The real star of HBO/HBO Max’s “The White Lotus” is the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea. Location! Location! Location!

Though the brand’s name is never utilized in the show, the property’s luxurious ambience — from suites to pools, from dining facilities to an abundance of beachfront cabanas –is the perfect site that suits the unending and unapologetic vibes of the rich-and-conflicted clientele depicted in Mike White’s dramady of manners, or lack thereof, set in a Pacific resort.

The six-parter which debuted this past Sunday (July 11) — with airing of new episodes for the next few Sundays — provides an intimate and outrageous portrait of disgruntled travelers of privilege. Its satiric strokes and pokes at the disrespectful wealthy arrives at a time – real time – when Maui and much of the rest of Hawaii resorts are coping with too many visitors and not enough workhands, and this tongue-in-cheek treatment presents one-sided evidence that travelers are a pain in the derriere.

Hotel workers welcome a band of travelers, in the first episode of HBO/HBO Max’s “The White Lotus.”

So the nuisance of overtourism rears an ugly head.

Exaggerated, yes, like the newlywed groom, complaining endlessly about not being in the honeymoon suite, while the bride tries to comfort him and explaining to the hotel’s front desk manner that the accommodations are fine, disputing her hubby.

Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge), a woman traveling with the remains of her late mom, seeks Belinda (Nathasha Rothwell), a masseuse and spa manager, to ease her backaches, and she is the essence of someone who also is a pain in the butt, clinging to the massage whiz like opihi on rock, but a good tipper.

It’s fantasy, of course, and clearly represents the myriad of mishaps and the multitude of complainants within the community of a hotel. The tale could easily be set on a luxury liner or at summer camp, with similar implications. In reality, the “Lotus” cast and crew set up house and workplace, at the pricey Four Seasons last October through December, when most everyplace else had shut down due to the pandemic.

As guests arrive via boat (presumably from a nearby island, after a formal flight), hotel manager Armond (Murray Bartlett) and newbie trainee Lani (Jolene Purdy) welcome the visitors each with different complaints.

The hotelier realizes that the privileged have a thirst for attention, so the squeaky wheels abound and catering to the requests is the key option.  

There’s suspense, too; so “Lotus” will evolve into a peeling murder mystery in the weeks to come.

The good news, however sparse: There are three islanders in the cast, though one wonders if this is a credit worth boasting about. Loretta Ables Sayre shows up in one scene; if you blink, you’ll miss her. Kekoa Scott Kekumano will recur as hotel employee Kai.  Brad Kalilimoku appears as a paddler, though in an uncredited role.

The bad news: In the opener, there were two somewhat startling scenes; Lani, the trainee, is hapai and her water breaks right next to the front desk.Traveler Mark Mossbacher (Steve Zahn), not only reveals he has a medical issue, testicular cancer, but he shows his junk – presumably not really his, but stand-in privates. It’s mockingly queasy stuff.

Perhaps the future episodes will render more startling scenes with less offensive results. The Four Seasons  likely will remain the star, and perhaps welcome guests who may want to stay in the rooms of the “Lotus” cast. Without the baggage of whines.


Kevin McCollum, an executive producer of the just-released “In the Heights” musical film, brings an island link to the summer’s first hit film.

McCollum, who earlier co-produced “Heights” in its Broadway incarnation, has had a New York career spanning 25 years. He has earned the Tony Award for Best Musical for “In the Heights” (2008), “Avenue Q” (2004) and “Rent” (1996).  In the upcoming Broadway season beginning Sept. 14, McCollum will be represented with “Six” and “Mrs. Doubtfire,” two newbies on Broadway.

He also previously produced “Motown: The Musical,” “Something Rotten,” “Hand to God” and “The Drowsy Chaperone” on Broadway.

Kevin McCollum

His film credit this year will be the new vision of an old favorite, “West Side Story,” directed by Steven Spielberg.

McCollum was born in Hawaii, the son of Sue McCollum Gereben; she  appeared in “Hawaii Five-0” and was active with media groups including the Honolulu Press Club. …

Meaningful numbers

In the aforementioned “In the Heights,”  there’s a bunch of numbers for a hot lottery ticket, and the sum of $96,000 as the amount of the prize.

Jon M. Chu, who directed the film, has a particular interest in figures, so the 96,000 number is the title of the lavish water and swimming pool production number.

