Some things you know about Dalton Tanonaka: he co-anchors “Indonesia Now” on Metro TV, he’s interviewed some of the most powerful people in the country, he is a former CNN corespondent and his hair is perfect. Some things you don’t know: he plays basketball every Saturday at Senayan in preparation for when Barack Obama comes to town, he’s in a band called Sambal, his hair isn’t always perfect and he’s gearing up for what could be Manohara’s most revealing interview yet.
Today Tanonaka gives us his take on Jakarta, why he has to make it back to Hawaii at least once a year, what makes this city great and why he’ll be the last guy you see in a restaurant hunched over a BB, or tweeting about how his day went.
Where do you get your news?
Internet, CNN, Fox, BBC and every now and then Al Jazeera.
Why were you brought on to the Metro TV team?
I’m here to try and help, to internationalize the journalism standard as much as possible. It’s a tough battle every day, but it’s fun. That’s why we’re here, right? In a developing country, you can make more of an impact than in a mature economy like Japan or Hong Kong, where I’ve worked. There, you’re a cog in the machine … individually, you can’t have much of an impact. But here you can help people who are eager to learn.
When you close your eyes, how do you picture Jakarta?
I think Jakarta is one of the world’s best-kept secrets as far as cuisine, comfort, recreation and people. People may be better dressed and have more manners in Tokyo, but here people from CEOs to the janitor will smile at you and say “good morning,” and I like that. I kind of trained myself not to be that friendly when I lived in other cities in Asia, because people would be like, “Why are you saying hello to me?” But here it’s different.
How often do you get back to Hawaii?
Maybe once a year. My mother and brother and sisters are still there, so I go back and do a supply run to Wal-Mart.
Do you feel like because of what happened with your run in politics you can’t go back?
Not at all. That was an educational experience. I’ve been in journalism long enough to know why things happen. Maybe I was naive about politics. I had this really pure desire to help my country and help my state. Politics can get tough, and it can get dirty and it can get brutal, and all of those things did happen.
You have a pretty cool picture on your Facebook account (a caricature holding a martini glass). Do you think you’ll ever get to be one of those guys who sends out tweets all the time?
I don’t think so, I’m not even a BB [BlackBerry] guy. You go to restaurants and six women are just sitting around chatting on their BBs, so the art of arisan [social gatherings] is gone. If something is so important, why not just call me?
Do you do any charity work?
I’ve participated in several charity events. I have a band and we played at Amigos, where we raised money to donate directly to the mudflow victims in Sidoarjo. Then Amigos owner Ron Mullers and I went down ourselves and handed out packets of Rp 200,000 each to the people.
Are there a lot of Hawaiians here in Jakarta?
Not many, but we know who we are. Just a few weeks ago we got together in Bali, where we had a real Hawaiian luau and cooked a pig in the ground.
What up-and-coming Indonesian journalists do you have your eye on?
My Metro TV co-anchor Frida Lidwina is smart and talented. And a student at Yogyakarta State University whom I helped with a scholarship, Larasati Miranti of Lombok, is going to be a good one in a few years.
If you had a friend coming in from Hawaii for the weekend, where would you take them?
We did a story on this [on my program], and we came up with the “Three Ms”; that’s Monas, museums and malls. Monas from afar, the National Museum for a couple hours and then hit the mall for reflexology and a nice meal. A personal tour, for me, would involve a massage, whether it’s full body or just a foot massage. Before that, we’d have gone golfing, because it’s so accessible and fun. It’s the only place in Jakarta you can see green grass, listen to the birds sing and actually hear water running that’s not an open sewer.
Are you a good golfer?
I’m not great. I’m getting better. The main thing is to go out and have fun, get some exercise and not get hurt! I also still play basketball on Saturday mornings with businessmen and college boys at Senayan. I’m gearing up for when US President Barack Obama comes so I can help field a team that plays against him.
Favorite place to hang out in Jakarta ?
Where do you hang out when you’re not under 30 and you don’t feel like standing straight up and trying to dance in a crowded place like Dragonfly or Blowfish? I’ll go to Amigos for live music. I like live bands, I look for that. When I’m in a more sophisticated mood, I like the Cascade Lounge at the Hotel Mulia, they have a great quartet singing classics, or the Fountain Lounge at the Grand Hyatt. It depends on my mood.
Are there any future programs or interviews you can tease us with?
Besides “Indonesia Now” I do a prime-time interview show called “Exclusive.” I did an interview recently with batik designer Iwan Tirta where he confirmed that he is gay. My first two were with [former presidential candidate] Prabowo Subianto and [former first lady] Dewi Sukarno. I think in English they felt more free to say things that they might not say in Indonesian. My next target is [former royal bride and soap opera star] Manohara. People might say, “Why do you want to waste your time?” I guarantee you, they may not like her, but they’ll watch.