An update on past news

Saturday, January 19, 2002

Entertainer Hannemann
a ‘believer in human race’

By Pat Gee

Question: What ever happened to entertainer Nephi Hannemann?

Answer: Since packing showrooms as a Waikiki headliner in the 1960s and '70s, Nephi Hannemann has appeared on several television series and movies, and has been involved in a number of business ventures.

Dubbed "The Polynesian Man" and "Mr. Excitement," Hannemann starred at the Ilikai, the Ala Moana Hotel and the Imperial Hotel as well as Las Vegas, Stockton, San Francisco and Torrance, Calif., in his heyday.

He also did a lot of "Hawaii Five-O" shows, "McCloud" television movies of the week, "Barnaby Jones" TV series, and had parts in "The Castaway Cowboy" and "Paniolo," he said.

Hannemann spent five years on a family retail business in Samoa before heading back to Honolulu to play a detective on the short-lived television series "One West Waikiki" in 1994.

A 1962 graduate of Farrington High school in Kalihi, Hannemann worked on putting a second album (his first was "The Polynesian Man") together with his friend, the late "talented entertainer" Lani Kai, but Kai died before it jelled. Hannemann also wrote scripts, screenplays and songs throughout the years, he said.

He and two partners established the Maui Quarterly, a business and travel magazine, in 1983. Hannemann was advertising director and its main writer for seven years.

He and some other Waikiki entertainers, including best friend Iva Kinimaka, Don Ho and Dick Jensen, played around with the idea of starting a "Legends of Waikiki" comeback before the Divas became a current hit.

Currently, Hannemann has become the spokesman for health care products made in Hawaii and Polynesia, under the name of "The Polynesian Man." (He can be reached at

Hannemann said he and other Waikiki headliners used to perform before audiences of 700 to 1,000 every night, but "after the '70s no one came to Waikiki who had an impact. Waikiki then was a nice little college town, and we were doing some serious damage; we filled the rooms. We had a nice ride. Today, Waikiki is a shadow of itself."

Hannemann was a football player at the University of Hawaii-Manoa when he answered a dare to go up and sing during a Don Ho show at Duke's one night.

"Ho convinced me to sing professionally" and later hired Hannemann, setting him up as part of a stable of singers for the "Hana Ho Review" at the former Forbidden City nightclub on Kapiolani Boulevard, he said.

Looking back on some of the events of his life, Hannemann said, "Some things happen for a reason, even the bad things. It's been exciting. I'm still a big believer in the human race."

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