But New York Magazine’s Vulture wing also reports the background story on the lottery ticket number: 5-7-16-26-33.

Turns out Chu’s wife Kristin Hodge was hapax with their second son, the film was being shot, and as the director of “Crazy Rich Asians” shared this cooky series of reasons of why those figs were assembled: 5 is his wife’s birthday month; 7-16 is their daughter’s birthday; 7-26 is their anniversary date and also the due date of their son.

“When I showed my wife (the numbers), she was like, ‘You know our anniversary is the 27th, right? And the baby is due on the 27th,” he was quoted. But a few weeks after the shoot, the boy was born … on July 26, “so he had my back,” said Chu. And rightfully, the toddler was named Jonathan Heights Chu. Imagine the story he’ll share when he grows up. …

Fashion focus

Bruno Mars says his fashion muse is Cher.

Bruno Mars

Well, maybe he was kidding when asked whose style inspired him.

InStyle interviewed Mars, the superstar from Hawaii, and Mars credited Cher as his muse. The changed his mind and said he is his own muse.

Amusing? Maybe.

Mars is the inspiration behind his Ricky Regal lifestyle brand, named after his alter ego, and the Lacoste fashion house describes the Mars product thusly: “Inspired by a lust for life and an entrepreneurial Midas touch.”  It’s a luxurious but sporty line. …

The Emmy goes to …

The Honolulu Theatre for Youth, Hawaii News Now, and Ballet Hawaii were bestowed regional Emmy awards recently from the Northern California competition.

HTY’s TV show, “The HI Way,” earned three awards:

  • For Arts/Entertainment – Long Format: “Da Holidays: The HI Way” (NMG Network/HTY), Jason Cutinella, Katie Pickman, exec producers; Eric Johnson, producer.
  • For Arts/Entertainment – Long Format: “Pono: The HI Way.” Same creators.
  • For Informational/Instructional – Long Form content: “Racism: The HI Way,” episode eight. Same creators.

Hawaii News Now won three::

  • For Hard News Report – “On the Frontline: Honolulu EMS,”  KGMB/KHNL Hawaii News Now. Allyson Blair, reporter; Jonathan Suyat, photographer.
  • For Historic/Cultural – Long Format: “Queen Liliuokalani Keiki Hoike,” KGMB/KHNL Hawaii News Now,” Guy Sibilla, Wendy Suite, exec producers; Mary Beth McClelland, producer; Josephine Kristine, director-editor; Kennedy Carson and Lacy Deniz, hosts.
  • For Spot Announcement/Campaign – “Ballet Hawaii’s #Arts Beyond Covid,” KGMB/KHNL Hawaii News Now/Ballet Hawaii. Pamela Taylor Tongg, exec producer; Stasia Droze Jost, producer-director-writer-editor; Deborah Glazer, producer-director-writer-editor…

And that’s “Show Biz.” …


For the first time since the coronavirus pandemic started 16 months ago, I finally had the courage to see a movie in an actual theater last night (June 10).  The coronavirus had been a threat for months.

The lure was “In the Heights,” the highly anticipated film version of the Lin-Manuel Miranda Broadway musical, which I saw at Consolidated’s Ward Centre complex. It was a 5:10 p.m. screening, a day ahead of today’s (June 11) national release date in theaters across America (also streaming on HBO Max).

ANTHONY RAMOS as Usnavi and MELISSA BARRERA as Vanessa in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “IN THE HEIGHTS,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Till now, in my opinion, there hasn’t been a bona fide gotta-see-it-in-a-theater-attraction till “Heights” arrived. It’s this summer’s first big hit (it can’t fail), with Anthony Ramos (“Hamilton,” “A Star Is Born”) playing Usnavi, a bodega owner originally portrayed by Miranda on stage. Of course, Miranda co-wrote the musical and the new film in collaboration with Quiara Alegria Hudes.

Advice: Don’t be afraid of “Heights.”  This is a true Hollywood musical, masterfully directed by Jon M. Chu (“Crazy Rich Asians”), with dash and splash and hip-hop songs aplenty. Parallel love stories co-exist with spectacles, and there are many exhilarating moments, like hundreds of agile dancers hip-hopping, popping, boogieing in the streets when they’re not prancing and swimming in a spectacular old-fashioned kaleidoscopic water ballet scene in the Highbridge Pool (shot from overhead, natch). The latter is an homage to the Esther Williams-Busby Berkeley tradition,  and a feel-good, high energy vibe of real people doing real things with real dreams and real pain.

