Sharing Mana‘o

Mom and I enjoyed a family reunion last Saturday, in an unlikely place – at the CrossFit Maui facility in Kahului. Actually, the venue was appropriate, being that this family was not connected through blood ties; it was bound together by blood, sweat and tears. Mostly sweat.

The occasion was the Doc Yogi Maui Invitational Weightlifting Meet, and the ‘ohana was made up of Maui and Oahu lifters and supporters. Named for my late father, the event was resurrected after more than 10 years by a handful of “Daddy’s boys,” as I called the hundreds of young men he trained in our garage. Still a relatively obscure sport, Olympic-style weightlifting is enjoying a resurgence, thanks to the popularity of cross-training programs like CrossFit.

Olympic weightlifting involves more than brute strength; mobility and flexibility are crucial in executing the competitive lifts called the snatch and the clean and jerk. In the snatch, the barbell is lifted from the floor to overhead in a single, smooth movement. The clean and jerk consists of two steps, from floor to shoulders (the clean), then the jerk from shoulders to overhead. When done properly, both lifts, but especially the snatch, are beautiful to behold: explosive yet graceful.

Three-time Olympic medalist Tommy Kono is considered by many to be the greatest weightlifter of the 20th century. He is the only athlete in history to have set world records (26!) in four different bodyweight classes. He also excelled in physique contests, winning the Mr. Universe title in 1955, 1957 and 1961. Arnold Schwarzenegger has called Kono his boyhood idol, having been inspired by watching Kono compete in the 1960 World championships in Vienna.

Born and raised in California, Kono adopted Honolulu as his home in 1970 and continues to play an active role in Hawaii weightlifting as an official and a mentor. He and my father, a national champion lifter himself, were longtime friends, and I remember him coming to Maui as the celebrity attraction at local weightlifting meets in the early 1960s.

Daddy was a competitor in those old Wailuku Gym meets, and his weightlifting technique was, indeed, beautiful. I loved watching my father lift. During a break in the contest, Uncle Tommy would rip a phone book in half or drive a nail into a two-by-four with his bare hands. But mostly I remember how kind and gentle he seemed, with the same soft-spoken strength and confidence that my father carried. Both Daddy and Uncle Tommy devoted countless hours to coaching young athletes and teaching lessons beyond how to lift weights.

In the online magazine Oldtime Strongman, Uncle Tommy expressed his philosophy in an article titled “If I Had My Way.”

If I had my way, the weightlifting area would be treated like a “dojo” as the martial arts students would use their area and equipment for training. . . . The entire area would be treated with respect from the bar to the barbell plates. . . . The barbell lifted would never be “thrown” down or dropped from overhead except for safety reasons. . . . Anger from a failed lift would be controlled so no four-lettered words would be used. Instead the energy (from) the anger would be directed for a positive result.

. . . Development of a strong character begins with respect even for innate objects.

Daddy’s boys, including Maui’s two-time Olympian Vernon Patao, were trained in that way. My father’s No. 1 rule was that his lifters (which eventually included women) show respect and humility at all times, and he, like Uncle Tommy, led by example.

I was moved to tears twice on Saturday; the first time when Mom and I walked into the meet and spotted Uncle Tommy in the audience. While he and Mom reminisced and reacquainted, I caught up with Vernon, who, with Frank Tam, organized the day’s event.

Vernon and his brother Val have opened Patao Weightlifting at CrossFit Maui, training lifters the way they were taught in our garage. Vernon told me that his mission is to carry on Daddy’s legacy of building character along with strength. I got all choked up as I listened to him echo my father’s words as well as his passion. I knew he meant it, because I kept a close eye on the lifters wearing “Patao Weightlifting” shirts. On or off the platform, they carried the weights, as well as themselves, with respect.

Daddy would have been proud. Mom and I certainly were.

* 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

There’s no business like show business

Like no business I know!

Everything about it is appealing . . .

Oh, excuse me. I’ve been breaking into song lately, much to the dismay of folks around me. I try to confine my singing to the shower and the car, but even with the windows rolled up and the air conditioner on high, I’ve startled a few people at stoplights. My neighbors probably think I’ve got a cat in heat locked up in my bathroom.

