Mayors just want to have some fun at the Mauna Kea


POSTED: Sunday, April 05, 2009

The grand reopening hoopla at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel was not as large as the Royal Hawaiian's last month, but it lasted twice as long, taking up the whole of last weekend.

The two-night party began with an elegant oceanside affair complete with dignitaries such as former vice president Dan Quayle, who can't be as dumb as he seemed when he couldn't spell potato because he's chairman of the international division of a multibillion-dollar New York private equity firm, which owns part of Seibu Holdings, which in turn owns the hotel.

There was the ceremonial opening of a sake barrel, and, of course, speeches. Former general manager Adi Kohler made his in five languages. Prince Hotels Hawaii CEO Donn Takahashi marveled that after a two-year layoff, 83 percent of the former employees had returned to the hotel. Takashi Goto, CEO of Seibu Holdings, talked joyfully about bringing back the legend of Mauna Kea.

The first night's entertainment was jazz fusion group Hiroshima, who looked a little frightened when the tent over the stage began to flap in the gusty winds.

After the first night's party, I ran into Mayor Hannemann. “;I'm supposed to go back in the morning, but I gotta stay. Gotta see C&K.”;

Cecilio and Kapono were the main act the second evening, which was a full-on luau. Mufi sang with C&K, one song, though Cecilio joked the mayor was ready to sing a dozen.

Big Island mayor Billy Kenoi declined to sing. “;I lack the talent,”; he said. But he gyrated on stage surrounded by a half dozen hula dancers.

“;You see why I stayed a second night,”; said Mufi.


Moving Art

The Mauna Kea looks fabulous, rooms bigger, gigantic bathrooms, sparkling fits and finishes. It needed renovation because of the October 2006 earthquake, and I was worried about its quiet but classy art collection.

I was coming down a stairway when I encountered a rail-thin gentleman with a graying ponytail, painstakingly reinstalling two 18th-century cast-bronze winged lion statues at the entrance to the breezeway.

It was Michael Jones of Art Services, who's flown over from Oahu for the past 14 years whenever the Mauna Kea's collection needed preservation. One of the lions was broken and he patched it together seamlessly.

Earthquake damage? No, he said: “;One New Year's Eve, some kids knocked it over.”;

But the quake damaged dozens of works. The collection's signature piece, a seventh-century Indian Buddha—a massive thing that sits more than 5 feet tall and is made of solid granite—moved in the quake. “;About a quarter inch,”; said Jones.

Did he put move it back? “;A piece that big and old, you mess with as little as possible,”; he said. “;I'll leave it and touch up the base.”;


Making Whoopie

How do you fire up a grassroots effort to win a City Council seat? Robert Wu decided what John Henry Felix's campaign needed was Whoopie Pies.

Whoopie Pies are an old food fad reborn on the mainland, a thick layer of white icing sandwiched between two rounds of chocolate cake.

Wu stumbled across an article about Whoopie Pies, including the recipe, in the New York Times. He delegated the baking to his wife, Angie, and showed up at a meeting of campaign volunteers with a tray.

“;John Henry's an old friend,”; said Wu. “;I wanted to help.”; With Whoopie Pies? “;Well, I may do some sign waving, too,”; he said.


It's Cryin' Time

; There's no more obscure Hawaii group than the duo Dorothy Betz and Les Adam, whose regular gig is Wednesdays at the Hana Hou Cafe in Haiku, Maui.

When Ray Charles died a few years ago, Betz burst into tears—a moment the two decided to commemorate by writing a song, finally released on their new CD.

“;We thought it should sound like a Ray Charles song,”; says Betz, and remarkably it does, the sound of the Raelettes overdubbed by Betz herself and Cathy Richardson, who sings for legacy bands Jefferson Starship and Big Brother and the Holding Co.

Saxes wail, Betz wails even more. You can sample free on betzandadam.com.


Taste of Waialua

People are now calling Shawn Steiman Dr. Coffee. “;That's better than Coffee Geek,”; says Steiman, who wrote the book, literally, on Hawaii coffee.

On Saturday, Dr. Coffee will host a tasting at the old Waialua Sugar Mill—coffees from Kona, Maui, Molokai, Kauai and, of course, Waialua.

Wait, that's not all, as they say on late-night TV commercials. There will be bands, artists, a farmers market and an open house with “;the world's best surf craftsmen.”;

Plus if you sign up for Steiman's $25 coffee tasting, you also get to sample a veritable cornucopia of Waialua products—Waialua chocolate, Waialua Soda, Something Special taro cookies and on and on, including Auntie Edith's Pickled Okra.

“;Can't wait to taste that okra,”; says Steiman. The tasting sold out last fall, so make a reservation: 637-2624.


Twice Bitten, Once Skype

If you're wondering why Howard Dicus has been MIA at KGMB Sunrise, finally reappearing in what appeared to be his pajamas via a Skype hookup to his bedroom, it's because Mr. Explainer was bitten by a brown recluse spider while talking to the Pacific Century Fellows at Turtle Bay. “;I didn't know what bit me,”; he says. “;I should have known better because I was bitten by a brown recluse on Kauai a couple years ago.”;

The bite resulted in a hospital stay and a week's convalescence at home. The good news: “;I'm getting cabin fever,”; says Dicus, “;so I'm going back to work on Monday.”;

“;Why are you such spider bait?”; I asked. Said Dicus, “;Because I spend so much time on the Web.”;