In other words, a worthy and relevant documentation of Washington Heights folks – largely Puerto Rican and Latino, with some blacks and whites — bonding and connecting in New York’s Upper West Side, struggling to make a buck, sort out conflicts in life, worrying about college payments, dreaming of winning the lottery of $96,000, and fearful and deprived of a planned black-out to ease the strain of power providers during a summer of intense heat.

The common denominator in the film and its populace is the keen and continuous dream and gleam of winning the lottery, and what to do, if and when.  Move out of the hood? Invest in a new shop? Pay off college debt?  Fantasy and reality meet head on, in a fusion of hope and the sense of community and culture is steadfast. And whoa, what a sweet dance scene when lovers in a tenement porch suddenly start moving up the walls amid ACs and steps in one of the most endearing moments of romantic fantasy

They key characters are modest icons of folks in any community. Usnavi’s gal Vanessa (Melissa Barrera) wants to exit to downtown, for a new life; Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV), the young assistant cousin of Usnavi at the store, wishes for computers to share with his barrio buds; the senoritas at the local beauty salon want to scoot to Atlantic City in pursuit of joy.

Cuba in the ’40s, she delivers a poignant “Paciencia y Fe,” reflecting the hardship of emigration.

And Jimmy Smits appears as Kevin Rosario, a cab service owner caught in a financial bind and his daughter Nina’s (Leslie Grace ) conflicted status as a collegial student or drop out

Two cameos are worth noting. Miranda appears as the piragua (shave ice) peddler; Christopher Jackson (“Hamilton,” “Bull”) is the scene-stealing dude in the Mister Softee van.

The presence of the George Washington Bridge, looming down the street, gives “Heights” an immediate sense of time and place, standing watch over the trials and tribulations of a community pride.

Ramos, with his charming, freckled face, likely will emerge as filmdom’s next big star, and being a Latino will help bridge the gap on diversity issues. His smile is genuine, his heart gigantic, he manages to leap from the crowd scenes to create a warm, convincing leading man.


Steve Iwamoto, a Hawaii resident and a late-blooming actor, stars in
“I Was a Simple Man,” which has been acquired by Strand Releasing for North America screenings.

Turns out that Iwamoto is the first cousin of singer-turned-business-guru Kevin Iwamoto, aka Kevin I, the singer.

“You can clearly see the family resemblance,” says Kevin. “He’s the son of my dad’s older brother.”

Steve Iwamoto

The fact that cousin Steve stars opposite Constance Wu in this film was a mild surprise. That it had its premiere this year at the Sundance Film Festival was joyous.

Kevin Iwamoto

“I always thought for years that I was the only one in the family with the creative gene, but my cousin proves it existed, albeit later in life,” says Kevin.

The film, by Christopher Makoto Yogi, is described as a lyrical ghost story set in an Oahu countryside. It is rich in familial struggles with terminal illness, caregiving, obligations, but wider elements like respect and mortality. Steve plays Masao, whose sunset years are fading due to failing health as estranged family members strive to provide the support and care he needs.

When Masao is visited by his deceased wife Grace (Wu) where the ghost strand unfolds, he is forced to face the decisions of his past.

The multi-generational film features an ensemble of Asian American and Native Hawaiian actors beyond the two leads, including Kanoa Goo, Tim Chiou and Chanel Akiko Hirai. Its simplicity, with the ghost-story element, provides serenity as well as suspense.

Wu might be remembered for her roles in the zany hit film “Crazy Wild Asians” and the TV series “Fresh Off the Boat.”

No indication yet if “I Was a Simple Man,” clearly more art film than blockbuster summer fare, might be shown here. …

Lee Cataluna has a bold pace this summer

Lee Cataluna

No rest for Lee Cataluna, a former colleague from our newspapering days, this summer.

As she announced on Facebook, the prolific playwright when she’s not writing for Civil Beat, faces a busy two months. So  she’s on leave as a journalist till Aug. 1.

This is her agenda of projects, by numbers:

1 — She’s been commissioned by the San Francisco Playhouse to write a play.

