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INSIGHTS ON PBS HAWAI‘I
The Caregiver Crisis

What can we do to avoid a caregiver crisis? Most of the 150,000 caregivers in Hawai‘i are women over 50 years old, and many are caring for someone in their 80s. Nearly half have left the workforce to be a caregiver, leaving their financial future at risk. With Hawai‘i’s aging population, the pool of potential caregivers declines so significantly that we are headed for a crisis with each passing year. Families, businesses and our entire island state will be impacted by the economic trend this creates.

 

AARP Hawai’i is hosting a Caregiving Conference on Saturday, March 25th. There will be sessions on planning, long-term care and life insurance, reverse mortgages, Medicaid and other government programs.

 

There will also be tips for improving quality of life at home. Saturday, March 25th, from 8 am until noon at the Japanese Cultural Center.

 

Contact:
1-877-826-8300
aarp.cvent.com/care3-25

 






LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Ed Francis

 

In honor of the late Ed Francis, PBS Hawai‘i presents an in-memoriam encore of this episode recorded in December 2012.

 

Leslie Wilcox talks story with “Gentleman” Ed Francis, a legend in Hawaii’s pro wrestling world. Francis was a household name in the 1960s and 1970s, during the heyday of 50th State Big Time Wrestling. He recalls growing up in Chicago in the midst of the Great Depression, how wrestling facilitated his move to Hawaii and a life-threatening riot at Honolulu’s Civic Auditorium. Francis says he now leads a quiet life in Kansas.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, January 4 at 11:00 pm and Sunday, January 8 at 4:00 pm.

 

Download Transcript

 

Transcript

 

I can say to the Hawaiian people that if it wasn’t for them and all the fans, I wouldn’t have had that, a life like I’ve had.

 

From a kid living on the mean streets of Chicago to a entertainment sports legend in Hawaii, meet wrestling icon, Gentleman Ed Francis, next on Long Story Short.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. In this episode of Long Story Short, we’ll talk with legendary wrester and wrestling promoter, Ed Francis. We catch up with him at age eighty-six. He was a household name in the Hawaii of the 1960s and 70s, during the run of the wildly popular 50th State Big Time Wrestling. Long before his involvement with wrestling, however, Edmund Charles Francis, Jr. began life in the tough city streets of Chicago, in the midst of the Great Depression.

 

I’ve read what you ate, the sandwiches you ate during the depression. What were they?

 

Oh, yeah. Well, they called it charity then. We used to go with my mother, and we’d stand in line at about four o’clock in the morning, and they give you some cheese and dried beans, and a big can of lard, and all that kinda stuff. And that’s what you took home to eat. And I used to make … and they gave her flour, so my mother used to make bread. And then I would put lard on a piece of bread with some ketchup and salt and pepper, and I’d put it in the oven, and let it warm up a little bit, and that’s what I’d eat.

 

Oh …

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

But it tasted good. [CHUCKLE]

 

[CHUCKLE] How did your parents handle that depression?

 

Well, finally, when it hit real hard and then my father lost the business. He didn’t work for six years. He couldn’t get a job anyplace. And my mother worked several different jobs, but she worked for the Vassar underwear company I remember she got a dollar a day there. And then, she got a job working at an ice cream parlor that was right down the street from us. The guy’s name was Pete Palastini [PHONETIC]. He had this ice cream parlor, and he hired my mother. So, she worked a few little jobs like that, and that’s how we survived.

 

How many children?

 

Just my brother and I.

 

So four people living on a —

 

Yeah.

 

— reduced income.

 

Yeah.

 

I know for a while, you moved to public housing. Were you in rough neighborhoods?

 

That was quite a ways after that, when I was around twelve or thirteen years old, we moved to public housing. But before that, I had all kinds of things that I did, a little shoeshine thing, and I would go in all the bars.

 

How old were you?

 

I was about, I guess, nine or ten years old.

 

Uh-huh.

 

And I’d go in the bar, and I knew nobody’s gonna want me to shine shoes. But they had a free lunch counter there. So I’d come in with the thing on my shoulder, and I’d go over and make a sandwich. [CHUCKLE]

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

They had good food in those bars. [CHUCKLE]

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

And the bartenders never kicked me out or anything. That’s after, of course, prohibition was … Roosevelt … I forget when they repealed the law.

 

After Ed Francis’ family lost the business, life was bleak in the Depression –ravaged, rat — infested Chicago of the 1930s and 40s. But a casual visit by young Ed to a gym near his home would plant the seeds for a better life, with pay.

 

When did the wrestling bug hit?

 

Well, the wrestling bug hit me when I was about twelve years old. That was when I was already in the Julia Lathrop Homes, where we moved.

 

The public housing?

 

Yeah. And I went to this park called Hamlin Park. And it was like a circus when you walked in there, because there were wrestlers and weightlifters, and hand balancers, and they had a high bar with a guy swinging on that. And, boy, I looked around there and I said, Man, what’s going on here? So I tried to get in with the guys.

 

What kind of personality did you have? Were you a showman?

 

Well, I had it underneath, a showman, but I was really shy, to begin with. But there was a wrestling coach there named Lou Talaber, and he took me under his wing, and he started teaching me amateur wrestling. And then, they had a big weightlifting platform there. The German American Weightlifting Club were lifting there. So, they eventually got around to showing me how to do the different lifts. And they showed me how to do a lift called the one-armed bent press. And that’s where you rock your weight to your shoulder, and you bend down between your legs and push it up. And I finally got to be able to do my body weight with one arm.

