After 20 years of top-tier service, a prominent hospitality executive with Hawaii ties will retire as CEO of BWH Hotel Group. His departure means a huge void in AAPI presence in the realm of hotel management leadership.

David Kong, a graduate of the TIM school at the University of Hawaii, will retire at the end of 2021. His successor will be named at the BWH convention Oct. 7 in Las Vegas.

BWH is the acronym of Best Western Hotels & Resorts, where Kong had served since 2001 and became CEO in 2004. 

David Kong

He has been the hotel industry’s longest tenured CEO, an indication of his leadership and savvy in shaping the Best Western brand into a major global competitor and player in travel and hospitality. Under his watch, Best Western has expanded from one to 18 brands in a spectrum of service that taps a range of accommodations in all price brackets.

“What (Kong) has been able to do with Best Western is really create the consistency of the highest level of performance,” said American Hotel & Lodging Association president and CEO Chip Rogers in a statement. “David has created an environment at Best Western that encourages its owners to be their best and to create the best products.”

Kong’s bio often mentions that he entered the hotel business as a dishwasher and busboy and is leaving a legacy of caring atop the peak of an industry. His dedication and reputation of serving and mentoring his colleagues and staff teams and delivering on his promises makes him a one-of-a-kind.

Kevin Iwamoto

Kevin Iwamoto, a colleague at TIM and also a key player in hospitality trade, said of Kong, “I have so much respect for him; he’s achieved so much but is so humble, soft spoken and a nice human being. He has risen to the highest ranks of the industry and is a role model for Asians and Pacific Islanders (API) who aspire to lead the industry in senior executive positions of influence.  His retirement and departure from full time work will leave a tremendous void for API diversity in the executive ranks of the hospitality industry.” 

Iwamoto, who is chief strategy officer and head of Bizly Inc., a leading meetings technology company, himself is planning on retiring sometime soon.

“The story of me and David Kong is connected forever because we both graduated from UH’s Travel Industry Management School – David in 1971 and me in 1977—and we both were inducted into the 2013 UH TIM Hall of Honors,” said Iwamoto.

Though Hong Kong-born, Kong was educated at UH.  “Our careers intersected in both the business travel and meetings/events worlds of the industry,” said Iwamoto. “We currently both serve as UH TIM Alumni Association Board members”…


Tom Holowach

Kudos to Tom Holowach, former honcho at Paliku Theatre at Windward Community College. His first screenplay, “The Kaliikak Crusade,” is a finalist in the UK Page Turner Awards. …

Drew Bright, son of Michael and Jade Bright and grandson of Ron and Mo Bright, will be portraying the role of Dimitri in Castle Performing Arts Company’s “Anastasia,” a Broadway music filled with rich tunes that resonate. Could this be the Hawaii premiere of this jewel, at the Ronald K. Bright Theatre on the Castle High School camps? Performance times and ticket details will be forthcoming. Surely, Poppo (what his family calls Ron Bright) also must be anticipating the rise of the curtain from his orchestra seat in heaven. …

And that’s Show Biz. …


The Makaha Sons, led by Jerome Koko, will be joined by island songbird Robi Kahakalau, in performances at 6 and 8:30 p.m. Friday (Sept. 17) at Blue Note Hawaii at the Outrigger Waikiki resort.

The concerts are emblematic of these pandemic times; folks want to periodically go out for a night of island music, but cost might be a factor. So if there’s an option to attend without the customary admission, it might be easier to take in a show.

Here’s the rub: residents who are fully vaccinated, with proper validation of the vaxx card along with a photo ID, may attend the shows at no cost.

The hope is that with free admission, fans and other show-goers will make donations to the Makaha Sons Foundation to help raise funds for the organization.

The Makaha Sons (left photo, L-R: Artis, Koko and Ka’anapu) and Robi Kahakalau, right.

Along with  Koko on vocals and 12-string guitar, the group now features Kimo Artis on vocals and electric bass and Hanale Kaʻanapu on vocals and 6-string guitar. 

Saks Fifth Avenue Hawaii and One Community are presenting the Blue Note shows with a win-win prospect for all involved.

Admission normally is in the $25 range; drinks and meals are extra. Still, with free admission, it’s a bargain – for attendees and sponsors.

