Speaking Frankly With Mayor Fasi

Don Chapman
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February 10, 2010
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As MidWeek political guru Dan Boylan writes on page 10, everybody has a Frank Fasi story, and some of us have several. This was my introduction to the late mayor, who passed away last week at age 89:

It was December 1979 at Ali’i Beach Park in Haleiwa, where a big professional surf contest was happening. I’d been at the Advertiser as daily columnist about a month and a half. Buck Buchwach, the editor who’d hired me, had mentioned during the job interview how Fasi hated the Hawaii Newspaper Agency and the joint operating agreement that allowed HNA to handle advertising, production and distribution of both the Advertiser and Star-Bulletin. In fact, Fasi often blamed “the media” for everything wrong in the world, or at least in Honolulu.

Anyway, we were in a roped off press area on the beach, and Fasi - a big camera buff - was asking my colleague Gregory Yamamoto about the long lens he was using that day. So I introduced myself:

“Hi, Mr. Mayor, I’m Don Chapman, the new columnist at the Advertiser, and even though I know you’ve had some differences with the paper, I wanted to get off to a fresh start with you personally.”

Shaking my hand, he looked me in the eye and said, ‘You sure work for a sh—-y newspaper!” and with a smirk on his face turned on his heel away from me.

Whereupon I said loud enough that he couldn’t miss it, “Geez, this guy is a bigger (10-letter compound cussword) than I’d heard he was!” Which made him do a double-take as he walked away.

Funny thing is, after that when I saw him he was relatively cordial. I suspect that he was accustomed to talking to people like that and getting away with it, and street fighter that he was, when someone threw it back at him and didn’t back down, he could respect that.

Speaking of Fasi and cameras: Talking with George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin photo editor, on the day after Fasi died, he recalled that while Fasi disdained reporters, he liked to hang out with the photogs, inspecting and inquiring about their equipment. “He loved us,” George said.

Probably no coincidence that Charles Fasi, his son, is a professional photographer.

Fasi also loved his dog Gino, a black-and-white spaniel. Gino was always good column fodder, especially when the carpet in the mayor’s office had to be replaced - twice, as I recall - because Gino did what dogs, uh, do.

Fasi twice appeared on MidWeek‘s cover, first as mayor in October 1984, just a few months after the paper started publishing, and again in May 1998 when he was running for governor. Nathalie Walker’s cover photo shows him doing push-ups - he’d do hundreds every day in his office and was in exceptional shape at age 77.

He was an odd man - playing dirty politics and slinging mud with the best of them, standing up for the little guy, double-crossing Gov. Ben Cayetano (according to Cayetano’s book), but doing many good things for Honolulu, including making TheBus one of the best transit systems in the U.S.

Frank Fasi left a mark on Our Town, and for all his faults and foibles I’d rate him as good a mayor as I’ve seen in my 30 years here.

We got some excellent news late Friday afternoon as we were putting MidWeek to bed: Thanks to tips from alert MidWeek readers, four of the 12 CrimeStoppers Most Wanted criminals on last week’s cover were caught: James Aiwohi, Roxanne Arzaga, Sheldon Pepee and Isaiah Kaisa.

Better yet, says HPD Sgt. Kim Buffett, CrimeStoppers coordinator, “Thanks to MidWeek readers, we have info on all but one of the others and hope that they will all be apprehended soon.”

And please check out our new CrimeStoppers Most Wanted feature on page 18, with two more criminals.

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