His documentaries about such people as Duke Kahanamoku, Rap Reiplinger, Eddie Aikau, Don Ho, Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole, Dave Shoji, and Jimmy Borges are only a few of the programs he has produced. You find stuff that nobody else has found to illustrate your films. You know, because it’s not all immediately available, and lots of times, people have it in cardboard boxes in the back of the house, somewhere in the garage.
What makes Phil Arnone’s programs so special is his persistence to dig deep. And you gotta encourage them and make them want to … ‘Cause we’re usually talking about a friend or a family member in this case, and I say, I need your help. Like when we did the Rap Reiplinger show, I mean, part of it was old footage from the action stuff, the fun stuff he did. I want Robert, when he writes, to feel like we’ll have something to show. We need to have visuals, and I need to make sure that I’m giving him enough to write to. I mean, I think most producers will try and do that. For a while, we were doing only shows about people that had passed on.
And that we have such a rich history and a rich presence, that we have more than enough material to supply the world with wonderful stories.
And that, you know, it doesn’t matter if you don’t make the best-seller list in New York.
If you write something that is heartfelt and genuine, you are leaving a gift for your community.
And so, I encourage people to look at where they came from, and tell those stories.
Johnny Frisbie was the second of five children born to Robert Frisbie and a native Pukapukan. We played a lot; climbed trees, and hide-and-seek, and swim in the lagoon, swim out to the corals way out. You know, we had to help the women in the taro patch. We were also comfortable doing nothing, just sitting. You know, Pukapukan people think a lot; they just sit and, you know, they look up, and they look up at the coconut tree, maybe thinking, Mm, that’s almost ripe, ooh, I must pick that one. And Miss Ulysses; where did Miss Ulysses come from? And I think we have a lot to, you know, especially when we look back at how our kūpuna took care of their physical environment, we have a lot to learn from them.
Johnny was only a teenager when she published her autobiography, Miss Ulysses From Pukapuka, and in her book she recounts the story of her life being raised primarily on the small atoll, but moving from island to island in the South Pacific. You know, just sitting and looking at each other, or maybe singing a song. Well, because there were not children’s books in that part of the world growing up, my father at nighttime, rather than read, and there’s no children’s stories, he would tell us the story of Ulysses in the Iliad, and the Odyssey of Homer, you know. I think your plays give a sense of that, that the past is a constant. I think there are certain things that transcend time.
Well, I could never leave playwriting behind, because that’s where I started writing.
But at some point, I realized, gosh, my plays are pretty serious, you know, and I really need to have some fun with my writing, so I think I’ll write a mystery.
This special edition of LONG STORY SHORT is a compilation of Leslie’s past conversations with several of Hawai‘i’s storytellers.