Saturday, June 30, 2001

Back in 1969, Don Ho, Moses Taroy and Kimo
Wilder McVay posed for the camera in Don's dressing
room on opening night at a Las Vegas hotel.

Kimo Mcvay / Hawaii's Mr. Show biz

Kimo McVay, 73, 'always
there for entertainers'

By John Berger

Promoter Kimo McVay, 73, who died yesterday of pancreatic cancer, will be remembered as a guy who loved entertainment.

"He was a vibrant person and an innovator," said longtime friend and fellow promoter Tom Moffatt. "If Waikiki entertainment is on the world map, it's due to Kimo."

He made Duke Kahanamoku's the Waikiki hot spot in the mid-1960s and managed Don Ho & the Aliis for part of that time. When Ho and the Aliis parted company, he brought in John Rowles from New Zealand to be the "new Don Ho."

McVay managed -- for various lengths of time -- the careers of Andy Bumatai, the late Freddie Morris & Moku Kahana, and magician John Hirokawa.

"Kimo was a great guy," said Hirokawa last night before his show at the Waikiki Beachcomber.

"He was the most giving, the most generous man -- the most selfless man I have ever known. I'm so thankful that I had the opportunity to have learned so much from him as the last person he managed. I knew I was a novice, and I learned so much from him."

"He was always doing things for me and my family and not ever grumbling about himself," Hirokawa added. "Not once did I hear him talking about his cancer and that kind of stuff. Up to his last day, he was joking around. He could hardly breathe, and he hadn't been able to eat, but he had a smile on his face."

McVay also worked closely with Yemun Chung, the original Fabulous Krush and Carole Kai in the late '70s and early '80s.

"Kimo McVay was always there for entertainers," Kai said. "He was the top of the town; he was the top of the flagpole; he was Mr. Show Biz. Whenever he was in charge of promoting anybody, he always did it with a flare, better than anybody else. And he had a wonderful heart. We've lost a great man in the field of show business."

In the early '60s he strong-armed a weary Don Ho into recording a song that Ho had never heard of. Ho, who didn't think much of the song, did one take and went home. The song, "Tiny Bubbles," became a monster hit.

McVay was the son of Charles Butler McVay III and Kinau Wilder; his mother was of the Hawaii Wilder family for whom Wilder Avenue is named.

He was also known as "Knuckles" in reference to his skill as a piano player.

McVay had devoted the last years of his life to clearing the name of his father, who as commander of the heavy cruiser Indianapolis was blamed for its sinking and the deaths of most of its crew in the last days of World War II.

His wife, Betsy, was in a wheelchair and an invalid for years. He had a hard time the last few years caring for her and then fighting cancer.

McVay had been hospitalized nearly a week at Kaiser Hospital.

"Betsy was at his side this last week, and many people were able to stop by and say our last goodbyes," said Star-Bulletin columnist Dave Donnelly. "Andy Bumatai was there right after me yesterday."

Services are pending. Besides his wife, he is survived by two daughters, Lindsey and Melissa, and five grandchildren.

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