STAR-BULLETIN FILE PHOTO |
Michael W. Perry, on the left, holds a picture of him and Larry Price, on the right, taken when they first started their on-air stint two decades ago.
Perry and Price continue
Did you know?
to set the morning radio pace
after 20 years on air
THE SUN is already shining at 6:15 a.m. as I ease my truck onto Ala Moana for a visit with Michael W. Perry and Larry Price at the KSSK studios in Iwilei. While most folks are either still in or just getting out of bed, these two veteran Honolulu broadcasters have been on the air for almost an hour and a half by the time I stumble into the room, still wiping the sleepiness from my eyes.
My first reaction upon entering the studio? Wow -- Perry really does sit on the left, with Price on the right!
"IT WAS the first thing we said," Perry explains as we sit in the morning duo's office a few minutes later. "It just appeared out of our mouths, (and) we've been saying it ever since."
Much of the "Perry and Price Show" on KSSK is the same now as it was when the two first sat in front of a microphone together.
The Michigan-born Perry, a former Navy lieutenant, and Price, a local boy who made a name for himself as both a football player and coach at the University of Hawaii and as a free agent with the NFL's Los Angeles Rams, both admit their show remains much the same since taking over for the legendary J. Akuhead Pupule (a k a Hal Lewis) in 1983.
"Not a whole lot has changed," says Perry. "Instead of playing Cyndi Lauper, we're playing No Doubt."
When former station owner Cec Heftel ran KSSK, Perry was already a top-rated afternoon jock on the frequency. Price, who had been working for Gov. George Ariyoshi, was brought on in 1977 as vice president of public relations and publicity at the station. After the announcement was made that the two would permanently move to morning drive, a lot of people were skeptical, both in the industry and among the listening public.
"Here's a haole guy with a local name and local guy with a haole name," says Price. "One is from Virginia, the other is from Kalihi. How can these guys get along?"
After a slightly tumultuous start and initial feeling-out period, Perry and Price began to click together and quickly moved to the top of Honolulu's ratings heap, where they've remained through two decades of ownership changes, studio location moves and shifting listener tastes.
EVERY WEEKDAY morning from 5 to 10 a.m., the two are in the studio, taking calls and bringing listeners up to date with current events and various water-cooler conversation topics.
"You have to be unpredictable" in the morning, Price tells me when I ask if they ever take time to discuss what to talk about during the course of a day's broadcast. "You've got to be able to arouse the academic curiosity of the people, but you've got to be able to handle the jolts" when something goes wrong.
However, after sitting next to each other for 20 years, "the nonverbal communication is overwhelming a lot of the time," he said.
STAR-BULLETIN / 2003|
Michael W. Perry was honored earlier this year for his support of the Pohai Nani staff, one of his many community service activities behind the scenes.
It's evident when -- sitting side by side in the studio -- the two masterfully juggle answering phones, editing calls on a digital audio recorder, preparing items for an upcoming newscast, talking to their producer and graciously answering this reporter's questions, all at the same time.
And even though they try to keep things fresh, some aspects of the show still haven't changed over the past 20 years. "There's more traffic, there's the same news. ... 'The Legislature today did not do anything,'" Perry jokes.
In fact, when the time comes for a news report, I'm suddenly transported back to my days in elementary school after hearing the unmistakable coconut sound effect that begins the segment. I can still remember sitting in the passenger seat of my father's car as we drove over the Pali, hearing that same introduction before the news every morning.
"That's the one thing we kept from the Aku show," Perry acknowledges when I bring up the coconut intro later as we chat outside the studio. "The 'Coconut Wireless News' was an Aku thing. ... I think he'd been using that since 1966, so it's (almost) a 40-year tradition."
ANOTHER TRADITION of the Perry and Price show is their Saturday morning live broadcast from the Sheraton Waikiki's Hanohano Room. Although it wasn't the first location for the show (it originally aired from the former Champeaux restaurant atop the Ilikai Hotel), celebrities and local folks alike were soon clamoring to be part of the weekly event.
"All of the famous people that come up, from Oprah to Schwarzenegger to Dolly Parton to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, they all go, 'I've never seen anything like this. What is this?'" says Perry.
"There's 300 people sitting there, and 100,000 people listening -- and there's Diamond Head and there's a breakfast! It doesn't make any sense to anyone."
But the concept does work, and people keep packing the room every week. The two men have welcomed the likes of Monte Hall, Richard Harris, Kenny Loggins, Leslie Nielsen and Kristi Yamaguchi to the Sheraton Waikiki. Countless local musical artists and community leaders have joined them on the air as well.
"We can be anything," Perry says. "We can be silly one minute and then do something serious. We just want to be what people want to listen (to)."
AFTER TWO decades of dominance on Honolulu's airwaves, it's amazing to see that Perry and Price still genuinely enjoy coming to work and hanging out with each other every morning.
"It's like a marriage without sex, you know what I mean?" jokes Price. "I'm lucky. I got to work with Aku ... and then this guy. He's Mr. Hollywood!"
Perry agrees. "It's still fun to get up in the morning -- it really is. Larry is one of the smartest in Hawaii. ... (He's) the best communicator in the Pacific.
"I can't think of any reason, any amount of money ... there is just no reason that I can think of (to get up) if I was not having fun doing this. It's the best job in the world."
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Did you know?
>> Larry Price has three degrees: a B.S. and master's degree from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and a doctorate from the University of Southern California. He also holds a teacher's certification and continues his postgraduate studies at Stanford University at least once a year.
>> In addition to hosting and executive-producing the award-winning "Hawaiian Moving Company," Michael W. Perry also serves as chairman of the board of the REHAB Foundation and helps out with the Sony Open, Hawai'i International Film Festival and the Bobby Benson Center.
>> Perry and Price were named "Radio Personalities of the Year" by Billboard magazine.
>> Price has written a column for Star-Bulletin sister publication MidWeek since 1985 and appeared on Oceanic Cable's OIA football broadcasts since 1986. He also continues to teach graduate-level courses at Chaminade University.
>> Perry is married, with three children and three grandchildren, and lives in Kailua. Price lives in town.
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