Friday, December 14, 2007

No Place at the Table ... Again

When my sisters and I were kids, we’d get a big kick out watching the old Elvis-in-Hawaii movies. We’d laugh at the hilarious depictions of the Islands, like in Blue Hawaii when Chad Gates (Presley), just out of the Army, goes surfing at HANAUMA BAY – inside the Keyhole. What a loser!

Then there were the cardboard cut-out characters with names like Danny Kohana and Lani Kai (Paradise, Hawaiian Style), Ito O’Hara and Ping Pong (Blue Hawaii). In Girls, Girls, Girls, the screenwriters didn’t even bother identifying Hawaii as their setting. It was someplace called Paradise Cove, populated by a lot of Chinese people who could sing and dance.

If there were any Hawaiian people at all in these movies, they were dancing, strumming ukuleles or pounding on drums, somewhere in the background. We laughed and laughed at Hollywood’s ignorance, until we realized that the joke was on us.

I thought of Danny Kohana and Lani Kai the other day when I read the Honolulu Star-Bulletin’s article about Anthony Bourdain and his visit to Oahu. Betty Shimabukuro did a great job summarizing the island-wide tour/shoot, especially when you consider Bourdain’s distaste and disdain for other writers. So she probably had to extract information and write very creatively. But I, like others, took the “touristy” itinerary that she wrote about and tried to assemble the No Reservation episode in my mind: dinner at Side Street, luau at Paradise Cover, surfing on the North Shore, Bailey’s Antiques, New Uptown Fountain and B & B on the Big Island.

I can add a few other locations to the list: a barbecue with big wave surfers on the North Shore, cocktails at the Lewers Lounge and visits to Puka Dog and Ono Hawaiian Food. They were supposed to head over to La Mariana after their shoot at New Uptown Fountain, but I have a feeling that they may have cancelled it after I told Bourdain that Rachael Ray did the place on her show.

“Maybe I’ll just go there to find out how much she tipped, or if she tipped,” said Bourdain with an evil grin.

I’m disappointed because the No Reservations storyline is looking a lot like an Elvis movie: Where are the Hawaiians? Do they have any speaking parts? Or are they once again relegated to strumming ukuleles and pounding drums?

On a positive note, I think Bourdain “gets” Hawaii. During our lunch, over a bowl of saimin, he told me how impressed he was with the natural, seemingly effortless blending of cultures that he saw in the Islands. He said that he’s been to many places with many cultures, but Hawaii was different. In Hawaii it all comes together into one.

But that story can’t be told without the Hawaiians, who taught us all.

So I hope that after Ko Olina and Paradise Cove, Bourdain drove down to Nanakuli and went to a real luau. Better yet, maybe he ventured a little further and saw how beautiful the Leeward Coast’s beaches are — and how many people are living on them. Hopefully, somewhere, he met a Danny Kohana or Lani Kai, found out their real names and listened to their real stories.

Those stories may not be positive enough for the HVCB, but they they are far more truthful.


christa said...

i mean. he doesn't sound like the kind of guy that would do anything BUT 'get' hawaii.

Pomai said...


Betty mentioned that Colin Nishida at Side Street Inn invited 50 of his friends in the restaurant industry to be there during the shoot.

Did New Uptown Fountain's owners also do that for the shoot you did with him?

While I can understand the owners wanting to that because the show is aired nationally, as a viewer and fan of the show, I'd much prefer the places he visit be in 'business as usual' state, with anybody who's anyone in there dining.

If I see that episode and see Roy Yamaguchi and/or Alan Wong sitting in a booth across them, I'd find that a bit disappointing. I'd rather see that loud group of construction workers sucking it up, or da' 2 aunties gossiping.

Kathy said...

Hi Dave,

Just discovered your blog, how exciting it was to read your last three posts! I first met Bourdain in front of an NYC's Union Square a few years back. He was standing outside a bookstore, smoking, does that guy have a presence!

Bourdain aside, mentions of Uptown Fountain, Spam, local food...I must admit, having moved from Manoa to NYC four months ago, reading your blog makes me quite homesick!

STK said...

Well said Dave! If Tony or his crew did their research we may see some authentic Hawaii or at least hear about it in narration.

Thank goodness for you Dave--New Uptown Fountain was a great choice! I thought about it and the last time I ate there was with Mac. Next time I go I am going to ask about the Bourdain special--Spam omelette with curry and rice, right? ;-)