Sharing Mana‘o

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Thom McGarvey and others who mentored me when I began my radio broadcasting career. Several readers contacted me with their own recollections of listening to KMVI in the mid-1970s. Those were our glory days, when KMVI dominated the Maui airwaves, led by the man we fondly called McGuava.

Thom McGarvey died peacefully in his sleep on Jan. 8, the day that column ran in The Maui News. He had been fighting liver cancer for several years, but kept it secret until the last few weeks of his life.

Known as “the man behind the crown” of the Miss Hawaii Pageant, Thom has been hailed as a visionary. In his 30 years as executive director, he built the program up to its present level of prominence and prestige, establishing the annual pageant as a spectacular live telecast and increasing scholarship awards nearly a hundredfold. Under his leadership, and with longtime associate Ray Abregano as co-director, the Miss Hawaii Pageant produced two Miss Americas: Carolyn Sapp Daniels (1992) and Angela Baraquio Grey (2001). Both credit Thom with helping to shape them into winners and the women they are today.

While devoting countless volunteer hours to the pageant, Thom held a series of public relations positions at Hawaiian Airlines and several government agencies. He also served as programming manager for ‘Olelo TV, Honolulu’s version of Akaku, from 2001 to 2006. True to his generous nature, he supported ‘Olelo as a volunteer for another six years after he retired from the job.

Born in Pennsylvania and raised in Virginia, Thom arrived on Maui in 1969 with a music degree from USC. The handsome, eloquent 26-year-old worked as a DJ before being promoted to program director at KMVI and eventually entertainment editor for The Maui News, back when both entities were owned by Maui Publishing Co. His involvement with the Miss America organization began in 1977, when he and Ray stepped in to help with the Miss Maui Pageant. Thom was choral director of Sing Out Maui for several years and also volunteered much of his time to community and high school theater, which is where I first encountered him. A couple of years later, he encouraged me to apply for a job at the radio station and became my first program director. I was 17 years old.

L.D. Reynolds was music director then. He remembers Thom as an accomplished musician and “a very mellow dude.”

“We did share a deep love of all kinds of music, and I always loved to engage him in conversation about the subject as his knowledge was immense and he communicated his enthusiasm for music extremely well,” he said. “I took a class in music appreciation at MCC with Frank Tavares. We would gather the whole class over to my home because I had a decent sound system. Thom was always a part of that group. I remember when the Beatles ‘White Album’ was released and I played it for the group, all of us hearing it for the very first time, and the room was filled with elation with each song. Of course, the whole class hung on every word of Thom’s assessment of the recording.”

Former news director Mike Hurley recalls: “Thom spent hours of his own time with me in the old studio with the piano trying to get me ready to sing in two Maui Community Theater shows . . . I can assure you that anyone else would have given up, faced with my very limited singing ability. Thom did not. I always have appreciated his efforts . . . As program director, Thom was able to lasso the various egos, including mine, both on the air and off, to keep the station running smoothly.”

Maui’s Riddle King, McAvoy Layne, also remembers Thom as a consummate broadcast professional: “He was such a good radio guy. In 1976, he went to Philadelphia and phoned in a remote broadcast as they rang the Liberty Bell to celebrate our 200th birthday. At the time I was standing in the on air studio and even to this day it gives me chicken skin to think of it.”

Always gracious, never pretentious, Thom was extremely intelligent and deeply compassionate. He was a gentle man and a gentleman who tirelessly gave of himself to enrich the lives of others. Even in death, he devoted himself to the education of Hawaii’s youth, donating his body to the University of Hawaii medical school.

A celebration of his extraordinary life will be held Monday at the Mystical Rose Oratory on the St. Louis School – Chaminade University campus, 3140 Waialae Ave., Honolulu. Visitation will be held at 5, services at 6:30 p.m.

I’m certain he is already preparing a choir of angels for the occasion. Mahalo, McGuava, from your Maui ‘ohana. Aloha ‘oe.

* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is

Sharing Mana‘o

Have you been purple-ized yet? I have, and let me tell you, it’s not as much fun as it sounds. In fact, it’s kind of creepy.

I should have known better. Well, to be honest, I did know better. But I just couldn’t resist the intrigue. And the promise of double Cheddar Cheetos.

I love Cheetos; they’re my guiltiest pleasure – or my most pleasurable guilt. I love them so much, I only allow myself to buy them occasionally. So when I saw the latest Cheetos variety, the “PX41 Limited Edition Cheezy Mix Mix-ups,” on the store shelves, it seemed like the perfect occasion to binge on my favorite junk food. The bag showed four kinds of Cheetos inside: classic Crunchy Cheddar, little Parmesan pillows, Nacho Cheese wheels and my favorite, the above-mentioned double Cheddar puffs.

