My Friday the 13th birthday started off with a dead car battery and the early symptoms of a cold. Three hours after getting a jump start from a pair of dear friends (for the car; sadly, they couldn’t do anything for my stuffy head), I boarded a plane bound for Oahu and my debut as hostess and mistress of ceremonies for the Ka Moana Luau at Sea Life Park.
KML is one of several Polynesian revues produced by Harold and Michelle Kama of Malu Productions. Based in Honolulu, Malu does more than a dozen full production shows weekly, including “Aloha Polynesia” aboard the NCL Pride of America, when the ship is docked at Kahului Harbor. I’ve hosted these Sunday night shows for the past six years as “the lovely Kalena.” And now that the company’s bookings have increased, I’ll be doing several Oahu shows each month.
It’s not as simple as I had thought it would be. While every show is a celebration of the music, dance and culture of the various Polynesian island groups, each production varies in format and focus. KML is the most elaborate and includes nearly two hours of pre-show activities and entertainment even before the cast takes the stage.
Last month, I flew over to train for both KML and the Diamond Head Luau at Waikiki Aquarium. Tony Silva (yes, that Tony Silva, of Da Braddahs) is Malu’s emcee captain, in charge of training and scheduling on top of his own hosting duties. You’d think that a training session with a local comedian would be laid-back and loose, a laugh a minute, right? Wrong. Da braddah is one fricken slave drivah. In three days on Oahu, I never got to shop or see old friends; virtually every minute was spent in rehearsal, show preparation, or performance. Unlike the crazy characters he portrays on TV and stage, Tony is a highly disciplined professional who takes his responsibilities seriously. He’s also very smart and very sweet, and I’m grateful for his guidance. Thanks to the intensive training and follow-up emails and calls, I felt ready for my Friday the 13th gig.
On the plane, my sinuses felt like they were about to explode and all I could think about was how to blow my nose without messing up my stage makeup. Fortunately, the flight was nearly empty (likely due to the fact that many superstitious folks refuse to fly on Friday the 13th), so I had no seatmates to annoy with my sniffling and snorting.
At the venue, during the pre-show mingling, I’d sneak backstage between announcements to dab at my runny nose and reapply makeup. And when the lovely Kalena finally stepped onstage for the opening of the show, the body aches magically disappeared. The sinuses were still flooded, but the sky was darkening, so I don’t think the audience could see how red my nose was getting.
I blame the congestion in my head for the few mistakes I made — exiting the stage in the wrong direction and nearly being run over by Maori warriors, forgetting to individually introduce our hula maidens at the designated time, stumbling over a couple of words (in English, even). But overall, I felt happy with my performance and blessed to spend my birthday with my Malu ‘ohana and several hundred new friends.
I met several folks who share my lucky day, including Thelma, who came from Las Vegas with 30 family members to celebrate her 70th birthday, and shy little Melina who turned 9 and decided she wasn’t going to leave the stage after participating in the hula lesson.
On the 10 p.m. flight home, fingers crossed that my car battery had held enough charge to start up again, I gazed out the window at the full moon and realized that, though this wasn’t a typical way to spend my birthday, it was as enjoyable as any of the past ones. And since I decided several years ago that I’ve reached the age where I’m entitled to more than one measly day of celebrating, the party’s only halfway through.
Besides, the car did start, and my head didn’t explode, so Friday the 13th really was my lucky day.
* Kathy Collins is a radio personality (The Buzz 107.5 FM), storyteller, actress, emcee and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is email@example.com.