Longtime radio personality Charly Espina Takahama on Friday announced her planned retirement after 46 years in the industry, effective May 28.
“To say she will be missed seems like such an understatement,” said Sherri Grimes, Vice President and General Manager of Maui Radio Operations at Pacific Media Group. “Charly is one of those rare people who instantly became a friend instead of just a coworker. There are no words to truly reflect how much we will miss working with her.”
The current morning show co-host of 99.9 KISS FM on Maui began her career in 1975 at a Christian radio show with Kalihi Union Church in Honolulu called “Friends.” It was there where Charly had her first taste of being on the radio, and was “hooked.” She went on to purse a degree in communications with an emphasis in radio at Washington State University. While in college, Charly started out in news and eventually did a morning show on the campus radio station, KUGR.
“Radio became my passion. I also knew that I wanted to return to Hawaiʻi. At the time, there weren’t many female broadcasters who could say names such as Kalanianaʻole or Kalākaua,” she recalled.
After graduating from Wazzu in 1979, Charly did return to the islands, and landed a position with “Space Station KULA,” FM 92.3 and AM 940. It was there where Rick O’Shea, known then on the air as “The Wiz,” gave Charly her first paid position in radio. “We pretended to broadcast from Space. I was Charly with a News Beam from Space Station Kula!” she said.
In early 1980, the FM band was sold to what is now KSSK; and the AM band became KDEO and was bought by Ron “Whodaguy” Jacobs who kept Charly on staff. “I was able to work with and learn from radio legends including RJ, Kamasami Kong, Keala Kai, Stephen B. Williams, and a very young Ed Kanoi,” she said.
While there, Charly did the news on the morning show and was RJ’s personal assistant. Eventually, when the station shifted formats to The Western Most Country Station in the Nation, she did a morning show with Kanoi.
In 1987, Charly moved to KPOI 98 Rock’s Morning Show. While there, she jokingly earned the name the “Black Widow of Radio.” “I had so many different morning radio partners – I think it was seven in all, the most memorable was B-Rock Whaley,” she said.
Less than a decade later, in 1996, Hawaiian music became her destiny. “KCCN FM 100 was making waves as Honolulu’s Contemporary Hawaiian Music Station, and I loved being part of it,” said Charly.
While there, Charly partnered on the morning show with Brickwood Galuteria, then with Billy V and Pipi. “We made it to No. 2 in the ratings, right behind Perry and Price. FM100 was in its hey day… It was also there that we starred on K-5’s Heineken Hot Hawaiian Nights. It was on this show that my then boyfriend, originally from Lānaʻi, proposed to me,” she said.
On Oʻahu, she was known as Charly Espina, and on Maui she became Charly Espina Takahama after getting married in 2003 to Mark Takahama.
She started with Pacific Media Group that same year, first on KPOA with Alakaʻi, and later in 2008 on 99.9 Kiss FM, where she has been ever since. Again, her nickname “Black Widow of Radio” returned as she co-hosted with multiple partners, eventually coming full circle to close her career beside radio partner Ed Kanoi.
She reflected on the last 13 years at 99.9 Kiss FM saying, “I love our Kiss FM listeners, they are fun, funny, and run the spectrum from youngsters still in school to young parents, to the working community, to kupuna. Hopefully we have been able to wake up our listeners with stories of interest and lots of fun with our daily Impossible Question.”
While mornings are fun, Charly said she certainly won’t miss “dragging” herself out of bed every morning at 4 a.m. “I will of course, miss working with Ed and chatting with our listeners over the phone and by text,” she said.
As she enters retirement, Charly said, “I really want to give the next generation the opportunity to experience all the joy I’ve had in my life doing a radio show.”
“I think that what I’m proudest of in my career, is the opportunity I’ve had to teach and share my passion for the broadcasting business. When I was at 98 Rock, I started an internship program and taught others not just about the technical end of radio (which has changed over the years by leaps and bounds) but also how to relate to people while on the air. Our job as broadcasters is to have fun. You can’t ask for a better job than that,” she said.
Her proudest moment in Maui radio, she said, was interviewing her own daughter, Kayci Okazaki, who was selected as one of the island’s “Hometown Heroes.” “She is an RN in the Emergency Room’s night shift at Maui Memorial Medical Center. I am so proud of her and what she has done on the front lines,” said Charly.
For the past 18+ years, Charly has also served as a Marketing Consultant for many businesses here on Maui, working with radio advertising campaigns for more than 50 different companies, and spearheading the Pacific Media Group Job Fairs and Employer’s Hotline programs until 2019.
“She’s had so many brilliant and creative ideas and suggestions,” said Grimes. “Her work truly made a lasting impact, and one that will be part of our industry in many ways.”
Charly’s plans in retirement include helping her husband babysit and enjoying family life. “We have 12 grandkids with lots of potential for more. I would also like to possibly return to canoe paddling, and maybe take up sewing or some type of hobby. And of course, we cannot wait to travel again. We love visiting new places and exploring the world.”
“It’s now her day, every day, to enjoy with Mark, her children and grandchildren,” said Grimes. “I’m sure we’ll now hear her on-air trying to win prizes or following us at remote broadcasts to see what we’re giving away. All joking aside, get out your suitcases, sewing machine, canoe paddle and gardening tools. Enjoy!”
“I want to thank everyone at Pacific Media Group for such a wonderful journey these last 18 and a half years. People are put into your life for a reason, and I have especially learned so much from my radio partner Ed Kanoi. He was my mentor way back in the early days of my career and I am so happy to end my radio career with him by my side. We have both always gone by this motto: ‘Consider yourself green and you’ll grow. Think of yourself as ripe, and you only get rotten.’ I’ll continue to learn and grow even in my retirement years. But from now on, it’ll be with my perfect and permanent partner, my husband Mark,” said Charly.