But next to the picture of my beloved puffs was the puzzling phrase “Purple-izes your tongue!” A closer look revealed instructions to eat five puffs in a row to “unleash the colorful purple effect” on your tongue. That’s when the little voice in my head started questioning. Who the heck thinks up these things? Cheetos don’t need no stinkin’ gimmicks. Cheetos are perfect the way they are. Isn’t it enough that they turn your fingers orange? That, by the way, is my favorite part, licking the cheesy – excuse me, cheezy – grime off my fingers after I’ve emptied the bag. Why would anyone want to throw another garish color into the Cheetos experience? And what kind of chemicals did they use to accomplish that?

The ingredients list included artificial colors Red 40 and Blue 1, in addition to the standard Yellow 6. The little voice was shouting by now, “This can’t be good for us,” but I ignored it and bought the bag.

Sure enough, after five double Cheddar puffs in a row, my tongue took on a dull purple tinge, not as remarkable as the bright blue specks that appeared after puff No. 3. Maybe, if I’d continued, the purple would have intensified beyond the sickly shade of gray-violet. I’ll never know, because I couldn’t bring myself to eat any more. Even though they tasted the same as regular Cheetos, that color-changing aspect ruined it for me.

Why do these corporations insist on messing with perfection? If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my years of junk food consumption, it’s that “new and improved” usually isn’t. Remember New Coke? Crystal Pepsi? Both products were hastily discontinued after consumers overwhelmingly rejected them.

More is not necessarily better, either. Double Stuff Oreos sounded good to me at first, but I quickly realized that the proportion of chocolate wafer to white sugar paste is a delicate balance and shouldn’t be tampered with.

And while we’re talking about leaving well enough alone, am I the only one who misses the way shrimp chips used to be irregularly shaped and sized? In a 10-cent bag, you could count on getting at least a couple of giant chips, too big for the tongue challenge. Remember that? You’d stick out your tongue, hold a shrimp chip on it, and as the moisture began to break down the chip, the bubbles on the surface would pop and pinch your tongue. We’d try to hold out until the crackling subsided, but before drool started dripping from our open mouths. I always thought the trick was to use a chip with lots of curve, so that the area touching the tongue was smaller than it appeared. Nowadays, shrimp chips are as boringly uniform as Pringles. Although they do seem to be ideally sized for a tongue challenge.

Purple tongues should be acquired through grape Fun Dip. That’s the new and improved name for good old Lik-m-Aid, the powdered candy that we’d eat by licking our fingers and dipping them into the pouch. That was before they included a candy dipstick in the packaging. If you didn’t want purple fingers to go with your purple tongue, you just poured the stuff into your mouth directly from the bag. Or you bought Pixy Stix candy-filled straws instead.

So please, Frito-Lay, leave the purple-izing to Willy Wonka. Unless you can come up with a slender-izing formula (“Eat five puffs in a row and unleash the magical fat-burning effect!”), quit messing with my Cheetos.

* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is

Sharing Mana‘o

It’s my mother’s fault that I am such a sentimental fool. I learned from the best.

Readers of this column often ask me how I’m able to remember specific dates and details of growing up on Maui so many years ago. After I reply that it wasn’t THAT many years ago, I confess that I am a second-generation sentimental pack rat. I have boxes full of memorabilia from as far back as kindergarten. And what I didn’t save, my mother did.

When I moved to Honolulu after graduating from high school, Mom spent those first couple of months assembling a scrapbook of my school years, from nursery school through graduation. She also embroidered an elaborate design on a denim work shirt and gave me both scrapbook and shirt on my first visit home. I wore the shirt until it was literally falling off me; the scrapbook, I still have.

Bulging with report cards, newspaper clippings, even the tassel from my commencement mortarboard, this scrapbook has helped me through many difficult times and more than a few columns. Because of my mother’s compulsion to keep things, I’ve shared with you my earliest poetry, memories of the 1967 County Fair, and letters to Santa (“Dear Santa, I don’t know what I want this year. Please bring me whatever I deserve. Love with all my might . . .”). But it’s not the contents of this collection that comfort me; it’s the motive behind it. Knowing that my mom couldn’t bear to part with these chunks of my childhood, I get all warm and fuzzy inside.

