Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Friday, April 2, 1999

Isles will give
Baywatchers an eyeful

NOW that it looks like "Baywatch" will indeed come to Hawaii, I can fill you in on some of the behind-the-scenes negotiations.

It turns out that Hawaii landed the series after "Baywatch" producers entered 11th hour, secret discussions with Slobodan Milosevic concerning "Baywatch -- Kosovo."

Apparently, the hang-up on "Baywatch -- Kosovo" was that there were too many swarthy Albanians in the country. But Milosevic said he'd clear them out so that Kosovo could be used as one gigantic sound stage.

There was a race on to see which would happen first: Milosevic clearing Kosovo of Albanians or the Teamsters agreeing to some concessions in order to move "Baywatch" to Hawaii. One insider claimed that Serbia actually had the inside edge because, unlike the unions, "you can negotiate with Slobodan."

I knew that the whole "Baywatch -- Kosovo" deal was a sham. The "Baywatch" producers probably came up with that angle because they no longer could pit Australia against Hawaii. Once they lost that leverage, they had to come up with something else to keep Hawaii on the hook and, bingo, how 'bout Kosovo?

The idea of filming "Baywatch" in Kosovo wasn't as far-fetched as it sounds. Granted, Kosovo has no ocean to speak of. But the Adriatic Sea is just a stone's throw -- or a cruise missile shot -- away. And yes, the Adriatic is a bit on the chilly side -- all right, it's freezing. But, hey, just think how those bikinis would stand out.

Now that the maneuvering is over and Hawaii has "Baywatch," we can move on to complaining about it. That's what people in Hawaii do, complain about the economy and then complain about businesses that come in to help the economy.

CRITICS worry that "Baywatch" will send the wrong image of Hawaii to the world. It will depict the state as a place of sun and fun where scantily-clad hard-bodies gambol in the sand and surf like sea nymphs. How could Hollywood be so culturally insensitive to expose Hawaii in such a demeaning way? Why can't they give an honest, sensitive portrayal of the islands, the way "Hawaii Five-0" did?

Steve McGarrett's Hawaii was teeming with bad guys. A tourist was lucky if he could cross Kalakaua Avenue without being gunned down by some international criminal fleeing from Five-0. And McGarrett was a no-nonsense cop whose idea of giving a suspect his Miranda warning was not to empty ALL of his bullets into the poor bastard. ("You have the right to continue bleeding. If you can't bleed on your own, court-appointed bullets will be shot into you at no cost ...")

Dead bodies accumulated like cordwood on both "Five-0" and "Magnum P.I." Now THAT's the kind of image of Hawaii television shows should depict!

Despite the bloodshed, tourists flocked to Hawaii. They weren't turned off by the images of violence. Instead they focused on the background: the coconut trees, beaches, mountains and, mostly, the warmth. (Sure there's crime in Hawaii, but at least the weather's nice.)

"Baywatch -- Hawaii" will be moving the background to the foreground. Deep story lines are great. But when it's 10 below in Detroit and the snow is four feet high, Baywatchers will be enticed by the place, not the plot.

So, yes, "Baywatch" is no "Masterpiece Theatre," and, frankly, I'm happy it isn't. I have no urge to see Alistair Cooke in a thong.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802

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