What the Heck?
Kupono kids celebrate founder’s birthday
On the lawn at the Waikiki Aquarium, several hundred people, many of them under 12, gathered last weekend to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Kupono Learning Center and founder Geri Kunishima's birthday.
At the door, chatting and greeting guests, was Kunishima's son, Steven. When Steven was a toddler, doctors said he would never walk, talk or engage the world around him.
Kunishima, then a DOE teacher, set out to prove them wrong. She and her daughters began reading as many as a dozen books a day to Steven.
In the course of eventually bringing Steven up to grade level, Kunishima studied the brain and learning. What she learned, she turned into a successful private tutoring service called Kupono.
Since 1984, nearly 20,000 students have passed through Kupono, first located in Kunishima's garage, now in its own South King Street building. Kunishima has built a strong reputation for results, especially getting students ready for competitive private schools.
Geri Kunishima, founder of Kupono Learning Center, was surrounded by students Christian Gutierrez, Kamahoe Akaka (ghost) and Sterling Aponte (tiger).
While the parents talked at the tables, the grounds were full of cheerful kids. Kupono alumna Tiana Tong brought her face paints and busily turned many of the younger guests into beasts and monsters.
Former first lady Lynne Waihee recalled inviting Kunishima to a Read to Me International Conference.
KITV morning anchor Dan Meisenzahl tried to keep track of daughters Maya and Kayla. "We love Geri. She does great work," he said.
At my table was OB/GYN Dr. Angela Pratt. To show her gratitude for Kunishima's help in getting her daughter Micaela into a private school, Pratt donated a $500 scholarship, for girls studying math and science.
"I'm grateful for the scholarship," Kunishima said with a smile. "Though not as thankful as I am to Dr. Pratt for delivering my grandson."
Raising the Curtain
Last Tuesday, I managed to slip into a dress rehearsal for "Waikiki Nei," the new show at the Royal Hawaiian Center.
It was the first time all the elements -- cast, music, costumes, lights, sound -- came together in front of an audience, a small one. Most of the 750 seats in the completely revamped theater were still wrapped in plastic. Floors needed mopping, aisles needed clearing.
Production coordinator Lesley Bandy -- who among other credits once danced with the Royal Opera Ballet at Covent Garden -- sat at a makeshift desk in the middle of the audience, taking notes by the light of a small desk lamp.
For a rehearsal, the show ran crisply. The 17 cast members, all local, even the ones playing tourists, sang and dance with brio, occasionally whizzing overhead on computerized "flying" apparatus.
When we got to a scene in which a bare-chested male crew hops in an outrigger canoe, Bandy suddenly called, "Stop."
"Waikiki Nei," the new show at the Royal Hawaiian Center, held a dress rehearsal Tuesday.
The 22-foot-diameter rotating mechanical platform in the center of the stage was moving in the wrong direction. Out walked a guy in black T-shirt, jeans and baseball cap, peering at the platform. Much consultation via walkie-talkie.
"OK, start again at No. 54," Bandy said. The music rose and this time so did the canoe, soaring as if on an ocean wave, the prow towering above the audience. On with the show.
By the end -- a rousing Hawaiian chant blessed by a consulting committee from Kamehameha Schools -- you could feel the relief.
"A few little things, but nothing really ghastly happened," Bandy said.
The audience -- composed of family, friends, fellow employees -- rose to its feet cheering.
This weekend, the show played to invited audiences. "This show's still a baby," said producer Roger Parent. But you can buy tickets now to see it as it matures.
If The Shoe Fits
I am assured by a number of the women in my immediate vicinity that this is news you can use. Stuart Weitzman, purveyor of women's shoes, opens its first Hawaii store at Ala Moana Center, target date Aug. 1.
Heading up the store will be Gillis Asao, who started selling shoes here when Robbins still had a store on Fort Street Mall. He spent the last 14 years at Ferragamo.
How does a kid from Kaimuki transform himself into Mr. Luxury Shoes? "Did you even wear shoes growing up?" I asked him.
"Of course not," Asao said. "But I was never barefoot. My mom made us wear slippahs all the time."
Where Restaurants shop
One of my favorite events each year is the two-day Hawaii Lodging, Hospitality and Foodservice Expo. It's open only to people in the industry. Thousands showed this week, from celebrity chefs (Kelvin Ro, D.K. Kodama) to school cafeteria workers.
Part of the attraction is the stomach-boggling array of food samples, not to mention beverages, including a fully stocked bar manned by ace Honolulu mixologist Joey Gottesman.
In addition to food and drink, there are items you'd never think of unless you were in the business, from cash registers to meat slicers.
Mark Zigmond, who owns a small Lanai restaurant, Pele's Other Garden, flew over for the day just to go shopping. "I need lanai furniture, something stylish, but space-efficient," he said. "And we need better desserts, even though we don't have kitchen space to make them."
"You have a saucepan, right?" said Andreas Galliker, who'd flown in from Maryland to tout a line of dessert mixes. Galliker proffered samples of tasty chocolate and white mousses, creme brulees, panna cottas. "You can make these on your stove and then all you need is a container to serve them in," Galliker said.
"Oh, that reminds me, I'll need dessert plates," said Zigmond, setting off down the aisle toward the china displays.