Eddie Sherman

Eddie Sherman
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Wednesday - March 23, 2005
| Del.icio.us

ALOHA MARTIN … Saying a fond farewell to long, long time friend Martin Denny at the Elks Club last week along with hundreds of others brought back so many memories. Those were the days of my youth, chronicling the action and activity of old Waikiki show biz and the then burgeoning tourist industry. How often I sat with Henry J. Kaiser, one of America’s greatest industrialists, the man who built the Kaiser Hawaiian Village, and listened to his dreams for Hawaii at a time in his life when he came to Hawaii to retire after one of the most incredible careers in American history. … Kaiser was also the man who first helped launch Martin Denny to fame and fortune. The story in a moment … Kaiser then often called me at the newspaper and asked me to invite visiting celebrities to his spectacular residence just to have some kau kau and chat. At this time, his company was one of the sponsors of Maverick (starring James Garner), a major weekly hit television series. All this from a very poor kid who dropped out of school in the sixth grade in order to support his mother … How did he come to build the Kaiser (now Hilton) Hawaiian Village? This story was told to me by a close friend of Kaiser’s — Bob Cummings, who frequently vacationed here and a was major film and TV star. Henry and visiting executives from his worldwide company in Oakland were having a meeting at the Surf Room of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. While huddled around a table (in their white shirts and rolled-up sleeves) looking over various potential multimilliondollar future projects laid out on a table, the meeting was interrupted by a hotel employee who informed Kaiser it was 6 p.m. and it was hotel policy that all male guests were required to wear ties at that time. If not, they had to leave the premises. Kaiser was furious. He told Cummings, “I’ll build a hotel were guests in Hawaii can wear whatever they want any time of the day or night.” He found the old Niumalu Hotel, ripped it down and the Kaiser (now Hilton) Hawaiian Village Hotel was born. The hotel featured a cozy lounge called The Shell Bar. He hired a struggling musician, Martin Denny, and his musicmakers, Arthur Lyman, Augie Colon, Harold Chang and John Kramer. Others later like Julius Wechter and Harvey Ragsdale. In those early days, as Denny slowly introduced his unique music, customers believed the place was infested with frogs and other strange nite creatures. It was just bongoist Colon delivering a variety of his inimitable and unrehearsed vocalistics of unique jungle sounds to go along with the melodies. Slowly, Denny and company began their rise to legendry status with this new musical sound called Exotica. Eventually, Denny was offered substantially more money than he was making at the Shell Bar to move to the happening International Market Place on Kalakaua. Mr. Kaiser refused to meet what he considered an exorbitant price then for Denny’s services, so Martin took the Market Place’s generous offer. Martin remembered Kaiser was quite angry over this and informed Denny he’d be sorry for leaving him and the Shell Bar. The rest, of course, is history as Denny’s recordings slowly made many fans and eventually exploded into a worldwide phenomenon … From my lanai today I can look down at the sprawling, beautifully landscaped historic hotel grounds. I can still hear the sounds of Martin Denny’s melodies emanating from the old Shell Bar while tourists lounged in tropical attire. And, not one man ever seen wearing a necktie

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