Charlie Kalani, 70, Remembered As Versatile Actor

Honolulu Star-Bulletin – September 15, 2000
By Rod Ohira

Hawaii-born professional wrestler and actor Charles “Charlie” Kalani is best known as a villain.

But in real life, an Iolani School football coach, the Rev. Kenneth Bray, saved Kalani from turning into a bad guy.

“Attending Iolani turned his life around,” the former Doris Peterson said about her husband of 47 years, who died Aug. 22 of a heart attack in Lake Forest, Calif., at age 70.

“He was a street kid getting into trouble and would have ended up in reform school if Father Bray hadn’t helped him out by bringing him to Iolani. He felt Iolani saved him.”

Kalani, who began wrestling in 1967 as “Professor Toru Tanaka,” also appeared in more than 20 films — most notably “Perfect Weapon,” “Running Man,” “Last Action Hero” and “Missing in Action 2” — and television series such as “Airwolf,” “The A-Team” and “The Fall Guy.”

Contrary to his real-life personality, Kalani always portrayed a villain.

“He was just a gentle, good, soft-hearted island boy,” Doris Kalani said. “And he had to work very hard all his life.

“It was hard not to be bitter when he got into wrestling and show business because he had to change his personality. He always told our kids, ‘I’m your father at home and other people will not know the real me.’ ”

Kalani was a tackle and place-kicker in football. After graduating from Iolani in 1949, he attended WeberJunior College in Ogden, Utah, where he met his wife in 1952.

Sol Naumu of Pearl City attended ComptonCollege and recalls playing against his former Iolani teammate and good friend.

“Charlie was playing linebacker and I remember going through the line and him hitting me hard,” Naumu said.

“Then he stole the ball from me and ran for a touchdown.

“Everybody thought I gave him the ball.”

Naumu, who last visited with his friend in 1998, described Kalani as “an easygoing guy, always kidding people.”

“He was a happy Hawaiian from Waimanalo,” he added. “He was very kind and compassionate but if you got him mad, watch out.”

Kalani was drafted in 1955 and discharged in 1966 as an Army sergeant.

He began jujitsu studies in 1939 and held the rank of Danzan-Ryu Black Belt.

Survivors, all of whom live in California, include his wife, daughters Cheryle Kalani and Karen Kalani-Beck, son Carl, sisters Jeanette and Charlene, brother Robert, and six grandchildren.

The family plans to honor Kalani’s request to have his ashes scattered at sea in Hawaii later this year.

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