Saturday, November 28, 2015         

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Kitsch cachet dwindles

Knickknacks that celebrate the Oval Office boss from Hawaii are becoming harder to find

By Burl Burlingame


As philosopher Rush Limbaugh likes to point out, "If Obama weren't black, he'd be a tour guide in Honolulu." Nice! After a year of perfecting political kung fu, President Barack Obama and the First Family like to spend their Christmas vacations in Hawaii. Can you blame them? It's chilly in Washington, what with all those Republican cold shoulders.

The Commander-In-Chief, the POTUS, the Present Occupant of the White House -- whatever your favorite appellation is for Obama -- has, so far, taken 48 days of vacation since he assumed office. By the same point in his presidency, George W. Bush had taken 115 days of vacation, but then, he had a lot of Texas brush to clear.

Barring a crisis, the Obamas will likely hit the beach, have some shave ice, tie up the highways, read some Stephen King, see a movie or two. Maybe have some lip stitches pulled. Vacation stuff.

Speaking of shave ice, the folks at Island Snow next to Kailua Beach report that their "Sno-Bama" shave ices continue to sell well. They're remaining on the menu.

But, we've discovered, the mountains of Obama kitsch tying the First Family to the islands have largely disappeared. Even at the Butigroove logo store on Piikoi, which a year ago was Obama-kitsch headquarters, there are now only some copies of Ron Jacobs' "Obamaland" Barry Obama-childhood book, on a lower shelf. "Uh, I think there are some Obama T-shirts left at the other store," said a counter girl. "But I don't know for sure."

At Don Quixote, the store most of us still call Daiei, the Obama stuff has shrunk to a couple of shelves. Everything is $5.99, marked down. There are T-shirts on the bottom shelf, and "dashboard dolls" of the president on the top shelf, although unfortunately, Don Quixote has blithely placed the Hawaii Obama dashboard dolls next to dashboard dolls of chimps wearing hula skirts. Ouch. And no, we won't show you a photo, because it will go viral for the wrong reasons.

The dashboard dolls are the product of KC Hawaii, a novelty manufacturer, and these things are mostly what you find when you go on an Obama-kitsch hunt in Waikiki. Rena Ramos, at KC Hawaii's customer service, says that they have a good inventory of these products, and although they don't sell as well as they used to, they are still moving.

Designed in Hawaii and manufactured in China, there are four primary doll poses for the president -- playing ukulele, eating a shave ice, surfing and playing golf, and they come in 4-inch and 6-inch sizes and two styles -- dashboard-doll with a bouncy waist or traditional bobblehead. In each, he looks cheerful and healthy.

A couple of hours spent combing Duke's Market Place, International Market Place and some ABC stores in Waikiki turned up some really classy kitsch, including a Hillary Clinton thigh-powered nutcracker, Lion of Judah cigarette lighters and "WANNA RIDE A FAT BOY?" T-shirts, but no Obama T-shirts. It's possible they might be really well hidden. We did find an Obama license plate for $4.99.

Almost every push-cart vendor, however, had a dozen or so Obama dashboard dolls on display. They are apparently the Obama kitsch of choice this holiday season.

When the Barack Obama Presidential Library some day opens at the Hawaii State Department of Health, with the president's Hawaii birth certificate encased in a nitrogen-filled catafalque like the Declaration of Independence, they'll need some of this kitsch in their collection.

I did find what might be the last two Obama Inauguration beach towels left in Waikiki, and seized with patriotic fervor, purchased them to preserve for future generations. I talked the vendors down to half price.


On the Net: Obama

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