Saturday, April 3, 1999

Haleiwa abuzz
with ‘Baywatch’

Some residents applaud
that the series will infuse
money and jobs; others fear
it could be disruptive

New location, new stars

By Mary Adamski


The debate at the counter of a Haleiwa surf shop yesterday was a microcosm of viewpoints being expressed by residents in the picturesque North Shore community, which will be home to "Baywatch Hawaii."

"What if they close off the beach and say I can't go swimming . . . bad enough it's already restricted when there's surf meets," argued lifelong resident Tommy Kawahakui, who works in the city parks there.

"No, no, they can't do that. Disney filmed there, and they couldn't do that," countered Hawaiian Surf Shop owner Fred Patacchia. "The trickle-down effect is going to help us all. You're going to send your kids in here for a job, and the only way to give 'em a job is if we have business."

Haleiwa Alii Beach Park, which will be hub of action for the "Baywatch" brawn-and-babes adventure show, features water that is shallow enough to be safe for small swimmers and a close-in surf break of gentle and predictable sweeps. About 50 children per week, 200 in the summer, are taught to surf, swim, dive and boogie-board by the four city Ocean Safety Division employees headquartered in the Haleiwa Surf Center.

"It won't infringe on the work we have here," said David "Hawaiian" Kalama, an ocean recreation assistant at the park for 22 years. "This is a family-oriented beach. Everyone learns to surf here." He said executive producer Greg Bonann "said they will welcome people here whenever they are shooting."

Kalama sat in the cozy clutter of a small office, which is action central for current beach activities. He isn't star-stuck by the coming change - he's worked as an extra in "Hawaii Five-O" and "Magnum."

The fictional "Baywatch" ocean safety crew will operate from a new second floor at the center, which the TV production company will add to the unpicturesque hollow-tile building.

"I know some people object to the type of lifestyle 'Baywatch' portrays," Kalama said.

Debbie Rego, who lives across from the park, said, "I take my granddaughter -- Shayna, 2 -- to walk at the beach every day. I want to know if we can still go pick up shells. It's a nice, peaceful place; I really hope they don't make it change, or take it away from us."

Stanley Matsumoto, second-generation operator of Matsumoto General Store, a shave-ice fanciers' mecca, was at the beach with friends. He said he still surfs there, "my favorite spot," and wonders if he will be able to continue.

"As a whole, this will help the community," Matsumoto said. "Haleiwa isn't Waikiki. At 6 p.m., everything is dead here. Businesses that are having a hard time are going to benefit."

The park is adjacent to Haleiwa Boat Harbor, a half mile off Kamehameha Highway.

George Tanabe, 85, at a bus stop on the circle-island highway that serves as main street, said: "They will give the name Haleiwa out to all the people who can see the show. It's a good thing."

The prospect of change doesn't faze the lifelong resident, who owned and operated the town's hardware store before retirement.

"Haleiwa used to be the center of business," he said.

Before World War II, the town had the district courthouse, police station, tax office and three hotels, serving as shopping center for people from Kahuku to Wahiawa, he said. There were 9,800 residents in Waialua and Haleiwa in peak sugar-cane producing years, which qualified it for listing in the World Almanac, Tanabe said.

He said in the 1960s and 1970s the plantation village began its major change. The North Shore attracted mainland migrants, ranging from "hippies" to wealthy retirees who built on the shoreline. Tanabe said the population today is "about half-half" old-timers with links to plantation days and newcomers.

Richard Kaaua, sharing the same bus stop bench, said he's concerned filming will close popular shoreline to residents.

"What about the fishermen? You can feed your family from the beach. It will be income for the state, but I wonder about us."

Dona Singlehurst, a Waialua horse-and-cattle raiser making a quick stop at Haleiwa post office, said: "We need anything that stimulates activity and calls attention to the North Shore, the most unspoiled part of Oahu."

But Tyson Schroeder, a former Haleiwa resident who returned for a meal at his favorite Mexican restaurant, Cholo's, said: "I don't think any Hollywood show will reflect the Hawaii lifestyle. Other shows reflect the Hawaiian culture so poorly, with token locals speaking fake pidgin."

Shroeder said, "I don't watch 'Baywatch,' but I've seen the promos with girls swinging down the beach. You don't have to watch it to know what it's about! It will shed a poor light on Hawaii."

Windward resident Rosemary Tamashiro, at the other Haleiwa Beach Park on a picnic, said: "It would be a big improvement for the economy on this side. A lot of small businesses on this side do depend on tourism. We've been at beach parks while "Fantasy Island' was being filmed and there was no conflict with public use."

Her brother Herman Cosier, who recently moved to Haleiwa from elsewhere on Oahu, said: "As long as they leave the community as it is, and spend their money in the community . . . it will make the little business guys happy. If they say "no access' to the beach, then you'll have plenty people out holding signs."

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