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Fast Eddie's Last Stand
  • July 18, 2013 : 23:07
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Fast Eddie Rothman is standing on the front deck of his perfectly tropical Oahu house, blocking the perfectly temperate 75-degree sun, waiting for me. His hands, gnarled and scarred with the memories of many teeth, are balled up into tight fists and he drums the deck’s railing.

His fists have drummed often. There was the time they drummed the teeth out of the big Australian surfer’s mouth. There was the time they slapped the vice president of a major surf brand 11 times for bald-faced lying. There was the time they bashed the head of a pervert jacking off in the tropical bushes near the bike path. Or, wait—those weren’t his hands proper, those were his hands gripping a piece of rebar. There was the time they landed repeatedly on the sunburned cheek of a man who had partnered with a local podiatrist to smuggle pain pills by strapping them to children. This man threatened to blow up Rothman’s house with a grenade and bounced his secretary’s head off a rock wall. Rothman gave him a drumming so solid that the man spent a week in the hospital, because like the Australian surfers, surf-brand vice presidents and perverts before him, he had it fucking coming.

Oahu, the most mythical island in the Hawaiian chain, is not commonly associated with bloody beatings and broken teeth. It has, rather, been etched into the subconscious as an island paradise since the turn of the 20th century, when wealthy families, inspired by pastel-hued postcards, steamed across the sea on coconut-scented winds and basked in its flawless climate. GIs followed on their way to World War II’s Pacific Theater, gaped at hula girls, got lei’d under a tropical moon and thought, Thank you, Uncle Sam. And their sons became surfers and went in search of their fathers’ dreams. They found them on Oahu’s North Shore, where the waves were massive and perfect if you had the courage and skill to ride them. They were joined by men with names such as Da Bull, Butch and Duke, and they too etched Oahu into the subconscious. As the 1950s turned into the 1960s, surf-ploitation films about exotic Waimea Bay and the Banzai Pipeline became the rage, and the Beach Boys crooned about riding the wild surf.

But the decades between then and now have been marked by immense struggles for the men who were born into this paradise or who arrived and never left. Men like Eddie Rothman. Today I walk down a dead-end road not five miles north of Waimea Bay, where he is waiting for me. I turn left and push my way into his million-dollar beach compound. Rumors and whispers about his penchant for violence haunt the North Shore. Brave surfers speak of him in hushed tones, afraid they might turn around and see him standing there and then see the darkness of a knockout.

On paper Rothman is simply a successful surf promoter and co-founder of the surf brand Da Hui, which makes boardshorts, surf apparel and, more recently, MMA fighting gear. But the past, as the 1960s turned into the 1970s, is when Rothman’s specter was born dark. He is the elder statesman of Hui O He’e Nalu, or Hawaiian Club of Wave Riders, which he formed nearly 40 years ago along with local surfers Kawika Stant Sr., Squiddy Sanchez, Terry Ahue and Bryan Amona. The mission of the club (from which the surf brand later took its name) was to advocate for Hawaiian surfers on the professional circuit and to help bring a sort of sanity to the winter surf season, which had grown increasingly chaotic due to an influx of foreign surfers who had watched the films, listened to the Beach Boys and decided the North Shore was theirs. But it was not theirs. And Da Hui taught them this by knocking the teeth out of their mouths. During the winter of 1977, visiting surfers’ blood ran both freely and cold, and Rothman became the embodiment of fear.

Hawaii was never, in truth, a pastel-postcard island paradise. Its name most likely comes from the ancient Maori word Hawaiki, meaning “heaven” and “hell.” Early inhabitants practiced a harsh form of governance that included human sacrifice by crushing the victim’s bones. Captain Cook and the first European contact brought disease that wiped out half the population. Inter-island war followed inter-island war until wealthy American agricultural interests convinced President William McKinley to annex Hawaii, subjugating the locals and immigrant laborers under a feudal-like system. Eventually there were enough locals and immigrants in the U.S. territory to demand statehood, which was granted in 1959. And then the surfers came, beginning a new sort of annexation until Fast Eddie Rothman shoved his gnarled and scarred fists down their throats.

