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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Hawaii storyteller Kent Bowman dies at 84

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Kent H. Bowman

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Kent H. Bowman, known to legions of fans as the mythical politico K.K. Ka'umanua and a wizard at transforming fairytale characters with an Island spin, died Dec. 20 at Summerlin Hospital in Las Vegas. He was 84.

"I have lost a good friend and partner, and I shall miss him dearly," said Don McDiarmid Jr., chairman of Hawaii Calls Inc. and president emeritus of Hula Records Inc., who produced Island recordings by the genius businessman-turned-comedian in the 1960s. "I will always cherish his humor and quickness of wit."

Bowman popularized fractured fairy tales with his precise and brilliant mix of classic characters told in Hawaiian pidgin, decades before they became theatrical commerce for the late Lisa Y. Matsumoto and her trilogy of "Once Upon One Time" plays with music.

He was a marvelous storyteller who had the wisdom and wherewithal to juxtapose familiar literary figures into da kine local scene.

"Goldie the Blonde Malihini and the Three Wild Pua'a" ("Goldilocks and the Three Bears"), "Rumple Dakineskin" ("Rumpelstiltskin"), "Little Lei Puahi" ("Little Red Ridinghood"), "Hau Kea and the Seven Menehunes" ("Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs") and "Keaka and the Beanstalk" ("Jack and the Bean-stalk") were driven by his attention to detail, a local accent and his storytelling skills.

To egg on local politicos, Bowman also concocted a senatorial candidate of the people, K.K. Ka'umanua (if you know how to pronounce it quickly, local-style, you'll get the essence of his intentions), whose motto was, "You no can say something nice about someone, talk stink about everyone." He used to get speaking requests from many political and civic organizations that expected him to appear as Ka'umanua, the people's choice.

"Kent and I did a radio show on KCCN, when it was located at Sand Island, and he'd rush to the studio from his day job," recalled McDiarmid. "As for the K.K. Ka'umanua name, we were sitting around one day, talking about creating a character, and he decided on Ka'umanua, giving him all the benefits of every crooked politician we could think of. He decided on initials instead of a first name, and we joked, one day K.K. Ka'umanua might join the Ku Klux Klan."

Bowman recorded five Island albums that galvanized his recording career and served as early inspiration for others to follow, such as Rap Reiplinger, Booga Booga, Andy Bumatai and Frank DeLima. He had a way with words and was able to turn English into phrases in Spanish, Tagalog and Japanese.

Bowman's "other" life was in the business community. He was a Castle & Cooke vice president and general manager for its Kawaiahe terminals and a CEO with Theo H. Davies Marine agencies.

Bowman was born Sept. 2, 1923, in Hilo, the youngest of 11 children, and was a graduate of 'Iolani School and the Maritime Academy. An avid sailor, he participated in numerous Trans-Pacific yacht races.

He served with the Army and Coast Guard.

He moved to Las Vegas many years ago, and about six weeks ago, he discovered he had a hole in his bladder, requiring medical attention. Last week, a fast heartbeat put him under intensive-care watch, and complications led to his death, with his family gathered, said McDiarmid.

Services will be Thursday at Palm Mortuary, 1600 S. Jones Blvd. in Las Vegas; local services are pending.

He is survived by Joyce, his wife of 49 years; children, Sarah and Kirk Bowman and Mary Gale Ahrens; grandchildren Sean and Brad Ahrens, and great-grandchildren Joseph Edward Ahrens and Samantha Ale'a Ahrens.

Reach Wayne Harada at wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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