 

Wow.

 

So, they were paid to go around to different taverns and perform weightlifting, and they’d take me along. So I’d do the one-armed bent press and all the Germans were drinking beer, and clapping their hands.

 

And did the weightlifting keep you out of trouble?

 

Probably did. Yeah.

 

‘Cause I’m sure there was trouble to be found in the area.

 

Yeah. Well, I was coming home from school, and I was in high school, and there was a car parked near the Julia Lathrop Homes. And as I was walking by, this guy stepped out of the car and he said, Hey, I want to speak to you. And he showed his badge, and he was a police detective. He said we’re gonna sit in the car. I said, Well, I wonder what the heck I did. I thought they were gonna arrest me for something. So, I got into the car, and they start showing me pictures of criminals in there. And they said, This guy was wanted for murder, this guy raped, this guy, and they went on and on. He said, We want you to help us. I said, Well, how can I do that? He said, Well, you meet us here tonight at 8:00 p.m., and, we’ll tell you then. But don’t tell anybody else where you’re going.

 

Young Ed Francis met the two lawmen, who then drove him to a place nicknamed Little Sicily in Chicago. The men told him to go into a nearby bar, purchase whiskey, and return to their car. Then, the officers took Francis back into the bar and confronted the bar owner for selling to a minor. Ed Francis left the bar, as instructed by the officers, and headed for a rendezvous point where they would pick him up. Just as the teenager thought the ordeal was over, the night took a scary turn.

 

So, I finally got over to the Bowman Dairy Company, and I’m standing there waiting and waiting. And all of a sudden, a big Lincoln pulls up, Lincoln automobile, and out jump two guys. One of them was in a uniform, soldier’s uniform. And they grabbed me and put me in the car, and took me back to the bar. And they took me in the back room, and they told me what these cops did, that they were trying to get this guy to pay money.

 

That was a shakedown.

 

Shakedown. And so, he said, If we ever get these guys, we’re gonna kill ‘em, these two detectives, they told me. So the phone rang in a phone booth. He said, Hey, this is for you, bartender said. So I went in there, and it was the detective on there. He said, Listen to me. He said, Watch for a good spot, and then he said, run right out the door. And he said, And turn right and run down, and we’ll pick you up, so you can get out of there. So, I went back and told the guys it was the detectives, and told them what happened. And that’s when he said, Oh, don’t worry about those guys. He said, But don’t ever do this again, don’t ever come back in this neighborhood again. And he gave me money, and we went to the streetcar so I could get on the streetcar to go home.

Oh, they escorted you to the streetcar?

 

Yeah, they did, the soldier did. And he said, You can look in the paper tomorrow. He said, These two guys are gonna be dead.

 

Wow; and you were fifteen years old.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

At what point did you set off on a wrestling career?

 

Well, I found a fellow named Carl Pergelo [PHONETIC], and he was an old-time wrestler, and he had a wrestling gymnasium. And I used to go there all the time, and then he would put on shows at like the Shriner’s Clubs and all that. They’d just put mats out, and I’d go there and wrestle somebody who would just wrestle an amateur. And then, he started teaching me some professional wrestling. But then, the war came along. And my brother, who’s three years older than me, he joined the Navy, and my cousin who was about my brother’s age, he joined the Navy. And I wanted to go. So, I couldn’t; my parents wouldn’t sign the papers for me to go. So, I found a way to get around that.

 

Ed Francis served in the Coast Guard during World War II. By January of 1945, Ed was discharged, and spent some time as a sketch model at the Art Institute in Chicago. Soon after, he felt a calling to a profession he’d been introduced to as a teenager.

 

And then, I started wrestling for Pergelo again, and then there was a fellow named Ray Fabiani. Ray Fabiani was a concert violinist with the Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestra, and also, he went to Chicago. And he loved wrestling, and he got hooked with a promoter in Chicago, and he saw me at Carl Pergelo’s gym and he signed me up as one of his wrestlers. So, he decked me out and got my hair bleached, and decked me out with a cape with sequins on it and all that stuff.

 

At that point, did you acquire your moniker, Gentleman Ed Francis?

 

No; that didn’t come up ‘til Al Ventres. So, my career went on from there.

 

You wrestled all over the place?

 

Oh, yeah.

 

Were you usually the good guy, or not?

 

Sometimes one way, and sometimes another way, depending on what the promoter wanted me as.

 

So, what are you like as a bad guy?

 

Well, I did a pretty good job, I guess, because I had plenty of riots.

 

[CHUCKLE] Is that right? People got so angry at you —

 

Oh, yeah.

 

— they stormed the ring?

 

Oh, yeah.

 

By the early 1960s, Ed Francis was making frequent stops in Hawaii, wrestling for promoter Al Karasick. During a conversation with Karasick, Francis saw a golden opportunity he knew he couldn’t pass up.

 

Well, when I was wrestling for Al Karasick and he told me that he was thinking of selling out his business, I thought that would be a good opportunity where I had my kids, and be a good opportunity to get off the road. Because it was killing me and killing them not having their father home, all the time. So, I asked him how much he wanted for the promotion, to have the rights for the promotion. And he said he would agree to ten thousand dollars. So, a friend of mine, a promoter in Oregon, Don Owen, who liked me a lot, Don gave me the ten thousand. I paid Al, brought everybody over.

 

How old were you at the time?

