2009 offered big winners of the Waynies Awards
By Wayne Harada
For the first Show Biz column in a new decade, we take a final glance back at 2009 for the annual Waynies Awards. There's no ceremony, no voting, no hoopla — just one person's take (mine) on the season past.
Drum roll, please:
• Star of the year: Jake Shimabukuro. The 'ukulele virtuoso is the epitome of the unlikely star, a genuinely simple but incredibly creative gentleman whose career is stronger than ever. Have you ever heard anything negative about Jake-san? See? His audiences include hometowners and Queen Elizabeth — not many can say that.
• Male star: Makana. He reinvented himself, from kī hō'alu wizard to well-versed singer-entertainer, breaking out from lounge shadows to The Royal Hawaiian's Monarch Room. That White House command performance didn't hurt, either. Expect a bigger Makana year.
• Female star:Amy Hānaiali'i. Her "Friends & Family of Hawai'i" was a bold venture, a series of duets with male colleagues, including Keali'i Reichel, Robert Cazimero, Willie Nelson, Henry Kapono and Kaumakaiwa Kanaka'ole. You're as good as the company you keep.
• Grammy grabber: Daniel Ho. The producer-musician-singer is the winningest Hawaiian Grammy champ, with a victory streak going with slack-key compilations and duets with singer Tia Carrere. He's vying again this year, as producer and co-performer.
• Best show, public: "Hā." The stunning spectacle at the Polynesian Cultural Center added a theatrical story line to the syncopation heartbeat of Hawai'i, Maori New Zealand, Fiji, Tahiti and Sāmoa. With a cast of 100 and production elements loaded with bells and whistles, it's a bonanza for spectators and a joy for its creators.
• Best show, personal: Give me some slack here, but that stellar round-up of folks who performed in a February tribute show marking my retirement from The Advertiser was a wondrous who's-who scrapbook of the 40-plus years I've covered entertainment for this newspaper. Forty Island acts (Jim Nabors, Karen Keawehawai'i, Jimmy Borges, Marlene Sai, Jake Shimabukuro, The Brothers Cazi-mero, Shari Lynn, Cathy Foy, The Fabulous Krush, the Society of Seven Las Vegas, Danny Kaleikini, Frank DeLima, Augie T, Danny Couch, Kevin I, Jordan Segundo, Al Waterson, Keith and Carmen Haugen, Sonny Ching's hālau and lots more) performed live, and scores of others (like David Copperfield, Loretta Ables Sayre and the "South Pacific" cast, and the original Society of Seven) appeared via video — in a four-hour blockbuster show.
• Most promising artists: The Throwdowns, led by Erin Smith, who have the goods and resources to connect their reggae flavas and Maui mixed-plate moods with a dash of Gwen Stefani sass.
• Comeback hero: Jim Nabors. The "Golleee" guy interrupted his retirement to re-ignite his Christmas brights with "Merry Christmas With Friends and Nabors" at the Hawai'i Theatre; his gallery of older fans rejoiced. He turns 80 this year, but is noncommittal on a show this year.
And that's Show Biz. ...