By W. Knox Richardson
Oahu is a pretty small place. Within a few miles, you can go from multimillion-dollar hillside mansions to up-country tent cities of the homeless. Wowie! Let’s talk about the homeless. Or have you noticed the price of gas lately? Brrreeee! Let’s talk about that gas cap. Or did you read about all those cocaine arrests. Oh, man! Let’s talk about addiction.
Sound familiar? It would if you were a regular listener to the king of afternoon Honolulu talk radio, the mouth that roared, the Rush Limbaugh of the ‘Aina, the Great Gabby – that’s right, Buckaroo Mike Buck.
You’ve heard of him, but mostly you know that voice – the energetic, throaty baritone boomer — not quite a Hawaiian accent, but not quite mainland either. Like Hawaii, Buck sounds like a fusion of the local cultures.
On Clear Channel’s KHVH, 830 kilocycles on your AM radio dial, “The Mike Buck Show” is branded as “The Front Page.” Buck takes the front pages of daily newspapers and brings them to life. He owns the 3-to-7 p.m. drive time “day part” attracting the most desirable demographics of the rush-hour commuter audience. People just like you who give a stitch about modern life here in Paradise Estates.
“I bring people into the news,” Buck said, “instead of just being a victim of it.
Like the Internet, talk radio has become a conduit to governmental officials. The unique geography of Hawaii, and Honolulu as the capital, enables Buck to offer one-on-one public access to all levels of officials including both the Hawaiian members of the congressional House of Representatives, the state Lt. Governor, the state Superintendent of Public Instruction, and, probably most important to local residents, the Mayor of the City and County of Honolulu.
“Local access is a big key,” Buck said. “They know where I stand and they know I am not going to push my personal agenda on them.”
“Mike is a local radio institution in Honolulu,” Mayor Mufi Hannemann told the Oahu Island News.
“When I first become mayor, several radio outlets approached me asking to make appearances on their air-waves,” Hannemann said. “There were actually too many to do, but I knew I would do Mike’s show.”
Buck said he doesn’t set the agenda. He lets the day’s news do that.
“I go strictly off the front page. I don’t want to make an issue; I just want to react to it like everybody else. I want to dig a little deeper and find out what is really going on. And I want both sides of the story,” Buck explained.
But he does have a viewpoint. A dedicated independent conservative, he says he agrees “99 percent” with national talk host Rush Limbaugh. Buck looks at the issues and not parties or politicians. He lets you know where he stands. Buck is anti-light rail, for one, calling it the “greatest make-work boondoggle” in state history.
“There are going to be people getting rich, maybe double or triple rich,” Buck said. “It is a great example of one-party rule forcing something down the throats of the people. It’s coming. Oh, it’s coming.”
Mike Buck is also known as the Voice of Honolulu. During his nearly half century-long career in broadcasting — most of it here in Hawaii — Buck has done broadcast TV and radio news, TV magazine shows, emcee gala events and even act on stage. He just served as the MC for Memorial Day observances at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in the Punchbowl crater.
Most over-the-air radio personalities are faceless, disembodied voices. Few could be recognized in public. If you didn’t know Buck and passed him on the street, you wouldn’t give him a second look, nor should you. But if you did know him, and hadn’t seen him recently, you still might not recognize him. He is not half the man he used to be, quite literally.
Mike was always big, too big one might say. At his peak, he weighed 524 pounds. Oh, brother! Today weighs in at about 215 – he has lost more than 300 pounds of flesh – the equivalent to two small men and a Burmese goat.
Three years ago, Buck underwent lifesaving surgery to restrict the size of his stomach to one-quarter its normal volume. Combined with other therapies for his sleep apnea and Type II diabetes, Buck’s surgery has allowed him to maintain his new look and feel for almost three year so far. He carries with him before-and-after photographs showing the incredible difference.
Surgery came into the picture for Buck after discovering his sleep apnea had nearly cost him his life. While commuting from his Dole Cannery studios to home in East Honolulu, he was pulled over by HPD on the Kalanianaole Highway for apparent drunk driving when he actually had been falling asleep at the wheel.
Buck said he never really saw himself as being all that heavy. The incident with the police was his wake up call, he said.
At the time he had always felt fatigued, but didn’t realize until tested that he had been waking up hundreds of times over the night from his sleep apnea, ruining any change of a good rest and good health. Once diagnosed, he was put on oxygen therapy and a month later was ready for his surgery. Now, three years later, he credits the procedure with extending his life.
“It is not a panacea. You can eat your way through it,” Buck warned. “But I would not have made this far without it.”