 

I was in my thirties, I guess.

 

And doing business; how was that for you?

 

Tough. Because now, I was an outsider coming in. Now, I’m sitting in Al Karasick’s office. And in order to get to Al’s office, I had to pass Ralph Yempuku’s desk.

 

Who was a promoter extraordinaire, and a fixture.

 

I told him I was trying to get television. He said, If you get television, why would people come to the matches if they’re going to watch ‘em on TV? I said, Well, it doesn’t work that way, Ralph. I said, There’s a certain way you have to build things up, and not show them the main events or whatever, and then they’ll come to the matches. He said, Nah, it’ll never work. He said, Never work. So they all expected me to fail after a few months.

 

But you’d seen it work differently on the mainland.

 

Oh, yes; uh-huh. Yeah. So, when it came around to television, I went to all the stations and they were all saying, Oh, we don’t want any of that phony wrestling on TV in Hawaii, and all that stuff. And finally, I think it was at KHVH when Kaiser owned that station, Denny Kawakami was the program director there. And I finally talked him into give thirteen weeks. He said, We’ll give you a shot at this, he says. ‘Cause I went back to him about ten times. [CHUCKLE]

 

And you wanted a live show from the studio at KHVH?

 

Yeah.

 

TV and radio.

 

Yeah, and then I had to figure out who I was gonna have do the announcing. Couple of guys told me about Lord Blears. And so, I contacted him, and he’d been wrestling for Al Karasick for years. So, he loved Hawaii because he was a surfer, all his kids loved the beach, so he jumped at the chance and came over.

 

So he agreed to be your narrator, your on-air guy.

 

Yeah; and he had a lot of contacts through wrestlers too. Different wrestlers that I didn’t know out of the Los Angeles area and all that. So, the two of us put together like that, we got a lot of wrestlers to come over. Because they’d say, What do you want? Oh, how much can I make? He said, Well, you want to come to Hawaii, it’s just like a vacation, stay here for a few months, or whatever. [CHUCKLE] And you get your airfare back and forth, and we’ll give you a hundred and fifty dollars a week.

 

You had some wild characters. Did you create those characters, or did they come to you fully blown up and crazy?

 

Sometimes, we had to create them. Like the Missing Link, we named him the Missing Link. But he brought the shrunken head on, and he’d talk about that. So, he wasn’t a great performer in the ring, but he was a great performer on television. So that sold it, you know.

 

May I mention some names to you? Could you maybe give me some thoughts about each of these wrestlers that you worked with?

 

Yeah, sure.

 

Handsome Johnny Barend.

 

Great guy, but crazy. He really was a little crazy. [CHUCKLE]

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

He was always a great drawing card. But I never knew what he was gonna do on the television show. So, he and Phil Arnone were conjuring all this stuff up. So, when I come out to interview him, now he’s sitting there and he’s gonna wrestle Billy White Wolf, and he’s sitting there with a teepee. He’s sitting in front of a teepee with a feather in his head. [CHUCKLE]

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

Smoking a cigar. [CHUCKLE]

 

Another name; Ripper Collins. People loved to hate Ripper Collins with his deliberate mangling of the Hawaiian language, saying Moo-ey, and Mo-wee, and Kamimami instead of Kamehameha.

 

Yeah. Ripper was … the ultimate Haole. [CHUCKLE] And then when he started talking about Georgia and mint juleps and all that stuff [CHUCKLE], get everybody mad at him.

 

And he was doing it with great deliberation and forethought.

 

Yeah. [CHUCKLE]

 

What was he like off ring and off stage?

 

He was a good guy.

 

Wasn’t like that at all?

 

Mm-mm.

 

But he really knew how to just rile people up. People who aren’t wrestling fans would know Tosh Togo, who became Odd Job on the James Bond movie, Gold Finger. What was your relationship like with him? I think you did some shaping of him in his career.

 

Yeah. Well, a promoter came over, and Tosh had been wrestling for me for a while. A promoter came over from England, and he came to my house when I lived on Mokapu Boulevard. And he said that the movie producers over in England wanted a Oriental guy with a good body. I said, Well, I think I got the right guy for you.

 

His name is Harold Sakata.

 

Harold Sakata; yeah. And he won a silver medal in the Olympics too, Harold did, for weightlifting. And so, he had a fantastic body. And so, they arranged for him to go back and forth, and finally, they were gonna bring him over to England to test out for the part. And I knew what the storyline was gonna be. I said, Tosh, we gotta go down to a costume shop and get a derby. And you wear the derby, and you put some bricks — ‘cause he could break bricks with his hand. Put some bricks in this briefcase and handcuff the briefcase to you.

 

That was your idea?

 

Yeah.

 

That’s fabulous.

 

And when he got off the plane –‘cause they said they were gonna have news people there and everything. He got off the plane — I didn’t see it, but I was told that he got off and he took the handcuffs off and opened it up, put the bricks down and had this one brick across that, and he broke it. Got the part.

 

A legend was born.

 

Yeah.

 

Among others in the ring for wrestling promoter Ed Francis were two of his sons, Bill and Russ, who went on to pro football. Moody and disgruntled fans came with the territory at 50th State Big Time Wrestling matches. Ed Francis recalls that an incident at the Civic Auditorium in 1961 got the fans so riled up, it turned into a life-threatening riot.

 

Tell me about the riot. It was Curtis Iaukea, a Hawaiian, versus Neff Maiava, Samoan.