Hopefully, my son will feel the same when he inherits the assortment I’ve gathered: his first lock of hair, his baby teeth, his kindergarten journal (“Today I am sad becus my mom wont take me to McDonols”). As my only child, he’ll also end up with Mom’s scrapbook, as well as my 5th- and 6th-grade autograph books and teenage love letters. I even kept the one that was written, one word at a time, on pieces of mochi crunch. I thought it was so romantic, the way the young man slipped me his invitation to the movies during a card game with friends, I couldn’t bring myself to eat the evidence, as he’d intended. Instead, I held on to every piece, even after the ink had faded and the mochi crunch crumbled. I now have a Ziploc baggie full of shoyu-rice dust and sweet memories.

The sweetest anniversary gift I ever received was from my mother. My second husband divorced me right before we were to celebrate three years of marriage. On the anniversary date, Mom sent flowers and a card which read simply, “Thinking of you on this day. We love you.” I still have the card, of course.

Although my father passed away 14 years ago, Mom and I still celebrate his birthday with dinner at his favorite restaurant. And, recalling how she eased the pain of my divorce years ago, I always make sure to wish her a happy anniversary on their wedding date.

Mom and Daddy were married on Jan. 8, 1955, Elvis Presley’s 20th birthday. When I was a teenager, I thought that, one day, I would send my parents to Las Vegas to see Elvis for their anniversary. Unfortunately for all of us, especially Elvis, he died before I was able to afford the trip.

But finally, this year, I was able to pull it off. Last Thursday I took Mom to see “Burn’n Love” at the Maui Theatre, known to most locals as the home of ” ‘Ulalena.” Darren Lee recreates Elvis in Hawaii so masterfully, the experience is surreal. Mom and I swooned and squealed together like a couple of schoolgirls, and we basked in the glow all the way home over the pali.

Lee’s intent is to make the four-night-weekly show a permanent fixture, and I hope he succeeds, because I want to take Mom back next year to celebrate her 60th wedding anniversary – and Elvis’ 80th birthday. “Burn’n Love” is a bit pricier than local audiences are accustomed to, but a portion of all ticket sales goes to the Maui Food Bank. For me, it was worth every penny, to see Mom twinkle when the King took her hand in his. And, I must admit, I was swept away myself by the little curl of his lips. OK, it was the swirl of his hips that really did me in.

Wise men say, only fools rush in.

But I can’t help falling in love with you . . .

I can’t help it, I’m a sentimental fool. It’s all Mom’s fault.

* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is

Sharing Mana‘o

A year and a half ago, after watching an online video of my late father, I used this space to express my gratitude for YouTube and old friends. The seven-minute “tribute to Dr. Nelson Yogi and weightlifting Maui style” was uploaded by one friend in 2006, but until another friend told me about it, I didn’t know it existed. Seeing my dad coaching and lifting and laughing again, a dozen years after his death, I was overwhelmed with joy and longing all at once.

Now it’s time for me to thank Facebook. The world’s largest social network turns 10 years old next month, and though I’ve been on it for about half that time, I’ve hardly ever been ON it. I’m an old-fashioned girl at heart, preferring face-to-face friendship over the virtual version. Lately, however, I have come to appreciate the power of Facebook.

Through Facebook, I’ve been reunited with my first program director and my first news director, the men who mentored me through my start in radio. It has been nearly 40 years since we worked together, and the recent reconnection has unleashed a flood of sweet memories.

I was 17 when Thom McGarvey hired me as a part-time DJ at KMVI. An active community volunteer, Thom already knew me from working with Sue Ann Loudon’s Baldwin High drama club on our annual musicals. He held a degree in music from USC and devoted much of his spare time to serve as musical director or an adviser for our productions. I think he also directed the Sing Out Maui youth chorus, the local version of Up With People. (Remember them? Up, up with people; you meet them wherever you go. . . . If more people loved more people, all people everywhere, there’d be a lot less people to worry about, and a lot more people who cared. . . . ) Sorry, I’m getting carried away down the musical memory lane.

Before long, Thom added the afternoon news shift to my duties at KMVI, and News Director Mike Hurley took me under his wing. Originally hired as a rock ‘n’ roll DJ, the long-haired, motorcycle-riding Hurley was surprisingly strict in the newsroom. He instilled the basics of broadcast news in me, and because of his insistence on professionalism and high standards, I was able to enjoy a career in radio and TV news for a number of years.

Thom and Mike seemed to be opposite sides of the same coin, and I developed schoolgirl crushes on both of them. Each was movie-star handsome; Thom reminded me of Robert Mitchum, while Mike was more the Peter Fonda type. McGarvey looked like he was born to sit at a grand piano; Hurley, on a Harley. With my dear friend LD Reynolds as music director, the men of KMVI management were a dream(boat) team.

