Outrigger Waikiki Showroom goes dark

Nov. 22, 2013 | 0 Comments

BY WAYNE HARADA / Special to the Star-Advertiser

The Outrigger Waikiki Showroom, a showcase for local and visiting talent since 1969, closed its doors Wednesday, Nov. 20. Management said a reopening is planned after renovations in 2014, likely with a new production or show format.

The current act, the Society of Seven LV (Latest Version), was told about the shuttering moments after it gave its final performance before a crowd of 60, which nonetheless gave the performers a standing ovation.

Jasmine Trias performs with the SOS LV at the Outrigger Waikiki Showroom in 2008. (Star-Advertiser File)

Jasmine Trias performs with the SOS LV at the Outrigger Waikiki Showroom in 2008. (Star-Advertiser File)

Beth Perri, one of four partners of Mele Mau Loa LLC, which leases the showroom from Outrigger, informed the act that the room was closing for renovations for a facelift.

Glenn Miyashiro, SOS LV leader, told Perri, “Thanks for believing in our show,” even if he and his showmates were stunned by the unexpected announcement. Miyashiro phoned mentor Tony Ruiviviar of the original SOS group after getting what he termed “bad news.”

Tom Moffatt, veteran show presenter and entrepreneur, is among the partners leasing the space for an undisclosed timetable but has remained a silent partner. Mele Mau Loa took over the showroom operations in 2012 when Outrigger decided to stop operating the club as an in-house entity.

Since 1969, the Outrigger showroom has been associated with the original SOS, led by co-founders Ruivivar and Bert Sagum.

From his Las Vegas base, Ruiviviar, who had a 45-year relationship with the showroom and directed the LV spin-off group, said by phone: “The Outrigger has been our home for decades. I really don’t know what the situation is, but I’m going to find out.

Elvis was always one of the original Society of Seven's most popular impersonations. (Star-Advertiser File)

Elvis was always one of the original Society of Seven’s most popular impersonations. (Star-Advertiser File)

“The boys were told they have to move out their equipment on Sunday. I told them be patient, be calm. The abruptness leaves a bad taste in my mouth.”

Mele Mau’s announcement to media sourcs was brief, noting the immediate closure and the aniticipated 2014 reopening, with no other details.

“The hiatus will allow for several changes to the room,” the announcement said.

The changes will be cosmetic — long overdue renovations — but inevitably include content.

“It’s a damn good show, what can I say?” said Perri.

But, she added it does not appeal to 20- to 30-somethings and that some exploration will be necessary before a new show policy can be determined. Thus, it appears the era of the SOS is over.

“We’re looking at several possibilities,” said Perri, who handles the business issues not artistic. “We’re assessing what we can do.”

Mele Mau Loa took over the room operations in July 2012 and struggled to maintain tour group support for the club and the act.

“The groups have come in are of a certain age; they love the show because it’s their era,” Perri said, referring to such content as rock and big band and country music.

As a veteran of the local show biz scene, Perri and her husband, Jim Perri, have been involved in different clubs and formats over the past four decades. She recalls the early era, when the SOS did two shows nightly and three on weekends.

“Those were the days,” she said. “We need to try to achieve that excitement. That ceiling is impossible to reach, it seems. To perpetuate a (new) legacy, we’ve got to build a new fan base. We can’t rely on people who are on walkers,” she said of the aging fans of the SOS.

Bert Sagum hams it up as a Chiquita banana on the opening night of the Society of Seven's 2000 season at the Outrigger Waikiki Showroom. (Star-Advertiser File)

Bert Sagum hams it up as a Chiquita banana on the
opening night of the Society of Seven’s 2000 season at the Outrigger Waikiki Showroom. (Star-Advertiser File)

Moffatt, she said, would be prominently involved in formatting a show. What and how have not been discussed yet. Moffatt has been virtually invisible in the showroom’s operations.

Richard Kelley, who hired the original SOS in 1969, recalled the lure and appeal of the show band during the hotel group’s 40th anniversary celebration: “People flocked to see them, and long lines snaed through the lobby, down the escalator, and often into the street.”

The showroom had been the SOS home for most of the year, but acts such as Tommy Sands, The Reycards, The Kim Sisters, The Aliis, The Krush, Andy Bumatai and Martin Nievera had shared the stage over the decades. It was a hangout for prom crowds in the 1970s and ‘80s, and the showroom had the distinction of being the only one in Waikiki that regularly attracted both local fans and visitor crowds.

Over the decades, Waikiki showrooms have become an endangered specials. With the Outrigger’s temporary closure, the remaining showrooms now include the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani’s Ainahau Ballroom, home to “Creation,” a Tihati Polynesian revue; the Magic of Polynesia showroom at the Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel, which houses John Hirokawa’s magic show; and the Royal Hawaiian Center’s fourth floor showroom, where a “Legends in Concert” production prevails.

The Royal Hawaiian’s Monarch Room still operates, but only as a special events venue, and show sites once housed at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki, Hilton Hawaiian Village and Moana Surfrider Hotel have been repurposed for retail space or other use. Free-standing showrooms such as the Duke Kahanamoku’s, Queen’s Surf, Hula Hut and Oceania Floating Restaurant were demolished over time.

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