“Graham has one major fault—he’s dedicated to bringing people together and helping them achieve being the best that they can be. In doing this, his unending energy forces him to make decisions that result in skirting some rules in order to reach the greater good of human achievements. In other words, humanitarian achievements come first.” Pat Rocco—April 5, 2012
This was a very uncomfortable compliment for me to receive coming from a man who I spent twenty years despising. My feelings were so strong that I would publicly snub him each year during the Pahoa parades when, in his role as MC, he would try to interview me as the HICCUP circus marched by.
I first met him in 1989 when six Seaview residents got together to create the Kalapana Seaview Estates Community Association. Along with many others I judged him as a narcissist with power and attention seeking megalomaniac tendencies. I was elected the first president of the board partly because everyone wanted to prevent Pat getting the role which he fervently craved. Pat’s participation in KSECA was always contentious. He attended all the meetings and volunteered for several positions but was so distrusted and disliked that despite his continuous efforts it took many years before he managed to get elected to the board.
The lack of initial resident support didn’t stop Pat – he illicitly sent personal letters to absent lot owners soliciting their proxy votes but he still failed to get elected. He was seriously indefatigable when he put his mind to achieve something and he never backed down. Over the years the apprehensiveness regarding his involvement festered and grew until he contentiously resorted to suing the KSECA board – several times. By that time the rift between him and most of the residents was irreparable.
Pat was born in New York but grew up in California. He had his finger in many pies and stirred the pot everywhere he lived. He was an erstwhile entertainer; appeared on radio and on television; performed, produced and directed for the stage; photographed, produced, and directed motion pictures; participated, organized and documented the struggle for equal rights for gays and lesbians and provided emergency shelter and job training for the homeless.
As a child Pat loved to entertain his family and friends by singing, as a teenager he was featured twice weekly for two years on a Pasadena radio station, KWKW. He was forced to complete high school at home for his unwillingness to renounce his homosexuality. In 1960 he become the operator of a motion picture theater in California and later district manager for three motion picture theaters and a skating rink. Ever restless, in 1967, he began shooting still photographs of nude male models and then his own motion pictures which he sold by mail-order. A theater in Los Angeles began showing his soft porn movies attracting an audience of like minded individuals. When the industry turned to more explicit depictions of sex, Pat quit movies but continued to photograph events and protests for a number of gay newspapers.
He joined the Democratic Party and worked in the struggle for equal rights for gays and lesbians and championed their involvement in festivals. After becoming aware of the need for emergency housing for the LBGTQ community he branded his own emergency housing program, Hudson House, and operated in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco.
In the early 1980’s he and his partner moved to Hawaii living first in Ocean View then Seaview. Pat had a tendency to keep moving (or to get moved on) until he found Seaview Estates a community which has a history of tolerating, if not embracing, a multitude of disparate characters. Certain elements of Pat’s personality seemed to aggravate people everywhere he went but he became one of our longterm community members.
In his business dealings he faced opposition from community groups who eventually got him removed from the management of movie theaters in Kona, Mountain View, Hilo and even Pahoa. The Akebono was his longest theater tenancy but his insistence on filling the calendar with poorly attended movie shows instead of allowing music and stage performances alienated him from most of the population.
Perhaps his biggest fault was to aggrandise his own importance and to bend the rules for his own gain. Pat never ever missed an opportunity to pose with politicians and his video rental shop in Pahoa provided a good service to residents until he was caught by the FBI breaking copyright laws by self duplicating VHS tapes. When Seaview was electrified and the Red Road improved Pat pissed off a lot of people by over inflating his role in the whole process, something he loved to do.
Throughout the years Pat would attend KSECA board meetings even when he had an active law suit against the association. By 2012 the board was in crisis with two years of constant resignations and disarray and after a fifth President quit suddenly Pat was only person who offered to step in to take on the responsibilities and he was duly appointed.
Around that time, after two decades of feeling bitterly angry with Pat, I had decided to make peace. He had shown a few films at S.P.A.C.E., supported our farmers market and lent us some lighting equipment. I really hoped that he would bring some stability to the community but boy was I wrong. In my support letter I said “now is the time to put aside our differences, to accept that we are all in the same canoe and to start paddling together. If we don’t we are doomed to continue going around in circles and only getting more frustrated. I have put aside my past prejudices and judgements. Pat has some excellent ideas and the courage to step forward into the fray to present them. I hope that you, and other residents, will respectfully and appreciatively honor the contribution that Pat is willing to make. I sincerely ask each of you to help Pat make the diversity that is Seaview a strength and not the disaster that it currently appears to be. In light of the last two years slide into chaos I suggest that Pat deserves a chance, a good chance to bring us back together. I don’t see any other way out of our crisis, do you?”
It was a huge shock to have Pat running KSECA but to his credit he put out a lot of energy and made a concerted effort to bring a positive focus to the board. Predictably, he failed miserably and the dissension only grew. His parliamentary methodology jarred with almost everyone plus he commandeered the meeting tape recorders, took the keys other Board officers needed to perform their jobs and set himself up as the RULER, instead of Leader. Even people who had voted for him turned against him. The whole episode did nothing to improve his popularity with Seaview residents.
And so the battle raged on with the board planning to meet without him. Pat threatened lawsuits and a letter from his lawyer was intimidating enough to stop the functioning of the Board for a few months. It threatened KSECA with thousands of dollars in legal fees unless they waited to elect new board members and officers at the April Annual General Membership meeting.
On April 28th 2013 the long and tedious five hour AGM meeting was initially called to order by a subdued Pat acting as President but, following the suggestion of the Former President’s Committee, it was then facilitated by an impartial professional. New board members were duly elected to fill the vacancies and officers were chosen. Pat Rocco was relegated to a Director-at-large but was then forced to step down due to his conflict of interest as a plaintiff.
At the July Board meeting the new President announced that another law suit had been filed by Pat and then in December Pat filed a small claims court suit against the KSECA president. Three separate law suits instigated by Pat Rocco against KSECA dragged through the courts until December 2015 when the judge wisely dismissed them all. It was an expensive victory for KSECA and one that caused lots of stress and took up way too much time and energy for the volunteer board members.
Pat (and his partner) moved to Southern California and Pat passed away in 2018. As his obituary says, ” he will be greatly missed.” He will be remembered, but perhaps revered more by the gay soft porn world than by Seaview residents.
More about Pat from Hazen: I loved seeing him blasting around on his scooter with a trail of black smoke behind him, his toupee flapping in the wind. His badly cut and pasted Holiday CDs with obviously doctored images of him with presidents never failed to make me laugh and cringe. He was huge… in his mind, and a misguided person, but if only his ego had not blinded him so much, he would have been greatly loved.