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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Pink Palace has role in Hollywood history, too

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The famous partied and played at the Royal Hawaiian: clockwise, from top left, Jimmy Buffett, Heather Locklear, Marlene Dietrich, Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood, a scene from "Gidget Goes Hawaiian," Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, the poster from "Waikiki Wedding" starring Bing Crosby, and Shirley Temple entertaining kids on the beach.

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Look through a guest list of the Royal Hawaiian since 1927 and you'll find movie stars, millionaires and presidents.

Especially for the first few decades of the resort's existence when just a few hotels dominated Waikiki the Royal, the Moana (which opened in 1901) and various smaller beach cottages.

In the early days, travelers sailed to Hawai'i via the ships of Matson Navigation Co., arriving with steamer trunks full of clothes and staying for weeks or months.

Cruise through the book "To Honolulu in Five Days Cruising Aboard Matson's S.S. Lurline" (by Lynn Blocker Krantz, Nick Krantz and Mary Thiele Fobian) and return to a time when travel took more time and the golden age of tourism promised lavish comforts, daily distractions and dress-up dinners.

The Pink Palace drew the rich, the famous, the powerful and many guests who had splurged on a trip back when travel was more gracious before airplanes could bring people here in hours rather than days.

Fabled movie star Marilyn Monroe stayed at the hotel with baseball great Joe DiMaggio on their way to a monthlong honeymoon in Japan. Clark Gable slept there. Olympic great Duke Kahanamoku surfed, swam and stayed there. Film legend Marlene Dietrich was a guest and even sang at the neighboring Sheraton Waikiki.

There was also George Burns, The Fords as in the family behind the car company.

Shirley Temple first stayed at the hotel as a child and later brought her own family. She began dating husband Charles Black when he was president of Hawaiian Pineapple Co.

President Lyndon B. Johnson visited several times and even gave a speech at the hotel. Even earlier, President Franklin D. Roosevelt stayed there.

The pink hotel also played a role in many movies over the years from the early days with two Charlie Chan movies: "The Black Camel" with Warner Oland in 1931; and Sidney Toler in "Charlie Chan in Honolulu" in 1938.

In 1937, Bing Crosby starred in "Waikiki Wedding," a musical about a public relations man touting the virtues of Hawai'i, probably best known for the Oscar-winning appearance of Harry Owens' song "Sweet Leilani."

Hotel spokeswoman Candice Kraughto said the guest list over time includes: singers Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra; actors Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner; comedian Red Skelton; and actress Elizabeth Taylor.

In more recent years, guests have included film critic Roger Ebert, dog whisperer Cesar Millan, actor Samuel L. Jackson and Pearl Jam rocker Eddie Vedder.

The Royal even turned up in the 1953 classic "From Here to Eternity" when a character claims he's nearby waiting for a movie star to emerge from the hotel.

Other movies shot there included "Gidget Goes Hawaiian" (1961). For years, a strikingly bizarre concrete tiki/menehune/garden gnomelike statue made for that movie lurked in the gardens. It was removed in the recent renovation.

Adam Sandler starred in "Punch-Drunk Love" in 2002 with a poster image of the stars kissing under a hotel arch. The quirky movie features the couple having a drink and listening to Hawaiian music at the Mai Tai Bar as well as a few other hotel shots.

And there was also the Lifetime TV movie "Flirting with Forty" that featured Heather Locklear and Robert Buckley and first aired in December.

Other more recent guests have included The Backstreet Boys and frequent returnees KC and the Sunshine Band, and singer Jimmy Buffett, who recently opened a restaurant in Waikiki.

Reach Robbie Dingeman at rdingeman@honoluluadvertiser.com.