HAWAII AT WORK
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Rea Fox showed off her handiwork at the latest "Sunset on the Beach" in Waikiki. Fox is Production Hawaii's key player when it comes to producing the event. Helping her install the tents, the boardwalk and other equipment, she said Tuesday, are "a lot of very large men."
The tent goddess
Rea Fox has it covered for people who want to throw shindigs outdoors
Title: "Tent goddess"
Job: Coordinates the installation of tents and other equipment for outdoor events on behalf of Production Hawaii Inc.
Rea Fox moved to Hawaii 30 years ago and she still pinches herself occasionally to make sure it's not just a dream. "I came here for a two-week vacation and I'm still here. I love it here," said Fox, who grew up in Chicago, earned a degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin in Platteville, and for many years in Hawaii worked as a singer. For the past five years, Fox has been helping Mike Rossell's Production Hawaii Inc.
produce outdoor events that require tents and other equipment, earning her the moniker "tent goddess." Fox, 59, has a 27-year-old daughter and lives in Nuuanu. Besides jazz singing, her main passion now is surfing. "I'm taking surf lessons and I go out as much as I can," she said on Tuesday. "It's really like a new life. There's no moss growing under my feet."
Question: What's your actual work title? I heard it was "tent goddess."
Answer: "Tent goddess" is my work title. And that's the one that really describes what I do. I work for Production Hawaii in sort of a freelance capacity. So I'm really a manager, but I'm really the tent goddess. (Laughter). It's catchy, isn't it?
Q: It is. It's on your business card, right?
A: Yes, and when people see my card, I get these wonderful calls. It's like, "Wow, that's so cool. You really are (the tent goddess)."
Q: So what are your responsibilities?
A: My main kuleana is really coordinating "Sunset on the Beach." And I use "kuleana" in the most broad sense.
Q: What is involved in coordinating that?
A: Well, the Waikiki Improvement Association is the main producer, and Production Hawaii is the co-producer.
Q: It's not a city event anymore?
A: No, it's not. The Waikiki Improvement Association took it over when the City & County bowed out. Of course, the event could not happen without the good graces of the city Department of Transportation, the Parks and Recreation Department, and the city Police Department, but that's peripheral support.
Q: When you say you're the tent goddess, what does that mean?
A: Well, the main thing that Production Hawaii does is big-event tenting, so we do all the "Sunset on the Beach" tenting, the "Brunch on the Beach" tenting, that beautiful clear tent that was out in front of Iolani Palace, plus there are many events dockside at the USS Missouri, including the annual Military Appreciation Day. The company tents that entire dock with the biggest tenting. I think it's like 215 feet-by-66-feet wide or something.
Q: I don't suppose you put up these tents by yourself. You need some help right?
A: Put the tents up by myself? (Laughter) No. We have quite a marvelous crew. A lot of very large men put the tents up. I'm "da supahvizah." It's really coordinating everything.
The way it works is this: A client who has an upcoming event calls Production Hawaii. I go out and meet with the client, inspect their site, talk about what their goals are in relation to the event, let them know what Production Hawaii can do. And then, when it's the actual installation time, I'm often on site supervising or managing the installation so that it gets done as close as possible to what the client's vision is. People often have very specific ideas about how they want their tenting set up, like with weddings, for example
My focus in working with anybody, whether it's a big event or for smaller clients, is that it's got to have the same attention to detail, the same sense of doing an excellent job, because your event is really important to you, whether it's a $2 million wedding or a little stage with a 10-by-10 tent in which the keiki are going to do the hula. My role is to support you and make the event as beautiful as possible.
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
When people call Production Hawaii about providing tents and other gear for their events, the company puts Rea Fox on the case. Above, Fox chatted with Joey Castaneda, owner of Ono Cheese Steaks, at the most recent "Sunset on the Beach" event in Waikiki, which the company co-produces with the Waikiki Improvement Association.
What happens if you're putting on an event and it's rainy or windy? Do you have to secure the tents more than usual?
A: Depending on what the event is, sometimes events just have to be canceled, if the weather's really dramatic. But what we do, the whole point of tenting, is protection, so we have what are called sidewalls (which keep the wind and rain out). But the tents are really secured. The stakes go way into the ground, or, if we're on cement, we have these 50-gallon water barrels (to hold the tents down), and it's not moving.
Q: How many people do you have to work with to put on something like "Sunset on the Beach"?
A: After I do all the preliminary setup, which has to do with security, signage and permits, generally there's 10 to 15 men putting in the boardwalk and setting up the tents.
Q: How often are the "Sunset on the Beach" events?
A: It used to be every week, but now it's down to twice a month.
Q: Does Production Hawaii own all the equipment it uses for the events?
A: Mike Rossell and Production Hawaii own all the equipment.
Q: Where is all the equipment stored?
A: We have a warehouse on Republican Street -- which always makes me laugh; we're not talking politics. (Laughter)
Q: How long have you been working for Production Hawaii?
A: I worked with Mike in the mid '80s for about a year and a half, and then I came back and have been working on projects with him since late 2000. Almost five years this round.
Q: What did you do before you joined the company?
A: I'm actually an independent contractor.
Q: Do you have other people you work for?
A: Not for another company, but for other people. But for 30 years I've really been known around town as a jazz singer. For a long time, in the late '80s and early '90s, I worked in shows in Waikiki. I was the Tina Turner impressionist in the "Legends in Concert" show and the original "Flashback" show. I highly recommend to anybody that if you have an opportunity to step into the shoes of a superstar for 15 minutes a night for three years, it's a life-altering experience.
Q: Have you ever been asked to sing at any of the events you've worked on?
A: (Laughter) No. I kind of keep the discretion of the event. There's actually been things that I would have loved to put forth that part of me, but integrity is a big thing and I generally keep it (the singing) separate.
Q: Does working on these events take a lot out of you, or do you have it all pretty much under control by now?
A: Pretty much. I really am pretty on top of it. I have kind of a routine I have when I know an event is coming up. But mostly it's about fun, and that's what work mainly is supposed to be, about fun.