2 — There’s an upcoming play reading with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

3 — She’s working on another play, from a ReImagine grant.

4 – She’s prepping an anthology of four of her works, to be published next year.

5 – She’s committed to do a piece for Dramatic Publishing and Childsplay.

So the next two months will be extremely fantastic and productive.

You know, if you know me, that Lee wrote “You Somebody” with me in mind, which was produced twice in sell-out productions at Diamond Head Theatre.

And yes, I recall our conversation when she yearned to be in my “Show Biz” column, print edition, some years before she ultimately became a “somebody” herself.

So Lee, this is my first online column that mentions you. In usual boldface, of course. And enjoy your fruitful summer …

Trump’s blog site is history

One dude who won’t have a happy summer is former President Donald Trump. His blog – established after social media sources such as Twitter and Facebook banned him because of untruths he posted, alleging the election was stolen from him  – has been permanently shut down less than a month after it was established.

The blog, titled “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump,” is history, according to online sources such as CNBC and Variety. The site had a lukewarm response and was mocked by some sources.

“It will not be returning,” his senior aide Jason Miller said on CNBC. He added that the website blog was part of an auxiliary plan “to the broader efforts we have and are working on.”

Trump was effective with his online rants, until he was suspended, then ultimately banned, on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Google over his role in inciting the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, a charge the ex-pres has denied, claiming “free speech has been taken away from the President.” …

And that’s “Show Biz.” …


“You Had Me at Aloha,” a rom-com filmed in Hawaii, will premiere June 5 on the Hallmark Channels.

It features Hallmark regulars Pascale Hutton as Paige and Kavan Smith as Ben in a familiar template of the collision of romantic and occupational friction before a happy ending.

When a popular travel show host resigns, the network taps Paige (Hutton) as the replacement host for the coming season in Hawaii. But she doesn’t know that the network also hired Ben (Smith)  who becomes a thorn in the picture. The two co-hosts clash with each other over opposing ideas but eventually learn – in Hallmark tradition – that co-existence in side-by-side jobs can wind up happily.

Hutton and Smith, in “You Had Me at Aloha.”

Other actors include Jennifer Asplund as Millie, Valen Ahlo as Luis, Sebastian Siegal as Todd, and Marysa Carr as Leimomi.

The production is directed by John Putch with screenplay by Rick Garman, and the Hawaii landscapes – the falls at Waimea, the tropical turf of Kualoa Ranch, the frolicking beach moments, the charm of a farmer’s market and the resort glamor of the Kahala resort – are visual postcards that will connect with viewers.

In online promos, Sutton rightfully opines, “Hawai’i is the most beautiful place on Earth.”

Looks like a hot summer run for Hallmark fans. …

Knock, knock, who’s there?

Who knew there’d be a portentous reality in “Leave the Door Open,” the hit song by Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak, DBA as Silk Sonic.

The door was ajar, indeed, for the tune to rebound to  sneak into the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Top 100 this week, after earlier slipping to No.2. It previously was perched at No. 1 for the first time on April 17.

It’s not that common for a song to reign atop the charts, then zoom back up a month later.

Good job, dudes! Silky sonics work! …

Name dropping

Henry Kapono and the Honolulu Jazz Quartet will prevail at “A Tribute to Jimmy Borges,” at 6p.m. May 27 at Blue Note Hawaii at the Outrigger Waikiki. Tickets: $35 at bluenotehawaii.com.  Live screen option $20 at bluenotehawaii.com …

Jimmy. Borges

And Johnny Helm & Friends take the spotlight at 6 and 8:30 p.m. May 28 at Blue Note Hawaii. Also featuring Nic Kalei and John Cruz. Tickets: $30 premium, $20 loge, at bluenotehawaii.com …

And that’s “Show Biz.” …

‘NCIS: Hawai‘i’ lands Monday slot

According to CBS, the “NCIS: Hawai‘i” spinoff will be screened at 9 p.m. Mondays, piggybacking with the mothership show, “NCIS” (starring Mark Harmon), this fall.

That’s an indication that someone at the network – perhaps Harmon himself – wanted to kokua the newbie production, which likely will follow the lead-in Harmon show, which has been a Tuesday staple for years—as well as being the No. 1 procedural and a ratings blockbuster for most of its livelihood on CBS …

And that’s “Show Biz.” …