What the Heck?
The Royal Hawaiian Hotel closed last Sunday with a private luncheon for more than 500 employees. There was a pink teddy bear at each place in the Monarch Room.
The final weekend at the Pink Palace
Last Sunday morning, the cash machine at the bottom of the bathers' elevator suddenly disappeared. Shop windows were full of disrobed mannequins and 50-percent-off signs.
The Royal Hawaiian was shutting down, for seven months of renovations. Only 139 out of 528 rooms were occupied the last weekend. Much of the housekeeping staff had already been reassigned to the Sheraton or the Moana, so that's all the hotel could handle.
The hotel officially shut down at 11 o'clock that morning, although the last guests -- that would be us -- didn't check out until nearly 1 p.m.
Employees, even those off for the day, started arriving for a blessing ceremony and a private, employees-only luncheon in the Monarch Room.
The luncheon was closed to media, worries that employees might be emotional, some facing seven months of unemployment -- though many had been already been reassigned, and all had continuing paid benefits.
Since I was a hotel guest, I just wandered in to the luncheon. The employees seemed subdued, but cheery enough, snapping pictures of the historic moment. At each place was a pink teddy bear, courtesy of the Starwood human resources department.
A lot of pink went out the door with the last weekend's guests. "Did you see that?" asked head concierge Wendy Nagaishi. "Not even trying to hide."
A large family marched down the stairs into their SUV carrying not only armfuls of pink hotel towels, but the bathroom basket where you put used towels.
In the renovated hotel, the towels will probably still be pink. But no more pink sheets, pillows, blankets, bathrobes, beach towels, umbrellas, tablecloths, napkins, etc.
At a briefing earlier, decorator Marion Philpotts-Miller promised that in the redone hotel the color pink will "accentuate but not dominate." The hotel, as the sales staff likes to say, "is returning to luxury." Which apparently means less pink, and rates about 70 percent higher.
Will the hotel itself still be the color of cotton candy? "Oh, how could it not?" said renovation architect Wayne Goo. Except for some modifications on the first floor, not one wall of the historic hotel, built in 1927, will come down. They can't. "The mass of this building is incredible," says Goo. "Nobody builds like this anymore."
Finally, with everyone else checked out, I approached the front desk. "Did you take the pink robes?" joked Nagaishi.
No. Too bulky.
Moon Kauakahi, Ron Jacobs and Jerome Koko gathered recently and talked about old times.
Wandering Down Memory Lane
In cyberspace, Whodaguyhawaii.com may be international in scope. But the Kaneohe headquarters of the Internet Hawaiian music station are hardly spacious. Even when only two-thirds of the Makaha Sons make the date.
Moon Kauakahi and Jerome Koko, accompanied by manager Sharlene Oshiro, wedge themselves into the room already occupied by a half dozen computer monitors, microphones, Ron "RJ" Jacobs and a few friends and neighbors, including Lisa Salcedo, whom RJ introduces as the first professional woman football player in Hawaii.
Even without Jerome's brother John, the effect of hearing the Makaha Sons' soft, precise harmonies in a small space is overwhelming. The mood goes nostalgic. The group recalls hanging out with Jacobs in the '70s, when both Israel and Skippy Kamakawiwoole were still alive, including a memorable date in which they played for seven straight hours at Jacobs' daughter's baby luau.
"You had to come the day before to make sure the chairs would hold up under Skippy and Israel," recalls Jacobs.
They launch into singing "Kaimana Hila," just as they did 30 years before. Jacobs sings along on the chorus and throws in a few cymbal crashes.
"We don't do this kind of radio station thing any more," says Moon. "Not since the '70s."
Jerome's vocabulary flashes back to the '70s: "This whole thing, it was really a trip."
Catching the Wrong Wave
The Sheraton Waikiki was TV Land last weekend. On the lawn, KHON's Justin Cruz and Trini Kaopuiki were emceeing a glittering evening, a Casino Night fundraiser benefiting Special Olympics Hawaii. Cruz handed me a large stack of chips to gamble with. "They're just play money," he pointed out when I thanked him.
The silent auction was conducted for real money. Not paying enough attention, I waved at someone during the bidding. "Oh, man," said auctioneer Eric Schiff. "You drove up the price of that necklace a hundred dollars. Lucky you didn't win."
Morning News at Night
Just steps away from the Special Olympics gala was a birthday party for Michael Harris, producer of KGMB's Sunrise. Harris got two cakes, one for his 47th birthday and another for winning an Emmy, for his special on last year's Lantern Floating Festival.
Hanging out by fire pit at the Sheraton's RumFire were Harris buddies like Salon Salon's Brandon Botanes, HMSA's Jocelyn Racoma, Pfleuger's Marcus Robinson, plus a fair portion of the Sunrise crew: producer Anna Gomes, anchors Steve Uyehara and Grace Lee.
"Late night for morning people," I said. "Tell me about it," said Harris, who gets up at 2:30 most days. "I had to take a nap so I could stay up."
Nobu's Second Home
The private rooms in the back of Nobu Waikiki were stripped of furniture. But they were shoulder to shoulder with people celebrating the restaurant's first anniversary -- quaffing sake martinis and lunging for the miso black cod lettuce wraps.
Nobu Matsuhiso himself was there, dressed in gleaming whites. "Hawaii is now my second home," he told me proudly. That doesn't mean a great deal since he's on the road at least 10 out 12 months, opening this year alone in Tel Aviv, Dubai and Moscow.