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 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.”
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.
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. …