Buck’s adventures in broadcasting began when as a teenager. He was discovered, if you will, at age 15 while emceeing some long forgotten local event. In the audience was Hal Lewis, identified over the radio as “J. Akuhead Pupule,” a well-known local broadcaster of that day.
“Lewis was a friend of my father and he told my dad I ought to be in radio,” Back recalled. “At first I would sit at Aku’s knees on Saturday mornings. He gave me little pad and told me every time he mentioned certain products like Coca Cola or some local product to make a little mark and he would send them a bill for five bucks. He gave me a couple bucks to keep track of his money.”
Buck was born during World War II to a Marine Corps pilot with strong ties to the Islands and grew up in Waikiki and metropolitan Honolulu where he attended Star of the Sea School and later Punuhou. He talks often of the retail business where his parents owned a variety of stores, an early one being Lanai Sportswear on Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki. Like so many territorial youths, he and his brother, Mark, learned to surf and ski from Duke Kahanamoku and other beach boys at the Outrigger Canoe Club on Waikiki beach. Later Mike would work in Buck family’s retail business.
“It was basically a couple little tourist stores that grew to more than 20 stores on four islands and in San Francisco,” Buck said.
Buck’s TV career included stints as a news director and general manager for an Anchorage TV station as well as on-air and management positions for several other stations in Honolulu. He was the host of the popular TV news magazine “Portraits in Paradise.” His work as a commercial voice over talent spans most west coasts markets as well as Hawaii.
Among his other professions, Buck counts commercial fishing, scuba diving, black pearl diving, homebuilding, auctioneering, music and acting. He is still involved in the commercial fishing supply business.
When he left Hawaii for Australia in the early 1960s, he become involved in television acting, landing a recurring role as a villain on a network crime drama called “Homicide.”
Even when working in Alaska, Buck felt he was never far from the aloha of Hawaii. One afternoon in the dead of winter (about 10 degree below zero) he was huddled next to a camera van trying to get warm when someone drove by who must have recognized him.
“The car’s window was lowered just enough for someone to flash the “shaka” sign to me,” Buck said. “I smiled so widely my face hurt.”
Back in Hawaii for good in the early 1980s, Buck’s weight was hurting his career in front of the camera.
“This is a very fickle industry,” Buck said. “It’s full of people that make judgments based upon what you look like. I talk with groups now, people who may need the surgery, or rather to help them avoid it.”
Due to his personal success, he is an advocate of the surgery for those who present with the primary three morbidities – more than 100 lbs. overweight, sleep apnea and high-cholesterol and/or diabetes. In fact, he is also a proponent of a health foods compound called Nature Bee, a bee-pollen product from New Zealand.
Those that have heard his show know of his frequent calls with the Kiwi-accented manufacturer of Nature Bee. What you may not know is that for millions of mainlanders, Mike Buck is the Hawaiian equivalent. Beginning every weekday at 1:40 a.m., Buck conducts a series of live calls with 21 mainland radio stations where he makes sales pitches as the North American Sales Director for the product.
“I just love the stuff,” Buck said. “I used to take 14 medications after my surgery. Now I only take Nature Bee.”
By 9 a.m. he has been working nearly three hours and is nearly prepped for his afternoon show.
“I wanted to be a talk radio host until working with Mike,” said freelance writer and former KHNL news reporter Melisa Uchida who served as Buck’s producer a few years ago. “People don’t understand how hard it is to talk for four straight hours.”
“The truth is I couldn’t do the show without my producer, Edd Harness,” Buck confessed.
Buck is on-the-air, live, seven days a week with his Monday through Friday afternoon show, plus several paid programs on Saturday and two shows on Sunday, including his well-known “Go Fish” fishing show from 5 to 7 p.m. He also serves on several community and charity boards of directors.
Buck and his wife of nearly four years, Jackie Collins-Buck, a Honolulu realtor with Mary Worrall Associates, live in the Portlock area with their two golden retrievers.
What is next for the seemingly tireless 62-year-old Buck?
“These days I am working a book, “The Staple Diet,” (in its third edit) and would like to travel the country as a motivational speaker talking about lifestyle changes that most folks need to get and stay healthy.” Buck said. “We have a health crisis in America and it’s the battle against obesity. I hope in my experiences others will find their personal solutions to the problem.”
When asked after a very long day what “aloha” means to him, Buck offered this: “Aloha is not just a word. Aloha is a state of mind that can only be achieved if you are at peace with yourself and your surroundings. Aloha is truly Hawaii’s gift to the world. Aloha is compassion, understanding, and the calm before, during and after the storm.”
Mike Buck is a complex, internally driven man who has spent most of his life in a body kids made fun of. Now he can’t slow down. He just can’t.
Posted by Knox at 10:13 AM.