Friday, April 9, 1999

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
'That horse has had
nine lives, I think'



art, memorabilia
auction tomorrow

Thousands of items from
the closed landmark restaurant
will be sold to the
highest bidders

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


A bit of Honolulu died in October when the meat carver plopped down his last slab of prime rib, and the Flamingo Chuckwagon restaurant closed its doors.

But Chuckwagon co-owner Dan Nagamine says restaurateurs, antique collectors and memorabilia junkies will get a chance to own a part of that history at an auction at the Kapiolani Boulevard eatery tomorrow.

Thousands of items -- from dining room tables to industrial-sized kitchen fixtures to those sometimes kitschy Western-themed artwork, all will sold to the highest bidders.

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Dan Nagamine shows a deer head and longhorn that will
be up for auction from the Flamingo Chuckwagon.

The life-size bronco horse outside the restaurant entrance will go. Nagamine said the horse was there when his family purchased the restaurant from the owners of the then-Elliot Chuckwagon in 1967.

The horse has gone through several color transformations over the years -- brown, white, brown with white spots, and now brown again.

"That horse has had nine lives, I think," Nagamine said.

The waiting room's 10-foot-wide oil painting of a Big Island cattle ranch -- the one hungry diners focused on to keep their minds off of food while waiting for a table -- also is on the auction block.

"That painting is pretty valuable," Nagamine said, referring to the 1972 rendering by the late artist Wally Young.

A number of other paintings that have graced the walls of the Chuckwagon are also available, including several other originals by Young.

One item Nagamine is thinking about bidding on is a decorative Texas longhorn that used to hang over the oval entryway into the main dining room.

Nagamine said he was reminded of how fond he was of it while polishing it for the auction. Purchasing the the 7-foot-long longhorn for his "small house" might pose a problem, however. "My wife is gonna kill me."

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
The Kapiolani restaurant's distinctive Western decorations,
like the half wagon wheels, will be sold, along with tables,
paintings and restaurant supplies.

The stuffed and mounted sheep, ram and deer heads that have watched over the buffet line and main dining room through the years will be available. Also to be sold are handmade wagon wheel chandeliers and half wagon wheels that were cut out and used as decorations for wall dividers.

Some memorable pieces of Chuckwagon lore have already been spoken for, including a series of authentic Western-style rifles that were purchased by a Chuckwagon regular soon after the restaurant closed.

Also already gone is the neon Chuckwagon sign with the moving wheels and flashing lights that once greeted diners driving into the Kapiolani Boulevard parking entrance with the words "best prime rib in town."

That was purchased by a local collector of neon signs when the restaurant's closing was announced, Nagamine said.

The Nagamines have had the Chuckwagon site for sale for more than a year. After the restaurant closed, they hoped to attract restaurateurs to the building and left the fixtures and artwork in place.

But discussions with several mainland buffet chains went nowhere, he said, and now the family has been talking to car dealers, other businesses and developers.

The family would put some of the artwork and other items in its remaining three Flamingo restaurants, but none have a Western theme, Nagamine said.

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