 

Yeah.

 

And there was race that played a role in the riot; right?

 

Yeah; oh, yeah. Yeah. Well, I forget how Curtis beat Neff. but I think I wasn’t even standing outside. I was outside the locker room, and I heard this riot coming off, people screaming, and I came out. And Curtis was coming back from the ring, and a couple of cops were escorting him to get back in the locker room. And Neff was laying in the ring.

 

Now, did he do something? He was a heel, a bad guy.

 

Yeah.

 

Did he do something bad to Neff?

 

Yeah, I don’t remember what it was. But then, the people went completely wild. And there was a sergeant there, Sergeant Capellas who also worked for me on the wrestling match. And they picked up some chairs, and the chairs in the Civic at that time, they were like four chairs that were together. So they picked it up, and they had Capellas and I against the ring. And he’s hitting them, and I’m hitting them. [CHUCKLE] And they’re going down so we could get out of there ourselves. And somebody called the Metro Squad, and there was Larry Mehau. I think he was lieutenant then, or sergeant, and he was handling the Metro Squad at that time. And they came down with police dogs and everything, and man, there was real turmoil there.

 

And those were the bruisers; they were big guys.

 

Yeah. And then, somebody grabbed the guy’s gun out of his holster, and Luigi knocked it out of the guy’s hand, and grabbed the gun and ran in the locker room with it. Then the riot was over, gave it back to the police officer. So there could have been a lot worse things happen.

 

Now, if that happened today, wrestling would have been banned from the auditorium.

 

Yeah.

 

But what happened instead? Life went on?

 

This is funny. I went to the police station the next day. They wanted to know what’s going on and how this riot began, and all that, I guess. So, I’m coming up the steps, and out of the police station is … about four Samoan guys. One’s got a bandage on his head, and one got a arm in a sling. And they said, Eh, Mr. Francis. [CHUCKLE] What’s going on next week at the Civic?

 

[CHUCKLE] It was acceptable damage? Was that the idea?

 

Guess so.

 

The days of wrestling have changed so much. You closed out your business in the late 70s, and I think it was probably in the 80s, that’s when wrestling went national and it ceased to be a local phenomenon as it had been in the past. It’s all national, and I can’t imagine the security that must be present with the WWF matches, which are just spectaculars of television and pyrotechnics.

 

Yeah. Well, yeah, it’s put everybody out of business, really. But he was a great promoter, the guy, and he’s doing a fantastic job.

 

Did you fight that trend, or did you see it coming and say …

 

Yeah, I saw it coming.

 

And you decided, I’m not gonna hang in when there’s not gonna be a good return?

 

Yeah. ‘Cause you have to have a lot of money to do it.

 

That must have been really hard, because you weren’t ready to retire, and you were seeing the end of a business, and there’s nothing like it to go to.

 

Yeah. Went back to the ranch. [CHUCKLE]

 

Which you knew how to ranch.

 

Yeah.

 

And you already owned a ranch.

 

Yeah. Old cowboy. [CHUCKLE]

 

So, how old are you now?

 

Eighty-six.

 

How does it feel?

 

Horrible. [CHUCKLE]

 

Why do you say that?

 

Well, you always have flashbacks of when you were young. I still have dreams about going to a wrestling match, and driving two hundred miles, and arriving there, and getting out of my car, and realize I didn’t bring my tights and my shoes along with me. [CHUCKLE]

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

I have dreams like that all the time. [CHUCKLE] So now, what am I gonna do, I can’t perform. And I’m worried about what the promoter is gonna say, he’s gonna be mad and I’m in the main event. So, I guess that wrestling stuff stays with you over the years.

 

Wrestling promoter Ed Francis has stayed with us over the years through the many memories of die-hard fans. I spoke with him on a Hawaii visit he made in December of 2012, and people still recognized him on the street, calling out, Eh, Mista Francis! His amazing life is chronicled in the book, Gentleman Ed Francis Presents 50th State Big Time Wrestling, which was released shortly after our conversation. For Long Story Short and PBS Hawaii, I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou kakou.

 

[CHUCKLE] Well, I used to test the waters all the time. Before a big match was coming off, I got disappointed quite a few times. I’d go to Ala Moana Center, go through all the stores and everything, and there were several times not one person said a word to me. And sweat would break out.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

My god, no house tonight. [CHUCKLE]

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

But I always did have a pretty good house. But I thought that was kind of a gauge, and I’d say, Well, if nobody talks to me, then nobody is talking about wrestling on TV.

 

THE MIND OF A CHEF
Joie de Vivre

 

The rigors to ensure quality and consistency in his establishments, along with TV appearances, interviews and an online presence, keep Chef Ludo Lefevbre busy. When he needs to escape, he heads to Paris in the spring, where the emphasis is on life’s joy and fun.

 

THE MIND OF A CHEF
La Mer

THE MIND OF A CHEF: La Mer

 

“La mer” means, simply, the sea. Explore the oceanic bounty of France with Chef Ludo Ludo Lefebvre. Ludo’s eyes light up when he describes the lobsters of Brittany, oysters from Cancale and a myriad of other extraordinary culinary jewels.

 

THE MIND OF A CHEF
Le Végétale

 

“La terre”- the earth – is where ingredients for some of Chef Ludo Lefebvre’s favorite dishes are cultured, grown, harvested and served. Explore the vegetables, gardens and memories that contribute to his preparations.