Stories of the “black shorts,” as the members of Da Hui were called after their austere beach uniform, beating down disrespectful foreign surfers are still told today. But the club has mellowed in recent years, hosting beach cleanups and preaching the gospel of water safety for surfers and swimmers alike. And it has been some time since Rothman’s been in the local papers for illegal activity: In 1987 he was indicted on racketeering and drug distribution charges, which were dismissed because of prosecutorial misconduct. He had been in and out of jail before and has been in and out since, but his relationship with “legality” is, again, only ever whispered about. Few are brave enough to ask directly what it is that he does. There are outrageous, whispered rumors that he’s in the Hawaiian mafia, that he’s a drug dealer, that he’s a murderer for hire. But no one really knows, because when Rothman takes care of business his way, it quickly and quietly goes from rumor to whisper to legend. No one questions the legend.

And he is waiting for me because I broke the rules. I wrote a book about the North Shore that included him and his specter, which was a severe breech, on my part, of North Shore whisper etiquette. (Welcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell is being published by Harper Collins in December.) He got a copy of the unfinished manuscript from Scott Caan, who plays today’s version of Danno on the remake of Hawaii Five-0, and Rothman ordered me to his house.

He watches me approach from his wraparound deck, and the reality of the man matches the whispers, even though he is 65 and only five-foot-six if generous, five-foot-five if honest. He is roping muscle. His arms, usually bare, are perpetually flexed. His expression rarely changes. His pug nose has been broken more than once. His gray hair is shaved to a fine stubble. The neck that holds that head up is as thick as a tree. He is a testament to the power of attitude and intention. He has bested more men than he can count, and it looks as if I will be counted among the multitude.

Rothman looks at me and takes me by surprise. Instead of a left hook he drops this bomb: “If you want to tell a fucking important story, then tell this one: Monsanto. Those fuckers are here. They have all these experimental farms right over the hill and are poisoning the land and poisoning the people. Write that shit.” While my eyes had been trained on the pounding surf and the surfers and the fighters, by Rothman’s reckoning I’d had my head in the sand. He is asking me to turn 180 degrees and look squarely toward the island, to those verdant hills, to where Monsanto has alighted like so many interlopers before.

Monsanto is, of course, the multinational agricultural biotechnology company based in St. Louis—some 5,000 miles from the North Shore. It is the staggeringly profitable company that once manufactured PCBs and Agent Orange but for the past 20 years has been making genetically modified seeds that grow herbicide-resistant crops such as soybeans, corn and sugar beets. In Hawaii, Monsanto, along with Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer Hi-Bred, Dow AgroSciences and BASF, is growing some 7,000 acres of crops, including soybeans and corn. These crops are not intended for human consumption per se; rather they are seed crops that will be shipped to farmers worldwide to plant in their fields to sell on the open market. Much of it ends up as feed for livestock in countries around the world. While international farmers have become dependent on Monsanto’s incredibly effective Roundup Ready seed and Roundup herbicide, Rothman is part of a growing group of Hawaiians who see this as yet another encroachment on their beloved land.

His take on them is quite simple: “They are greedy fucks. They don’t care about anything but making money, and they are doing it all right here on Oahu and all over the islands—threatening farmers, closing the local people down, closing farmers’ markets. You know, if some of their GMO seed blows on someone’s land, then they own it. They are controlling our politicians too. Laws to label food as GMO have come into our Congress, but they get shut down. They are taking over the land, just like in the past.”

And his rant continues as he lists past wrongs on Hawaii—the early explorers bringing diseases to the islands, the Mormons bringing Mormonism, the sugar barons overthrowing the Hawaiian monarchy and enslaving the people, foreign surfers coming and stealing the waves, the methamphetamine epidemic now engulfing the islands. He eventually brings it back to Monsanto. “And now they are fucking with our food. They are fucking with the very root of who we are as people. It’s the worst thing they could be doing. Greedy fucking fucks. For what? For money? Money does strange things to people. Fuck them.”

