THEM BONES, THEM AKU BONES…

In days long gone, did your family enjoy fried aku bones (the bones of the aku, with some flesh still on), to have an oh-so-ono dinner or lunch?

For an earlier generation, fried aku bones was — and still is a–  delicacy. That’s if you can find ‘em.

When salted and peppered with or without a dash of chili flakes, and fried in your cast iron skillet, aku bones are a treat. Broke da mouth ono! Add shoyu, and it’s perfection; Finger -licking good, with apologies to Colonel Sanders.

It was such a treat to have these cast-away bones for a meal. Markets, particularly with a local butcher, used to sell ‘em alongside the fresh aku. It even used to be considered a throw-away thing, but many hungry souls adored this treat, and if you were lucky enough to find these bones to buy, you were lucky, lucky, lucky.

If your family has fishermen who catch aku, you know there’s a treasure amid the catch.

It’s probably a thing of the past, but just wondering: do you know any market that still sells ‘em?

And when was the last time you ate aku bones?

DELIMA: NEW BRUNCH TRADITION?

Seems like a new tradition is in the making at Blue Note Hawaii: A Mother’s Day Brunch Show, with Frank DeLima as its toastmaster, cheerleader and centrifugal source.

DeLima, perhaps Hawaii’s favorite comedian, is known for cheerful pokes and punches to Hawaii’s rainbow of ethnicities. And wow, he was hot and happening this morning (May 8), delivering his best show ever, with plenty of howls and hoots indicative of a winnah!

He doesn’t leave anyone out, and his jabs to Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Filipino and Portuguese folks might potentially be racist in other hands. Not with this gentle giant of stand-ups; at 72, he knows his audience and struts cautiously devoid of foul language; his stance always is jovial as he celebrates, not slashes, cultural differences.  He’s becoming a sit-down comic, too, as he navigates aches here and there like the rest of us elders. The bottom line: His humor does not condemn;  he laughs with you, not at you; the gags are like the proverbial sugar that helps the medicine go down. 

DeLima, in Korean costume.

DeLima was a bona fide sellout at the club within the Outrigger Waikiki resort, so calendar planners and bookers should contemplate signing him up for 2023. Now.

He’s seasoned at plucking folks from the audience. He’s also truly extemporaneous, and anything that comes to his mind reflects a quick wit that hasn’t lost that comic spark. He’s highly spontaneous, ad-libbing and jabbing away, and yep, he’s totally in control of his antics.

Clearly, this gig – he’s played the Blue Note previously, in evening gigs — demonstrated that he’s acclimated to the environment, evoking happy laughter. Clubgoers also are eager to get out and explore the new normal after two-and-a-half years of shutdown, and DeLima connected  — the right act at the perfect time and occasion– with the mostly local crowd with precision and power. And moms at perhaps every other table.

DeLima as Imelda Marcos.

He didn’t mention it, so I will; when he trekked on stage, the space was curiously filled with covered-up instruments belonging to  Tower of Power, the blues-pop giants, in a multi-day gig through Sunday night.

No matter, DeLima navigated a show, demonstrating his power of tolerance, in the minimal space he was allowed.

Some highlights:

  • His Imelda Marcos parody, with oversized wig, specs and green-black dress with toaster-shaped sleeves — had a two-pronged charm: he shared memories of her visit to The Noodle Shop, back in the early days of his Waikiki tenure, and relived that memory with her shoe-biz notoriety, making “What I Did for Love” anthem a gem. And surprise, he added “Downtown,” as an ode to Bong Bong, the Marcos son, but the jewel was the unexpected Christmas lights of his “Filipino Christmas” shtick, with the lights glowing whenever the lyrics mentioned Bong Bong. Nothing like a holiday boost in May.
DeLima in Chinese motif.
  • His Chinese character, Foo Ling Yu, was a gamemaster in a “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” parody, accented in Chinese with a dude named Lava from the crowd. It’s so familiar to so many, but everytime he stages this, it’s a new laugh-machine all over again.
  • Koreans were chided in a pair of satirical tunes, “Koreaumoku,” to the melody of “On the Street Where You Live” because Keeaumoku Street  has been notoriously known for the Korean bars on that block, and “Korea,” a ballad about a girl rendered to “Maria,” the song from “West Side Story.” So much kim-cheer here.
  • The Japanese were targeted for their “boxey” four-syllabled names, like Yamashiro, Ariyoshi, and yes, sukiyaki.
  • An Asian-Okinawan sector included his body-padded sumotori prancing about, and dancing in the Okinawan style as well as the bon-odori “Tanko Bushi.”
  • He introduced the “Portuguese shrug,” with shoulders signaling an “I dunno”  response. No words, just action, and the crowds chuckled.
  • His adoration and aloha to Bruno Mars – yes, he does talk about Bruno, despite the Disney-originated saying otherwise – and zipped out two Mars classics “Just the Way You Are” and “24 K Magic.”
DeLima in sumotori get-up.