 

Bill Murray:
The Mark Twain Prize

 

Celebrate beloved actor and comedian Bill Murray, the latest recipient of The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. From the stage of The John F. Kennedy Center, a star-studded lineup salutes the achievements of the comedic trailblazer.

 

Scheduled to appear are David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, Bill Hader, Dan Aykroyd, Aziz Ansari, Paul Shaffer, Brian Doyle-Murray, Sigourney Weaver and more.

 

THE MIND OF A CHEF
Strip Malls

 

Ludo meets with his partners to discuss the business decisions that go into serving fine food in a strip mall setting. He demonstrates the restaurant dishes that best embody the cultural mash-up and high/low flair of his strip mall philosophy.

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Phil Arnone

 

Phil Arnone has built a career on telling Hawaii’s stories as a television director and producer. Revered for his passion and professionalism, he has directed Hawaii’s number-one local newscast, produced a popular kids’ show and now produces documentaries that explore some of Hawaii’s most important places and people.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Oct. 19 at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Oct. 23 at 4:00 pm.

 

Phil Arnone Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

He’s been paid to direct and produce Hawaii’s number one local newscast, a groundbreaking kids’ show, and practically everything in between. Television producer director Phil Arnone, coming up next on Long Story Short.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. When you think of a television director, especially one who’s made his mark working on live broadcasts, you may picture someone who’s confident, diligent, dedicated to perfection, and perhaps wound a little tight. Producer director Phil Arnone was all that during his time with KGMB, by far Hawaii’s number one television station in the 1970s and 1980s. Arnone’s love for Hawaii is evident in the work he did then, and the work he’s involved with now, telling the stories of the people and places of Hawaii. This producer, who has so carefully archived the lives of people such as Israel Kamakawiwoole, Eddie Aikau, and Rap Reiplinger, began life an ocean away from Hawaii.

 

You’ve spent a lot of time in the Bay Area growing up.

 

Born and raised in San Francisco. My father was a second generation Italian, and my mother was second generation Norwegian. And as a result, of course, I speak no Italian or Norwegian, and never have any food that isn’t American.

 

That was in the era where people that were born elsewhere and moved to America were such patriots immediately, and they didn’t really want to talk about their history in the old country, if you will. My father was more outgoing and more Italian. I mean, he was, so he was out there and friendly, and reaching, and approachable. And my mother was a more conservative, quiet person. But it was a good family life. We didn’t stay in San Francisco too long. In the end of the sixth grade, we moved to Marin County at the other end of the Golden Gate Bridge.

 

Marin County; what was your life like as a child after sixth grade?

 

It was good. I mean, very normal. The town that we lived in, Corte Madera, probably had, I don’t know, eighteen hundred people living there. It was quite small. And we walked to school. We’d walk down the railroad track, and then … grammar school. So, it was pretty normal for me.

 

Phil Arnone led this normal life through high school, then on to college. In his search for what to do in his life, Arnone looked to the military, which in turn, brought him to Hawaii.

 

I started off at a junior college at College of Marin in Kentfield, and mostly looking for things to see if I … something I wanted to do. And I didn’t find any. Then, I tried forestry and civil engineering, and took a class in all about religions, and took a business class. I did okay, but it never turned me on, it never excited me.

 

Did you think, I’ll have to get a job and not be especially excited, but I’ll do it?

 

Well, here’s what I did. At the end of the two years, I joined the Army. Actually, I volunteered for the draft. There was a draft then. So, they just took your name and put it up on top, and boom, you’re in the Army.

 

Why’d you do that? Because …

 

Well, it was between wars, for one.

 

It was safe?

 

It was pretty safe; yeah. So, I did that, because I needed a little experience living away from home, and growing up, and seeing how I failed the growing up part, but I did get some experience just living away from home.

 

Where’d you go?

 

Well, after all the basic training and then the six-week training or whatever, they said, Well, Phil, it’s time for you to go somewhere. You have a choice; you can go to Alaska, or Hawaii. And I said, after waiting a good two or three seconds, I’ll go to Hawaii. I’m one of those guys that listened to Hawaii Calls on the radio in California when I was growing up. And they painted a wonderful picture, and I painted another one in my head, so, I thought, well, this is wonderful. So, I was at Schofield Barracks for about a year and a half. We’re talking about the late 50s. So …

 

Soon after statehood.

 

When I got off the plane for my first time here, it was on the other side of the airport, Lagoon Drive. You walked down the stairs, there was no ramp coming up to you, and they give you the fresh pineapple juice. I mean it lived up to what I’d heard, certainly, and I loved it a lot.

 

Did you get to know local people very much when you were at Schofield?

 

No. I really didn’t, because I was at Schofield, or I was at Waikiki. I might have met a few people locally at the beach, but not out at Schofield Barracks.

 

So, thanks to the U.S. Army, Phil Arnone was able to get that experience of living away from home, in the place that he would later call home, Hawaii. But he still needed to find a career. He left the military and went back to San Francisco, where he continued his college education.

 

When it was time to get out …

 

After one hitch?

 

Yeah; one hitch, which was really only a year and a half. They let you out early if you were going to school. So, I was going to go to San Francisco State, so they have a new student orientation that you have to go to, regardless of whether you’re going as a freshman or a junior, as I was going to do. And at the end of that, they said, Well, now, if you’ll all stand up, it’s time for you to go to your major advisor. I said, Oh, major advisor. Hm; wonder what that’s gonna be.   So, I walked out of the auditorium, and I looked up, and the first sign on the left said, Radio-TV. And I went, Uh, let’s try that.