I can’t help it. I’m as corny as Kansas in August, high as a flag on the Fourth of July. But unlike Nellie Forbush in “South Pacific,” I haven’t yet found me a wonderful guy. No, the object of my affection is way more broad . . . get it? I’m in love with Broadway.

I’ve always been a sucker for musicals. I remember watching old Shirley Temple movies with my mom on Sunday afternoons; during the commercials, I’d close my eyes and see myself – with Shirl’s curls, of course – tap dancing up and down the stairs with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson.

My aunt had one of those huge stereo record player consoles, with a gorgeous walnut cabinet. She got it, and her collection of Japanese records, from Masa Hokama at Hokama’s Music & Color TV. Auntie Sachan also had, in addition to every record Elvis Presley ever made, a boxed set of Rodgers & Hammerstein Broadway cast albums. The set included synopses and librettos, so I learned all the songs of “Oklahoma!” and “Carousel” before seeing either show.

I was 11 or 12 when I finally got to see “Carousel” onstage, presented by Miss Sue Ann Loudon and her Baldwin High School thespians. It left me with a longing for the stage and a major crush on future Circuit Court Judge Joe Cardoza, who was an absolute dreamboat as Billy Bigelow.

A couple of years later, I realized my dream of joining the Baldwin Drama Club. Never did get to date Joe, but that’s OK; my true love was just around the corner. In my sophomore year, we did “West Side Story” and my passion for theater was cinched. To this day, WSS remains my all-time favorite musical. I know all the words to all the songs and I sing them often. When I’m alone, of course. With my limited vocal range, I’m more Officer Krupke than Maria.

(Side note: I auditioned for the part of Bloody Mary in the 2008 Broadway revival of “South Pacific,” and was told that there was no way they could put a baritone in the role, no matter how funny she might be. Two years later, Maui Academy of Performing Arts Artistic Director David Johnston cast me in the MAPA production and allowed me to sing “Bali Ha’i” an octave below the norm. I love that man, almost as much as I love musicals.)

Miss Loudon sometimes called on her former students to help with productions, and that’s how I met the Gilliom siblings, Eric and Amy Hanaialii. Eric was a senior and Amy an underclassman when we first worked together. Even then, their talent was undeniable. Another young but seasoned performer who caught my eye was Jerry Eiting. I was a few years older than Jerry, but impressed with his vocal ability and stage presence. The boys played earnest young servicemen and I was the sophisticated Tallulah Bankhead, yet behind the makeup and cigarette holder, I felt like they were the veterans and I the child actor.

This weekend, I get to work with Jerry again, as we co-host “A Broadway Century” at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center’s McCoy Studio Theater. That’s why I’ve been belting out bursts of Broadway standards; I’m giddy with anticipation. Artistic Director Gary Shin-Leavitt and the Maui Choral Arts Association have put together an amazing concert featuring excerpts from more than 50 Broadway hits, presented by 70-plus voices and accompanists Lotus Dancer and Beth Fobbe-Wills.

“A Broadway Century” will be presented Saturday and Sunday; tickets are available through the MACC box office. Yes, I know there’s a little concert by some old dude named Bob, also on Saturday, but our show starts at 5 p.m., a couple of hours before his. You could do a doubleheader, Broadway and Dylan, or you could catch our Sunday matinee at 3.

And don’t worry, I’ll leave the singing to Jerry and the Maui Choral Arts folks. I know my limitations. But I’m bringing my tap slippahs, just in case. Nothing like a little tap dance to help a gal steal that extra bow.

There’s no people like show people; they smile when they are low . . .

Let’s go on with the show!

* 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

I may have unlocked the secret to eternal youth. It’s a two-pronged approach. Surround yourself with youngsters and music.

That’s the conclusion I reached after emceeing two very different music festivals recently, both of which left me naturally high for days. Then I thought about each of the band and music teachers I’ve known, and I was further convinced. They all look so young, even after decades of service. When longtime Baldwin High Band Director Lance Jo retired, I swear he looked exactly as he did when he was my 5th-grade band teacher at Makawao School.

