'Cricket' serenades fans of 'Hawaiian Eye' era
By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer
By Wayne Harada
Connie Stevens paid tribute to her past at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort when she sang at a ceremony yesterday commemorating her Hawai'i-based series "Hawaiian Eye," just as she used to during the TV show.
The actor was at a rededication ceremony of the Shell Bar, the nightspot where she played photographer-singer Cricket Blake on the prime-time detective show based at the hotel. It aired from 1959 to 1963 on ABC. A plaque bearing her name was placed on a wall at the nightspot.
"I have to tell you, if you've been to Hawai'i more than once, it lives inside of you," Stevens said. "This brings back a lot of beautiful memories. We had wonderful times here."
Just before she broke into song, she said, "I wish Poncie Ponce were here; he'd know the words," referencing her co-star, who played Kim the cabbie on "Hawaiian Eye." Then she beckoned to folks she knew from the show or through repeated Island visits to join her on "Sweet Someone."
The impromptu back-up chorus included Doug Mossman, who played the detective Moke on "Hawaiian Eye," Harold Chang, a drummer who played with Arthur Lyman at the real Shell Bar, actor Don Stroud, who now lives here, and Jeffrey Apaka, whose late father Alfred Apaka once performed at the hotel's Tapa Room. Veteran three-dot columnist Eddie Sherman and this longtime Showbiz columnist also joined in.
Stevens, a grandmother of three, looked rested and perky when she took the stage, wearing a pink top adorned with flowers and sequins over brown silk slacks.
"Perky" would also describe the character she played on "Hawaiian Eye," more than four decades ago.
"I think it was the freedom that I cherished most," she said of the role she created. "The character was an ingenue photographer; I talked them into letting me sing, letting me have a striped Jeep with raccoon tails; and letting me enjoy the freedom of being a young girl.
"We hope we brought a different kind of energy to America," she said of the series. "The memories are so deep in my heart, I get nostalgic."
Stevens sang a tune on each weekly hour-long episode; the exposure enabled her to launch a successful recording career in the 1960s, with a pair of Top 10 hits, "Sixteen Reasons" and "Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb)," a duet with Edward Byrnes, who starred in "77 Sunset Strip" in the same era.
While most of "Hawaiian Eye" was filmed in a Hollywood studio backlot, outdoor scenes were shot every six weeks in and around the then-Kaiser Hawaiian Village Hotel. The original Shell Bar was in a wooden structure where the Tapa Tower now stands, a stone's throw from Kalia Road.
About 100 guests, hotel employees and fans — some carrying old photos of Stevens and even a "Hawaiian Eye" soundtrack vinyl recording — lined up for autographs and a photo op.
John Depew, a record collector who works with Hilton's room service, said he was too young to remember the TV series but admired Stevens as a pop singer. "I bought a 'Hawaiian Eye' album at a garage sale and I've had it for five years," he said after getting Stevens' autograph on the cover and gingerly placing it in a protective box.
"Hawaiian Eye" was a groundbreaking Warner Bros. show, the first network series partially filmed in Hawai'i. A later wave of shows done here includes "Hawai'i Five-O," "Magnum P.I.," "Island Son," "Jake and the Fatman," "Byrds of Paradise," "Baywatch Hawai'i" and "Lost."
Gary Seibert, area vice president and managing director of Hilton Hawa'i, told Stevens and onlookers that the program helped spread the word of Hawai'i's hospitality and aloha. "Anytime we have a goodwill ambassador on a show, it's great."
Stevens' career spans four decades and includes films, nightclubs and television. Now, as secretary-treasurer of the Screen Actors Guild, she said she's eager to promote new tax incentives adopted by the Hawai'i State Legislature to support more film and TV projects in the Islands.
The actor has just finished taping a pilot for Fox's "The Wedding Album," which she said will be a midseason production, "about the most important day in someone's life, the wedding; I play a bit of a wacko, who's married five times and has two sons."
She'll open a new nightclub act June 16 at the Suncoast in Las Vegas.
One of Stevens' two daughters, Tricia Leigh Fisher, was at the ceremony. The other, Joely Fisher, is in New York prepping for a new TV series.
"We're all working," Stevens said with motherly pride. "But today, I feel so loved."
Reach Wayne Harada at email@example.com.