Finding Joy in Life… On and Off Screen
GM: Where did you grow up? In a big city? Or small-town America?
KM: I grew up in little towns all around Oregon. I went to high school on a former Indian reservation, Siletz. Graduating class of 12.
GM: What was your first job? Was it in media or in a different field?
KM: My first broadcasting job was in Coos Bay Oregon at a small radio station. I had the opportunity to do EVERYTHING. It was a great learning experience.
GM: What brought you to the Islands? Sand, sun and surf?
KM: [big smile] Love, actually. I first came here in 1981 to tape some shows for a Portland TV station. Later, I met my wife who came to Portland from Hawaii but was so homesick; she had to come back here in 1983. I followed her … gladly.
GM: Where did you meet “Mrs. Matthews?” — Linda Coble.
KM: I knew that she was coming to my station in 1981 in Portland to audition for the job as the first female anchor at the place. I was waiting in the parking lot to get a look at her. I fell in love at first sight. I wooed her and pursued her. She was highly successful on television in Portland but she was homesick for Hawaii. Every night, after the news, she would ride her stationery bike with headphones on listening to The Brothers Cazimero, tears streaming down her face. She came back to Hawaii in 1983 — I was hot on her heels. We were married in 1984.
GM: Tell us just one funny story about being married to Linda.
KM: [laughter] Oh, where to start! She doesn’t know her left from her right. If she’s driving, I have to point. If I’m driving, she has to point. A typical conversation in the car would go: Kirk: “Should I turn left?” Linda: “Right.” Kirk: “Okay, right.” Linda: “No, not right, left.” Kirk: “If it’s not right, what’s left?” Linda: “RIGHT…we missed the turn.” [laughter]
GM: Everyone knows you from KHON’s Hawaii’s Morning News. How do you get up so early every day? KM: I’ve been doing that at KHON for a long time. I have a very understanding wife who doesn’t mind when I go to bed early. I have a quiet alarm that goes off at 2:30 every morning. And I have a brain that says, “You’re a lucky man. Get up, dress up and show up.”
GM: The Elderhood Project is one of KHON’s feature shows. You host the program … can you tell us a little bit more about it?
KM: The Elderhood Project was conceived several years ago as a way of addressing the needs of seniors and their caregivers. I have been amazed at the number of programs, volunteers and others who have a deep interest in the subject. Someone once said, “at some point you will either be a caregiver or a care-getter.” I hope we can continue to delve into the subject for a long time to come.
GM: Over the years, you’ve had the opportunity to interview hundreds of people. What was your favorite interview or story?
KM: That is the hardest question to answer. I’ve had the opportunity to talk with major movie stars, national leaders, people who shape our lives with their decisions. My favorite interview is – the one that’s coming up next.
GM: Let me rephrase the previous question … if you could interview anyone in the world, who would it be?
KM: The obvious answer would be Barack Obama. A close second would be the chance to sit down with Quincy Jones or author James Lee Burke and talk about the creative process. It’s one of the few things that separates us from the rest of the creatures on the planet.
GM: Thinking back on your personal life and career, did you have a mentor growing up or on the job?
KM: [smiles] Oh, man. My dad, my mom. Mr. Lakes, an English teacher. Mr. Roth, who created a high school orchestra out of thin air. Bob Sevey. Almost everyone I meet every day has something of value to offer.
GM: When you’re off the clock and have time to relax, what’s the perfect day for you?
KM: The perfect day would go like this … Read stories to 1st graders in the morning. Lunch with seniors at noon. Golf with Linda and dinner downtown at Du Vin. Watch a suspense movie at home in the evening. Can you arrange that?
GM: [laughter] Sure. And an interview with Generations Magazine to top it all, right?
GM: Golf is big in Hawaii, obviously. You play golf too. How’s your game?
KM: I am not a very good golfer. I love to go to the golf course with Linda. If we get paired with another couple, it’s always fun. It’s five hours we have together where we focus on something else other than our everyday concerns. It’s Zen. That’s the only way I can explain it.
GM: With so many hours spent on the golf course, do you have any funny stories from the green? Out of control golf carts, stray balls …
KM: Two Japanese guys in a cart came back up the fairway toward us. “Did you find a sand wedge?” they asked. “No, sorry.” They looked at us suspiciously and said again, “Did you find a sand wedge?” “No, no we didn’t.” They zoomed off in disgust and pointed to the hot dogs in our hands. “All they wanted was a sandwich!” [laughter]
GM: If you weren’t in media or broadcasting, what would you be doing?
KM: We talked about this on the news. I would be a teacher. My father was a teacher and a coach and I remember the joy he experienced when one of his students “got it.” Dad referred to it as the light bulb over the head. I enjoy reading to the students in class when I have the opportunity.
GM: Can you talk about some of your other community involvements?
KM: Linda and I have been involved with Rotary since 1987. It’s a worldwide service organization. My friend Matt Levi runs a martial arts school and I help out with awards ceremonies and a Scrabble tournament several times a year. I read to youngsters in the schools and whenever friends ask, I try to help out with various non-profits.
GM: Along with your strong interest in the education of Hawaii’s young people … what are your other passions in life?
KM: Reading and music. I own 2 ukuleles, a trumpet, several flutes, harmonicas and a guitar. I play them all. I also own a set of golf clubs. I play those just about as well. [smiles]
GM: Since you’re getting up there in years, what are your retirement plans. With family on the Mainland, do you plan to retire in Hawaii?
KM: Good question. My mother is 83. She lives in Oregon. I have a daughter in Oregon and one in LA. The easy answer is, I don’t plan to retire. Right now, Linda and I feel like we have family in two places. We are at home here.
GM: After years of doing live TV, you must’ve had some unpredictable moments. Any funny stories to share about KHON2?
KM: On my lawyer’s advice, I am going to skip this question. [nudge and a wink]
GM: We heard that you are having some health problems now. Care to talk about it?
KM: Sure. I was diagnosed with skin cancer some time back. I am currently going through radiation therapy. My advice: Pay attention to everything! If something doesn’t look right or feel right, see your doctor. Plus get your regular exams, checkups, immunizations, etc.
GM: Thank you for sharing. Any words of wisdom for people going through maturity in life, whether it is personal or professional?
KM: I would refer back to my answer about getting up early to do the show … when the alarm rings, thank your lucky stars that you heard it. Get up, dress up and show up. If you don’t have a paying gig, find something that gives you joy. You can’t buy joy. But if you’re lucky, you can find it.
GM: I know there is a lot to love about the Islands, but what do you like most about Hawaii?
KM: There’s no question about that—the people. I could live almost anywhere. I picked here for the same reason Linda did. The people. When I walk through Safeway or Long’s and people feel comfortable enough to say howzit to me, that’s my reward. I want to do whatever I can to make this the best place possible. And with the people’s help, that will happen.
GM: You live a pretty healthy, active life … but do you have any favorite indulgences?
KM: Friday night movies at home. Pizza. Linda— not in that order.
GM: Although you spend much of your time in the public eye, is there still something people don’t know about you? KM: It’s a small island. Folks probably know everything about me. I know more lyrics to Broadway show tunes than most people should probably know.
GM: Do you have a favorite restaurant or bar in town?
KM: The one that brings free pupus.
GM: Well…let me show you the way.
Look for Kirk’s monthly column The Elderhood Project