By Dave Donnelly

Tuesday, May 29, 2001

Race fanatics rally
at 5 a.m. for Indy 500

BACK when the Indianapolis 500 was telecast on a delayed basis, the race being over before TV coverage began in Hawaii, a group of Indy car aficionados used to gather at Murphy's to watch the race "live" via satellite. Well, KITV now runs the race as it's taking place, beginning at 5 a.m., but old habits die hard. This year, the group gathered at O'Toole's, across from Murphy's, and watched the race, dining on eggs Benedict prepared by Ray Sweeney, whose nickname is "Chef Ramon." There were two things everyone agreed about: Brazilian Helio Castroneves was a popular winner ("I'm waiting, girls. I'm the winner now."), and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith delivered the worst national anthem in history, ending with "land of the free, and the home of the -- Indianapolis 500." My guess is that he was picked because ABC was showing the World Music Awards the next night ...

Tommy Tabasco

HAWAII lost one of its legendary barkeeps last week when Tommy Velasco died, ironically, at 86 -- the phrase used by bartenders to tell customers their time was up. His obituary listed him as Antonio Reclusado "Tony" Velasco, but everyone called him "Tommy." I asked him why, and he replied that when he went to work behind the bar at the late, lamented Palm Tree Inn in Waikiki, the owner asked his name. "Tony," came the reply. "MY name is Tony," the boss man said, "so we'll call you Tommy." He did, and thousands of customers throughout the years did likewise at the Zebra Room, which Velasco bought, and in later days in Sparkies and some other saloons, notably Ross' Spare Room across from where the Flamingo still sits. Through all this, he still managed to raise a wonderful family. Tommy always worked the early shift, usually opening at 6 a.m. for the diehards or those who work the night shift. I recall one of his stories about arriving a few minutes late at Sparkies only to find a regular morning patron checking his watch. It was 6:07 a.m. "Well," said the customer in mock admonishment, "good AFTERNOON, Mr. Velasco." ...

SAN Francisco philanthropist and music patron Dr. Jess Shenson popped into town to attend the Honolulu Symphony Ball, and took the opportunity to visit the new Luce wing of the Academy of Arts. Dr. Jess was pleased to see that the Theodore Wores painting "The Lei Maker," which he and his late brother, Dr. Ben Shenson, gave the academy, is still displayed quite prominently ...

NBC here

THAT sitcom starring chef Emeril Lagasse has popped up on NBC's fall schedule. He plays a chef! Leave it to TV and producers Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason to demand Emeril make that acting stretch ... And Peter Bonerz got lots of laughs from the Hawaii Association of Broadcasters luncheon with tales of his 37 years in the TV biz. Best known as Jerry, the dentist in the old Bob Newhart TV'er, Bonerz now plays the father in "Three Sisters." He's also directed numerous episodes of "Friends," "Home Improvement" and "Murphy Brown," to name but three. Look for him in KHNL promos for the upcoming season ...

Dave Donnelly has been writing on happenings
in Hawaii for the Star-Bulletin since 1968.

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