Monday, March 29, 2004

At the Long Life Center in Century Center, Tony Taclan picks up pupu laid out on a piano, with a spectacular view of the Ala Wai, Waikiki and Diamond Head in the background.

Health + Wealth
+ Happiness
= Wholeness

Former judge Richard Lee hopes
to help people discover different
paths to well-being through the
new Long Life Center

DRESSED IN A dark blue three-piece suit accented by a dragon print tie, Richard Lee gazes out toward Waikiki from 40 stories above Kalakaua Avenue.

The Long Life Center

Where: 1750 Kalakaua Ave. (Century Center 40th floor)

Call: 955-8809

"I feel very relaxed in this room," he says, while sitting at one of the handful of tables in the sparsely furnished seminar space of the Long Life Center.

"I'm very comfortable here ... I've always liked this corner."

With an unobstructed, 360-degree view of Waikiki, downtown and the Koolau Mountains, the newly opened Long Life Center is a result of 57-year-old's changing priorities.

AS A FORMER family court judge and owner of nightclubs that included Angles and the Power Station in the '80s, Lee saw a number of friends and associates fall victim to health problems as they grew older.

"I've been thinking about it for a long time, the concept of longevity and health," he said.

Until a year ago, the constant work involved with running a consulting firm and representing clients through his private law practice forced Lee to "look for a transition from a lifestyle in which I was constantly in court fighting people, to one where it would be more serene."

Since giving up control of day-to-day decision making at the practice to his daughter, Lynnae, he's immersed himself in the study of tai chi, which helped him to lose more than 50 pounds. It also provided the cornerstone upon which the Long Life Center was developed.

"I started with tai chi as the focus," Lee said. "At first I was looking at tai chi as a combatist, and then eventually I realized it was healthy."

The businessman in him was skeptical, however, that it could be possible to offer classes to the public without some sort of revenue stream to support its operation.

"So I kind of thought about the whole structure, doing a complex," he said. It would be a place where individuals could not only improve their physical health, but also make lifestyle changes or connect with a new social network.

When the architect who designed the Century Center (which also housed Lee's law firm) decided to move out of a penthouse in the building, the attorney saw an opportunity to make his dreams a reality.

"It was open for one week," said Lee, who had been tipped off that the space would be on the market. "I made an offer, and they accepted it."

Clockwise from left, Kevin Adaniya, Suzanne Ikeda, Steven Ige, Malcom Hong and Pam Ono meet to network.

THERE ARE three main rooms in the Long Life Center, each one representing the corners of a triangle that Lee believes are necessary for a long and prosperous life.

The themes of health, wealth and happiness are what drive him in his quest to provide a destination for Oahu residents with a desire to learn more about alternative medicine, professional development and how to find the perfect mate.

"I began to look at my triangle as not just a three-part triangle, but as 'delta,' which means 'change' in mathematics," he said. "I believe in balanced programming."

In the Tai Chi Room, Lee joins Sifu Jimmy Kekina and lead instructor Keith Meyer in offering a number of classes ranging from qi gong breathing techniques and tai chi history, application and theory, to tai chi chuan security training and intensive weekend sessions that focus on combative aspects of the ancient martial art.

The Ying-Yang Room, which Lee describes as one of the most comfortable places in the Long Life Center, serves as the main classroom for classes in finance, entrepreneurship, income tax preparation and real estate investment. Members will be able to take part in "fast-paced, intensive instruction" from experts in various fields, "sharpening the skills (needed) to solve real-world problems of the marketplace at a real-world pace."

And for those looking to relax and unwind, the center's Dragon Room provides a destination for members to enjoy live entertainment while socializing with others sharing similar interests.

"People who are into people, who are looking for personal growth or business growth," are the types of individuals who Lee anticipates seeing in the Dragon Room. They would be the "movers and shakers -- the people who want to meet other people through networking," he said.

Membership will be open to the public for approximately the next two or three weeks, according to Lee and Jay Beezley, director of marketing at the center.

A limited number of social memberships are available for $60 a month plus a $500 initiation fee.

ALSO ON BOARD to help get the social aspect of the club underway is local matchmaking guru Dee Dee DeSoto, who will host wine tastings, speed-dating nights and other events at the Long Life Center.

Local promoters Aya Productions are in the mix as well, having signed on to host "The Top of Honolulu Lounge" Friday nights and an after-hours party on Saturdays.

If everything goes according to plan, Lee expects the center to become a more intimate alternative to some of the other private clubs in Honolulu.

"I'm trying to create an environment where we're a welcome committee," he said.

Unlike other clubs where you "know some people, but don't know everyone," he hopes to foster a close-knit feeling of family among members.

"I wanted to do something that makes sense to people's needs today," he said. "I'm not really worried so much about competition; I'm worried more about what we have to offer people and (helping) people age gracefully."

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