Mostly whimsical reflections on life
Howard Dicus is a walrus-shaped man with dubious sartorial style and a penchant for using Legos and hand-drawn pictures to illustrate stories about financial issues. Somehow he is irresistible.
His employer, KGMB9, refers to Dicus as the station’s “resident explainer.” That’s where the Legos and Sharpies come in. On a broadcast this week, Dicus drew a picture of the West Coast, Hawaii and a happy whale popping its head out of the water. He used the drawing to explain how Hawaiian ports interacted with major West Coast ports from Seattle to Portland to Long Beach. The drawing wasn’t a Picasso, but the message was clear.
Dicus says he began his news career in 1970 while still in high school in Annapolis, Maryland. As the editor of his high school newspaper, Dicus approached a local radio station to go on air with a school news report in return for training to become a disc jockey. To his surprise, the station’s program director asked “How soon can you start?”
Within two weeks, Dicus was doing “regular news.” Until then, he says he regarded the news as boring. When reporting the news, he discovered the news wasn’t boring; it was just how it was presented that was boring. “I thought, if I write plain English instead of this weird language that news people speak, maybe I can make a living doing this.”
Like many professional newsmen, Dicus’ career has been varied and covered a lot of territory, including, he says, a riot and two presidential inaugurals. After managing a global news service in Hawaii, Dicus decided in 2007 to start over as a TV reporter. It gave him the opening to exercise his skills as a visual communicator, using Lego blocks to symbolize vacancy rates in hotels on all the islands.
One thinks Dicus doesn’t devote a lot of time early each morning selecting his wardrobe or shaving. He routinely sports a scruffy stubble and a Hawaiian shirt that looks like it came from the Sears store in Omaha. Instead, Dicus likes to get his hands on his subjects, as he did recently to expose the coconut rhinoceros beetle, a dangerous invasive insect threat to Hawaii. Most reporters would have been content to let the bug wrangler handle the beetle. Not Dicus, who picked it up and shoved it in front of the camera so no one could miss its distinctively horny qualities.
His style is unorthodox. Dicus gave an update on Hawaiian resorts while lounging on a beach chair.
In addition to his on-air demonstrations of the news, Dicus posts daily blogs under the title, “Howzit Howard.” His topics range from politics to the appeal of musical fugues. In one blog, Dicus said the scariest letter in the alphabet is “i” – “illegal fireworks, illegal immigration, Iselle, ice, ISIS, Iran, Iraq, IRS, INS, iPhone, intel, inflame, incursion, incarceration, investigation, interrogation, inflation and invasion.” Take that, James Thurber.
Life has a habit of coming full circle. For Dicus that means returning to his radio roots as host of “Howard’s Day Off,” a classical music show on Hawaii Public Radio from 5 to 7 a.m on Saturdays. Dicus does the show without compensation.
A guy with a quick, dry wit, he is viewer favorite, even for viewers like me who come to Hawaii for vacations and watch him only two or three weeks a year. While at times, Dicus may seem a little grumpy, it is interesting that Sunny, the adorable Yorkshire terrier Maltese mix that has been the morning show’s mascot since 2009, frequently can be found snuggling on Howard’s lap. And it isn’t his dog. He is just irresistible.