It’s aloha for ‘Wala‘au’

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island file

    From left, Robert Westerman, Louis LaFratta, Paula Saylor and Dickie Chang wait outside Gaylord’s before a Kauai Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours gathering presented by Spectrum at Kilohana Plantation.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island file

    Dickie Chang and Bruce Smalling of Wala‘au Productions flash shaka signs in celebration of the shows 22nd anniversary. Smalling is Chang’s longtime cameraman and video editor.

  • Bill Buley / The Garden Island file

    Dickie Chang pauses on what is now the Hokuala Golf Course overlooking Kalapaki Bay while organizing the 25th anniversary celebration of “Wala‘au.”

“Wala‘au with Dickie Chang” is ending.

It was a show on Kauai’s local TV channel that started from humble beginnings. From writing scripts in a cab to pitching the idea to investors, Chang remembered the work it took to make “Wala‘au” happen.

A two-man team that wore many hats came together to “Wala‘au” (talk story) with people on what was happening at the time. Chang was the producer, director and host. But he credits the success of the show to his partner and best friend, Bruce Smalling.

Smalling was the behind-the-scenes cameraman and editor. While many made fun of Chang for his idea of the show, Smalling gave him a chance. Two men from totally opposite sides of the world, one from Hawaii and the other from Florida, shared hopes that Kauai would see their vision.

“I remember barely making it. Scraping money to get Taco Bell. I even remember crying at a producer’s office. He thought I was going to control his show,” Chang said. “But I wasn’t getting the response I wanted and knew I had to think of something quick. I would read the newspaper and listen to the radio to see who was advertising. I would then ask those same companies if they wanted to be a sponsor. I knew that was the only way to fund this show. I think Bruce felt sorry for me. I tried to win him over a buffet lunch, but that backfired because he was a vegetarian.”

Chang announced the show’s farewell on Facebook. It read, “Aloha Kakahiaka, it comes with an extremely heavy heart and so many mixed emotions but Wala‘au with Dickie Chang, Kauai’s Locally produced Cablecast Television Show Will sail off into the sunset and suspend operations. At the 20th anniversary of Wala‘au, there was a quiet moment on stage, and Bruce leaned over to me and said ‘so what, five more years?’ Well, we made it for 25 1/2 years. At this point and time in life, Bruce is ready for retirement. And I respect his decision. I need to thank him for all that he has done for me, but more importantly all that he has done for Kauai. We expect to wrap up by February and move on in Life … More news to follow soon, but Mahalo, Kauai for Allowing us to be a part of and not Apart from This beautiful Island and its People! Wala‘au!”

Chang isn’t retiring. As you might expect, he has big plans.

“I have a friend who was the old UH football coach, June Jones, knew the XFL football league’s new owners. They are opening a restaurant and venue in Chinatown on Oahu. It is going to be 10 minutes away from the airport and 10 minutes away from Waikiki. A great spot for all, with great Chinese foods. I get to help plan it. The plan is to move over the summer, to help them with that. They wanted to use my name. I feel honored. I get to help out with the community and make this project the next chapter of my life. It is a huge project, but I just want to live. I also get to take care of my mom who isn’t doing too well.”

The TV industry on Kauai got tougher for “Wala‘au” to survive when Spectrum came in.

“All things must come to pass. We can’t reach as many people as we used to. But we appreciate everyone’s support throughout the years,” Smalling said.

Chang and Smalling got to travel and interview folks in their natural settings, asking questions they thought the audience wanted to know the answers to. They have been to the PGA Grand Slam, did an episode on Hurricane Iniki, even on the NFL Seahawks and 49ers. But there was one episode Chang said he will never forget.

“The episode where Kevin Yamase found the two local boys, David Summers and Richard from Oahu, who were on their life raft and lost in sea for 29 days near the island of Niihau. They started out fishing outside of Oahu then things took a tragic turn. Their communication system wasn’t working, and the rescuers stopped searching for them after five days. On their last day they thought they were going to die, the 29th day…they carved their love letters to their families on their paddles and was going to throw them into the water as their last hurrah, but Yamase found them,” Chang.

Chang wanted to express his deepest gratitude to his sponsors and supporters throughout the years. There were too many to mention, but from the beginning to the end, he says, “mahalo.”

If Chang could leave some food for thought for his younger self or for inspiring young entrepreneurs, he said, “Accept the idea that you are crazy! People will not get who you are or your ideas until it manifests itself. Don’t give up. Keep plugging in. People will tag along your journey. Life is like a movie. Try to be all the roles in it to learn, grow, stay alive, but always be grateful for those that support you.”

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Stephanie Shinno, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0424 or sshinno@thegardenisland.com.

1 Comments
  1. douglas henry January 10, 2020 9:37 am Reply

    we will miss you Dickie. Mahalo for all you have done.


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