Doors open at 4:30 and 8 p.m.  For information and reservations, visit www.bluenotehawaii.com

The Makaha Sons Foundation is a Waipahu-based arts and cultural organization supported by the Makaha Sons. It supports Hawaii police officers and families afflicted with illness, and awards scholarships to high school seniors.

One Community is a consulting company that assists their clients in presenting their business objectives to key officials and decision-makers in Hawaii’s government and community.

‘Superstars’ reunited

Teddy Neeley (who played Jesus) and Yvonne Elliman (who was Mary Magdalene) in the film version of “Jesus Christ Superstar” are reuniting this weekend in Boston for a reunion concert as well as a screening of the film.

Yvonne Elliman, in a rehearsal photo shared by her husband, Allen Alexander.

Neeley and Elliman also had music careers outside of the film and they’ll share their repertoire of faves, backed by an all-star band. Elliman, of course, is the Roosevelt grad who became a global sensation when she recorded the “concept” LP of the rock opera aka “Superstar” that also resulted in a Broadway stage musical in 1971 and a Hollywood film in 1973. Elliman is the lone lead who did the original recording (earning a Grammy) and the subsequent stage and movie versions.

If you’re in the vicinity, the concerts will be at the Regent Theatre in Arlington at 8 p.m. Friday (Sept. 17) and Saturday (Sept. 18).

The two stars will host a screening of a new digitally remastered version of the 1973 film at 6 p.m. Sunday (Sept. 19) at the same venue, with both Neeley and Elliman participating in a meet-and-greet after the showing. Elliman’s husband, Allen Alexander, posted this adjoining pic of Elliman on Facebook. …

Kokua with prayers

Al Harrington

Al Harrington, veteran entertainer, has been hospitalized with multiple medical issues. Fans and friends may want to send prayers of support.

You know him as “The South Pacific Man,” a Waikiki singer and star of his own Polynesian show, back in the day when most hotels had showrooms, and as Det. Ben Kokua, in the CBS-Jack Lord original of “Hawaii Five-0,” and Mamo Kahike in the Alex O’Loughlin  “Five-0” reboot.
Some may know him as a former football player at Punahou, from where he graduated in 1954, and later became a Punahou school teacher. …

And that’s Show Biz. …


Power couples are normally a famous duo married to each other, or partners with individual or joint accomplishments. Wealth is not a factor; fame could be the game; however, singular achievement matters most.

The other common requisite of a power couple, whether wholly or individually: they are bold-faced names whenever they’re mentioned in columns like this one.

These folks are newsworthy because they make news or are commonly in the gossip mill.  In my world of dealing with bold face names, if you’re a somebody, you earn b.f. status.

This compilation/discussion/reflection is the result of brainstorming about PCs – with recognition a key for inclusion. If you know their names, you know why they’re powerful and popular, without a descriptive tag.

Famous politicos

Michelle and Barack Obama

Politicos easily are PCs: Barack and Michelle Obama. Bill and Hillary Clinton. Perhaps George H. and Laura Bush and George H.W. and Barbara Bush, Richard and Pat Nixon, Jimmy and Rossalyn Carter.  Indeed, John and Jackie Kennedy,  too! Clearly, presidents and their FLOTUS easily fall in this PC. category. Joe and Jill Biden certainly are newbies in this elitist realm, a work in progress still earning stripes; Donald and Melania Trump are a dubious PC, since he was dominant and she remained in the shadows, survivors amid the political snipes.

The Hollywood crowd

Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman

Power couples are especially plentiful in show biz or in the performance arena. In no particular order: Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones, Beyonce and Jay-Z, Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks, Amal and George Clooney, Michelle Pfeiffer and David E. Kelley, Victoria and David Beckham, Gisele Bundchen and Tom Brady, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds, Chrissy Teigen and John Legend, Oprah Winfrey and Stedman Graham, Emily Blunt and John Krasinski, Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban, Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani, Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, Katy Perry and Orlando Bloom, Lisa Bonet and Jason Momoa, Jada Pickett Smith  and Will Smith, Aaron Rodgers and Shailene Woodley,  Scarlet Johansson and Colin Jost and Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka.

