The Sour Poi Awards

Celebrating the best of the worst of 2006—follies, foibles and bizarre moments.

Hitting a sour note 2006 was a creative year for quarrels. Police responded to assaults in which people whacked each other with an upright vacuum cleaner, a clock radio, a wooden chair, a cooking pot, a beer bottle, a bottle of vanilla syrup, an iron, a rolling-pin massager, a flower pot. In two unrelated cases, an assailant clobbered someone else with an ‘ukulele.

And you say SAT scores are dropping? In October, a Leilehua High School teacher was charged with repeatedly dealing ice to an undercover agent. He reportedly set up at least one drug deal while in his own classroom. Earlier last year, a Castle High School substitute teacher was fired after students alleged he had sexually harassed some students and given weed, alcohol and porn to others.

Sleeping Beauties. Three auto thieves were apprehended last year when they were found sleeping in the very cars they had stolen. In two of the cases, the motors were still running. Also, an escaped convict’s vacation ended when police found him dozing in a broken trash compactor in Ala Moana Park. And a police found a forger in Kalihi sleeping in his car, with a fistful of counterfeit $100 bills and the scissors he had used to cut them apart.

The sign, or Ed Case? In the run-up to the primary elections, Rep. Neil Abercrombie’s wife, Nancie Caraway, was seen tearing down an Ed Case campaign sign from a community garden in Manoa and driving off with it. She returned it to the sign-owner’s yard the next day, folded and a little worse for wear. Caraway said later, “I felt it had no place in this public setting.”

Clueless, meet humorless A Celebrity Cruises ad in Travel Weekly featured an image of King Kamehameha’s statue raising a glass of Champagne to promote the company’s cruise-ship tours to Hawai‘i. Predictably, the ad outraged Hawaiian groups. Wayne Kaho‘onei Panoke, executive director of ‘Ilio‘ulaokalani Coalition, said his eyes filled with tears of rage when he saw the ad. Vicky Holt Takamine called it a deliberate insult to Hawaiians, saying, “This was never intended to market and sell a cruise ship.” Equally predictably, Celebrity Cruises scrambled to print full-page apologies in both local newspapers, and sent its top marketing officials for cultural awareness training.

The wrong tool for the job. In March, Hilo Medical Center and one of its surgeons were hit with a combined $5.6 million verdict for a 2001 incident in which Dr. Robert Ricketson stuck part of a stainless steel screwdriver into a patient’s back in place of the proper titanium rod. The makeshift implant broke a week later, leading to additional surgeries and fatal complications. At the time, Ricketson’s medical license had already been revoked in Oklahoma and Texas, and he was on probation in Hawai‘i for drug use.

photo: darklord/istockphoto

What were they smoking? Sept. 30 marked the beginning of a series of cigarette tax increases intended to fund cancer research and trauma care in Hawai‘i. Unfortunately, the new law’s current wording allocates only a single penny to the Cancer Research Center in 2007—the bill’s authors neglected to include the phrase “per cigarette” after “one cent.” Legislators intend to fix the law this session.

Cutest. Crime. Ever. Police arrested a 16-year-old boy in Palolo after he broke into a 13-year-old girl’s home and stole a $1 bill out of her wallet while she slept. Why just one dollar? The bill in question was folded into a heart.

Trespassers will be eaten. When an injured boar wandered onto the Waimea High School campus, teacher Bill De Costa knew just what to do. After unsuccessful attempts to shoo the pig off campus, De Costa drove a metal fence stake through its heart, with the help of two students. The Kaua‘i school lu‘aued the pig the next day.

Oldest trick in the book. Last year, ousted University of Hawai‘i prez Evan Dobelle concluded his contractual obligations to the school by turning in a 424-page research paper—triple-spaced.

One word: gloves In October, police finally captured a serial bank robber they dubbed the “YMCA bandit,” thanks to his fondness for disguises reminiscent of the Village People. During a yearlong string of heists, the robber held up O‘ahu banks dressed as a nurse, a wounded soldier, a security guard, a construction worker and a woman in a floral dress (complete with wig and fake breasts). Fingerprints left at the crime scenes eventually led to the robber’s downfall, although he remained flamboyant to the end. When police arrested him, he was sporting yet another costume: a chef’s apron. The robber said he thought he would be able to get away with it all “’cause I had good disguises.”

