What the Heck?
The gospel group Dixie Hummingbirds has been called the most important vocal group in the history of black music.
Cadman honored at extravaganza on the lawn
Party on the Lawn:
You probably remember Alana Dung, who died of leukemia at the age of 3 -- and whose plight caused thousands of Hawaii residents to test for the Hawaii Bone Marrow Donor Registry.
Alana's parents, Stephen and Adelia Dung, formed a foundation in her memory. On Nov. 18, the foundation's fundraiser was a heady mix of extravagance and depth.
Event creator Dean Christopher spent four days filling the medical school lawn with hundreds of real and giant silk tropical plants, gazebos and tents. "I wanted it to look like something by a 3-year-old, like a little-kid tea party on the lawn," says Christopher, who covered the head table with live sod.
At that table sat the guest of honor, Ed Cadman, who as dean was the driving force behind the new University of Hawaii medical school and who has since stepped down because of the ravages of a neurodegenerative disease. "We had to say, 'Please let us do this.' He didn't think he was deserving," says Adelia Dung.
"I was humbled," says Cadman. But, he says, it was one of his most enjoyable evenings ever. Proceeds will help to establish a chair at the medical school, focused on diseases like Cadman's, about which little is known. Further donations accepted at the University of Hawaii Foundation.
Last Man Standing: "Been singing for 68 years," says Ira Tucker, sitting backstage at the Academy of Arts Doris Duke Theatre. Never heard of Tucker? At 81, he's the last original member of the gospel group Dixie Hummingbirds, who Stevie Wonder has called the most important vocal group in the history of black music.
The group, and Tucker, have survived the Great Depression, five wars and fourteen presidencies. Tucker joined in 1938, when he was 13. "I lied and told them I was 14."
Most of the other current group members are at least 40 years younger than Tucker. Backstage, they call him Pops. "Pops looks sleepy sometimes, but he'll still be going tonight at midnight," says tenor Abraham Rice. "Where he gets all that, I don't know."
"It's good for me to be here," says Tucker when he hits the stage. "Of course, at my age, it's good for me to be anywhere."
Cruelty to Cowboys:
When the Professional Bull Riders made their Oahu debut Nov. 17, animal activists protested outside the Blaisdell. Their signs said, "Rodeo is cruelty to animals."
The PBR isn't rodeo exactly, because it's all bull riding. The bulls, most of whom have been flown here at the cost of $2,000 apiece, are stars. They're watched carefully over by their owners.
An hour before the riding starts, I wander backstage. By the bull pens, I meet a 19-year-old cowboy named Brian Canter. "These's the best bulls in the world," he says. "They're treated good, better'n us sometimes. See that bull, Pandora's Box? He's worth $500,000."
Canter has been a pro for a year and a half, and already won $241,000 in prize money. He's checking out his first ride of the evening, Wildcat Blaine, who weighs 1,600 pounds. Canter is only 5 feet 3 inches, 120 pounds.
Does it help to check out the bull's personality before you ride? "Nah," says Canter. "They's all mean."
Canter stays on Wildcat Blaine, jump for jump, kick for kick, for eight seconds. He wins $360. If you can't stay on for eight seconds, he's told me, you get zilch.
The action doesn't end after eight seconds. You can't really dismount from a bull, you just fall off. The bull is under no obligation to stop bucking. The best ride of the evening is posted by champion Chris Shivers on a bull called Chili. For this, Shivers gets $5,380 and a broken leg, since Chili stomps him when he hits the ground. It looks pretty much like Chili does so on purpose. Maybe not, but he doesn't look the least bit sorry.
Honolulu Jazz Quartet's second CD comes out early next year -- with liner notes by premiere jazz critic Nat Hentoff. How did HJQ manage to get the attention of Hentoff, who's written the notes for such jazz classics as Miles Davis' "Sketches of Spain"?
"He liked our first CD, apparently," says HJQ leader John Kolivas. Kolivas sent him a pre-release copy of the second, not really expecting a response. Hentoff called Kolivas immediately: "That first cut is smokin'. Let me do the notes."
That "smokin'" first cut is called "Tenacity." Tenacity? "That's what you have to have to make it as a musician in Hawaii," says Kolivas. "Especially a jazz musician."
Payback Time: There was some muttering in the Sheraton parking elevator as attendees left the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau annual luncheon Monday. The keynote speaker, David Kahikina Chang, general manager of the Hotel Hana Maui and chairman of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, had delivered a strong speech.
Chang pointed out that the tourism industry had both exploited and distorted native Hawaiian culture over "decades of abuse." It was time to get pono and give back, not simply with words. As he said, "We pay our attorneys and our consultants good money, so why not our kupuna and cultural practitioners?"
Sam's Club Comic: Hottest local hit of the Christmas season is comedian Augie Tulba's new DVD, which in a week sold its first pressing of 5,000 copies.
Quite a scene at Sam's Club last weekend when Augie showed up for an hour of signing autographs and ended up spending 2-1/2 hours, including jumping up a small stage and doing an impromptu act.
Augie sold 300 DVDs that evening. "I outsold the first day of 'The Da Vinci Code' DVD four to one," he says. "Of course, Tom Hanks wouldn't come down to Sam's Club to hang out with peeps."