At the 44th annual Maui Intermediate Music Festival, students from Emmanuel Lutheran, Iao, Kamehameha Maui Middle, St. Anthony, Doris Todd and Oahu’s Stevenson Middle schools comprised the 350-piece Massed Band. Even with less than ideal acoustics in the War Memorial Gym, they made incredibly beautiful music together. When they capped their performance with the big band classic “Sing Sing Sing” and Katy Perry’s “Firework,” I thought my heart would burst with joy. Seated beside me, festival organizer and Doris Todd Christian Academy band teacher Noel Kuraya beamed with pride and satisfaction. He wore the same youthful smile I remember from 20 years ago, when he taught at Iao School and allowed my teenaged son to assist him in the band room.

Last weekend, I had the honor and pleasure of hosting three evenings of performance during the Maui Steel Guitar Festival at Ka’anapali Beach Hotel. Thursday night’s tribute to retired U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka featured three young steel guitarists from Alan Akaka’s Ke Kula Mele Hawaii School of Hawaiian Music. High school freshmen Alexis Tolentino and Keen Ching, and Malie Lyman, who turned 10 on Sunday, charmed the audience with their renditions of steel guitar favorites like “Maui Chimes” and “Sleepwalk.” Malie, great-granddaughter of the legendary Genoa Keawe, played and sang “Henehene Kou Aka” like a pro. Keen and Alexis are both multi-instrumentalists, having started with piano and ukulele lessons when they were in elementary school.

The rest of the performers at the Steel Guitar Festival were considerably older than Ke Kula Mele’s Next Generation trio, but they displayed even more stamina than the youngsters. On Friday and Saturday, KBH guests and festival attendees enjoyed continuous Hawaiian steel guitar performances on the Tiki Terrace open stage from 11 a.m. to nearly 9 p.m., followed by jam sessions from 9:30 to midnight. And the senior performers were the last to put away their instruments.

More than a dozen professional steel guitarists and perhaps 30 or more students of the instrument, from as far away as Germany and Japan, provided the weekend’s live soundtrack. Many of them were accompanied by Honolulu’s Kaipo Asing and Gary Aiko on guitar and bass. From our seats under the sound engineer’s tent, young Alexis and I enjoyed the music of pros like Western Swing Hall of Famer Patti Maxine from Santa Cruz and Kiyoshi “Lion” Kobayashi, who is Japan’s premier steel guitarist, as well as local masters Geri Vadriz, Ross Kaaa, Greg Sardinha, Owana Salazar . . . the list goes on and on.

There were so many wonderful performances, it’s impossible to pick out a favorite, but I did take the liberty of recording, on my cellphone, the final song of the Saturday night kanikpapila. It was just past midnight, the 10 or so musicians left in the Kanahele Room agreed it was time to wrap it up, and Gary Aiko began “Hawaii Sang Me to Sleep,” the last track on his latest CD, “Poina Ole Ia (Unforgettable).” The oldest son of Aunty Genoa, Gary is reportedly 80 years old and is a 2014 Na Hoku Hanohano Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. His baritone crooning is as rich and romantic as ever, and I have replayed my BlackBerry clip each night since, trying to recapture the magic of that moment.

I don’t know what Gary’s secret is; perhaps the Keawe ohana discovered a fountain of youth in Laie, where he was born. But I do think my theory holds water. My new young friend and her mother both say Uncle Gary has been especially supportive of Alexis in her musical endeavors (Did I mention that this tiny teen also plays upright bass?). And her own kumu, Alan Akaka, also looks and moves like a man half his age.

It’s too late for me to pursue a new career as a band teacher, but I’m thinking about enrolling in Joel Katz’s steel guitar class at the Institute of Hawaiian Music at the University of Hawaii Maui College. As Henry Ford said, anyone who keeps learning stays young. Between Ford’s theory and mine, I’m bound to live forever. Or at least until next year’s Steel Guitar Festival, when I plan to join Gary and the gang at the jam.