More power couples, you ask?  How about Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz , Ryan O’Neal and Farrah Fawcett,  Carrie Fisher and Paul Simon, Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman, John Travolta and Kelly Preston, Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe, Sean Penn and Madonna, Demi Moore and Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenneger and Maria Shriver, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, Sonny and Cher? And you could include partners, or exes, of Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, Robert Downey, Ben Affleck, J-Lo, and, well, you get the idea. A few have died; some relationships have dissolved, but these folks were relevant in their prime.

Prolific and creative

Bernie Taupin and Elton John

Surely, a few PCs are mighty prolific and creative, too: Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, and Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg.

 In many instances, PCs don’t have to be married to each other but are prominent nonetheless, because of compatibility and creativity. First names not necessary, too, when you think of Abbott and Costello, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Bacharach and David, Lennon and McCartney,  Astaire and Rogers, Garland and Rooney, Simon and Garfunkel.

Infrequently, a PC could have a pseudonym, like The Property Brothers, who are actually twins Jonathan and Drew Scott, and The Blues Brothers, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi.

Extend this concept, and you can also have fictional PCs with individual potency and presence: Tom and Jerry, The Phantom and Christine, Romeo and Juliet, King Arthur and Guinevere,  Batman and Robin, Jack and Jill, The Lone Ranger and Tonto, and Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog, or expand to real life, with Susannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb,  Pat Sajak and Vanna White, even Barnes and Noble. (Yes, real people; go to Wikipedia, to track who’s who).

One PC duo lacking last names: Barbie and Ken; another PC duo have last names you don’t know: Ben and Jerry  are real people, whose surnames are Cohen and Greenfield, respectively.

The island list

Beverly Noa and Ed Kenney

Hawaii has had its share of winsome twosomes, too. In the distant past, PCs included  Duke and Nadine Kahanamoku, Eddie and Peggy Sherman, Jack and Marie Lord, Ed Kenney and Beverly Noa, Kimo and Betsy McVay, Fred and Myrtle Lee, Wisa D’Orso and Jim Hutchison, John and Beatrice Burns, Neal and Lucy Blaisdell and Frank and Joyce Fasi. All but Joyce Fasi are deceased.

Denise Hayashi Yamaguchi and Roy Yamaguchi

Current island PCs qualifiers include Ben and Vicky Cayetano, George and Jean Ariyoshi, John and Lynne Waihee, Jack and Cha Thompson, Henry Kapono and Lezlee Ka‘aihue, Paul Theroux and Sheila Donnelly, Thomas and Mia Kosasa, Denise Hayashi and Roy Yamaguchi, Alan Wong and Alice Inoue, Wade Ueoka and Michelle Karr-Ueoka,

Kuana Torres Kahele and Marc Turner

Troy Terorotua and Lisa Kim, Guy Hagi and Kim Gennaula, Kathy Muneno and Nainoa Thompson, Nina Keali‘iwahamana and Gordon Rapozo, Akemi and Rene Paulo, Han and Meredith Ching, Keali‘i Reichel and Fred “Punahele” Krauss, Kuana Torres Kahele and Marc Turner, Steven Ai and Carol Ai May, Keith and Carmen Haugen, Indru and Gulab Watumull, Michael W. Perry and Larry Price, Judge James Burn and Emme Tomimbang, Jack and Maydelle Cione, Cecilio and Kapono and Eddie and Myrna Kamae. A few aforementioned — Judge Burns, Maydelle Cione, Eddie Kamae and Gulab Watumull  — are deceased; Kapono continues on as a soloist, ever since Cecilio had legal issues; Price retired, ending his partnership with Perry.

Cleary, with time, PCs come and go.

If you have a suggestion or two, add to the list.


Mele Kalikmaka!

Robert Cazimero’s the first to announce a round of Christmas shows…at Chef Chai’s, his sorta home base for a couple of years now.

Cazimero dropped the dates — Dec. 15 through 19 at Chai Chaowasaree’s restaurant — in a conversation when he guest-performed at Blue Note Hawaii over the weekend. Chef Chai’s becomes a sometimes nightclub, when the popular Hawaiian singer-pianist takes over at least once a month, for his ongoing Full Moon Concert. Next one is Sept. 19, so make plans to save a table.

Robert Cazimero

Christmas is Robert’s favorite holiday, and while the limited Chai’s space — cozy and hip — won’t allow for a line of hula dancers and halau crooners like in earlier Cazimero holiday spectacles in traditional showroom or nightclub venues in the past, he’s truly capable of filling the room with a bounty of festive yuletide and Hawaiian cheer even with a minimum of performing colleagues. After all, the spirit’s the thing..

