Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Friday, September 10, 1999

An itemized peek
at the past week

TIME for a little Friday housekeeping, where we sweep all those random reflections, stray thoughts and miscellaneous musings left over this week into a neat little pile, then feed them into the shredder of public opinion.

Item One concerns the return this week of the remains of four U.S. servicemen from Vietnam. It is wonderful when such remains can be brought home for identification and proper burial. But, isn't it odd that Vietnam seems to cough up the remains of servicemen whenever an American official visits the country?

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was in Vietnam this week to dedicate a new U.S. Consulate building and -- voila! -- the remains of four servicemen materialize and are sent to Hawaii for identification.

I know that American military personnel have spent a lot of time in Vietnam excavating crash sites, where missing servicemen are believed to be. But it's like the Vietnamese also have a storage room full of remains that they divvy up whenever a diplomat or major celebrity visits.

How many remains materialize depends on the how important the official is. For Albright, four servicemen were repatriated. If the visitor is just a deputy undersecretary or something, then they might only come up with a femur and an elbow. The Vietnamese seem to treat our dead servicemen as little tourist knickknacks. ("Bye! Thanks for coming! Here, take this back with you. We think it's a staff sergeant.")

It's really nothing to joke about. But it seems obvious that the Vietnamese have a supply of remains that they parcel out when the mood hits them. We've either got to demand that they turn over all the remains they have in their possession or begin weekly celebrity and government bigwig flights to Vietnam to speed up the repatriation process.

ITEM Two. First, a luau is canceled at Dartmouth College because a Hawaiian student objected. Now, some Hawaiian groups are complaining about the new "Playboy Show" in Waikiki for including a hula number.

The trend seems to be that no longer will anyone who isn't Hawaiian be able to throw a luau or don a tacky plastic lei and swivel their hips. This is political correctness taken to the extreme.

The Playboy dance number in question involves a tacky homage to the Hollywood rock-a-hula genre popularized in movies like "Blue Hawaii." It is no more an insult to Hawaiians than a bunch of beered-up Octoberfesters doing the "Chicken Dance" is an insult to my German heritage. No one believes that a gaggle of idiots flapping their arms and chanting "bock, bock, bock" has anything to do with German culture.

ITEM Three. Once again the Clintons are setting a new low threshold for others to follow. A businessman buddy is putting up $1.35 million to help them buy a house. (Leave it to a couple of Southerners to find the only house in New York City that looks like "Tara" from "Gone With the Wind.") Does this mean the Teamsters can help Gov. Ben Cayetano buy a swanky mansion on Diamond Head? At the best, these kinds of deals are a conflict of interest. At worst, bribery.

ITEM Four. The Star-Bulletin ran the wrong dates for the upcoming "Gridiron '99" show a few weeks ago. I tried to correct the record in my column this week. Naturally, I screwed it up, too. The actual dates (I pray to God) are Sept. 17 and 18 -- next Friday and Saturday -- at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. For tickets, call 988-4618.

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
or send E-mail to or

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