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Priceless tribute honors the late singer Alfred Apaka


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POSTED: Saturday, March 27, 2010

Many members of Hawaii's musical royalty turned out to perform in honor of a prince, the late singer Alfred Apaka, on what would have been his 90th birthday. The tribute was arranged by Alfred's son, Jeff, and was held March 19 at the Hilton Hawaiian Village where the singer's career soared.

""  What took place during the late afternoon and evening was something that cannot be bought. The entertainment enthralled the packed crowd at the Tapa Bar stage. Things began with a blessing by Kahu Kaleo Patterson at Alfred's statue, which was draped with leis, in the Tapa Tower walkway. Doug Tolentino, Pakala Fernandes, Kaipo Kukahiko and premier hula dancer Kanoe Miller, from the Halekulani, got things rolling after that and were followed by singer-musicians Mihana Souza, Greg Martin and Kaipo Asing. Danny Kaleikini sang an Alfred hit, "Beyond the Reef," with them as Ellen Martinez danced. They were followed by Gary Aiko, singing "O Makalapua" ...

The action on the stage followed with three different groups performing many more songs Alfred sang. Entertainers who stepped up to sing or dance included Beckley Pang Stanford, who danced in Alfred's show, and singer Ali Gabriel. Some dancers got off their seats to hula in the aisles. Jeff Teves and his group, made up of Bryan Tolentino, Nate Nahinu, Jeff Au Hoy and Hale Seabury, was first up. Singers Kealoha Kalama and her hula dancers Pikake Enos and Shelby Oshiro, and Teves' mom Ethlyenne Teves and aunt Mona Teves followed. Kealoha's friend Dr. David "Doc" Paperny also showed his hula moves. Kealoha recalled how her uncle, Benny Kalama, would sometimes bring Alfred to her family's home when they were on the "Hawaii Calls" radio show ...

The "Hawaii Calls" segment at the celebration was outstanding. It was led by fabulous singer Nina Kealiiwahamana, who sang on the show as a young woman. The steel guitar was an important part of the program and Casey Olsen handled that role perfectly. In this group were Olsen's dad Hiram, Asing and Aiko. The group sang "Hawaiian War Chant" and Nina followed with the song "Hawaii Calls" as was done on the show. Aiko sang "Lovely Hula Girl." Stepping up to sing and dance with the "Hawaii Calls" group were Nina's brother Boyce Rodrigues, Joe Recca, Robert Cazimero and Kimo Mansfield. Clayton Naluai, who sang "Hanalei" as Don Ho's widow Haumea Hebenstriet Ho danced. Kimo Kahoano pressed Jeff Apaka to take the stage and he sang "Isle of Golden Dreams," another of his dad's big ones, and "In a Hawaiian Village." Nina called up Kaleikini and he said when he was a boy his mom was a cocktail waitress in the Tapa Room where Alfred performed and he would watch the show from the bushes ... Cathy Foy-Mahi starred in the final group, a strong bunch that included her husband Aaron Mahi, George Kuo, Scott Furushima, Ken Makuakani and two workhorses Aiko and Asing, fine singers. Haumea danced "I'll Remember You" with them ...

Fortunate to score a front row table was Suzy Hemmings, who was celebrating her birthday. Suzy's daughter, Kaui Hart Hemmings, wrote the book "The Descendants," being filmed here, starring George Clooney. Suzy's gal pals included Conne Sutherland, Michele St. John, Ann Martin, Merrill Johnston, Liz Perry, Wendy Wichman, Kim Darling and Rici Guild. Rici jumped up to dance hula. What a birthday party Suzy had ... Jeff Apaka deserves much credit for putting this priceless event together 50 years after his dad died on Jan. 30, 1960, at age 40. It was full of love, warmth and good feelings, with much kissing and hugging going on among entertainers and those lucky enough to be in the audience as well. Jeff, who thanks Hilton chief Jerry Gibson for permission to schedule the event, closed the day singing "To You Sweetheart Aloha" and "Aloha Oe." Tears flowed ...

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Ben Wood, who sold the Star-Bulletin on Honolulu streets in World War II, writes of people, places and things Saturdays. E-mail him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).