What the Heck?
Former pro surfer Keoni Watson promotes Primo in his 1963 Volkswagen Double Cab Pickup, painted Primo blue.
Classic beer hits road in vintage VW van
Never pass up an opportunity to drive a 1963 Volkswagen Double Cab Pickup. That's essentially a classic VW van, underpowered, a throwback to a time before servos and computer chips, when you used to have to wrestle a vehicle to get it to go where you wanted.
Especially never pass up the chance to drive one that's been restored and painted Primo blue, with the Primo warrior replacing the VW symbol in the front and a cooler full of chilled Primo in back.
Last Monday was Day Two of the "Bottle Tour." I got picked up in the Primo Van by its primary driver, former pro surfer Keoni Watson. Watson was delivering gifts of Primo, newly in bottles, to folks like surf promoter Randy Rarick and everything promoter Tom Moffatt.
We were on our way to Portlock to deliver a case to Rob Burns, who founded Local Motion. But first we dropped by the smallest of mom and pop liquor stores, Sue's Mini Mart.
"One case isn't going to do it," said owner Sue Nakanishi. This was just a gift, explained Primo's brand manager, Kyle Wortham, in for the occasion from Chicago. The real delivery would come Tuesday.
"How come such a little store is special then?" asked Nakanishi.
It's guerilla marketing. "We spent most of the marketing budget on this van, anyway," says Wortham. "We have to do it this way."
Pabst, which owns Primo, is famous for its guerilla marketing. Somehow it took Pabst Blue Ribbon from a 126-year-old, moribund brand for retired Midwestern factory workers and turned it into the beer of choice for bike messengers, snowboarders and indie bands.
"Wish we'd done that on purpose," says Wortham. "We're not that smart."
Still, we were handing out Primo to mom and pop stores, surf celebrities, even civilians -- pizza delivery guys, tourist tram drivers, passing pedestrians.
"For pau hana, brah," Watson would warn them.
Watson drops off a Primo pop-up tent to waterman Terry Ahui, to use at a bodysurfing competition.
"We gonna get the tent back?" asks Wortham.
"Doubt it," says Watson. Watson's next plan is to drive out to Makaha and pass out Primos to the surfers gathered under the hau tree there.
I ask Watson whether he enjoys this gig. He looks at me like I'm nuts. "Are you asking me whether I like driving around in this great van, giving beer to my friends?" He shakes his head. "Here, you try driving it."
In Sam Choy We Trust
Finally caught up with San Francisco's most famous Asian chef, Charles Phan of The Slanted Door, on a cell phone. The former Vietnamese refugee turned food celebrity was driving down to Pebble Beach.
For golf? "Nothing so glamorous," he said. "I've got to feed 150 people tonight. Always working."
He'll even be working when he flies to Honolulu this week. He's expected to feed 600 people at the request of Sam Choy.
"It's hard to say no when a chef asks you," says Phan. "I don't remember which charity it's for. I'll just show up and figure Sam picked a worthy cause."
He did: Big Brothers Big Sisters. The organization's annual "Gourmet Affair" is at the Hilton on Friday; a few tickets are still available: 521-3811.
A Hard-Boiled Rumor From Lanikai
"People are just as rumor crazy over here as they are in Honolulu," says noted local author and longtime Lanikai resident Bob Dye.
Right before Easter, says Dye, his neighbors were all calling him, agitated. They'd heard that Gerard Jervis -- attorney, disgraced former Bishop Estate trustee and recently arrested Lanikai homeowner -- had rented out the entire Lanikai Community Park. Why? To throw an Easter Egg hunt for the Saint Louis football team.
"Wasn't true, of course," chuckled Dye. "But it might have been a good idea if he had."
Twins Walk Into Senor Frog's ...
...Last Wednesday, a baker's dozen people sat in plastic armchairs lining the walls of a downtown casting studio. It was a mixed group, ranging in age from 20 to 50, some experienced actors, some not even actors at all.
"Two people up on stage, please," says Shannon Winpenny. "One of you is a cake decorator, the other's a stalker. Go."
Winpenny teaches improv -- the on-the-spot creation of comic sketches. It takes brains, teamwork and nerve. Winpenny's a pro, having returned home last fall from a decade in Chicago, performing at Second City and ImprovOlympic. She offered her first class about six weeks ago. "I was stunned by how much interest there was," she says. "The class just filled up."
Winpenny's hardly a conventional teacher. She's given a short homework assignment. When she collects it from the half of the class that actually did it, she taunts them: "Nerds."
Three hours fly by as students in pairs or groups create one scene after another. They are occasionally flustered. One pair is supposed to start with a word given them by the audience. A younger class member yells out, "Sodomy."
But this is the sixth of eight weekly classes. Most students have gotten the hang of it; occasionally the bits are as funny as anything on a stage in Honolulu. Given an assignment to maintain a set distance from one another -- and the word "Mexico" as a starting point -- students Kehau Rezentes and James Duggins come up with the inspiration to play Siamese twins, trying to pick up chicks at Senor Frog's. The class dissolves in laughter.
Winpenny encourages her charges to be that bold. "If you think your character would feel sick, pretend to puke," she says. "You can make anything funny. Well, anything but Oprah. Oprah's never funny, at least not in Chicago."
Winpenny begins a second series of beginner classes starting a week from tomorrow: 384-3392.