Viva stereotypes! In October, Japanese billionaire Gensiro Kawamoto announced plans to convert several of his multimillion-dollar Kahala Avenue mansions into affordable housing for Hawaiians. Rent would be $150 to $200 a month, but Kawamoto said he only wanted large families who would be willing to share the lots with friends and play music out in the front yards to give the neighborhood a “Polynesian flair.” “Viva Hawai‘i, viva Hawaiian, viva Kahala Avenue!” exclaimed Kawamoto in a prepared statement.

photo: messenjah/

Hands off Reece’s pieces. In September, photographer Kim Taylor Reece sued a local stained-glass artist who he says copied one of his images of a hula dancer kneeling in a traditional stance. This was news to artist and hula dancer Leialoha Colucci, as well as kumu hula around the state, to whom the pose is well-known. Said one, “These are movements that we’ve done for 2,000 years. He cannot own this position.”

The Army: bringing people together. An Army driver caused massive gridlock across O‘ahu in September after a hydraulic excavator he was hauling smashed into a pedestrian overpass in ‘Aiea. The hours-long delays led to what O‘ahu Transit Services president Roger Morton called, “shi-shi problems” for bus-loads of people stuck in traffic. One bus driver finally had to pull off onto the shoulder to let his passengers relieve themselves in the nearby bushes. Rob Green, one of the passengers, later said, “The people on the bus, we’re all old friends now.”

Now that’s what you call gross negligence. After years of postponed maintenance and weeks of heavy rain, a 42-inch sewer main in Waikiki ruptured, forcing city officials to divert more than 48 million gallons of raw sewage into the Ala Wai Canal—the equivalent of roughly 73 Olympic-sized swimming pools of, um, effluent.

Chevys from heaven. A Chevy Malibu parked in a downtown parking garage plunged five stories to the sidewalk in front of the Hotel Street Longs Drugs, after being rammed by a sleepy driver in an SUV. Luckily, no one was hurt.

And people come here for the weather?

In 2006, Hawai‘i enjoyed:
• a biblical 40 straight days of rain;
• flooding across the state that burst dams and washed through malls;
• road-closing landslides;
• freak wind gusts that blew down telephone poles in Nanakuli;
• hail;
• water spouts;
• an earthquake measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale that caused more than $100 million in damages on the Big Island and shut down Honolulu for the day.

Who says you can’t teach an Old Boy new tricks? The Hawai‘i Democratic Party got sucked into an interstate campaign fundraising scandal after treasurer Jane Sugimura told Associated Press reporters that the party made a $5,000 contribution to Rhode Island’s Secretary of State Matt Brown in exchange for a $6,000 donation from Brown supporters who had maxed out their contribution limits to Brown’s U.S. Senate campaign. Sugimura later recanted her “tit for tat” story in the resulting furor.

photo: paul cowan/

Drunk driving kills. After Lost actress Michelle Rodriguez was arrested in Kailua for driving under the influence, she seemed to breeze through her punishment, choosing a five-day jail sentence over community service, and serving only four hours and 27 minutes of a 60-day sentence in Los Angeles for parole violations. But she couldn’t escape the biggest hit—to her career. In the wake of negative publicity, Rodriguez’ character on Lost, Ana Lucia, was abruptly shot to death, ending her role on the popular TV show.

The Friendly Skies. New airline go! made a strong entry into Hawai‘i last year with $39, $29 and even $19 inter-island fares. The airline war was on. Both Hawaiian Airlines and Aloha Airlines sued go!’s parent company, Mesa Air Group, for unfair business practices; Mesa countersued Hawaiian Airlines for antitrust violations. In July, Hawaiian Airlines issued prepaid activity cards it called “Go Cards,” right after sending go! a cease-and-desist order for using the word “Hawaiian” on its Web site. Things hit a low point in November when a group of airline employees mailed Mesa CEO Jonathan Ornstein a T-shirt inscribed with racist and profane jibes. Sample messages: “JO—Drown in your own Koolaid!” and “J.O. the Jew Borat.”