Photographed by Richard Fegley.
Kona was born and raised in Honolulu but has been living in North Carolina for the past year while she attends college. … By the time she turned 16, she had followed her younger brother, La’au, into the surf and soon was challenging ten-foot waves (well, one anyway – and that was enough). “I was always the only girl out there surfing, besides my friend Kili,” she says.
(“Aloha, Kona.” Rowe, Chip. Playboy, February 1996.)
Ms. Carmack used the same trick in college that I did: sitting up front so you can’t fool around. If I wasn’t in the very front row, I started feeling like I could tune out or even skip class, so when I got serious about school, I was front and center in every course. If I hadn’t done that, lord knows how long it would’ve taken me to finish college!
Regardless of the subject, Kona sits in the front row so she doesn’t miss anything. “It’s kind of nerdy, but it works,” says Miss February, a marketing major with a 3.4 GPA. “I also raise my hand a lot. If I don’t understand something, I’m not just going to sit there.”(Ibid.)
One of the most liberating moments of her first year came during English 101, when she wrote a term paper blasting antiporn crusader Catharine MacKinnon. “She argues that Playboy is pornography,” says Kona. “I don’t happen to agree.” She got an A.
Kona excels in the classroom, but she’s no egghead. (Ibid.)
FAVORITE BOY NAMES: Fletcher, Nicholas, Victor, Tristan. (Playmate datasheet)
Nick and Victor are great names, but Fletcher and Tristan, erm, not to step on any toes but … not so much.
My daughter’s father’s sister named one of her two sons Tristan. He is an adorable and bright little boy but, out of all the boy names in the world, I’m not sure it’s the first one with which I would’ve gone. I think my husband once told me his mom wanted to name him Tristan but my father-in-law put his foot down. Isn’t that how the story went, husbandoh? Pretty sure it was “Tristan” or “Dorian” or some shit, you know, something real get-your-ass-kicked-in-school faggoty.
I like how I make guilty amends for possibly insulting dudes named Fletch and Tristan, but cheerily slander homosexuals. I guess it’s because I know that I’m not a bigot. But all apologies just the same to anyone with no sense of humor and anyone who has somehow missed the fact that I rather obviously trend toward batting both left and right and therefore ought be excused from call-outs for gay slurs with the same impunity that permits black people to call each other you-know-what. (Boy, that didn’t even come out very sincere, did it? Jonohs once told me I apologize too much, but it seems when the chips are down and I have to mean it, I’m not much good at mea culpas. Sorry again.)
In a business in which it’s easy to put on an act, Carmack doesn’t have one, leaving her vulnerable and exposed, especially to the question that has to be asked: “So, what about the Playboy thing?”
“Oh you!” she squeals, “The very first question!”
Carmack has no regrets about posing for the magazine’s February 1996 centerfold.
“It got me into the entertainment world and taught me so many lessons. I learned how to survive, how to be tough, how to be professional. I would not be the person I am today without having had that opportunity.”
This picture came from a different Playboy photoshoot and was shot by Chris Peter Paul. Kona was Miss March 1998 in Playboy Germany and 1997’s Playmate of the Year in Japan, so I’m guessing it’s from one of those, or possibly the Year In Review. I included it here because it is cute.
Yet she wishes people would get over it.
“When people meet me, they always say, ‘You’re so nice. You’re not at all like what I imagined.’ So I’m like, ‘Oh, thank you!,’ ” she says, with a huge, grateful grin and her arm extended in a pretend handshake.
(“Kona Gold.” Kam, Nadine. December 19, 2000. Honolulu Star-Bulletin.)
In 2001 Carmack moved to Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California for cinematography. She graduated in December 2003 with cum laude honors, completing the five-year program in half the time. (“Old Friends — Kona Carmack.” Moniz, Melissa. August 2, 2006. MidWeek Oahu.)
“I really got into it and started producing my own little films.” (Ibid.)
One of those “little films” was a popular and successful documentary about the life of Duke Kahanamoku, aka “The Big Kahuna.”
Born in Waikiki in 1890, Kahanamoku pretty much singlehandedly turned surfing into an international sport, bringing his “papa nui” longboard, built in the style of old school Hawaiian olo boards, to the mainland and to Australia for swimming and surfing exhibitions. He was also a several-times-over Olympic gold medalist in swimming and in water polo.
In Newport Beach, California on June 14, 1925, Kahanamoku rescued eight men from a fishing vessel that capsized in heavy surf while attempting to enter the city’s harbor. Twenty-nine fishermen went into the water and seventeen perished. Using his surfboard, he was able to make quick trips back and forth to shore to increase the number of sailors rescued. Two other surfers saved four more fishermen. Newport’s police chief at the time called Duke’s efforts “the most superhuman surfboard rescue act the world has ever seen.” (the wiki.)
Pretty awesome, eh? Super-interesting man and great life story.
Upon graduating from film school, Carmack started work as a production assistant on the HBO series Deadwood. The next year, Carmack was promoted to executive assistant producer to Greg Fienberg. (“Old Friends.”)
After Deadwood, Kona went on to work as assistant to producer Randy Zisk on one of my favorite television shows of all time, Monk. Super-cool!
Although her home and career for the moment are in Los Angeles, her heart still belongs to Hawaii.
“I miss my family so much, that’s No. 1,” says Carmack. “I also miss surfing – I surf every day when I’m home. And of course I miss the food. I love it at home, I miss everything about it.” (Ibid.)
Carmack definitely plans to move back to Hawaii eventually, mostly to be closer to her mom and family.
“My mom is my best friend, and I’m really proud of her with what she’s been doing all these years for Easter Seals,” says Carmack. “It’s really her passion to help children with disabilities. She’s just wonderful, and she’s my inspiration.” (Ibid.)
The Easter Seals are a nonprofit that provide aid and services to children and adults with autism, special needs, and other disabilities.
The organization that would become Easter Seals was founded by Edgar Allen, an Ohio-businessman who lost his son in a streetcar crash. The lack of adequate medical services available to save his son prompted Allen to sell his business and begin a fund-raising campaign to build a hospital in his hometown of Elyria, Ohio. That hospital continues to operate today as Elyria Memorial Hospital. After the hospital was built, Allen learned that children with disabilities were often hidden from public view. Inspired by this discovery, in 1919 he founded what would become the National Society for Crippled Children, the first organization of its kind. (the wiki.)
Click here to visit their website. My goddaughter’s brother is autistic and though Panda and the Mister are some of the most loving and supportive people you will ever meet, not everyone is as lucky as Nathaniel. So please consider making a donation? — Hey, this could be your big shot at impressing Ms. Carmack!
Dig Leslie Nielsen on the cover. Goddamn, he’s one suave fucker. (Left-field Blue Velvet reference to wind things down. You’re welcome.)