* 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 has been a week since I announced in this space that Mana’o Radio would be taking a brief hiatus from broadcasting. Now it’s time to drop the other shoe.

When my late husband, Barry Shannon, and I put our low-power FM station on the air 12 years ago, we really didn’t expect it to last a couple of years, let alone a dozen. We certainly didn’t anticipate moving the studio out of our spare bedroom, nor did we dream that we would eventually share our airtime with more than 50 volunteer DJs. Our original intent was simply to do the radio show we’d always wanted to do, without program directors admonishing us to stay within a strict music format, or sales managers filling up our logs with seemingly endless commercials.

We invited a handful of Maui radio veterans to join the fun: Bill Best, Scott Sherley, Michael McCartney, Kirk Hamilton, Nick Jackson, Daryl Scott. Mana’o Radio would be our refuge from the tyranny of corporate broadcasting, even for McCartney, who was – and still is – the only one of us who hadn’t retired or been fired from the local commercial stations.

In our first week on the air, we all delighted in playing music previously forbidden to us as mainstream disc jockeys, minions in an industry that adhered to the LOP (Least Objectionable Programming) principle. A few, like Barry, had enjoyed the creative freedom allowed at progressive stations like the legendary KMPX in San Francisco, but Mana’o offered even more opportunity for expression. Twelve-minute album cuts and obscure musical gems were mixed with spoken word snippets of poetry and stand-up comedy. We broke all the rules of standard radio; no playlists, no prescribed format, no 30-second limit on talk between sets.

We didn’t bother to advertise our debut. Building an audience didn’t even enter our minds. To our astonishment, people not only discovered Mana’o Radio on their own; they embraced it. Barry and I were overwhelmed by the response from listeners and aspiring participants. Musicians, especially, wanted to join our crazy endeavor. Our personal playground became the property of many, and it was a welcome, if unexpected, change. We moved the studio into Wailuku town, though the transmitter and antenna remained at our house. I remember Captain Kirk telling me that he appreciated the new business location, but he missed my greeting him at the kitchen door in my bathrobe every morning before his 6 a.m. shift.

In its first two years, Mana’o Radio grew far beyond the little mom-and-pop station that Barry and I had envisioned. After our fifth anniversary, we agreed that we would spend the next five years taking it to the next level – full power and islandwide coverage – and then, even further. Barry had more dreams to pursue, including the completion of his third novel. He proposed that we retire after Mana’o’s 10th anniversary. I didn’t think he meant it, but I said OK.

He never got to pick up the pen again, nor did he live long enough to see the station graduate from its low-power designation. But he died with no regrets, fiercely proud of what we had accomplished. And he would have been prouder still, to see how our extended ‘ohana rallied to keep Mana’o Radio alive over the past seven years.

Don Lopez carried on as sound and recording engineer and John Bruce took over broadcast engineering duties. Dorothy Betz continued to produce Upcountry Sundays Acoustic Style, our monthly benefit concert series at Casanova. Alan Sheps became a staunch supporter and key to our fundraising efforts. And for the past year and a half, Tony Novak-Clifford has steered the ship as our program director.

Thanks to them and many other volunteers and supporters, too numerous to name, Mana’o Radio has provided thousands of magical moments for our listeners, through presentations of live music, in-depth interviews, eclectic sets of music and more. Most remarkably, we have achieved full-power status, becoming KMNO-FM (91.7) last year.

Through it all, I’ve been the general manager and mommy, but my role has evolved, just as the station itself has. When it returns to the airwaves in a couple of months, I’ll be on the other side of the microphone and monitors. The folks mentioned above will be running the show entirely.

It’s time for me to let go of our baby. Past time, in fact, according to Barry’s plan. Our child has come of age, and I am confident in its ability to soar without Mom and Pop. Only I’m the one leaving the nest. I do so with a great deal of pride and no regrets, knowing that Tony and the rest of the family will carry the Mana’o torch with the same passion Barry and I felt when we ignited it.

