Elvis statue joining many Hawaii kings
I WAS EXCITED to learn that Honolulu will soon add another "King" to its historical statue collection. Just down the road from the King Kamehameha III statue in front of the old courthouse will be a statue of "The King" Elvis Presley
at the Neil Blaisdell Center.
Elvis also won't be far from the statue of the "King of Surfing," Duke Kahanamoku, at Waikiki Beach, or Father Damien, the "King of Leprosy-Treating Priests," whose statue is stationed at the state Capitol. (Father Damien apparently is one of two people from Hawaii under consideration for sainthood, although Mayor Mufi Hanneman's bid might be in jeopardy because of the increased sewer fees thing.)
New statues are great fun because not only do they attract pigeons, but controversy. The King Kamehameha statue has had its share of both, most recently when a cruise line doctored a photograph to have the king hold a glass of champagne in his outstretched hand for a magazine ad. (The image was deemed culturally insulting by some people -- beer drinkers, I suspect.) But his problems go back to 1880, when the original statue sank in the Atlantic off the Falkland Islands. The King Street King Kamehameha III is actually a "second"; the original now stands on the Big Island, still slightly miffed about his dunking.
WHEN it comes to Elvis statues, the question is always, will it be the Fat Elvis or the Skinny Elvis? If the sculptor is paid by the pound, the answer is obvious. Thankfully, our Elvis will be the skinny one who appeared at the NBC (aka: HIC) in 1973, the first concert ever broadcast worldwide by satellite. But a question remains: Which way will Elvis face, toward Ward Avenue or Kapiolani Boulevard?
Surfers were upset when the Duke Kahanamoku statue was pointed toward shore. Duke would never turn his back to the sea, they said. (I wasn't as concerned about that as I was by the fact that the statue looks more like the sculptor than Kahanamoku.) As for Elvis, he might have turned his back on Kapiolani Boulevard, but never, ever on a T.G.I.F. restaurant.
Father Damien has his back to the state Capitol, possibly out of disdain. He is, sadly, subjected to passing politicians every day as they enter the Capitol. Living with people with Hansen's Disease is one thing, but politicians? Another vote for sainthood!
A statue of Elvis does belong in Hawaii. He loved it here. He was a friend of Uncle Tom Moffatt, the legendary concert promoter, going back to 1957. Elvis last visited Hawaii in 1977, just months before he died of, I think, either a broken heart or deep-fried peanut butter sandwiches. Uncle Tom recalled recently that Elvis considered the 1973 concert the biggest event of his life. (That was before President Nixon made him a federal drug agent or U.S. marshal or something along the law-enforcement line.)
So Elvis will join the other royal statuary reminding us of our islands' amazing history. Hail to the Kings, whichever way they point.
Buy Charles Memminger's hilarious new book, "Hey, Waiter, There's An Umbrella In My Drink!" at island book stores or online
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