Always immaculately groomed, Thom appeared straightlaced to the casual observer, but those of us who worked with him knew him to be both passionate and compassionate. And the twinkle in his eye gave away a playful soul and a wicked sense of humor.

Despite my attraction to my bosses, I fell in love with the afternoon DJ, Jim Collins. During the early days of our courtship, he’d put on a long record and we’d sneak into the bomb shelter behind the broadcast studio for a little “alone time.” One day, while we were back there, the Moody Blues song that was playing began to slow down, then speed up, and then slow down again. Thinking the turntable was malfunctioning, Jim made a panicked run for the door, only to find it locked. Thom had bolted us into the bomb shelter and was messing with the music to get our attention. I can still see the devilish smirk on his face as he released us from our little prison without a word of admonishment.

A year or so after that incident, Thom left KMVI to work for Hawaiian Air and, through that position, eventually became the man behind the Miss Hawaii pageant and the crowning of two of those ladies as Miss Americas (Carolyn Sapp and Angela Baraquio). But that’s a whole ‘nother column.

Mike Hurley dropped the use of his middle name along with his broadcast career and became Drew Hurley, attorney at law, as well as an accomplished skydiver and stunt pilot. Jim became my husband and then, my ex-husband. LD is the only one of the old gang that I still see, as he’s the only one who remained on Maui.

But thanks to Facebook and email, I’m now back in touch with all four, and I can finally tell each one how much I love and appreciate him, even after all these years. Especially after all these years.

* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is

Sharing Mana‘o

Happy New Year! If Santa came up short last week and didn’t bring what you asked for, I hope that 2014 delivers. And if you’re one of the lucky ones who got everything they wanted, I’m happy for you and wish you continued blessings.

That’s what I love about New Year’s Day. Regardless of my state of mind the day before, the first day of the new year is always full of hope and optimism. Yesterday was for reflection; today is all about potential.

And food. That’s another thing I love about New Year’s Day. My Japanese and Okinawan ancestry demands that I eat certain dishes for good luck in the coming year. The annual feast satisfies not only my taste buds, but my craving for ritual and tradition.

First and foremost is ozoni, or mochi soup. Depending on which region of Japan your family hails from, the soup stock may be chicken, fish, or even miso; our family uses baby clams. The broth is complemented with vegetables such as daikon (turnip) or carrots. Lotus root slices, representing the wheel of life, are often included. Mizuna, a Japanese green, is a must, as is the mochi, dropped into individual bowls before serving. Eating ozoni for New Year’s breakfast ensures strength for the coming year. As a child, I struggled to swallow the hot, sticky globs of mochi, but I always finished it off. I was afraid not to.

Another favorite is kuromame, a sweet side dish of simmered black beans with chestnuts and konbu seaweed. The Japanese words for the ingredients are similar to words describing various attributes, and so the beans stand for hard work and good health, the chestnuts represent prosperity, and konbu is associated with joy. I’ve heard people say you should eat one bean for each year of your life; I was always instructed to eat an odd number, like seven or nine. Thirteen being my lucky number (I was born on a Friday the 13th), that’s how many I eat each year. At the first sitting. I usually go back for a couple more servings.

Kobumaki, little rolls of gobo (burdock root) and konbu, are also very special. The gobo represents long life and perseverance; with the joyful konbu wrapped around and tied with strips of kanpyo squash, they resemble scrolls, which were an important part of festive occasions. In kobumaki, we can also appreciate the care and diligence it takes to prepare the dish, as well as the neatness and completeness signified in its presentation.

Those are a few of the traditional Japanese new year foods that I look forward to each year. I’ve also adopted some personal customary favorites from other cultures, like Chinese cake noodle, Okinawan shoyu pork, squid luau and kalua pig. And pork rinds. My father loved pork rinds and got me hooked at an early age. I remember he received a big bag of homemade chicharron from a Filipino friend one year, and we ate the whole bag ourselves, in one sitting. As the Okinawans say, every part of a pig can be eaten, except for its hooves and its oink.

Recently, I learned of the Mexican custom of eating a grape with each stroke of midnight, making a wish with each one. A variation says that each grape represents a month in the coming year, and a sour or bitter grape means less fortune in that month. That’s not necessarily bad luck; it’s more of a caution to be especially attentive.

I think I’ll add that grape thing to my annual routine. It goes well with the Asian belief that round fruits are good luck. And I like the idea of pondering the future through ritual eating. As I said earlier, New Year’s Day is all about potential. And food. May there be plenty of both for all of us, today and throughout the coming year.

* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is