KENT BOWMAN / PIDGIN STORYTELLER
STAR-BULLETIN / 1970
Kent Bowman, playing his most famous character, Sen. K.K. Ka'umanua, introduces Miss Claus to an audience at a fashion show at Kahala Mall.
K.K. Ka‘umanua brought laughs
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Kent Bowman, longtime Hawaii businessman known to several generations of island residents as a pidgin storyteller and for his character Sen. K.K. Ka'umanua, died Thursday evening in Las Vegas. He was 84.
Don McDiarmid Jr., president emeritus of Hula Records and the producer of Bowman's five comedy albums in the 1960s, described Bowman as "a master of humor and Hawaiian pidgin English (who was) years before his time, and a good businessman, friend and partner. I shall miss him dearly."
Born in Hilo, the youngest of 11 children, Bowman graduated from 'Iolani High School and the Maritime Academy, and became an avid sailor. He served in the U.S. Army and then the Merchant Marine during World War II, and later worked with the Coast Guard.
Bowman's career as a local businessman included working for two of the old Big Five companies. He was vice president and general manager of Castle & Cooke's Kawaihae Terminals, and moved to Theo H. Davies where he remained until he retired in 1990 as president and chief executive officer of Theo H. Davies Marine Agencies.
Bowman recorded his first pidgin album, "Pidgin English Children's Stories," in 1961 and captured the imaginations of kids across the new 50th state with a collection of fairy tales that included "Goldie the Blond Malihini and Three Wild Pua'as," "Rumple Dakineskin" and "'Ekolu Keiki Pau'a."
Bowman's idea of "translating" familiar American fairy tales into pidgin would become the foundation of playwright Lisa Matsumoto's work in the late 1980s and afterward. Writing updated liner notes for the reissue of "Pidgin English Children's Stories" on CD in 2002, she described Bowman as "an incredible storyteller" and added that "his older style Pidgin English captures a Hawaii of days past."
Bowman didn't stop with pidgin fairy tales. His second album introduced Sen. K.K. Ka'umanua, the self-styled "world's greatest politician." It quickly became a local favorite. McDiarmid remembers the character as "a typical local BS artist" that Hawaii came to love.
Bowman recorded three more albums for Hula in the 1960s, "Hau Kea & The Seven Menehunes," "Kanaka Christmas" and "No Talk Stink," and then brought K.K. Ka'umanua out of retirement to record a final album for the label, "O 'Oe Kei Kanaka," with Billy Sage in 1998.
McDiarmid recalls Bowman's albums as "jewels that became some of the best selling recordings ever in Hawaii. (They were) written mostly by Kent with a few odd ball ideas thrown in by me just to keep things going. The stories and antics were a joy to invent and expand on."
Bowman is survived by his wife, Joyce; his children, Sarah and Kirk Bowman and Mary Gale Bowman Ahrens; two grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Services will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at Palm Mortuary, 1600 S. Jones Blvd., in Las Vegas. Call (702) 464-8420 for information.