RAY BUMATAI / 1952-2005
In 2002, Ray Bumatai co-starred with Loretta Ables Sayre in the play "You Somebody" at Diamond Head Theatre.
Actor was versatile on stage and screen
Entertainer Andy Bumatai recalls his older brother, Ray, as "the actor."
"He went the real acting route. He did theater, he really ground out building the basics of acting (whereas) I was just interested in doing television and movies. I never did a play in a theater. He did film, television, stage, song writing, performing, and he did well at all of them."
Ray Bumatai: The former welder was a familiar face in isle-based TV series
Ray Bumatai died early yesterday after a three-year battle with brain cancer. His wife, Karen "Bree" Bumatai, daughter, Cecilly Ann, and brother Andy were with him when died. He was 52.
"Today, my heart is broken. At 12:55 a.m., darling husband left this world, on a journey forward, to the next realm. His struggle with brain cancer is finally over. He was very peaceful," Bree Bumatai wrote in announcing his death.
"He was my warrior, my love, my light and my best friend. I will miss him always and hold him in my heart forever."
Local actor Elitei Tatafu Jr., a member of the cast of Bumatai's "Mental Tilapia" comedy game show on cable channel OC16, said Bumatai was "a great mentor and father figure. He was also looking out for other opportunities for me and (actor-comedian) Stephanie Sanchez."
Bumatai was the eldest of six children. Andy was the second, and with little more than a year between them, he said their relationship was "kind of adversarial" for years. Andy was the first to achieve celebrity status, and Ray did not always enjoy being recognized in the early 1980s as "Andy Bumatai's brother." A meeting with Tremaine Tamayose, one of Andy's friends, changed Ray's life.
(Ray) "was a construction worker making lots of money as an underwater welder and then picked up a guitar and decided to give it a shot and did well enough to make a living ... and then Tremaine asked him if he'd thought about acting," Andy said.
"(Ray) went to the audition never having acted a day in his life, and he got the gig. So he went on tour with Tremaine, and then he started doing this, started doing that. Never an acting lesson in his life. Someone sees him in a play and thinks he might be good in a (TV) series. Now he's a series regular on a national television show with Richard Chamberlain. And by the way, he was an excellent welder."
Ray worked with James Grant Benton and Dave Lancaster in "Booga Booga," wrote and played original music and became a familiar face on almost every TV show shot in Hawaii, including "Magnum, P.I.," "Jake and the Fatman," "Raven," "One West Waikiki" and "Baywatch." His TV and film credits also included "Blood & Orchids," the Richard Chamberlain miniseries "Island Son" and the role of Nuu Faaola in "Miss America: Behind the Crown."
Andy played the role of Nuu's older brother in "Miss America: Behind the Crown." They also worked together on "Bumavision" on OC16 and a short film, "Procrastinators."
Andy says they became close while tearing down and rebuilding two vintage Harley-Davidson motorcycles. They hung out together for hours on end in Andy's garage.
It was shortly after that that Ray noticed "black spots" blocking his vision. He'd agreed to star as Daddy Lusa in Diamond Head Theatre's 2002 production of "You Somebody" and kept his word to do the show. By then he relied on friends and family members for transportation. When Andy picked him up after the show one night, Ray said he could not see.
"He said, 'We're going to have to do a "Scent of a Woman" thing because I can't see. ... Tell me where the car is ... and don't take me to a hospital. I want to go home,'" Andy said.
Bumatai collapsed that night and was taken to the hospital.
He bounced back after surgery and was soon as busy as ever. He provided the voice of Little Jim in "Aloha, Scooby-Doo"; recorded and released an album of original music, "All the Things I Said"; starred as the King of Siam in Army Community Theatre's 2004 production of "The King and I"; and co-starred this year with his wife in Manoa Valley Theatre's production of "Over the Tavern."
"He had a huge body of work. That was the thing about him: He just never stopped. He was always driven to perform. He did voices in 'Lilo & Stitch' and that Don Ho video (for 'Shock the Monkey')," Bree said.
He also appeared in local TV commercials and films. He will be seen in "Pele o Ka Foodmart" at the 2005 Hawaii International Film Festival this month.
"He made his own decisions, and he was never a victim or a whiner," Andy said. "When we talked about losing this battle, he said: 'Everything since 1983 has been a bonus for me, so don't think that I'm gonna go to my grave saying I should have done this or I should have done that. Everything I wanted to do, I basically did it. ... I'm satisfied.'
"He also told me: 'If I die, I don't want anybody singing show tunes at my funeral. If you let them do that, I'll come back from the dead long enough to kick your ass.'"
In addition to Bree, Cecilly Ann and Andy, Ray Bumatai is also survived by his parents in California, his brothers Benton and Gabe, and his sisters Ramona and Heidi.
Funeral plans are pending.