As best as I can tell, it’s all there.

It starts with the July 17, 1991 edition featuring the cover story “Getting the Boot: Eviction on Tusitala Street” by Senior Editor Julia Steele, and ends with the June 5, 2013 final edition (“Honolulu Confidential: 100-plus best local restaurants, bars, pop-ups, chefs and more”).

In between are all the issues of Honolulu Weekly, the free alternative tabloid dedicated to investigative reporting, “consumer-oriented features,” arts and entertainment and political commentary.

A victim of the devolving industry of journalism, it was shuttered four summers ago. (Read an obit here.)

Until then, the Weekly was loyally devoured every Wednesday when a fresh issue was published. Its demise was mourned all the more because it seemed gone forever.

No more.

Honolulu Weekly (its slogan-cum-innuendo was, “Are you getting it weekly?”) is now digitized and available for free viewing on a searchable website, thanks to the University of Hawaii Manoa Library.

“I’m so happy that this has happened,” the weekly’s founder and publisher said last month. “There is just so much stuff going on out there that is not documented anymore, and from time to time the Weekly had some wonderful things as a result.”

In fact, Laurie Carlson herself recently used it as a resource when she was researching the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, a large, private charitable foundation with offices in Honolulu and Maryland. She found what she was looking for in a 15-year-old article in the Weekly archives: “Weinberg’s Legacy.”

The cover story, written by Ian Lind (now a Civil Beat columnist), has this subhead, which captures the story well: “When he died, he left behind a $900 million charity. Buildings all over Honolulu bear witness to his gifts. Now, in a strange twist, his secretive foundation wants $75 million from taxpayers to build at Ko Olina.”

Observes Carlson, “No pride here, but it’s a sad statement that there is nothing newer of a critical nature about the whole situation with Weinberg.”

Diversity, Daring, Spot-On

The high quality of Honolulu Weekly is what led UH Manoa to digitize the content.

“It has held up over time,” said Dore Minatodani, senior librarian for the school’s Hawaiian Collection.

Laurie Carlson launched Honolulu Weekly as a business but also to uphold journalist ideals. Courtesy

Interest in the Weekly has continued because it was partially indexed in the Hawaii Pacific Journal, helping drive researchers to specific articles. Occasionally, library users above a certain age will also wander into the library’s fifth floor, where the Hawaiian and Pacific Collection Reading Room, is located, to ask about the Weekly.

But, as with any newspaper, the Weekly is also a series of snapshots caught in time, easily forgotten.

“Young people today just have no idea what it was, and the idea of a print version just seems archaic,” said Minatodani.

I can’t possibly take the time to list the many great contributors to the Weekly over its 22-year run, but I offer a sample that reflects the diversity, daring and spot-on character of the rag.

For example, there is a May 10, 2000, cover story from Catherine Black who presciently profiles several up-and-coming state legislators (“The Young and the Restless”). They include Brian Schatz (today a U.S. senator) and Scott Saiki and Sylvia Luke (today running the state House of Representatives).

The most well-known and prolific contributor to the Weekly was arguably Robert M. Rees. He wrote too may articles to pick just one to mention here.

I’ll instead reference a response to a Rees piece to illustrate just how much Bob got under people’s skin. It comes from Oct. 16, 1996, a response to Rees’ Sept. 11 cover story, “Who’s Afraid of Haunani-Kay?”

An editor’s note explains that the Rees story questioned the direction of the University of Hawaii Manoa’s Center for Hawaiian Studies under Haunani-Kay Trask, a professor and the center’s director.

Trask and her colleagues did not let Rees’ views go unchallenged. Excerpt:

“Rees knows the quickest path to notoriety in the haole-owned press is bashing Natives, especially, to quote Rees, the ‘brilliant’ Professor Trask. Given’s Trask’s ‘brilliance,’ maybe Rees is just burning with jealousy. After all, he doesn’t have the public stature, publishing track record or oratorical talents of Trask. And he certainly can’t hold a candle to her fearless politics.”

I worked for the Weekly, too, and I’d like to take this opportunity to humbly brag about one of my stories, “The Gospel According To Mike Gabbard.” It ran Jan. 27, 1999, a few months after Hawaii voters gave the Legislature the authority to limit marriage in the state to being between one man and one woman.

It did, and Gabbard, today a state senator and father of a congresswoman, led the charge.

“I am accused of being a hate-monger, but I’ve never given anyone AIDS,” said Gabbard, who conducted our interview almost entirely through faxes. “I’ve not hurt or killed anyone. Whereas homosexuals, supposedly the great lovers of mankind, continue to engage in activities that are ripping each other apart physically and mentally.”

