No political figure was safe from a cheerful skewering


POSTED: Sunday, February 15, 2009

Corky Trinidad was already a part of the Star-Bulletin's personality when I arrived in the 1970s. He had come aboard during the Bud Smyser-Hobe Duncan days and was well known in the community for his political cartoons and funny illustrations.

Most of his work was lighthearted, but he also drew in a decidedly serious vein, particularly when reflecting on world conditions. He had an uncanny sense of what was happening elsewhere, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. His first-hand knowledge of the Philippines gave his work an edge in chronicling the events of the Marcos reign and the troubled Aquino years that followed. It was a period that attracted global attention to the Philippines, and Corky's familiarity and contacts with the area enhanced the Star-Bulletin's role in covering developments.

One clever cartoon was a playing card with Ferdinand Marcos as the king on top and his powerful wife, Imelda, as the queen on the bottom, so that whichever way the face card was turned one of them was a ruling royal. His cartoons were critical of the Marcoses and their excesses, but the power couple rarely complained and seemed to respect him, as did officials in the Philippines consulate and many Marcos loyalists.

Corky maintained cheerful relations with political figures in Hawaii, including the much-caricatured mayor Frank Fasi, who frequently requested copies of Corky's cartoons for framing at City Hall. Corky's sense of humor kept those around him laughing, and he did much to lighten up the newsroom.

Corky drew thousands of cartoons over the years, often two or three a day, and many of them were annually packaged for submission to the Pulitzer Prize judges and other competitions. The prizes were generally won by cartoonists from larger news organizations, a source of frustration to those of us who felt Corky's work was brighter and sharper than the big-city guys. But he was never discouraged and over the years achieved a widespread level of respect among other nationally syndicated cartoonists.

As many editors know, cartoonists for the most part tolerate rather than welcome suggestions. Corky was an exception to this and listened courteously to the ideas of non-artists, sometimes even accepting them. But he always found a way to make a mundane concept exceptional, and never drew his first idea, figuring that it came too easily.

Perhaps due to his religious education, he seemed content to listen while others displayed their learning points. Conversations with him usually ended with everyone laughing. Once an editor suggested the tone of Corky's illustrations could be in the tradition of Diego Rivera. Corky chuckled at the flattering comparison: “;You may be looking for Diego Rivera,”; he said, “;but don't be surprised if you get Walt Disney.”;


John Simonds is a former editor of the Star-Bulletin. He also served as editorial page editor. He lives in Honolulu.