What the Heck?
PHOTO COURTESY RAY WONG
Mohammed Kharbibi carves traditional Moroccan good luck charms for last weekend's Aloha Morocco Week banquet. CLICK FOR LARGE
Moroccan woodcarver puts best foot forward
Last week was Aloha Morocco Week. The Moroccan ambassador to the U.S. flew in for the occasion. Rabat, Morocco's capital, joined such diverse municipalities as Hue, Vietnam, and Bruyeres, France, as an official sister city of Honolulu.
An organization called Friends of Morocco has 200 members here, headed up by UH's Mae Mendelson and management consultant Jan Rumi, who serves as Morocco's honorary consul. All these friends turned out in force for a Moroccan Nights banquet last weekend at the Hilton.
The unexpected star of the evening was not the Moroccan ambassador or the city officials from Rabat -- or even Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who treated the international guests to his rendition of "Honolulu City Lights." Instead, it was a master woodcarver from Marrakech named Mohammed Kharbibi.
Kharbibi brought along a primitive lathe. While his hands were busy using a bow to spin the lathe, he carved intricate designs out of olive wood, manipulating his knife with his toes. He made gifts for everyone. He handed me an elaborate little pendant colored with dyes made of mint and violets. "What's this called?" I asked.
"It's called good luck," said Kharbibi. I gave him a kukui nut lei, which I hope brings him good fortune in return.
Hope's Diamonds: "I didn't do much to earn this," said Hope Kamenstein, at a party thrown more or less in her honor at the Harry Winston salon in Ala Moana Center. All Kamenstein did was attend "The Martha Stewart Show" on Valentine's Day. The Long Island housewife reached under her seat, found a red heart, and was gifted with a week in Hawaii, part of the promotion for the Return to Romance Music Festival.
Kamenstein and her husband stayed at The Kahala, flew by private jet to the Big Island for a spa day, and then, on the last evening, received a platinum necklace with 15 diamonds, worth $4,600, from Harry Winston. Said Hope, "I've had worse weeks."
Sitting Room: Asked the Return to Romance Festival's producer, Allen Sviridoff, whether the ambitious 11-day festival had been a success. "A success, sure," he said. "The music was incredible. We would have just liked more local folks in the seats."
If at the beach this weekend you saw a stunning, dark-haired woman who looked like actress Kim Director ("Blair Witch 2"), yes, it was she, in town with boyfriend Daniel Bess.
Bess, who got his start on the stage at MidPac, has gone on to play a role in Steven Spielberg's "Munich" and a recurring character on "24." His latest project: A feature directed by Anne Misawa of UH's Academy of Creative Media, tentative title, "Waterfall."
"We shot in the hills of Palolo and Manoa," says Bess. "It's a buddy movie with a few magic mushrooms and some mayhem."
Unheard Melodies: The item two weeks ago on the Bishop Museum's art collection brought me an e-mail from Wally Pfeifer, a Hawaiian steel guitar buff from Joliet, Ill. When was UH's Hamilton Library going to make the Vogel collection available to the public?
Turns out that in 2002, the library acquired the Hawaiian music collection of a Minneapolis man named Dirk Vogel. Vogel, who'd been collecting Hawaiian music since the 1920s, had 6,000 78s, 2,650 LPs, 900 45s and thousands of other items.
You can't access it, or any of the other private Hawaiian music collections acquired by the library. A library can't just put out the items to rummage through like a garage sale. The collections have to be cleaned, cataloged and perhaps digitized, a task that special collections librarian Dore Minatodani estimates will cost at least six figures, if not seven. "Sadly," she says, "the library doesn't have the money."
Coming Attractions: After months of negotiations, Mel Brooks himself finally granted permission to stage "The Producers" to Diamond Head Theatre -- the first community theater in the country to do so.
The rumor is that Brooks is cleaning up the show a little for community theater release. "I don't see why," says DHT's Deena Dray. "After we did 'The Full Monty,' nothing fazes me."
In Print: Author James Houston ("Farewell to Manzanar" written with Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, "Hawaiian Son") has followed his book on Eddie Kamae with another Hawaii-inspired book, "Bird of Another Heaven." Houston bases his novel on a forgotten bit of history -- a half-Indian, half-Hawaiian California woman, perhaps Kalakaua's mistress, who was with him when he died in San Francisco's Palace Hotel.
The early reviews out of New York are laudatory. "I'm pleased it's being taken seriously," says Houston. "It's so hard to get anyone in New York to realize Hawaii has a complex and significant social and political history."
Lost Together: Like the TV show, the Wednesday night "Lost" viewing parties at Jackie's Kitchen have proved an unexpected hit, drawing both local Lostniks and visitors. Extras who play the "Others" on the show drop by, and even the occasional stunt double.
Some cast members may show up as the season progresses, but likely unannounced, as Ala Moana is worried about security if they do.