Star-Bulletin Features

Monday, April 30, 2001

Singer-musician Chris Isaak is joined on stage by a
member of the audience as he performed with his band,
Silvertone, at a private concert Friday night at the
Outrigger Waikoloa Resort.

Isaak rocks
the Big Isle

The comedian-musician and his
band perform for contest winners
and lucky guests in Kohala

On TV: Fact, fiction and quirks

By Tim Ryan

Editor's note: Some biographical information in this story was provided by Showtime Networks Inc., which sponsored Chris Isaak's show.

WAIKOLOA >> It may be "the" Hawaii concert of the year that few people saw.

Musician-actor Chris Isaak and his band Silvertone sang some two dozen songs during a blistering, fast-paced 90-minute performance for about 130 lucky Showtime contest winners and network executives at Outrigger Waikoloa Friday night.

The Coconut Grove beachfront stage was bounded by kiawe trees, and a crescent moon hovered over guests.

"This is just like my hometown of Stockton, except for the sand and the ocean and tradewinds and palm trees," Isaak, 44, joked to the exuberant congregation after playing two songs, "Dancin'" and "I'm Not Sleepy."

The private performance -- presented by Showtime, Yahoo! Travel and the Outrigger Waikoloa Beach Resort -- was for 50 contest winners, plus their guests, of "The Chris Isaak Beach Party Sweepstakes." About 80,000 people entered the contest through Yahoo!

Sponsored by Showtime Networks Inc., the concert
was held for nationwide sweepstakes winners and VIPs.

Outrigger Waikoloa guests, employees and Big Island residents who had heard about the concert stood behind a ribbon barrier just 100 feet from the stage, dancing and singing along to the music.

Isaak stars in and produces the new comedy "The Chris Isaak Show," broadcast on Showtime.

"I love Hawaii, absolutely love the place," said Isaak in his suite before the concert.

The entertainer spent a week on the Big Island before the concert and this week is visiting Molokai in search of decent surf.

"Usually the first thing I do when I come to Hawaii is surf, but I've been so tired from the television show and getting my next album together that all I've been doing is a lot of swimming," said Isaak, dressed in a fuchsia silk suit and almost coordinated aloha shirt. "Yes, I know I look like a Fresno pimp."

The trim singer also spent a few afternoons at the Waikoloa resort running wind sprints in the sand.

"It's not the normal thing people do on vacation, but I like to stay in shape," said Isaak, whose room is filled with mineral water, fruits and vegetables.

Isaak's appeal, besides his enormous talent, comes from his down-to-earth, "aw shucks," country-boy attitude. But make no mistake, this is a guy who wants to have fun, reflected in the band's Dick Tracy-inspired colorful outfits and the easygoing aura of his television series, which Isaak insisted include his musicians as regular characters.

"I didn't want to do something with me having two cute kids and a cute wife and they all make jokes while we made salad in the kitchen," he said. "That would have screwed things up because the band would have been sitting around."

Showtime took a big risk, he said, because musicians do not necessarily make good actors, "but it's worked out."

On the television show "we have jokes that are so stupid and are so guy-in-a-band jokes that we just hope that the girls we know don't get it. But they're really funny to us," he said.

Having the band -- which has been with Isaak for 16 years -- stay together while Isaak stars in the series makes it easier for all to continue music rehearsals.

As part of the television show, the group performs twice a week at the Vancouver club Bimbos, where the series is filmed.Isaak made a splash last year as an "entertainment reporter" for the Jay Leno show at the Grammy Awards and Kentucky Derby.

"My occupation? Fool," he says, shaking his head. "All the people I like do everything to have a career that goes on.

"Musical styles change, but one thing that never changes is that people always want to be entertained and have a good time. Ultimately, people have a choice."

Isaak, the youngest of three brothers, says he was a music fan from a very early age. After attending the University of the Pacific, he spent a year in Japan, studying, working part time at a movie studio and doing some amateur boxing. He didn't really consider a career in music until he was 20 and living in Tokyo. Inspired by Elvis Presley's Sun sessions, Isaak decided to try his hand at singing.

He started out solo, working the club circuit in San Francisco, and soon formed an early version of his band Silvertone. The group was spotted by a producer and offered a deal by Warner Bros. Isaak's first two records, "Silvertone" and "Chris Isaak," earned critical acclaim and made fans of Madonna, John Fogerty and Rickie Lee Jones, among other celebrities.

Simultaneously, he appeared in fashion spreads in magazines such as Elle and Esquire, and director Jonathan Demme cast him as "The Killer Clown" in his 1988 film, "Married to the Mob." Isaac also appeared in "Let's Get Lost," Bruce Weber's 1988 documentary about jazz trumpeter/vocalist Chet Baker.

In 1989, Isaak scored his breakout single "Wicked Game." The song, a ballad that was featured on the double-platinum album "Heart Shaped World," was an international smash and was supported by a steamy video that featured Isaak in a dreamy embrace with supermodel Helena Christensen.

Isaak says he would "love to get more famous and make more money," but "I haven't spent the money I've saved anyway.

"I have a tendency to save more money than I spend. I didn't start making good money really until I was far along that all my tastes were set."

During a recent visit to Los Angeles to meet with an agent, Isaak was taken to a chic Westside restaurant.

"It was the kind of place that when you walk in, everyone looks to see if you're a celebrity," Isaak said. "It was really kind of creepy, and there was going to be a 20-minute wait."

Then Isaak spotted his favorite restaurant across the street: Sizzler.

"Heck, they have an all-you-can-eat salad bar, so we went."

That keep-it-simple attitude has kept Isaak, who is single "but still looking," in San Francisco rather than Beverly Hills. His folks live in nearby Stockton and visit him frequently. Isaak surfs the chilly Northern California waters with longtime buddies.

"No one cares who I am, so I can be myself," he says. "When you're surfing, all people care about is how you ride, not what you do on land."

Isaak, who has a new album in the works, brought the tapes to Hawaii to write some lyrics.

"I never really know what (an album) is going to be until it's halfway knocked out; that's when it starts to define itself," he said.

Isaak will learn this week whether his TV show will return for a second season, although he instructs: "Write that we're coming back. I'll bet you money on it; I guarantee it."

Isaak's involvement as producer as well as its star and work on his new album are the reasons he decided not to perform a public concert here.

"I'm just tired and haven't had any time off in months," he said. "But you can write this, too: We're coming back to Hawaii to perform. We all love it here."

Isaak’s Showtime comedy
blends fact, fiction
and quirky characters

By Tim Ryan

"The Chris Isaak Show" airs Mondays on Showtime. The hour-long comedy is a quirky blend of fact and fiction as viewers peek into the life of an everyday guy who's a rock star.

Isaak's co-stars are Kristin Dattilo, Jed Rees, Bobby Jo Moore, plus Isaak's band members Kenney Dale Johnson, Rowland Salley and Hershel Yatovitz.

Episodes also feature celebrity guests playing themselves: Minnie Driver, Stevie Nicks, Adam Arkin, Shawn Colvin, Joe Walsh, Jay Leno, Bai Ling, Caroline Rhea, Lisa Loeb, Vince Neill and Bret Michaels.

Set in San Francisco, the show features Isaak performing in concert and on tour, but the real focus is on the other 22 hours of the day, when he is not on stage and has to deal with the constant attention of beautiful, if sometimes nutty, women; the antics of the oddball musicians; the trials and tribulations of his savvy but neurotic manager, Yola (Dattilo); and the relationships with the other celebrities.

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