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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 30, 2004

'That's my bank' — and my bobblehead

By Wade KIlohana Shirkey

Daryl Bonilla swears it's the Queen's English he's speaking in the hit Bank of Hawaii "That's My Bank!" TV commercials.

Bank of Hawaii is giving away bobbleheads of Brian Ashak, left, and Daryl Bonilla to people who open a new checking account.

Advertiser library photo

For everyone else — including motorists in traffic and an admiring public who parrot the slogan everywhere the Wai'anae High School grad goes — it's "Das Mah Bank!"

And now, with the catch phrase as firmly entrenched in the local commercial lexicon as "Thank you ... very much," gloating bank advertising types just couldn't leave well enough alone: They turned Bonilla and co-star Brian Ashak into bobbleheads.

So, with the popularity of the bank's quirky promotion growing, the two actors offer some "Das Mah Bank" trivia, to impress at your next social event or blind date:

• Their criminal past: Ashak is probably best recognized from his "America's Most Wanted" portrayal of an accomplice to a Big Island murder. It worked: Cops caught da buggah. Bonilla's claim to popular fame is probably as the syndicate hit man, Stanton "The Manton," in Lee Cataluna's play "Da Mayah!" Then there was his small part in a child abuse TV spot. "We've come a long way since our criminal days," said Bonilla.

• The acting bug epidemic: Ashak, 29, caught it while playing class clown in the second grade, disheveling his hair into an array of spikes and making goofy faces. "It'd make the class laugh, and the teacher mad," he said.

• Bankers aren't all stuffed suits: Following two recent advertising successes — "Das Mah Bank!" and the similarly quirky "Tell Mike" spots — the bank wanted another catchy concept that would underscore its "approachability," said advertising manager Kevin B. Yim. "How about bobbleheads?" someone suggested at a bankers' meeting. Following a very long, "serious silence," said Yim, one "suit" broke out in loud, contagious laughter. "We knew we had our concept," he said.

• Clothes do — and don't — make the man: Do the bobbleheads strictly reflect the pair's real slippahs, shorts 'n' T-shirt attire? Ashak, of spiked hair and goatee fame, said his does, while Bonilla said his "bobblehead persona" of T-shirts and shorts is only his at-home attire — otherwise it's long pants and shoes.

• Can bobblehead groupies be far behind? Bonilla already tries a clean-shaven and sunglasses ploy to try to remain anonymous. "I still get recognized even in my hobo, most boro-boro clothes," he said.

"You da guy! ... Das Mah Bank!" fans rave when either goes out. Both together in public ensures instant — and constant — recognizability. Already people are asking for autographs on bobbleheads and the pair has one University of Hawai'i bobblehead-signing session under their belt.

• Do the bobbleheads come with a Ginsu Knife set? Each actor scored a dozen free bobbleheads. Two of Ashak's are in the mail to admirers in San Francisco and San Diego, and he has donated one for charity auction.

• Is there life after bobblehead-dom? When the checking account promotion ends Feb. 15, will there be return engagements for the bobbleheads? Yim won't say. "I certainly hope not," joked one bank employee of the talking bobbleheads surrounding him at all 15 teller stations.

"Actually, we're waiting (to become) action figures or Pez dispensers," Ashak said.

Of course, their ever-increasing "Das Mah Bank!" fan club still has one remaining secret weapon to keep bobbleheads around: phone in and "Tell Mike."

The Advertiser's Wade Kilohana Shirkey is kumu of Na Hoaloha O Ka Roselani hula halau. He writes on Island life.