Erika Engle

Sunday, November 2, 2003

Parody raises funds
for future satirists

Gridiron 2003 is but a smirk-inducing memory that journalism students can laugh about all the way to the internships the show will fund.

The Gridiron is the annual fundraising variety show by the Society of Professional Journalists, Hawaii Chapter, satirizing news events, newsmakers and the reporters who love them.

Its stars and masters of ceremonies are media folk who volunteer their time, as do dozens of people behind the scenes.

There also are ringers, such as professional actress, singer and former Miss Hawaii Cathy Foy. Her appearance dressed as former Bishop Estate Trustee Lokelani Lindsey had audience members busting their guts before she even uttered a line.

Veteran broadcaster and KRTR-FM 96.3 morning host Dan Cooke reprised his role as Gov. Linda Lingle, while KQMQ-FM 93.1 morning man Justin Cruz played Lenny Klompus, Lingle's senior communications advisor. The two did a song and dance duet and a smiling Lingle came back stage anyway. She spent time with the cast backstage as well at an after-party at Big City Diner.

Gov. Linda Lingle, center, poses with her impersonator, Dan Cooke, at her right and other Gridiron cast members

"We grossed more than $45,000 this year, which is at least $5,000 more than last year," said Gridiron co-producer Keoki Kerr, also a reporter at KITV. The figures were conservative estimates, he said.

"Our two shows sold (out) nearly one month before the show dates, so we charged admission to the dress rehearsal. We had a line of people around the block and had more than 300 people in the audience for the dress rehearsal," he said.

Diamond Head Theater's normal sell-out is 473 seats but 491 seats were sold for each of the Friday and Saturday night Gridiron performances.

Proceeds from Gridiron 2002 funded 14 paid summer internships, both full- and part-time, at newspapers, magazines, television stations, Hawaii Public Radio, online Pacific News Net, Bright Light Marketing Group and Alexander & Baldwin Inc.

"The money also helps fund continuing education for journalists, like the 'Better Watchdog' workshop that's happening Nov. 8th, co-sponsored by SPJ and Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc.," Kerr said.

Asked if the additional funds raised this year would create more internship opportunities, co-producer Garett Kamemoto said it is up to the employers.

"I'm pretty sure we will have at least the same number (as last year)," he said. Interested employers can send an e-mail inquiry to

The organization prefers to offer full-time intern positions, Kamemoto said. While part-time experience is still valuable, "we want to make sure we get as many people a productive experience as possible," Kamemoto said.

Star-Bulletin reporter Mary Vorsino and copy editor Sacha Mendelsohn are former SPJ interns, as are dozens of newsfolk working in Hawaii and on the mainland.

Sponsors are sought to help stage the production and offset costs and this year 20 signed up to underwrite the show.

"Some provided services and in-kind donations, but most of them provided cold, hard cash," Kerr said.

Some sponsors, knowing they were to be lampooned during the show, poked fun at themselves in their program ads.

"We were going to opt for a full page ad this year ... but HVCB ran out of money. Break a leg ... at least!" read the ad by television station KITV. Its trip to Japan to cover Gov. Linda Lingle, spoofed in the show, was initially paid for by the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau but has been reimbursed.

"We love our sponsors because this is the only show where companies pay to sponsor an event that turns around and makes fun of them," Kerr exclaimed, grateful that the station has not yet fired him.

Honolulu does not want for good local theater productions but some Gridiron fans are truly fanatical.

"An 80-year-old Gridiron audience member fell down crossing the street on the way to the theater before Friday night's show," Kerr said.

"One of my high school classmates who's a doctor attended to her and helped stop the bleeding from her head wound. He told her she needed to get to a hospital as soon as possible because she was going to need stitches. But she said she had to see the Gridiron and she'd go afterwards," Kerr said.

Kamemoto is already getting requests for tickets for next year's show. They're not available yet.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at:


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