What the Heck?
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Frank Supovitz, above right, discusses plans of action with his staff yesterday at the NFL's Pro Bowl Media and Operations Center on the 19th floor of the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Pictured clockwise, from top, are Brian McCarty, Supovitz, Michael Humphries, Michael Lipman, Randall Liu and Tom Feeley. CLICK FOR LARGE
Center of NFL universe moves to Waikiki
The NFL means business:
Last week, the town was gripped by Pro Bowl frenzy. Most public attention was focused on the 86 Pro Bowl players and the 32 cheerleaders, who even managed to draw a crowd in the pouring rain at a Tuesday kickoff rally.
The real center of the pro football universe was the 19th floor of the Hilton Hawaiian Tapa Tower, points out Frank Supovitz. Supovitz is the NFL's senior VP for special events, and by special, the NFL means little things like the Super Bowl. "The Super Bowl is bigger," he says, "but the Pro Bowl is more complex."
To cope, the NFL essentially boxes up its New York office and ships it to Waikiki. All the hotel furnishings get carted out. In go 100 phone lines, a full computer network, desks, copy machines, a mailroom and 80 employees. There are offices for team coordination, finance, travel, broadcast, even a buffet where anyone with the right color ID tag can eat three meals a day. A phalanx of security guards in blue blazers keeps out the curious.
In New York, staffers wear coat and tie. In Hawaii, they're allowed shorts and aloha shirts. "But anyone who thinks they're coming here for vacation, we leave them in New York," says Supovitz. So only the players get to relax? "They're so competitive, we don't worry about them," he says. "They hate to lose."
Former yokozuna Musashimaru flew in from Japan last Friday. "Hot here, brah," he told me. "It was minus-5 when I left Hokkaido."
The 495-pound ex-champ, down from 522, is in town to promote next June's Grand Sumo Tournament. Next Thursday, he drops by his alma mater, Waianae High School, to talk to students. "I'm bringing a friend," he said. "Want to know who? Konishiki."
Nobu notes: Talked to the planet's most famous chef, Nobu Matsuhisa, who says Nobu's Waikiki will open "the end of the May, or maybe June."
Nobu is looking forward to coming to Hawaii, where he's often golfed with buddies like Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong. "Hawaii is good for the relax," he says. But, ironically, having a restaurant here means he has to work: "Not so relax."
The biggest news story out of Hawaii last week was on Barack "Barry" Obama's multiethnic history at Punahou. It was written by Associated Press reporter Brian Charlton, who arrived in the islands from Detroit last November.
The story was picked up by the Washington Post, the L.A. Times and 80 other media outlets, including Pravda in Moscow.
In a related development, Alex Salkever's lively Web site, Hawaiirama.com, has begun running tongue-in-cheek hints on how vacationers might do a "Barack Obama Tour of Oahu."
"This is, of course, a shameless ploy to gain more traffic via Google," says Salkever. "I'm not proud. And I'm not running for president."
Carnival clash: UH senior Justin Hahn set off a firestorm last weekend when he penned a piece for Ka Leo, the student newspaper, condemning the Punahou Carnival as "a scheme to take money from the poor and give it to the rich."
Hahn neglected to mention that 96.5 percent of net carnival proceeds go to scholarships (the rest go to the junior class, which puts it on). Still, he did mount a spirited attack against perceived privilege.
Predictably, Hahn got himself thoroughly trashed on Facebook.com and on Ka Leo's own Web site before the latter shut down. [PDF Google cached version]
When I called to see how the collegiate firebrand was handling the furor, Hahn said the Ka Leo editor, Matthew Ing, and his journalism adviser, former Advertiser reporter Jay Hartwell, had ordered him not to talk to me.
That was a curious stance from a journalism department that would be the first to decry stonewalling by, say, a politician. So, later, Hahn revised his story to say they'd only suggested he not talk. Hartwell e-mailed insisting it wasn't his decision, it was Ka Leo's. Ka Leo's Ing did not return calls.
Despite the brouhaha, Hahn says he's fine, except he didn't enjoy people calling him up and yelling at him.
Comedian Andy Bumatai has taken over from Augie Tulba at the Sheraton's Esprit Lounge. The Sheraton is billing him as "a family-friendly comedian."
"You know corporations," says Bumatai. "They exaggerate. But even when I was a young guy tearing around Waikiki in a Porsche, I never wanted to do a show where I'd be ashamed to have my mother in the audience."
What about his kids? "Mine are now teenagers," he says. "That's not like having kids. It's more like having bad roommates."
Gung Hee Fat Choy: "In Hawaii, Chinese New Year is bigger than regular New Year," insists Alvin Wong, president of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce. "That's why we celebrate for a month. Too much food and festivities to fit in one day."
The full-blown celebrations fill Chinatown next weekend. A dozen lion dance teams and the Narcissus Queen and court will be making the rounds of businesses. Restaurants, stores and galleries will be open extended hours. "We're going to shut down nearly the whole Chinatown grid to traffic," warns Wong. "I always just take a cab."
The perils of romance: If you forget the roses and reservations for Valentine's Day, you may be a candidate for the "Heal the Hearts" Valentine's Ball, put on each year by the prominent divorce attorneys, Coates and Frey. It's by invite only, but, notes partner Brad Coates, "It's full of newly single people."