Thursday, August 14, 2008

Back to the future.....Spencecliff 2008

Over thirty years ago there was a band who was looking to break into the nightclub circuit in Waikiki, a common story for many young bands including our band "Greenwood". Many of us began playing at the Magic Mushroom, a little hole in the wall nightclub located on Ala Moana Boulevard, and a few of us eventually did make it into the Waikiki nightclub scene. Bands such as "Natural High", "White Light", "Ashberry" and our band "Greenwood" paid our dues at the Ala Moana "all you can drink" nightclub for dirt pay if even that. The Magic Mushroom really packed 'em in on Friday and Saturday evenings and helped to groom bands for bigger and better things that awaited them in the future. "Natural High" eventually became the six night band at Spencecliff's Hula Hut, "White Light" became the six night band at Spencecliff's Tiki, and "Greenwood", given a one year contract by Spencecliff Corporation became the official off-night band at three of their Waikiki restaurants which turned into nightclubs after dinner.

Funny story, and I may have already shared this, ten months into our one year contract we were given the old pink slip by Spencecliff. No reason was actually given and it was a big shock for us a bunch of young starry eyed musicians. But hey, that's showbiz and looking back on it it's something that we still laugh about till today. Thirty some years later Chantal Weaver came up with the idea to have a reunion of all former Spencecliff Restaurant workers. Hey, we were employed by Spencecliff as well for ten months so we qualify!! Come August 23rd "Greenwood" will close out the 2008 Spencecliff Reunion at the Hawaiian Hut. Funny story, but cool none the less. Below is an article from the Star Bulletin about the Spencecliff Reunion. Cool idea Chantal!!!! By the way, did I mention the off-night at the Hula Hut when the band made a whopping $ 2.50 for an entire night? Hehehe!!! Now that's another story in itself down memory lane!!

Spencecliff brings back many fond memories
Former employees of the restaurant chain will hold a reunion
By Betty Shimabukuro

Chantal Weaver remembers running around her father's restaurants as a child - she had many to choose from, as her father was Spencer Weaver, co-founder of the Spencecliff restaurant chain. But her favorite was Queen's Surf, on the beach in Waikiki.

Spencecliff Reunion
» When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 23
» Place: Hawaiian Hut, Ala Moana Hotel

» Tickets: $35

» RSVP: 263-2843 or e-mail

"I remember Hilo Hattie dancing on the stage and the imu with the whole pig. I remember the man climbing the coconut tree and throwing plumeria leis down to the guests."

Gordon Yoshida, Spencecliff's former vice president of operations, has a similar spot in his memory banks for the Hawaiian Hut. "My son had his first birthday party here and then he had his graduation party here."

The two have teamed up to produce a reunion for former Spencecliff employees on Aug. 23 at the Hawaiian Hut, which Yoshida now runs. They say they hope to give some closure to their old employees, as well as a sense of purpose about the future.

"So many people have come through Spencecliff," Yoshida says. About 1,500 remained when the company was sold, but "thousands passed through over the years."

Spencer Weaver and his brother Clifford started Spencecliff in 1939 with a $30,000 investment in six Swanky Franky hot dog carts. The company expanded to a family of restaurants that were signposts of a generation - the Tahitian Lanai, Senor Popo's, Kelly's, Coco's, M's Ranch House, Trader Vic's ...

The company was sold in 1986 to Nittaku Enterprises, which closed the restaurants one by one. Only the Hawaiian Hut is still in business.

"To me, every restaurant closure was like a death, because I grew up in the restaurants," Chantal Weaver says. "They were like my home."

The reunion will feature food, a no-host bar, entertainment, a slide show and memorabilia display. Weaver is hoping the event will be a springboard for her long-range effort to provide a permanent venue for Hawaiian song and dance under the Spencecliff name.

"Waikiki is being turned into any large city. They're bringing in all these Las Vegas-type shows and visitors are coming and saying, 'Where's Hawaii?'"


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