By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Michael W. Perry, left, and Larry Price get a kick
out of a photo taken the year they launched their radio team.
After a decade and a half asBy Tim Ryan
a radio duo, Mike and Larry
have been together longer
than many married couples
He calls Michael "my pet haole," but in the same breath "a consummate professional who's hard not to try to emulate."
Michael then jokes that after spending six days a week with Larry, "I'm pretty sick of him, but can't seem to work without him."
The dynamic morning broadcast team of Perry and Price has lasted longer than most marriages and continues to prosper, bringing in ratings for KSSK that are more than double those of the nearest competitor.
Michael W. Perry and Dr. Larry Price are as much a part of morning life in Hawaii as drinking hot coffee, brushing your teeth and getting dressed. For tens of thousands of locals, Perry and Price are part of the ohana.
This month the pair, the dapper and lean Perry, 51, and the, uh, more "casually" dressed and "huskier" Price, 59, celebrate 15 years together, showing little wear and no signs of wanting to be anything other than what they are.
The show remains popular, Perry said, because "we still try to be all things to all people, just like when we started out.
"We reflect what's going on in the islands at any time. We're not in some ivory tower; we're accessible and try to be completely appropriate to what listeners want to do."
"Though no one has ever accused us of being objective," Perry said.
Price explains their success in one word: "Sincerity."
"People know we care about what's happening out there," he said. "We feel their pain ... we never ever try to tell people what to think. And we don't pretend we know everything."
The climb to the top started in August 1983 when KSSK owner Cec Heftel moved Perry from an afternoon radio slot to mornings with Price, who was vice president of public relations.
"Before we went on the air we'd worked together about four minutes in a Jell-O jump for a telethon," Perry said. "We tried to talk about what we wanted to do on the radio but realized real soon that we would just have to go in and do it."
Those early days were "brutal" as the pair tried to figure out each other's timing, Perry said. They decided who would stand where -- "Perry on the left and Price on the right" -- and slowly each man took on a specific role.
"We were terrible, but got better," Perry said. "I felt the stress of suddenly being with somebody who's a real force in the islands; I felt I had to learn a lot to catch up to him."
But Perry also knew that Price was a stand-up guy whose word and work ethic were authentic.
"The first thing he said to me was that people would try to separate us. From Day 1 to the present, people still try to divide us. Larry said the only way we were going to win was to be in this together."
Early on Price brought in a sign that read "Together."
"People would say to me 'I don't know how you can get along with the haole,' and they would tell him, 'How can you stand that local moke?' " Price said, laughing. "We created a third person on the show: a combination of Michael and me.
"Some people liked me, some people liked him, some people liked both of us."
As for the show's format, Perry and Price took a cue from Hawaii radio legend Aku: the program would be multidimensional.
"He could be controversial, tell jokes, be helpful and silly," Perry said. "We would not do a narrowly defined format."
Far from it, in fact:
In 1987, the boys completed the world's largest Spam musubi. It was so big -- 9-feet-by-4-feet -- that it had to be moved by a fork lift. Also in 1987, a woman in need of plane fare ate a cockroach, in what was believed to be the first live-on-radio broadcast of a roach-eating (she won a $500 prize). In 1998, entertainer Dolly Parton, at Perry's request, revealed her measurements at the guys' Hanohano Room Show. (For the record: 40-24-36.)
There was also the first international underwater telephone call from an Atlantis Submarine to a submarine in Europe, the formation in 1993 of the nationally acclaimed cellular posse and the winning of Billboard Magazine's Personalities of the Year award, a first for Hawaii.
Broadcasting is only one reason for the popularity. Do you ever get the feeling that Perry and Price are everywhere?
"When we got the job ... we were told to work as much off the air as on," Perry said. "Cec said the radio gig was just half of it. The rest is what we do outside to make this a better place to live."
Both men serve on several boards and participate in community events. Price does radio commentary for high school sports; Perry emcees the Hawaiian Moving Company, and appears in commercials, films and television.
"They wanted us to seem to be everywhere," Price said.
They may be the only radio morning drive-time duo in the United States working six days a week. That's their fault, since it was their idea, Perry said. Now the Hanohano Room Saturday show is so successful that the guys admit they're locked into it.
"We've ended up with something too good to stop," Perry said.
They both wake up about 3:30 a.m. Perry works on community projects from his Kailua home; Price exercises at his McCully residence.
They arrive at the station about 10 minutes before the show starts at 5 a.m. Price delivers the news, Perry may talk about movies and entertainment stuff.
"Yeah, Mike does the powder-puff stuff and I do the manly news," Price said.
The sense of success came about six months after their first broadcast. They were spouting off about some political issue when an angry listener called.
"It was a woman who said she was Mayor Eileen Anderson and she had to call immediately because she was so mad and she still had toothpaste in her mouth," Perry said. "I said, 'Oh baloney, you're not the mayor,' and hung up on her."
A few minutes later, Anderson called back, sans toothpaste.
"Wow, you really are the mayor," Price remembered saying. "And you're listening to us! Hey Michael, the mayor listens to our show. Do you believe that!"
Perry and Price
15th anniversaryFeaturing: Buffet breakfast show and silent auction
When: 8-11 a.m. Saturday, doors open at 7 a.m.
Place: Sheraton Waikiki, Hawaii Ballroom
Tickets: $24.83 ($19.93 with Foodland Maika'i card), available at Oahu Foodland and Sack 'n Save stores
Benefits: Aloha United Way and the Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific
Prizes: Include a 1998 Chevrolet and trip for two to San Francisco to see the 49ers play the New York Jets