe a haʻaheo

Ka nuku aʻo nākānaka

Ua piha hoʻi me ke aloha

 

No Kohala ka makani ʻĀpaʻapaʻa

Ua kaulana ʻoe a haʻaheo

Ka nuku aʻo nākānaka

Ua piha hoʻi me ke aloha

 

Ke aloha ʻāina ua ʻike ʻia

Ke aloha poina ʻole a kākou

Hoʻomanaʻo aʻe e lāe nākūpuna

ʻO ke aloha ʻo ia mau lā

 

Huli aku nānāi ka ulu hala

E kau mai ana lāi luna

Me Kona nani uluwehiwehi …

 

 

 

NĀ MELE: TRADITIONS IN HAWAIIAN SONG
More! Ledward Kaapana and Family

 

Ledward Kaapana remembers his Uncle Fred Punahoa playing the song “Radio Hula” in Kalapana: “In the morning, like one, two o’clock in the morning. In Kalapana, it’s so quiet, so… you know, and it’s dark, and so, he used to just sit outside on the porch, and play his guitar. I don’t know if you ever experienced sleeping…and hear one guitar just playing sweet music that just wake you up and like, ‘Oh, so sweet,’” Kaapana remembers. “Radio Hula” is one of the songs that Ledward Kaapana, along with his sisters Lehua Nash, Rhoda Kekona, and Lei Aken play in his Kaneohe garage on a rainy evening. They also share an energetic slack key performance of “Kuu Ipo Onaona,” and Ledward honors the late Dennis Kamakahi with “Kokee.”

 

 

NĀ MELE: TRADITIONS IN HAWAIIAN SONG
Peter Medeiros

NA MELE Peter Medeiros

 

Slack key artist Peter Medeiros, accompanied by guitarist Josh Silva and bass player Nate Stillman, presents a fun evening of traditional slack key. Joining the trio are the dancers of Pua Ali‘i ‘Ilima, led by kumu hula Vicky and Jeff Kānekaiwilani Takamine. Songs performed include “Ulili E,” “He‘eia,” “Ke Ala O Ka Rose” and “Kananaka.”

 

 

 

NĀ MELE: TRADITIONS IN HAWAIIAN SONG
The Royal Hawaiian Band

NA MELE Royal Hawaiian Band

 

Founded in 1836 by King Kamehameha III, the Royal Hawaiian Band has
provided audiences the world over with a continual connection to Hawai‘i’s
royal heritage. During this vintage concert set on the grounds of historic
Iolani Palace, Bandmaster Aaron Mahi pays tribute to one of his predecessors,
Henry Berger, Royal Hawaiian Bandmaster from 1871 to 1915 and sometimes called
the “Father of Hawaiian music.”

 

 

NĀ MELE
George Winston (Plays Slack Key)

NĀ MELE  George Winston (Plays Slack Key)

 

This vintage episode presents a rare solo slack key concert with George Winston, best known the world over for his evocative piano music, musical interpretations of the ever-changing seasons of his childhood Montana home. But ki ho‘alu, slack key guitar music, has been his passion for many years. In this NĀ MELE classic, Winston performs his “Montana-ized” versions of such slack key classics as: “Sweet Lei Mamo” by Charles Hopkins; “None Hula” by Lena Machado; and Leonard Kwan’s “Nahe Nahe.”

 

 

 

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