I’d never heard him talk about anything with such passion other than Hawaiian wave sovereignty, the notion that these are their waves, to be surfed their way. With Monsanto, as with everything, Rothman goes with his gut.

“They got all these research farms right over the hill from my house,” says Rothman. “We’re having a March Against Monsanto in Hale’iwa tomorrow.” He grinds me with his eyes and it is completely expected that I will show up.

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read more: News, politics, business, issue july 2013

11 comments

  • Right Foot Forward
    Right Foot Forward
    And if you had any doubt, here's the court record for Fast Eddie's offsider, Kala Alexander ...5PC90-0-000002 STATE OF HAWAII V KALA JOHN ALEXANDER /Robbery 2/ Jail /$2000 bond5PC93-0-000020 STATE OF HAWAII V KALA JOHN ALEXANDER /Assault 2nd 3rd/ Extortion 1st, 2nd & 3rd/ Jail /$4500 restitution5CC93-0-000346 LINDA DEROHAN ET AL V REBECCA WILLIAMS ET AL [ET AL means 'amongst others'] Looks like an Estate/Inheritance issue [He's non-criminal here]5CC93-0-000346 LINDA DEROHAN ET AL V REBECCA WILLIAMS ET AL /Same5DA96-0-000072 KALA JOHN ALEXANDER VS NICOLE CARTER /Temp restraining order [Don't know what's happening here. Has he been ***** whipped?]5DA96-0-000090 OWEN CARTER VS KALA JOHN ALEXANDER /Temp restraining order5FC98-0-000212 STATE OF HAWAII V KALA ALEXANDER /Family abuse /Arraignment/ Contempt /$1250 bond5FC92-0-000096 STATE OF HAWAII V KALA ALEXANDER /Family abuse / Jail5FC99-0-000078 STATE OF HAWAII V KALA ALEXANDER /Criminal contempt /Bail summons5DA00-1-000082 NICOLE ALEXANDER V KALA ALEXANDER /Petition for temp restraining order5DA00-1-000106 NICOLE ALEXANDER V KALA JOHN ALEXANDER /As above (?) maybe to remove it1FC00-1-002883 STATE OF HAWAII V KALA JOHN ALEXANDER /Harrassment /Protection order/ About $3000 bail1FC01-1-001112 STATE OF HAWAII V KALA ALEXANDER /Harrassment /Protection order5FC01-1-000063 STATE OF HAWAII V KALA ALEXANDER /Abuse family /Protection order5PC01-1-000202 STATE OF HAWAII V KALA J. ALEXANDER /Terror threat /Harrassment /Jail5PC01-1-000205 STATE OF HAWAII V KALA ALEXANDER /Terror threat 2nd /Harrassment /$975 fine5PCCO-1-000206 STATE OF HAWAII V KALA ALEXANDER /Terror threat /Harrassment /Jail /$975 fine5PC01-1-000207 STATE OF HAWAII V KALA ALEXANDER /Criminal property damage1FC01-1-003009 STATE OF HAWAII V KALA ALEXANDER /Family abuse /$5000 bail1FC01-1-003010 STATE OF HAWAII V KALA ALEXANDER /Family abuse1FC02-1-001005 STATE OF HAWAII V KALA ALEXANDER /Family abuse1FC02-1-001426 STATE OF HAWAII V KALA ALEXANDER /Family abuse1RC03-1-001490 STERMAN REALTY ET AL VS KALA ALEXANDER /Summary possession Tenant damages5DV03-1-000145 NICOLE ALEXANDER V KALA ALEXANDER /Divorce, child support etc. [At least theres a happy ending]
  • fred
    fred
    You have got to be kidding. quiksilver, billabong, hurley, volcom are paying the bills for Mr Edward Rothman's family and Kala Alexander.
  • aina
    aina
    Great story. If Fast Eddie can turn around then so can the rest of the world.
  • Right Foot Forward
    Right Foot Forward
    Wow, some irony here. Hats off to the author for the faux-dramatic intro cunningly crafted to publicise his upcoming book. Presumably he got paid for the privilege too.But what of the article? Anyone who's followed the court records in Hawaii will be well familiar with the allegations and convictions linking Mr Rothman and his 'Wolfpak' to drug running on the islands. They've controlled the trade for decades -- a cancer that has emaciated the proud Hawaiian islands. Speak to any local about the drug scourge and the impact Fast Eddie has had on it. Goes all the way