Yes, he walks with a pair of canes these days, one for the left and the right hands, which he jokingly said he resembles a praying mantis, but the truth of the matter is he continues to have mobility issues with hip and legs. Thus, he sits through part of his performance, and stands when necessary, and indulges in character costume change before your eyes, slipping in and out of garments with the kokua of an aide.

He describes his two-member band, comprised of Bobby Nishida (bass) and David Kauahikaua (electric keyboard) as his Senior Citizen Band, since they’ve been his trusty sidekicks for more than three decades. That loyalty has to be applauded and admired.

Bobby Nishida and David Kauahikaua, DeLima’s newly-dubbed Senior Citizen Band.

DeLima, like other Waikiki acts, has been struggling to find venues to do shows, and his last “regular” space, prior to the pandemic, was the Pagoda Restaurant.

He used to joke that wherever he worked before, the performance space shut down, including venue as diverse as the Queen Kapiolani Hotel the Polynesian Palace and the Hula Hut.

Enter, the Blue Note., which programmed a splendid Mother’s Day brunch menu for the DeLima performance, and it appeared that most folks ordered the sampler dessert plate, the medley of three Spam musubi, the mammoth quiche with salad, and the kalua pork breakfast burrito, among others. Happily, the wait-staffers  were able to take orders and deliver platters very swiftly and  efficiently, far better than the usual nighttime food service, so the club’s kitchen  protocols were in high performance mode. Thank you, very much!

Again, a DeLima brunch at Mother’s Day was a splendid option instead of a pricey Sunday buffet, so should be considered as an annual ritual. A Christmas brunch (vs.nighttime) also might convert the Blue Note into a day club, tapping DeLima as an option for December. Hey, why not? …

And that’s Show Biz. …

RECALLING THE DAY I WAS FIRED…

Today, March 29, is a dubious but memorable milestone for me. It was the first time ever that I was fired from a job…two years ago.

It was the day my last Show Biz column was published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

I had a full-on career for 44 ½ years, mostly at the Honolulu Advertiser, longer if you count a couple of prior years I worked (while in high school) for a Sunday tabloid called Hawaii’s Youth, which the Advertiser published, tapping six youths from different high schools to do reportorial chores. That was the infancy of my journey as a journalist.

The conclusion of my print career happened – while free-lanching for the Star-Advertiser — when the COVID 19 pandemic was festering, but not in a manner I anticipated. I skipped the first anniversary of my dismissal, but decided to reflect belatedly  on that awkward instance when I was terminated.

This was the last Show Biz column, in the Honolullu Star-Advertiser, March 29, 2020,

An abrupt call from my immediate editor at the newspaper brought my service to an end; she said all freelance contributors had to be released to cut production costs. OK, I accepted the decision and the dismissal, agreeing that if there were to be cost considerations, freelancers should go before fulltime staff. How naive of me.

That bottom-line alibi turned out to be an outright lie. In retrospect, I was one of only two contributors – the other was Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi, the esteemed travel writer – who were immediately erased from the ranks. No two-week notice consideration, which is customary in the trade, but a freelancer has virtually no privileges.

I would have expected the courtesy of doing an aloha column – you know, a reflective piece on the joy of writing about folks and events here and elsewhere – to simply say mahalo for the mana‘o and memories shared over the years.

But here’s the thing that bothered me then and still is snarled in my memory. By the end of the week, and over the next few weeks, I noticed that the paper continued to retain a corps of contributors, who report and write weekly for a very nominal fee (one has told me he columnizes for free). Still happening, in the third season of the pandemic, because the paper relies on outsiders to produce stories or opinion pieces to augment the daily news gathering. The freelance pay is so minimal, it’s gas money at best.
What irked me is that my editor – and perhaps other management staffers – did not have the decency to speak the truth; the selective termination decision came from a higher-upper, the publisher – and my supervisor never challenges her boss. “I need my paycheck,” she once revealed, and thus would neither question nor discuss matters concerning replaceable hired hands. Do as told, or head for the exit door.