With the surging pandemic, who knows if anyone else in any other venue, large or small, will venture to deck the halls with boughs of maile and share yuletide melodies and carols with an island undercurrent. The scaled-down barometer in place currently might mean fewer or smaller holiday concerts. However, if you’ve booked a show and can share the news, please advise, pronto. …

Akemi Paulo


While pianist Rene Paulo has been released from the hospital on the mainland, following his recent bout with COVID-19, sorry to to report that his wife Akemi Paulo, who used to sing while Rene played keyboards, now has caught the virus and is in quarantine. Rene and Akemi are the parents of jazz musician Michael Paulo and sister-singer Kathy Paulo, so offer prayers once again for a speedy recovery. …

Speaking of wellness: Horace Dudoit III of Ho’okena has weathered through his coronovirus isolation, and is back in the saddle again, performing in limited engagements. …

And that’s Show Biz. …


Ukulele wizard Jake Shimabukuro will be strumming amid a galaxy of stars when “Jake & Friends,” his most ambitious CD yet, is released Nov. 12.

It’s a bona fide party on a platter, when the likes of Bette Midler, Willie Nelson, Kenny Loggins, Jack Johnson, Jimmy Buffet, Michael McDonald, Ziggy Marley, Vince Gill and Amy Grant collaborate with the island-born musician to share, strut, and savor a gamut of musical genres, from pop to country, from blues to folk, from rock to standards.

“Making the album was a real challenge, but I’m deeply honored that all of the artists agreed to record with me,” Shimabukuro said in a statement.

“Jake & Friends” CD

The idea to lasso guest artists began on a modest scale, when Shimabukuro, the  prevailing and defining figure of the ukulele movement worldwide, first got country legend Willie Nelson to consent to collaborate on one of his signature tracks, “Stardust.” Nelson at that time also was stretching his reach beyond his usual country corral.

Similarly, Shimabukuro also had been testing the waters to expand his horizons, when he tapped George Harrison’s “The Guitar Gently Weeps,” and gave that bluesy song an ukulele spin, which garnered him widespread attention on YouTube, connecting his talent to the national musical scene.

Jake Shimabukuro

“Stardust” with Nelson’s expressive yet familiar vocal, and “Two High,” featuring a Nashville alt-rock group Moon Taxi, will be the first singles from the milestone CD.

He scored Midler, a fellow Honolulan, to bring his ukulele presence to her luminous and lovely Golden Globe-winning “The Rose,” one of the treats on the disc and one to Bette on, given her popularity.

The roster of other guests is impressive; participants include former Grammy and Country Music Association winners.  Beyond the aforementioned names, listen for other crowd-pleasers in Jesse Colin Young, Jon Anderson, Sonny Landreth, Warren Haynes, Ray Benson & Asleep at the Wheel, Lukas Nelson and Billy Strings.

“Looking back on it all now, it feels like a dream,” Shimabukuro said with both pride and relief. “I grew up fantasizing that one day I might be able to meet my musical heroes, and here I am on my own record playing with them. That’s remarkable beyond words. I’m so fortunate to have had this experience, and I can’t wait for people to hear it. I think they’re going to be able to tell that I’m having the time of my life.”

The disc features 16 tracks and can be ordered at https://smarturl.it/JakeShimabukuro in advance of its release date.

Behind the scenes

Vanessa Lachey, on Modern Luxury Hawaii magazine cover

There’s not a whole lot of quotable quotes from Vanessa Lachey, who is portraying Jane Tennent, the first female leader of an NCIS unit in CBS’s procedural family of shows, in pre-premiere articles so far. Lachey is going to be the focus on how “NCIS: Hawai’i” fares after it debuts Sept. 20 at 8 p.m., following the launch of the mothership show “NCIS,” at 7 p.m.

Lachey is the cover girl of the current Modern Luxury Hawaii cover, with the piece exploring her juggling her professional life as an actress with that of being a mom of three kids with husband Nick Lachey of the group 98 Degrees, but given the nature of the mag’s audience and focus, the pictorials are fashion-oriented — a missed opportunity to share perhaps the first-on-the-site filming at Pearl Harbor, in her work environment, where much of the show’s plots will be anchored. …

And that’s Show Biz. …