 

Really?

 

Yeah.

 

Randomly?

 

And I did; I walked in, and I loved the people, I loved the work. And I went, God, this is fun, I really like this. I thought, well, maybe I’ll be on radio. I could do that. And then, at one point, there was a fieldtrip to a television station, where they were doing a local Dick Clark dance party kind of show. So, I went in the control room, and I watched the director standing up, listening to the music, calling the shots. I said, Now I know what I want to do.

 

Do you remember how many cameras the director had?

 

He had two.

 

Only two? Okay.

 

Yeah; black and white. And the turrets on the end. I mean, this is in the, what was it, the late 50s, early 60s. Yeah; it was early 60s. Well, that was in San Francisco, the CBS affiliate. And then, I got a job there.

 

But they don’t just let you be a director all at once; right?

 

No; I wasn’t directing. I started in the film department as an editor. But in those days, what that meant was, all the movies were on film, and you had to cut them to fit the commercials in without destroying the storyline. So, did that for a while, and then, I got the job I wanted, which was to be a stage manager. So, I was stage manager for the rest of my stay there.

 

You were bringing people in and out to appear on programs?

 

Well, yeah, you’re calling, you’re cueing people. You know, it’s like doing a newscast, and you’re on the floor, and you’re telling them when they’re on, and counting back from commercial.

 

You were doing a lot of live television, then.

 

It was almost all live. I don’t remember hardly ever taping anything. Dance party show that I saw earlier, I did direct some of those episodes.

 

Despite directing a few episodes of the dance party show at KPIX in San Francisco, Phil Arnone was still considered a stage manager. Being a director was really what he wanted to do, so he moved back to Hawaii, where he had no job lined up, no connections, and no knowledge of what the television industry was like here, and where he teamed up with a man who would become Hawaii’s dominant television anchor of the 1970s.

 

I came to Hawaii, because I’d been here in the Army, and thought, Hey … maybe they’ll have a job for me.

 

So, I would have thought your best job prospects would be in San Francisco.

 

Well, they weren’t.

 

They weren’t; okay.

 

And Hawaii seemed nice. I mean, you know, when you’re young, you do things that may not make a lot of sense sometimes. And maybe that was one of them. But when I got here, at least I had like three years of experience at the television station in San Francisco, so it looked like, hey, this kid knows something, he knows something about television.

 

Did you know anything about the television industry here?

 

No; not really.

 

So, what did you go about doing as soon as you arrived?

 

I went to all the stations and left resumes, and almost immediately, I started working at Channel 2, which was KONA then, I think, KONA-TV. And I was doing a little switching, audio, camera stuff, editing film things. Things that I wasn’t actually terribly skilled at.   And then, when a directing job opened up at Channel 4, I went over there, and I was there for three years. That’s when I met Bob Sevey. He was the PanAm News anchor. Bob was one of the guys that I certainly learned a lot from, just watching him work on camera, how he handled himself. And Bob was the same guy on camera, or off camera; a wonderful man.

 

He had this great gravitas that didn’t get thrown off by untoward events that happened during newscasts, like a tripod falling down, or somebody walking into the studio not aware that you’re on live television.

 

Yeah; he could handle the worst situation.

 

What did a director at that time do?

 

Ah. The main thing that I did was, directed all of Bob Sevey’s Pan American Newscasts. Directing meaning, I had a script in the control room, and give the commands to roll in tape, and when to go to it, and when to go to this, or that, or whatever the graphic might be, and go to commercial.

 

So, on your end, it wasn’t just following a list of commands in your head or on the script. Sometimes tape comes in late, or things happen, and you’re always on the fly as far as adjusting. And when Bob Sevey is gonna drop things, you make that happen; right?

 

There’s an energy that is created when you’re delivering the news, when you know it’s live, and you know it’s just happening, and everybody’s breathing hard and excited.

 

And you’re waiting for the last information, or the last film clip to come in.

 

And people to come out and hand you a page of script, or a new bulletin has come in, or somebody has just died that we need to talk about. All of that happens, so it can be very exciting, and it can be very stressful. We try not to make it too stressful.

 

The career that Phil Arnone had been working towards, that of a television director, had finally been realized. Arnone soon earned a reputation as a producer and director who accepted no less than perfection from himself, and from the people with whom he worked. Bob Sevey picked you when he switched stations, I take it.

 

Well, he was hired by Cec to run the news department. And within what seemed like a couple of weeks, the director that Cec had hired had a heart attack in the control room, passed away.

 

At Channel 9.

 

At Channel 9. So, Bob had suggested to Cec that I could come over and do that job.

 

You and I worked in the same television station, in the Bob Sevey days.

 

Yes.

 

And you could be one of two things. You could be steely, and scary.

Or you could be staccato sharp, and scary.

 

Ah …

 

But scary was pretty much the defining approach.

 

Yeah.

 

I mean, you were a no-tolerance, perfection director. There are others who go, That’s okay, no problem, you know, we’ll make it back on this next show. You; no prisoners, take no prisoners. What do you mean by that?

 

Well, but you’re right. I mean, I tried to have the perfect show. But I think every director wants that. It’s not like they don’t want it. And what you have to do is, if there’s a mistake made that’s on the air already, nothing you can do about it, you need to talk to that person after the show about what happened.

 

Yes. Your conversations with people about this are very memorable. To them.