My tenure at the paper included a dozen years of freelancing columns after I retired which notably meant I had been part of the reportorial scene for more than 50 years.

One door closed but another opened In May of 2021, I launched my own website and resumed the Show Biz column/blog, much like the old days but, at a pace I can  freely handle in retirement.

Still doing it, even attracting readers from the past, and the tempo varies – with a mix of columns and reviews and reflections – because I still maintain  twice-a-week PT sessions, frequent doctor visits, and occasional lunches or dinners with friends and family.

Samples of this year’s crop of Easter-season pins.

I am quite busy, thank you, in different ways. Like, I still create my hand-made Wild Cards, note cards with local-themed motifs. And I do annual lapel pins for Valentine’s, Easter, Halloween and Christmas, adding a limited amount of. yuletide table decorations as gifts to family and friends, including former colleagues and a roster of island entertainers.

With chronic back pain, I proceed  activities with caution. Had a procedure done during the pandemic that involved the implantation of a battery in my butt, with wires connected to my spine. It’s an alternative pain management procedure (yes, I said no to actual back surgery).

So I lumber on, doing what’s doable when the mood hits.

Nope, there’s no salary; my monthly pension checks go directly into a bank account.

I have no editor, thus no outside stress, and  nope, I can’t be fired.  I can take a coffee or lemonade break when I want one and sometimes factor in a deserved short nap.

I’ve found my passion, set my own clock, and proceed to Do It, too, to keep the mind and spirit alive. I have no staff, unless you count my wife who catches typos frequently. My Apple MacBook Pro and my Apple iPhone are my work-related resources.

I learn from yesterday, as I live through today, and anticipate a cheery tomorrow.

Meanwhile, at the paper, the newsroom no longer has that buzz because – much like those dutiful freelancers — the reportorial staffers work from home. Something’s just not right here … newspapering is not what it used to be.

Wayne Harada’s Show Biz column regularly appears at https://www.wayneharada.com

THE LOST ART OF PUBLIC RELATIONS…

Public Relations – PR for short –  is a lost art these days.

As a journalist for more than five decades, I’ve had professional relationships with a number of Hawaii PR people who were essential in the hospitality community, because they were the key that could open doors for access to VIPs or notables in a variety of situations. It could have been a visiting actor working on a film, a budding chef in the culinary world, a singer-dancer in a touring or local theatrical production.

PR had a prime role in media communication.

It used to be that a PR wizard could connect the dots with media to arrange print interviews or land a spot on the morning or evening newscasts for the broadcast industry or arrange a live radio gig.

Very often, media folks knew the PR resources better than their big bosses, simply because spokesmen or spokeswomen were the gateway to data or providers of clues for reportorial types. Times have change, and I’m wondering: What’s happened to PR people?

Maybe it’s me, already retired and doing my own thing, that I’ve lost contact with the PR world. I don’t do hotel or theater runs like I did back in the day. Then again, many orgs with PR services operate strictly via emails and an infrequent phone call. It’s the new normal now.

Remember when a Rolodex ruled?

Thus, PR pros are an endangered species, for sure. My contact list these days are scanty, with only a few PR names; back in the day, my Rolodex (Google that!) had a bunch of rPR esources on individual cards on file.

Those I’ve known in the past have retired, have relocated, have been removed, hopefully joyfully after their service. A few have died.

I was reflecting on publicists of the past — the women and the rare few men — who had a hand in the PR brigades of the past. This serves, thus,  as an expression of mahalo to these behind-the-scenes heroes of another era.

