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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 15, 2002

DeLima breathes new life into past personas

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Editor

The Radio KOHO sketch was among the staples of DeLima's early comedic days in the late 1970s at The Noodle Shop in Waikiki.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

Frank DeLima

Opening tonight in The Noodle Shop Days show

8:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays

Palace (formerly Polynesian Palace), 'Ohana Reef Towers Hotel

$19.50, includes two drinks

923-SHOW or 922-6408

For 12 of his 26 years as a Waikiki entertainer, comedian Frank DeLima starred at a cozy but long-gone club called The Noodle Shop.

Starting this weekend at the renamed Palace (formerly the Polynesian Palace) of the Ohana Reef Towers Hotel, DeLima relives this formative era in his life, with a new show that brings back a cluster of his old gallery of stage characters, from Imelda Marcos to Tita Turner, and sketches that tap Hawai'i history, such as Radio KOHO and sumotori.

"Mostly everything will be like before," said DeLima, who previewed the revue for a Valentine's Day audience last night.

"Even the original sign (The Noodle Shop) is from the past." (It's part of the set decor).

The idea, he said, was to stroll down memory lane and entice his original fans and boosters to plug into the past "just like The Noodle Shop days."

His characters will retain the time slot of yesteryear, he said. Meaning: Imelda, the shoe maven from the Philippines, presumably is still married to Ferdinand, though she traipses on stage in bare feet.

The reflective motif will enable DeLima to talk story about his humble beginnings in Pauoa Valley, where he was a rare Portuguese in a largely Asian community — which is why he's so adept at picking up localisms and relies on the universality of ethnic differences to punctuate his comedy. Without malice, of course, but in the spirit of fun.

"My neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Yoneshige, were always listening to KOHO," he said of the Japanese language station. "And they were hard of hearing, so the radio was on loud, every day." How could he not pick up the nuances of Japanese speakers?

Then another neighbor, Dennis Inouye, always had the Kazekozo program on, which taught him the modulating details of naniwabushi singing.

Prior to working as a Waikiki comic, DeLima, a Damien High graduate, attended school on the Mainland and had become an ordained deacon en route to the priesthood.

A brother-in-law was in the Hawai'i tour business, so he found work there — until a traffic accident gave him a bum leg and interfered with his agility. He frequented night spots and emerged at The Noodle Shop one night, where then-manager Millie Fujinaga, who eventually became his manager, promised him "free parking if I entertained there."

That was in the late 1970s.

"In those days, people like Eddie Kamae & the Sons of Hawai'i were working there, and I had become good friends with Loyal Garner, who brought me there, and (record producer) Don McDiarmid Jr. saw me one night."

The meeting with McDiarmid resulted in his first album, "A Taste of Malasadas."

Waikiki was on the verge of launching a new galaxy of stars, and DeLima's three-night gig evolved into a six-night run for 12 years, beginning in 1977.

Imelda Marcos showed up once, in the company of Jim Nabors and Doris Duke, laughing with residents at his overstated look and exaggerated accent. But she approved of his parody of her, from the shellacked wig right down to the toaster-cover sleeves.

In the reincarnation, Imelda appears in a frock that lights up like a Christmas tree.

"I ran into her at Sacred Heart Church, too, and we talked story," he recalled. "Those were the good ol' fun days, which is what we're trying to do all over again."