* 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

Hello, darkness, my old friend,

I’ve come to talk with you again . . .

“The Sound of Silence” has the distinction of being named on lists of both the best and the worst songs of all time. I was a child when the single was released, but it was a jukebox favorite of mine. Ten years later, when I began my radio career at KMVI-AM, it had become a corny old joke. Not the song itself, mind you, just the title.

In the 1970s heyday of high-energy, rapid-fire Top 40 radio, anything more than a split-second of silence was considered a cardinal sin. When an announcer mistimed a bathroom break, thus allowing a song to fade into the dreaded dead air, he would cover his gaffe by saying something like “That was a new version of Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘The Sound of Silence.’ “

Paul Simon’s classic composition has been echoing through my head ever since last Sunday, when I announced to Mana’o Radio staff that the station will be taking a short break from broadcasting. Many of the 50-plus volunteers were surprised and saddened, as I’m sure our listeners will be, by the prospect of going dark, even temporarily. But in order to stay on the air, we must go off the air, at least for a couple of months, while we reorganize our efforts to share Mana’o at a higher level, literally. It’s only the latest irony in a story full of plot twists and surprises.

My husband, Barry Shannon, and I both began our broadcasting careers as teenagers. We met in 1984, each hired by Valley Isle Broadcasting for its KHEI and KVIB stations in Kahului. KHEI eventually became KAOI-AM, and KVIB went through so many name and ownership changes, I’ve lost track.

Put together as a morning show team, we quickly discovered that we had very little in common; it was the proverbial “opposites attract” dynamic, and it made for great chemistry on the air. Two things we did share were a passion for radio and the desire to do it our way, with banter and wit, and a selective, eclectic mix of music.

Our courtship consisted of late-night writing and recording sessions in which we produced dozens of mock commercials and radio theater bits. We took our audition tapes to Honolulu and the Mainland but found no takers. Back at home, we at least got to do tandem shows at the old KHLI 101.1 FM (the call letters are now assigned to 92.5) and at KNUI, both before and after it was acquired by Pacific Radio (now Media) Group.

Side note: PMG ended up owning both of Maui’s first two stations, KMVI and KNUI, and somewhere along the way, they switched the call signs. It still confuses some old-timers, who remember when KMVI (at 550 AM) and KNUI (1310, before it got the more desirable 900 frequency) were friendly rivals, competing in charity bed races and other crazy DJ battles.

It took us nearly 20 years, but Barry and I finally began to realize our dream of doing radio our way. With the help of a few close friends, we founded Mana’o Radio, a noncommercial, listener-supported, low-power FM station, in the year 2000. Nearly two years later, on March 11, 2002, we put our baby on the air, broadcasting from our spare bedroom. Captain Kirk Hamilton did the first show after I signed us on at 6 a.m., Bill Best followed him in the midday slot, and Barry and I split the afternoon and early evening.

At Mana’o Radio’s fifth Birthday Bash, we marveled at how our little mom-and-pop endeavor had grown into a vibrant community radio station, staffed by dozens of volunteers. Maybe someday, Barry ventured, we might even graduate to full FM status, with an FCC license to operate on more than 100 watts of broadcast power. Less than a month later, he was dead, a victim of heart disease and multiple blood clots.

Last summer, thanks to the contributions and commitment of our volunteers and supporters, we achieved Barry’s final dream. Mana’o Radio, formerly KEAO-LP, became KMNO-FM, broadcasting at 91.7, just up the dial from our original 91.5. Unfortunately, as our listeners are well aware, we haven’t yet achieved optimum signal quality. Operating on a rubbah-slippah budget, we’ve struggled with engineering and equipment challenges.

So, at 11 p.m. this Sunday, the day before Barry’s 7th ReBirthday, we will sign off the air for a brief hiatus, during which we’ll be working fervently to address the transmission issues that have plagued us since the power increase. We hope you’ll keep 91.7 as one of your radio pre-sets, and welcome us back when we emerge from the dead air with a stronger, clearer signal.

And the vision that was planted in my brain

Still remains

Within the sound of silence . . .

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