Doyenne of publicists

Elissa “Lis” Josephsohn, a PR doyenne

The late Elissa “Lisa” Josephsohn easily was the doyenne of powerhouse publicists, whose clients ranged from restaurants to theater companies, and opera to symphony clients, who knew how to partner her clients  with entertainment ventures  to building up the dining and performance arts in Honolulu. Over three decades, her clients included Sunset Grill, the Black Orchid, Ruth Chris Steak House, Compadres, Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Palomino, Dixie Grill, Victoria Station, Rose City Diner and Auntie Pasto’s, plus the Honolulu Symphony, Ballet Hawaii, the Hawaii Theatre, Diamond Head Theatre. Her signature theater clients included the producers with original Canadian  and domestic roots, staging the likes of “CATS,” “Les Miserables,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” and “Miss Saigon,” at the Blaisdell Concert Hall in an era that there was a drought of bona fide touring companies of stage attractions; her passion help create the foundation and a  template for future producers to make the leap to give Hawaii a chance, which opened doors for future legit theater in the islands.

Name-dropping

To name-drop, other pioneering PR directors included:

  •  Dee Dickson, Jeanne Park Datz, and Woody Chock of the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
  • Jere Bostwick, of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.
  • Kay Ahearn, of the Kahala Hilton.
  • Joyce Matsumoto and Erika Kauffman, of the Halekulani Hotel.
  • Nancy Daniels, of the Outrigger Hotels and the Kahala resort.
  • Bobbie Watson, of the Ilikai Hotel.
  • Sheila Donnelly, of the Hawaiian Regent (she was a publicist servicing her client from her own offices, not physically attached to the hotel).
  • David McNeil, of the Ala Moana Hotel (he, too, worked from his own PR firm downtown).
  • Patti Cook, of the Willows restaurant.

Surely, there are many more from the past, who should merit a nod; and hopefully, there are a new breed in a quest to reestablish the importance of PR.

REMEMBERING NEWSPAPERING, WHEN EARLIER CONTENT MATTERED

The daily paper ain’t what it used to be.

If you haven’t been a subscriber or reader of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in recent years, you’d be stunned with the three-section oddity with former stand-alone sections conjoined and consolidated like Siamese twins.

Happily, sports finally and deservedly has its own a stand-alone section. ;

The coronavirus pandemic, now into its third year, has dramatically affected advertising revenues, triggering downsizing of the paper’s space and staff; survivors earlier experienced “furloughs” reflecting a 20 per cent paycut.  And since last fall, the Star-Advertiser newsroom was virtually shut down, with most reporters working from home, saving office space costs for their employer.

It’s a worrisome challenge about what’s happening at the daily paper.

The Wednesday food tabloid — with earlier take-out restaurant offers– now is back to dine-in options, with the Sunday Dining Out tab (which was Dining In at the height of coronavirus) also resuming to peddle on-site dining.

For more than a year, a Saturday print edition was eliminated, so print signees have to navigate an online edition. It takes an effort to call up stories and the site boasts a recap of the Friday edition of USA Today.

The strangest calamity is Sunday’s Detours/Travel; it’s a features section with marginal focus, with some local articles, plenty of wire stories and puzzles. Since travel is returning as more planes fly, the pics of those travelers who’ve discovered a Hawaii shop or restaurant is the best link to life in the new normal.

As a lifelong print reader and a career journalist, I’m simultaneously concerned and dismayed that perhaps someday, the Star-Advertiser may become exclusively on-line.  It is simpler to manage, easily updatable, and likely an option to reduce further costs.

Longtime subscribers (me included) are largely seniors — old habits are hard to eliminate — and it’s no secret young folks don’t read newspapers. Repeating: Young. Folks. Don’t. Read. Newspapers.

Book buffs can relate; turning pages and enjoying the scent of a new volume is akin to flipping pages of a paper smelling like newsprint ink. Online and tablet-reading may be convenient but is not user-friendly.

Reading habits have dramatically changed over time. Remember when families could easily share sections— main news, sports, features, business  — because they were stand-alones. No more, however.

When the potential staff cuts were announced in the midst of the pandenmic, I was stunned to learn two columnists —Lee Cataluna and Christine Donnelly — were on the endangered list, but Cataluna revealed on her Facebook page that she chose to voluntarily exit the paper, to spend the summer completing writing projects (she’s a somebody, of course, in playwrighting) then joined the staff of Civil Beat in the  fall to resume her reportorial skills. Their win, a loss for the paper.

Donnelly’s retention meant that her Kokua Line column, which resolves and covers a myriad of community and governmental issues particularly important in these coronavirus times, continues. Smart move.

That Cataluna and Donnelly even were on the potential cut list in the first place was astonishing. They are essential in the content of a metropolitan daily. They bring daily sunshine into dark corners, providing the essence what a paper does. Inform, sometimes amuse; educate, sometimes entertain.

