By Dave Donnelly

Jimmy Benton loomed
large in a life of laughter

WE lost a comedic performer of the top order when James Grant Benton died of a heart ailment this week. My first awareness of Benton came when I was assigned to go to the Ernst Lab Theater at UH to see a pidgin version of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night." I was sure I'd hate it, turning the Bard into pidgin, but Jimmy Benton and his cohorts, Rap Reiplinger and Ed Kaahea, were unmitigatingly hilarious, and I laughed out loud throughout. I then became a fan of Booga Booga and used to see them regularly at the Territorial Tavern downtown. In fact, one night, Bette Midler came in with her then-boyfriend/agent and nearly had a stroke screaming with laughter. The boyfriend, who didn't get it, just looked at her as if she were nuts. Benton was a large part of making that trio work ...

IT was hardly his greatest triumph, but directing Jim in Aldyth Morris' one-man show, "R.L.S.," showed his serious side as well. Knowing the subject of the work, Robert Louis Stevenson, was a very thin fellow, Benton went on a crash diet and became slim enough to make himself believable as the writer who eventually lived and died in Samoa. During the rehearsal process, Jimmy acknowledged he'd overcome a horrible drug problem, including heroin use, and one wondered how great Booga Booga might have been if he and Rap, who died from drug use in 1982, had remained clean. Growing up in Nuuanu, his neighbors used to call him "Small Benton" because he had an older brother called "Large Benton." But in his lifetime, confined as his talent was to Hawaii, he was very large in my book. I know I'll miss his cheery greetings ...

Heartfelt thanks

WHEN localite Mike Martelli survived a heart operation at the hands of the Medical Group's Dr. Michael Dang, he wanted to do something special to thank him. So he called his fellow Italian, goldsmith Paolo Migotti, and the latter, as clever as he is artistic, fashioned a one-of-a-kind gold heart pin. I say one of a kind because it had all the physical characteristics of a real heart -- ventricles, atria and valves. Yesterday, Martelli presented it to Dr. Dang, who enjoyed it immensely ...

PUBLICIST Lisa Josephsohn, who counts among her clients the historic Hawaii Theatre, is off to New York on yet another sweep through the Broadway beltway, taking in as many plays as she can. This trip is special for Josephsohn, however, because she'll also be attending the Tony Awards, which we'll have to watch on TV ... Just back from the National Restaurant Show in Chicago is Ed Wary, owner of Dixie Grill, Auntie Pasto's and the soon-to-be Eddie's. Wary is VP of the International Committee for the NRA ...

Hawaii people

Model Liane Mark, the Miss Hawaii candidate fighting muscular dystrophy, isn't the only isle figure mentioned in the June 10 issue of People Magazine, out on newsstands Friday. People also lets its 30 million readers know it was the late Israel "Iz" Kamakawiwo'ole performing on the CD that Dr. Green was listening to on "E.R." when he died. Some 54 million people watched that episode, and People features Iz in the June 10 Scoops Section ...

Dave Donnelly has been writing on happenings
in Hawaii for the Star-Bulletin since 1968.
The Week That Was recalls items from Dave's 30 years of columns.

Contact Dave by e-mail:

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