The Evolution Of A Columnist

Susan Page
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Wednesday - July 29, 2009
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Editor’s note: Because of e-mail problems, this column was not published in last week’s 25th anniversary issue, which we regret because Ms. Page has been an important part of MidWeek’s growth. For those saving that commemorative issue, please clip this and insert it with the other silver anniversary columns, where it rightly belongs.

It was November 1992 when the call came. I was running Susan Page Modeling School and Agency, and Freeze Frame Fashion Photo Studios in California and abroad. It was a harried and insanely busy time, but when MidWeek‘s publisher called, I took the call. It was a publication to which I owed much - after being on its cover in 1986, my business had boomed.

Out of the blue he asked if I would consider writing a weekly column on fashion, and even offered to pay me!

The rest is 17-years-and-750-columns-later history. Over the decades, MidWeek has grown and so has this columnist - yes, a little in the hips, but hopefully in skill and wisdom, too.


 

My first nerve-wracking effort was published Nov. 26, 1992: “ASafari Into Today’s Fashion Jungle,” which took all day to write. For a year, each column included a photo of various models from my agency. I even organized and chronicled a dramatic makeover on MidWeek reader Cammie Hung, whose “after” photo was stunning. The columns were about everything from denim to spandex, stilettos to soccer wear, prom gowns to power dressing, the Wonder Bra to tattooed eye-liner. But issues, columns on the negative influence of skinny models on teens or the challenges of breast cancer survivors in finding suitable undergarments stirred me most.

By 1994 I’d sold the businesses, and as my life changed so did my columns. A divorce brought pain. My children left for college. A longtime friendship with former Navy pilot and POW Jerry Coffee turned romantic. He would become my husband and later a MidWeek columnist. Travel brought new insights.

That same year I was entrusted to write a cover story on community leader Christina Kemmer because, I was told, my personal “people” columns elicited more response from readers than fashion ones. Eventually, the Fashion Page became Susan’s Page, a commentary about family, social issues, business, politics and people.

In late 1994, Don Chapman became MidWeek‘s editor. I’d known and respected Don from his columnist years at the Honolulu Advertiser. Then one day I opened MidWeek and my column had been edited! Incensed, I sped across the Likelike Highway to Kaneohe and literally stormed into Don’s office. Something absurd like, “How dare you change my ‘art’?” and that I felt “my words are like my children” blurted out of me. Thankfully, Don was his usual cool self, and calmly explained the role and rights of editors, politely advising that if I didn’t want my copy cut, I must edit it more carefully myself before submitting. It was the most important lesson I ever learned about writing.


MidWeek has given me a priceless on-the-job education. I’ve learned to research, investigatively report, dig for the uncommon angle and think critically. It’s enabled me to relate personal stories, meet people I never would’ve otherwise and critique issues and tactics of both local and national politicians.

MidWeek also has allowed me to champion favorite causes and speak on personal passions such as the lifelong joys and struggles of motherhood, the transformational bliss of grandmother-hood, enduring loss, the desperate plight of vulnerable children of Africa, ill and abused keiki in Hawaii and our awesome men and women in uniform. Only once in 17 years has MidWeek balked, an Easter column the editors deemed too religious.

I’ve also learned to take criticism. A reader once called me a “bleached blond bubble-headed bimbo” over my column on the unruliness of UH football players. I giggled for days over the alliteration of adjectives, and about forming a club, the BBBBOFs: Bleached Blond Bubble-headed Bimbos Over Fifty. To be a part of MidWeek‘s 25-year history is a privilege and honor. It’s success is a credit to all the staff and journalists (Here! Here!, Jones, Price, Boylan, Moon, Mizutani, Hogue, etc.) who create and distribute it.

MidWeek has made many significant changes in order to become Hawaii’s largest and most successful newspaper, but to quote from my July 12, 1995, column on coloring silver hair, “Life is about change. Death is about staying the same.”

Congratulations, MidWeek, on your silver anniversary! Color it successful.

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