DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Ron Cooper, former KGU radio host and KHON television news anchorman, holds a picture of himself taken for the grand opening of Lex Brodie's gas station on Queen Street in 1964. Cooper broadcast live from the station to mark the event.
Coffee with Cooper was a KGU habit
The broadcaster also anchored KHON's "Big 2 News" on TV
Ron Cooper's travels in radio have taken him from Australia to the frigid city of Red Deer, Alberta, to the Pacific Northwest city of Vancouver -- but home is in these sunny islands.
"My goal was always to live and work in Hawaii," Cooper said. "The palm trees, the Hawaiian music and hula girls beckoned me. To me, Hawaii is the greatest place on Earth."
Cooper was born in Sydney and grew up in the Blue Mountain region outside the city. He always wanted to be a deejay but became one by accident.
While working as an accountant for an airline in the mid-'50s, he responded to a call for announcers at a local radio station, 2KA, in Sydney. "I was actually calling for my brother, who was interested in the job. The general manager of the station said I had a good voice. I auditioned with 80 other applicants and was hired."
Cooper's radio career took off, and soon he was interviewing Frank Sinatra and Nat "King" Cole, as well as comic Stan Freberg and singer-actress Helen O'Connell, as they passed through Australia on tours.
After a few years, Cooper moved to Canada, broadcasting out of cities in Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia.
During these years he created a radio show called "Coffee Club" which became an instant hit with housewives who'd call in to win prizes. Cooper had more than 18,000 "Coffee Club" members while in Ontario and more than 14,000 when he moved to Vancouver.
COURTESY RON COOPER
Cooper's "Coffee Club" program on KGU radio featured house parties broadcast from club members' homes and attended by as many as 75 listeners.
In 1964, Cooper took his Vancouver "Coffee Club" members on a tour of Hawaii.
"I remember it well because we were here during the Great Alaska Earthquake, and the beaches were closed due to the threats of tsunami," he said.
A few months later, Cooper was a Hawaii resident. His "Coffee Club" concept, pitched to KGU radio's general manager, William Paine, won him a position with the station, and a Honolulu version of the show debuted on Aug. 17, 1964. It aired weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon, after Hal "Aku" Lewis' popular broadcast.
"Aku had the No. 1 show, and we were the second-highest-rated program locally."
Cooper often broadcast house parties from "Coffee Club" members' homes, with anywhere from a dozen to 75 members attending. They were treated, appropriately enough, to coffee and doughnuts.
The show eventually expanded to four hours, with Cooper interviewing a variety of guests in the fields of fashion, beauty and health. Listeners could call in to ask questions, or pose them in person during house parties.
He also brought on such high-profile guests as Johnny Mathis, Kay Starr, Herb Alpert and Sammy Davis Jr. "Sammy was a bubbly, exciting person to talk to," Cooper said.
Cooper's "Coffee Club" ran on KGU for two years. He had an intern: a recent graduate of Radford High School named Bette Midler.
COURTESY RON COOPER
Over his years in news and radio, Cooper interviewed many celebrities, among them the actor Basil Rathbone, left, who played Sherlock Holmes in the movies.
After KGU, Cooper was hired by KHON to replace the departing Wayne Collins as anchorman on the "Big 2 News" in 1966. He served as news director and co-anchored the evening news with the late Al Allen and later Dick Desmond.
Memorable moments: covering the elections with Pierre Salinger and the first Super Bowl in 1967. "We did live commercials and cut-ins during the telecast of the game, which was aired via satellite."
Cooper also hosted a KHON talk show, "Today in Hawaii," with 1961 Miss Hawaii Joan Vine and later Linda Ryan, who carried on the show for many years.
Guests included the Harlem Globetrotters, opera great Robert Merrill, Johnny Mathis and Basil Rathbone, known to many as Sherlock Holmes in the movies.
In 1967, Cooper returned to radio, serving as program director and handling sales, news and commercial voice-overs for KIKI, KLEI, KHVH, KUMU and KCCN.
Cooper retired in 1997 and now enjoys spending time with his 11 grandchildren and traveling frequently. He has visited some 24 countries, logging 100,000 travel miles in 2006. He says he's visited every continent except Africa.
"Oh, and Antarctica."
, a collector of film and videotape cataloging Hawaii's TV history, has worked as a producer, writer and researcher for both local and national media. His column runs on the first Monday of each month. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org