Editor’s Notes / It wasn’t a surprise, but then again it’s always a surprise, isn’t it? No matter how many three-dot items or nostalgic columns you read over the past couple of years, if you had a television in Hawaii during the 1970s and ’80s, the news that Bob Sevey died over the weekend had to jolt you a little.
Sevey, the longtime KGMB anchor, was often compared to CBS’ legendary Walter Cronkite, and as easy a tactic it is to base a column around the inaccuracy of conventional wisdom, it was an apt comparison. They even looked somewhat alike, had similar mannerisms and worked for the same network. For most of Sevey’s 20 years on the air, local viewers watched the two back-to-back.
I was a kid during Sevey’s heyday, and while I don’t remember a signature Sevey moment, I do remember a story my dad told me. He worked as a reporter under Sevey for a time in the early ’70s, and at one point had been given weather-reading duties. I don’t remember whether it was a regular gig or just a spot job. At the end of this particular segment, either inspired by a beautiful day in the Islands or driven to delirium from repeating “highs in the upper 80s, variable trades 5-15 miles per hour” yet again, Dad decided to freestyle—a no-no in those days. As he tells it, he turned to Sevey and said, “Well Bob, just another pearl in a beautiful strand of days.” The camera cut back to Sevey, who, shunning the obligatory “Thanks, Doug,” kept his head cocked, glaring at Dad for several seconds while half the state looked on.
As Dad told it, it wasn’t a story about Sevey being a jerk—he was by all accounts a warm, paternal figure in and out of the newsroom—but about a young guy doing something dumb and the master making sure he didn’t do it again.
My dad has a lot of stories about those days, but that’s the one that stuck with me, perhaps because it speaks to the size of Sevey’s personality and the effect he had on the community—even on a young kid. Someone bosses your dad around, when you’re that age, and you don’t even blink? Of course you don’t. It was Bob Sevey. He was like the Dad of all Dads. Check out any of the various online comments floating around and see how many invoke the idea of Sevey as a father figure.
That’s how most of us will remember Bob Sevey, as a steadying influence during a unsteady time, someone you could trust for 30 minutes every evening in an era of untrustworthy leaders and shady dealings. The “Cronkite of the Pacific,” indeed.
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Before she entered politics, Barbara Marshall was the first woman in Hawaii to anchor a regular news program. Her passing last weekend, alongside Sevey, is a reminder that a generation of media pioneers is beginning to slip away.
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Of course, the thing about generations is that there’s always the next one coming along to pick up the baton. Christa Wittmier, known online as “superCW,” celebrates six years as the can’t-stop-won’t-stop chronicler of Honolulu’s after-dark scene this weekend with a big party at Pearl Ultralounge. While no one is comparing Wittmier to Bob Sevey (although they are both blondes), her energy, passion and photographic focus on the joy—rather than the snark—of local nightlife have struck a chord with the thousands who follow her various online updates. She told me last week that she’d promised herself she’d hang up her camera after 10 years, and that this sixth anniversary was bringing with it the realization that one day soon, the party will eventually end.
Christa, we don’t believe you. Here’s to hoping we’re right.
Six years of [supercw.com], Pearl Ultralounge, Ala Moana Center, terrace level, Fri 2/27, 9pm.