‘Gastronomic Insights’

Lee Siegel was a big Weekly draw in the early years, until he took being a food critic into directions that Carlson did not care to go. But I loved the more daring pieces, including a group review of local pizzerias from Dec. 9, 1992. Excerpt:

Pontillo’s (39 minutes; 8 cents per square inch; 0.9 rating). Having heard raves about Pontillo’s from someone who boasts of eating pizza at least five times a week, I had great expectations. These were dashed upon the arrival of a pizza that had either been dropped, run over and/or carried vertically; when we opened the box, there — lumped, rumpled and mushed up on one side of the container — was a grotesque spectacle. Tasters waxed eloquent in the articulation of their gastronomic insights with such bon mots as ‘yucky,’ ‘doo-doo,’ ugly,’ ‘gross’ and ‘suspicious.’”

Worries over unchecked development were a Weekly speciality.

In Curt Sanburn’s Nov. 29, 1995, cover story (“Great Expectations: Kapolei, Oahu’s ‘second city,’ promises everything — but can it deliver?), ulterior motives are unmasked.

“Some planners are skeptical that Oahu will ever see a true second city in Ewa,” wrote Sanburn, who later wrote for Civil Beat. “A state planning policy analyst says Kapolei is just another example of leapfrog urban sprawl, ‘a private real-estate scheme driving public policy’ designed to liquidate a large land holding.”

I’m giving inadequate attention to the Weekly’s extensive arts and entertainment fare. But I do want to mention the fine, informed, insightful work of longtime film critic Bob Green. Here’s an excerpt from Sept. 24, 1997:

“By the bitter climax of L.A. Confidential, your confidence in the system might be further shaken, but you know at least you’ve seen the real thing. Minute by minute, beat by beat, character by character, this, long, labyrinth movie is the best American movie of the year so far — and will rank high in the list when 1997 comes to a close.”

That same issue includes a “Clubbed to Death” column from Mark Chittom titled “Aliens Ate My Brain,” with accompanying illustration from the inimitable Ken Dahl.

Mark wrote mostly about music, but not always. This one begins with a riff on “The X-Files.” Excerpt:

“I remember the days when we freelance ufologists were a secret fraternity of enthusiasts, a disparate but dedicated and loyal band of truth-seekers and guns-for-hire, like Trekkies but not as dorky. Shunned by mainstream society, we kept to the shadows of the cultural landscape. We recognize each other in an instant — like thieves meeting in the night. Those days are gone now; they’ve been gone. Agents Skully and Mulder have exploited and destroyed our once weird but cozy niche in society. In late ’97, every passé raver from Santa Barbara to Barcelona sports alien jewelry and claims to have been contacted.”

I don’t know whether Mark intentionally misspelled the surname of fake FBI Agent Dana Scully. But I can tell you that the Weekly was very well edited, employing at one time both a proofreader and a copy editor. Those jobs are also today being excised in JournoWorld.

Women Seeking Men

Perhaps the most-loved contributor to Honolulu Weekly was a cartoonist who went by a single name: Pritchett.

John Pritchett’s page 3 illustrations were mini-masterpieces, including one from Nov. 17, 2004.

Mufi Hannemann had succeeded Jeremy Harris as Honolulu mayor, so Pritchett drew a gift basket from Harris to Hannemann he titled “Basket Case,” a basket stuffed with these “gifts” (actually, difficult issues that had not been settled under Harris’ tenure): sewer neglect, city debt, the Waikiki Natatorium, potholes, the bus-rapid transit system and “things we didn’t need and couldn’t afford.”

Pritchett later contributed for a spell to Civil Beat, as did Sanburn.

Finally, no visit through the Weekly’s archives can be complete without mention of the classified ads, especially the Person-To-Person section. It came with a key (e.g., J — Japanese, NS — Non Smoker, HWP — Height/Weight Proportionate).

The distinct logo of Honolulu Weekly was designed and illustrated by Linda Fong, while the logotype and overall look of the paper was designed by Bud Linschoten. 

Here’s an ad from the Women Seeking Men section from Dec. 29, 1993: “Cute, clever, curvy, cheery, DWF, 35+, seeks courtin’ man w/ wits & heart to share nature & nurture, poetry & pie.”

One gripe about the Weekly archive: The scanning process did not do justice to the color of the paper’s artwork and the resolution of its photos. But then, that’s what happens with newsprint.

Carlson, who lives in Maunawili, today keeps busy with her longterm interest in the slow food movement (it is very much the opposite of fast food, and more), a project reviving Native Hawaiian bananas and other agricultural-foodie pursuits.

I’ll conclude here with what Carlson wrote in that first issue of Honolulu Weekly, words that are still pertinent today in these uncertain times:

“Because media occupy a special place in our society (as well as in our constitution) a strictly bottom line approach undermines the value of the press to society. Capitalism’s strength is its efficiency and newspaper chains are very efficient. Chains cut costs by using wire services and syndicated columns rather than local journalists. And while corporate owners have nothing against muckraking, except perhaps its price, they have a tendency to avoid controversy and make the editorial product utterly inoffensive (some call it McJournalism).”

Thank you, Honolulu Weekly, for all that you did. And may offensive muckraking live on.

About the Author