 

Well, sometimes, I would open up the microphone from the control room that went into the newsroom on a PA system kinda thing, and tell somebody right after they made a boo-boo that it wasn’t nice, don’t do that again, please. In a different choice of words, perhaps.

 

Were you looking for something that would work, because you wanted that perfect newscast?

 

Oh, yeah. I mean, that was the job. We didn’t want to see a lot of blank screen or … lot of things catching people unawares. We can’t do that.

 

Were you as hard on yourself when you made a mistake?

 

I’d like to think so. I’ve changed, I’ve grown up a little bit. I realize that perhaps … saying certain things doesn’t really help you in the long run.

 

Phil Arnone was in the right place, at the right time. Under owner Cec Heftel, KGMB was the market powerhouse in local news and entertainment in the 1970s. In addition to directing the top-rated Channel 9 News, Arnone also produced and directed live coverage of local sporting events, he created the Hawaiian Moving Company, he produced music specials that featured, amongst others, Cecilio and Kapono, the Peter Moon Band, and Emma Veary. He directed 50th State Wrestling, working with Lord Tally Ho Blears, Gentleman Ed Francis, and Handsome Johnny Berand. And there was also a kids’ show, one that even today is still very fondly remembered by many Hawaii residents.

 

When I started, the infamous Checkers and Pogo Show was either just starting or about to start. And the show was successful almost from the very beginning, ‘cause Cec was looking for something that kids would want to watch, but also advertisers would want to be in with kids’ products.

 

Did you direct the Checkers and Pogo Show?

 

I may have directed an episode or two along the way, but I was more the producer. I do remember one of the infamous episodes where—you know, there was a lot of pie-throwing on that show. When they were desperate for someone to hit with a pie, I would put on a coat and tie, because it was much more fun to hit a guy with a pie if he was dressed up. And they called me management, if you will. So, I would walk out there, and demand that they give me that pie. I don’t want say it, of course. And the kids are screaming, Yeah, give him a pie! Okay.

 

This is good. Watch this.

 

You had a huge local audience. I still run into adults who are now maybe collecting social security, and they just can’t believe how much fun it was being on that live television show as a kid.

 

There was the penny jar that they could stick their hand into. There were funny-faces. I don’t know if you remember that, but that was a chance for kids to make a face, and it was okay to do that.

 

Different vibe. It was a station that kind of did what it wanted, and was very successful at reading what the audience was willing and happy to watch at the time.

 

You know, free-for-all was a big part of what Cec did, on radio and television at the same time, which was giving away money. And he always said, If you’re giving away money, people will watch or listen to the radio. I mean, he went right to the base core of, this will work.

 

We’re talking about the fun and the games, and the money giveaway, but the newscasts were sacrosanct. Bob Sevey didn’t tolerate any funny business.

 

No, he didn’t. But Cec totally kept his hands off the news department. He hired Bob, and Bob made the decisions about hiring people, and what the newscast was gonna look like, and be like. And so, Cec was certainly smart enough to realize that he can’t be commanding every inch of the station, and Bob knows what he’s doing. So … yeah.

 

And you did both. You could go crazy, and you could go very serious.

 

I was … yeah.

 

Were you as intolerant of mistakes on the Checkers and Pogo Show, as you were on the news?

 

Yeah.   Well, no, probably not to the same degree. I mean, the news is a serious show that needed to be handled in a certain way, and look professional. You could look goofy and make a mistake on Checkers and Pogo, and no one would know it was a mistake. You know, we’d just go, That’s fine, get another pie ready.

 

While Phil Arnone’s passion for television brought him professional success, he acknowledges that the same passion can consume so that you sometimes forget the more important things. And he considers that a factor in the in the end of his first marriage. But sometimes, work can also create social opportunities. Arnone met his current wife while he was producing a show at KGMB.

 

That’s an interesting story. We were doing a Bingo show. It was a short-lived … or is it lived? Short-lived show. It was an experiment, and Karen Keawehawaii and …

 

Kirk Matthews.

 

Kirk Matthews were the two hosts. And Michelle came down with a friend, a girlfriend, to watch the show. And I was looking at people on the camera in the control room, and … and there she was. And I went … I need to go out and talk to her.

I think it’s important. You know, she’s new in the studio, needs …

 

Needs help.

 

–a friendly face, and … that kinda stuff. So, that was pretty much it. You know, at the moment, we kinda left it that way, and then I saw her at some other gathering, and I think I got her phone number. But we did go out on a date. I think we went to Hy’s, where Michelle says I interviewed her.   I think she actually said, third degree, as opposed to interview. But that was interesting. But anyway, that was the first date, and then we went on from there. So, I mean, Michelle is my best friend. I can talk to her about anything, and vice versa. And she’s a joy. I’m so lucky to have her in my life. I really am.

 

And you have a blended family, although the kids didn’t grow up together; right?

 

No; because yeah, the age difference is considerable. But yeah, Michelle’s daughters and my daughters, obviously, we’re all happy. We don’t spend a lot of time all together, because people are living all over the country. But yeah, her daughters, as I think I’ve mentioned, they’re really very bright kids, and have done well for themselves. And Tony, my son, is a professor at University of Iowa, a cellist and has a couple of CDs out, actually.