Content matters because it reflects who and what the paper is. In that sense, content should reflect the community, too,

From the perspective of someone who’s been part of the paper for nearly 60 years, 45 of which as a full-timer, it hurts personally to see the state’s lone paper is struggling. There used to be two, remember, the Honolulu Advertiser and the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Competition was essential in reportage; today, a monopoly rules.

As a cub reporter, at the smaller Advertiser morning publication, I was humbled to work and compete with the evening Star-Bulletin, which championed the race for a time. But the Advertiser, which for decades was a locally-owned and operating paper thanks to its late publisher Thurston Twigg-Smith, eventually surpassed the SB to become the dominant print voice in the state. The Advertiser also built a new press in Kapolei, shuttering the ancient behemoth on Kapiolani Boulevard and eventual vacating the premises now occupied by a business. Sad day for us oldtimers.

I think the Advertiser became the paper of choice over time because of its content, its diversity, and its esprit de corps.  It was always a fun place to work, with writers and columns that nurtured the publication’s growth.

Ironically, while in high school, I won a Star-Bulletin-supported scholarship to attend the University of Hawaii, and after I graduated, sought a job at the Bulletin. But there were no openings then, but the Advertiser did, and I was hired.

It was thrilling to be in the circle of local talent that filled the pages of the Advertiser. Surely, you remember Bob Krauss, who wrote about his family a lot (in the old days, his column was titled “In One Ear”) but he chronicled trends and notables in the community thereafter.  The paper hired a married couple, Ele and Walt Dulaney, who put a spin on local advice for youths —diversity in action, since she was Japanese and he was haole.

Then there was the dean of the three-dot column, Eddie Sherman, who dropped bold face names of the famous and infamous, an inspiration in my eventually destiny at the paper.

And there was the unlikely but fabled Sammy Amalu, the only ex-con columnist in Hawaii’s history, who shared his love particularly of things and themes Hawaiian.

Harry Lyons was the resident editorial cartoonist (OK, the Bulletin had a dandy, too, in Corky Trinidad) and both artists created powerful cartoons — with politicos eager to purchase their original cartoons that appeared in the editorial pages (or accompanying news or features in both papers). When both died, their slots were not filled.

You remember the queen of household hints, Heloise? She authored the Hints from Heloise column in the Advertiser —a feature so popular, it was syndicated —and certainly the most famous of the Advertiser alumni.

And my buddy, Scoops Casey Kreger, authored the Ms. Fixit column, which competed with the SB’s Kokua Line originated by Harriet Gee. These Q&A columns probably were the most popular in the paper’s content because they tackled everything from governmental red tape to complaints about potholes to wee-hour noisemaking.

Among other notable Advertiser columnists was Cobey Black, whose profiles and interviews of the rich and famous were part of the feature section.

That was the community I knew in my early years at the Advertiser. It was Buck Buchwach, a managing editor who became editor, who tapped me to become the Advertiser’s first and only entertainment editor-columnist. He nurtured and shaped Sherman’s column, thanks to his interest in the Hollywood scene prior to his Hawaii residency, enabled a local boy to carry on the tradition.

Regular entertainment news and features are a rarity these days; while theater and clubs are beginning to bloom and rebuild, movie screens have reopened with mostly scanty titles and the occasional blockbuster like “Spider-Man” and “The Batman.”  What the pandemic has done is to impact movie-going is clear. Most folks stopped going to a theater during the crisis and got accustomed to streaming films on TV instead. Old habits don’t die, but they kill businesses attempting to reestablish old hangouts.

The performing arts have been a stepchild in recent years, battered by the pandemic, but have never had the muscle, or moolah, to become a resonant and relevant voice in the community. Artists and their expression are vital in media; the paper’s role in this process has been erratic and dismal during the pandemic, Remember TGIF, the weekly tabloid over the decades? It was aborted before the pandemic and replaced with a broadsheet, which was halted during the cutbacks and never restored. Sad.

But when you’re the only game in town, you’ve got power and prowess to set your own rules.

Notice? If you call the paper or a reporter these days, there’s a security tier that blocks your access unless you have had previous minimal clearance.

It’s no longer easy to communicate, even if communication is the core and the heart of a thriving publication.