back to the 80s.Example: http://www.wabaseball.com.au/w...So a guy who's been embedded in the drug trade for decades rallying against the impact of Monsanto's poison on the islands? Ah, the irony is as bitter as the dab of high-grade coke on the tip of a dealer's tongue. Turns out there's a bigger dealer ripping at the fabric of "your" town now Fast Ed.I'm not saying this isn't a massive issue. To the contrary -- and congrats on Playboy for airing it. And the historical context was fantastic. But Eddie Rothman as the poster boy for this camnpaign??? C'mon guys, cheap angle. And it really discredits the great work that people on the islands are doing with this campaign to make a convicted drug dealer and standover man the face of this fight.[... Awesome axe-weilding image notwithstanding. Wowers, what photo editor could resist that metaphor?]
  • Darren McKinney
    Darren McKinney
    The “bad feeling” that foul-mouthed Hawaiian thug Eddie Rothman gets about Monsanto’s state-of-the-art bio-science facilities near his home seems as thoughtful and well-founded as the bad feeling that backward Muslim radicals get about little girls going to school [“Fast Eddie’s Last Stand,” July-August]. The only difference is that the barbarians who throw acid in the faces of schoolgirls in Pakistan are inspired by insecure and increasingly irrelevant imams, whereas the Hawaiian Luddites who use the f-word in every sentence are being manipulated by well-financed personal injury lawyers and the organic food industry in advance of lawsuits now being prepared. After all, there’s no better place than paradise when it comes to cultivating crops of ignorant and impressionable jurors ripe for future harvest.
  • noshoreperson
    noshoreperson
    So stupid celebrating violence. What a stupid embarrassing article. Fast Eddie is an old thug.
  • Cindy Trautmeyer
    Cindy Trautmeyer
    The more the GMO corporations suppress the consumer demanded labeling, the more irrational the people will get. They refuse to educate the public about the benefits of GMO technology and base their marketing purely on lobbying politicians. That is more than short sighted as labeling will come sooner or later. But the later it comes, the more resentment will have built up and biotech will be put to history. No, consumers don't read studies but react with fear to the unknown. And there's a wide open playing field for scaremongers and rumors. Once promising biotech is being sacrificed on the altar of corporatism. Sponsored scientists are being pitted against political activists. Lobbied politicians deal with confused voters and refuse to regulate. Academic freedom is being lost at the increasingly GMO sponsored universities and the legal staff at our governmental institutions are exchanging jobs with GMO lawyers. All that doesn't make GMO gourmet food, but causes gag reflexes.
  • FastViber
    FastViber
    F it then. Le the Hawaiian Nation adopt gambling and of course legalize marijuana. Sad to see the islands go down like this. There truly is and seems to be the end of paradise. BVB - The Last of the Golden Generation. Amen.
  • tequilaman
    tequilaman
    Please elaborate on your pointing out that Quicksilver et all, arent doing any favors either......
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    I think the author needs to read the Plant Patent Act of 1930. We've been patenting seed since long before there were GMOs.
  • hectorthecorrector
    hectorthecorrector
    monsanto is terrible and should be erradicatedbut what about quiksilver, billabong, hurley, volcomthey aren't doing any favors either
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