The stories about “Crazy Kenny” could fill a book on its own. He was one of the best known and most loved bikers in Honolulu for more than 30 years. We lost him to cancer many years ago and he is missed.
Kenny’s exploits on his Harley Davidson camouflaged flathead, his jockey shift sportster, crash site recoveries, and general love of the weird life is well known and often spoken about among friends. It was his career as an artist that I want to talk about here.
Now, I will be the first to admit Kenny was way out. He was called “Crazy” for good reasons I won’t go into but it was a valid road name. But this story will stand on its own.
It all started, as they often do, with a night of fun and frivolity at Anna’s, there’s that pattern again. Kenny got stopped and arrested for D.U.I. In court he was found guilty, fined, his license taken away, and he was sentenced to a bunch of hours performing “community service”. Community service could be anything from stuffing and licking envelopes at the Red Cross office to picking up roadside trash. Kenny found a way to take it to new levels.
Everyone that gets sentenced to community service gets an adviser. These advisers probably have three to four hundred people they have to follow up on, keep track of, and generally make sure they comply with the rules set down by the court. If you don’t comply by your next court date, you can’t complete your sentience.
Getting an actual assignment sometimes takes four or five months. So if you have a large number of hours to complete, you have to get and extension that just draws out the whole process.
Kenny came up with his own answer to this merry go round of justice. He talked his adviser into letting him enter the Honolulu Mayors Art competition. Kenny claimed he would honestly put in the same number of hours on his “art” project as he was sentenced to perform. The adviser said yes.
A little history lesson is now needed. The Mayor at the time was the Honorable Aileen Anderson, the first and so far the only, woman mayor of Honolulu. She wanted to beautify some of the City office buildings by hanging work from local artists and thought this would be the first of many such contest/shows.
Another significant fact is she won the Mayor’s office from and lost it to the same person. The Honorable Frank Fasi. He was another character of Honolulu that’s has had much said about him.
So here we go. Kenny gets the okay to serve his community service by entering the Mayor’s art contest. We all knew Kenny’s mind worked different, that he was very creative, but I don’t think anyone thought of him as artistic.
Kenny makes his entry, and like all the entries it gets reviewed by a panel of four judges. All entries were submitted, judged, taken to city hall, and the grand unveiling set for a Friday afternoon. The show would open, the public could walk around and ohh and ahh all afternoon and then the winners would be announced.
A bunch of us and our wives, girlfriends, or stripper of the month, planned to make a showing in support for our brother Kent. Little did we know?
The show itself was full of Koa carvings, beautiful oil and water color paints of Hawaiian sunsets, sunrises, and waterfalls. Of course there were also the usual renderings of flowers, trees, and gorgeous Hawaiian women. Then there was Kenny’s entry.
He’s taken a square four gallon tin bucket that had been cut diagonally and made into a dust pan complete with a wooden handle and painted the whole thing black. He’d then used his welding and soldering skills to create a number of metal “insects” out of wire, nuts and bolts, and washers. He had spiders, cockroaches, grasshoppers, and one big “Praying” mantis.
The wire and washer bugs were attached in numerous places on the edges and inside the pan. At the very front of the pan was a tripod with a large washer welded to it, and the whole thing was painted black. Next to the tripod stood the Praying Mantis with its front legs in the proper position for praying. In the very middle of the pan, on its back with its legs in the air, surrounded by all the other bugs, was a large steel wire and bolt cockroach. If you think it looks like a funeral, you’re right. Kenny’s creation was entitled, “The Funeral for Bugsy Steel”.
Kenny’s entry was on a pedestal in the middle of the Honolulu Hale (city hall) mezzanine. Alone, all by itself, with a big placard in front covered with a cloth.
Turns out the judges were looking for something original and different. They found it in Kenny’s entry. To say the crowd was shocked is the classic understatement. People were incensed, some upset, some were simply speechless, and our little group was amused beyond belief. But it got better.
Here comes Her Honor the mayor. She is accompanied by her husband, a major in the Honolulu Police Department. She is wearing an elegant muumuu, her make-up is perfect, and she’s wearing a huge red carnation lei. She gives a short welcome speech and then announces the four prize categories; Most Creative, Most Original, Best Representation, and Best in Show.
The first three were awarded by individual judges, but Best in Show had to be picked and agreed upon by two of the four judges.
The Mayor announces the Best Representation award; its $250.00 dollar prize money, the winner walks up, accepts his envelope, a nice plaque, and receives big red carnation lei, just like the mayors. Remember, a lei is always accompanied by a kiss, which the winner graciously accepts on the cheek.
Then Her Honor makes an incredible statement. She tells the audience of several hundred people that a most “unusual” thing has happened. The second and third awards and the Best In Show award were all won by the same person. In fact, she goes on, the Best in Show was a unanimous selection. The crowd gasps. She announces Kenny’s “real” name. The crowd held its breath. She asks the winner to come on stage. At the same time an assistant to the mayor removed the cloth covering the plaque in front to Kenny’s sculpture. The plaque can now be read, “Best in Show”.
The picture is this; the elegant Mayor, with three big red carnation lei’s draped over one arm, check envelopes and plaques in the other hand, and she is smiling for the cameras. Smiling that is until she realizes the small, unshaven, long haired gnome wearing rubber slippers, a barely held together straw hat, and a dirty “Fasi For Mayor” t-shirt approaching the stage, is the winner.
Then Kenny begins to giggle, which is more like the cackle of the wicked witch than laughter. She almost broke. And the crowd, except for a bunch of uncouth bikers in the back who are yelling and applauding, goes silent.
Her Honor was a politician and she pulled herself together like a trooper. She held on right up until she started lifting the lei’s over Kenny’s head and bent over to kiss his cheek. That’s when she got a deep breath of Kent’s perpetual pot deodorant. It was over.
The smile dropped so hard the crowd almost heard it. She quickly skipped 95% of her closing remarks, announced the show was officially open, and took off for the ladies room. She wasn’t at a run, but a really really fast walk.
To wrap this all up in a neat bundle. Kenny fulfilled his community service, received 2 plaques and a trophy, and pocketed $1,250.00 in prize money. I’d call this a win-win-win for Kenny.
Oh, remind me to tell you about Kenny and the Japanese Chamber of Commerce “Art Show”. That’s a whole ‘nother story.