KISS Of Wealth; Bad Government

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - January 16, 2008

“I wanna rock ‘n’roll all night and party every day” - KISS

Gene Simmons of the legendary rock group KISS came to town recently and rocked the Ala Moana Hotel. But it wasn’t the thumping of Marshall speakers with hard-driving rock ‘n’roll that shook the room. It was the eloquence, articulation and, yes, sensitive presentation on the secrets of business success that brought the sell-out crowd to its feet.

The 34th annual Small Business Hawaii Conference is known for its impressive collection of compelling political and business members and guests. It caused some well-heeled eyebrows to be raised when Sam Slom, SBH president, announced that Simmons was to be the keynote speaker at this year’s conference.

As it turns out, Simmons is about the best choice that could have been made. “Ten Points to Make You Rich Like Me” was the gist of his presentation and, according to his revelation of wealth, he knows of what he speaks. His personal net worth is around the six figure range - in millions. He has taken the brand of “KISS” and parlayed it into more than 3,000 licensed products. Simmons is a partner in Simmons/Abramson Marketing, which is involved in a myriad of business ventures including ownership of the fabled Indianapolis 500 auto race. If you are looking for those points to make you rich, then you’ll have to check out

But the most poignant moment of the day focused on Simmons describing his relationship with his mother. Tearing up, Simmons told the story of how his mother survived the concentration camps of Nazi Germany and, when he was 8-and-a-half years old, changed his life forever. His mother took a chance on a place called America. It was the pursuit of the “American Dream” that brought Simmons and his family to the United States, and his mother’s wisdom that prepared him to capitalize on being in “the greatest country on the planet.”

Simmons evokes the classic stereotype of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. His garish appearance in KISS (with his classic “tongue wag”) defined an era of music history. However, he has never had a drink of alcohol, ingested any illegal drugs or gotten “high” in any way. The sex and rock ‘n’ roll part? I am sure he can fill in those blanks.

The world of business has an image of staid, buttoned-down, clean-cut and “play by the rules” professionals. Simmons proves that you can literally walk to the beat of a different drummer and enjoy traditional success in a non-traditional way.

three star

The Herman Frazier/June Jones/UH debacle is indicative of governmental operations in Hawaii. The lack of urgency and responsiveness, fueled by a cavalier attitude demonstrated by Frazier, can be found in the offices and chambers of our government.

Clearly, not all politicos sputter as Frazier did, but the symptoms in this case are apparent elsewhere. Frazier and other UH officials failed miserably in responding to the pleas of June Jones, Colt Brennan and others regarding the derelict condition of UH football facilities. The rocky transition of UH Men’s Basketball Coach Riley Wallace to Bob Nash was unnecessarily clumsy. The creation of a UH football schedule was late and incomplete. The rejection then pursuit of highly desired Sugar Bowl tickets was asinine.

But the failure to retain the wildly popular and effective head coach was more than anyone could take. It was the dismissive nature in completing this essential task, along with the last-ditch, haphazard, last-minute band-aid solution that resonates with taxpayers.

We have been waiting for years, if not generations, for improvements to infrastructure, public safety and public education. Pleas have been ignored, and dismissive explanations are given to placate those who question the status quo. It’s not until there is a wailing cry from the public or litigation that moves government forward.

Cases in point include a federal consent decree regarding our sewers, lawsuits regarding our mental health hospital and prisons, and the Felix suit against the state regarding special education. Yet, despite all these shortcomings, we reward Democratic incumbents with re-election.

Oh, in the case of Herman Frazier, his ineptness had great consequence. He walked away with more than $300,000 of taxpayer money. Surprised? I didn’t think so.


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