I just read about the passing of Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii today. He was 88. I'm honored to say I had his acquaintance several times throughout my life.
The first was when I began doing the weather on WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C. in late 1974. Some of the Senators I had known in the past, including our giant HHH, Howard Cannon from Nevada and Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson from the State of Washington had all taken some promotional welcome photos with me for the station (the composite is among the most treasured photos on my walls here at the house). One day, I got a call from Senator Inouye's office stating he wished I'd give the temperature in Honolulu every night, since I covered the entire U.S. on each weathercast. (Almost everyone in D.C. is from somewhere else, thus my focus on the entire nation.) I told the person who called I'd be more than happy to give that temperature, but I told that person I thought it would be fun if Senator Inouye would agree to be on the set with me and express mock-displeasure about my omission of Honolulu's temperature. The next day I received a call from his office stating he'd be at the station a day or two later. We set the time and newscast (it was the 7 p.m., EST 'cast). I met him before our on-air tete-a-tete, we exchanged pleasantries, and then did the "bit". Here's how it went: As was the case here on Channel 5, I walked from one weatherboard to the next, but in between the boards would either be a whimsical sign I'd created, or a celebrity who might have something to say to me while walking from board-to-board. When I got to the spot where Senator Inouye was standing he said (rehearsed): "Mr. ZeVan. I enjoy your weather reports, but why don't you give the temperature in Honolulu? Please do so from now on!". Then I walked past him, looked into the camera and simply said, "Boy, when these Senators want information, they don't mess around!". I then got to the next board and thanked Senator Inouye for coming on the show and having some fun, but I also DID give Honolulu's temperature on every weathercast after that.
In subsequent years, I saw him once or twice "on the Hill", then interviewed him in 2000 for a 10-hour documentary series about the 20th century for which I was consulting co-producer. My "job" was to line up as many guests as possible for interviews, and then interview them. (Sidebar: It was called THE REMARKABLE 20TH CENTURY, executive produced by an L.A. production colleague named Scott Popjes, and aired on various PBS stations in 2001, and beyond. The host, who I also secured, was the now late Howard K. Smith. Howard had been a colleague during my D.C. television years, and his daugther, Catherine ((Cate)), wasa producer at our station.) A couple weeks after the interview, Senator Inouye kindly signed the photo we had taken after the interview, with an accompanying message. It hangs on the wall leading to our basement. A photo taken by a WJLA-TV photographer of Senator Inouye smiling at me as I walked past him on the set when he was admonishing me to give the Honolulu temperature, also hangs on a wall downstairs. One rarely saw the Senator smile, so this was a "special" candid photo.
My interview with Senator Inouye lasted a half-hour. For the documentary, much of that time was cut, but he did tell me about where he was December 7th, 1941. He told me he immediately enlisted in the Army. He also told me on V-J Day he and some buddies were actually sitting outside a church in Honolulu when the Japanese surrender was announced. He said the church bells tolled and it was the happiest day of his life, since aside from being a great American, he was also of Japanese descent, as most everyone is aware. He lost an arm during WWII, but never his courage. He also told me he was chosen to be one of the Watergate trials Senators "by accident". He told me he never anticipated those trials would catapult him into the international spotlight, but was happy for the outcome of the trials.
On the trivial side, we also discussed the fact I had worked in Honolulu for six months at KGMB-TV and Radio as a writer-producer, in1965, but had never been back to the Islands since. He asked why. I told him I got "rock fever" and couldn't stand being surrounded by all that water, 24/7, living in Kailua and working in Honolulu. Eventually I got back to the Islands two years ago, for the first time since 1965, and it was delightful, but only because I didn't have to stay permanently. Nothing against Hawaii, but I need to drive more than the 26 miles around Oahu one faced while there.
It was said in tonight's obituary, Senator Inouye's final word was "Aloha". "Aloha" to Senator Inouye, a giant in every respect.