 

In 1989, after working in Hawaii for twenty-six years, Phil Arnone returned to the Bay Area. As director of local programming at KTVU, he was working in a major market, with major budgets. He was in charge of shows for San Francisco 49ers football and Giants baseball, as well as live coverage of local cultural events such as San Francisco’s Chinese New Year Parade. He produced the Orange Bowl Parade for CBS Television. Arnone’s career was soaring. But in 2002, it was time to come home, to Hawaii.

 

How’d you know it was time?

 

Well, let’s see. I was turning sixty-five, and I promised my wife that we would come back at that point. And it was fine. I had no idea what I was gonna do when I got back.

 

Did you consider retiring?

 

Well, I thought I was retiring. I thought that’s what was happening to me on the plane back. And I go, Well, but you know, I love this, I don’t know anything else. Was that a good move? Mm. But it turned out to be a great move.

 

Rather than retiring, Phil Arnone continued to combine his talents as a producer and director with his love for Hawaii, producing specials about the people and places of our islands.

 

That is what you found to do in, quote, retirement. How did that happen? You’re doing film, after film, after film for Hawaii News Now; local programming.

 

Well, when I came back, I went around and visited all the stations to see what was going on. And as I got into KGMB, realized that this was in fact their fiftieth anniversary being on the air. So, in talking to … I can’t remember the general manager. It was a woman that was there … nice lady.

 

Lynn.

 

Lynn Mueller?

 

Yes.

 

Yeah. And she said, Well, why don’t you do this fiftieth anniversary show for us? You know, so that’s how it started. And then we went from there to another show, and another show, and another show. The truth is that I’ve learned so much about Hawaii and about these people, and about the culture, that I never learned when I was here working at KGMB. I mean, we never did shows like this, and I never left that station. I was always in the station doing things. I feel almost like Lou Gehrig when he said, I’m the luckiest man alive, because I’m still doing something that I enjoy at this age, and in this time.

 

Don Ho, Tom Moffatt, Duke Kahanamoku, Dave Shoji, Jim Nabors, Kapiolani Park, Romance in Hawaii. These are just a few of Hawaii’s stories that have been told by Phil Arnone and his team, writer Robert Pennybacker and editor Lawrence Pacheco. At the time of our conversation in the spring of 2016, the seventy-nine-year-old Arnone and his team were working on their twentieth film about the life of local jazz legend, Jimmy Borges. Mahalo to Phil Arnone of Portlock in East Honolulu, for sharing your story with us. And thank you, for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, hui hou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes store, or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

I did commercials for a while in the 70s. It was on-camera kind of stuff.

 

Were you the earnest pitchman?

 

I was. Well, I wasn’t pitching it, but I was very serious. Except the McDonald’s spot.

 

Grand prize, Datsun 280z in either the two or four-seat model, thirty all-expense-paid trips via United Airlines to Boston and Philadelphia, other prizes; a console piano, a sailboat, an outrigger canoe, a refrigerator freezer, six color TVs, two electric typewriters, four stereo music systems, twenty calculators, four tape recorders. Not so bad so far, huh, folks? Twenty solid state radios, six pop-up toasters, ten hairdryers. We’re rolling now. One hundred trail bikes, three ten-speed bikes, two surfboards, two cassette tape recorders, hundred record albums, and two all-beef patties, special sauce, cheese, onions …

 

[END]

 

Can-Do Teachers

Can-Do Teachers: Teachers at PBS Hawaii - Terrance T.C. Ching Campus

 

Leslie Wilcox, President and CEO of PBS HawaiiA Hawaiian proverb tells us:

To prepare for 1 year, plant kalo.
To prepare for 10 years, plant koa.
To prepare for 100 years, teach the children.

Here at PBS Hawai‘i, count us in for the third option!

 

Our programming for all ages is designed to nourish minds, and Hawai‘i teachers are very much a part of this educational television/multimedia center.

 

About 80 digital media teachers from all over the state – private, public and charter school educators – recently met for a workshop in our cheerful new building. These professionals are teaching and learning at the same time, preparing their students for the future in a fast-changing world.

 

The teaching connection at PBS Hawai‘i is baked in. Our very first general manager was a teacher at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, Robert M. Reed, who established this organization in the 1960s to show the value of television as a teaching aid.

 

Several chapters of the Hawai‘i Alpha Delta Kappa organization of women educators have long served as volunteers here, overseeing young keiki and students at our events and handling paperwork. ADK members and tireless retired teachers Jean Kiyabu and Julie Shimonishi have served on our Board of Directors.

 

Another Board member is the extraordinary Candy Suiso of Wai‘anae High School, who many years ago set the stage for PBS Hawai‘i’s HIKI NŌ statewide student news network, by sharing digital media with her students. They became engaged learners and continue to be a potent force in creative youth media, locally and nationally.

 

Thanks to generous funding from former San Francisco educator Joyce Stupski and her Stupski Family Fund of the Hawai‘i Community Foundation, we are able to provide the schools’ HIKI NŌ teachers with storytelling mentors and training in journalism and video production.

 

It was a retired public elementary school teacher, Honolulu’s Karen Watanabe, who actually completed our building campaign by leaving us a large gift when she passed away at age 89. She loved math and liked to play the markets.

 

Leeward O‘ahu’s Teacher of the Year, the innovative Luane Higuchi of Wai‘anae Intermediate, has written a letter urging islanders to invest in children through PBS Hawai‘i.

 

We’re most grateful and very proud to stand alongside Hawai‘i’s teachers in planting a “can-do” spirit and learning and workforce skills, in preparing children for the future.

 

A hui hou – until next time…
Leslie signature

 

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