'70s night's all right
• Photo gallery: 70s Nightclub Reunion
BY Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer
Harry Gima couldn't resist. The lime green jacket spoke to him in the body language of disco. When he found it last year at Tuxedos by Hale Niu, hanging forgotten on the rack, he fell in love.
With the jacket on his shoulders, the 56-year-old city worker could feel the pulse of the '70s all over again — all the way to his platform shoes.
But this was no idle fantasy. Gima, along with hundreds of aging baby boomers, have discovered an outlet for their lost youth: '70s nightclub reunions. First held in 2005, the events reunite boomers with bands that performed at Honolulu nightclubs in the late 1970s and early '80s.
In their heyday, bands such as Greenwood, Power Point, New Experience and Asian Blend drew audiences with their musical blend of R&B, Latin and funk. They were large groups, nothing like a typical garage band, and featured trumpets, saxophones and trombones, as well as wide lapels, bell-bottoms and lots of styled hair.
Their reunions have become so popular that the last show, the sixth, sold 1,000 tickets in about half an hour.
'LIPS WERE GONE'
Each event is a chance to get dressed up and boogie.
Gima, who has a closet full of vintage disco clothing purchased at thrift stores, has been to all of the reunions and plans to attend the seventh gathering this Saturday. He'll join several dozen friends — well, the ones who don't have to babysit their grandchildren.
"Call me a groupie," said Gima, who usually wears a large afro wig at each reunion. "It's live music, and it's the '70s music. Back in the '70s you could understand what people were singing about. And, of course, they have the dance songs they had in those days."
The reunions started as a wild idea between a pair of old friends — Robin Kimura, a founding member of Greenwood, and Candy Au, who followed the group regularly.
Au, who was the catering manager at the Ilikai, where the first event was held, suggested the reunion.
Kimura told her she was crazy.
Band members had gotten out of music, said Kimura, a 53-year-old manufacturer's rep for a food-service products company. Some were accountants; one made dentures. Another helped develop pacemakers. A few played in church bands, but for the most part they had lives and families.
Worst of all, their instruments were in disrepair. Horns were tarnished, valves stuck and some repairs would cost hundreds of dollars.
"And the trumpet players hadn't blown for years," Kimura said. "Their lips were gone. Their lips were out of shape."
But the two eventually decided that if they could find other bands willing to perform, it just might work. That way any one band wouldn't have to play so long.
Four other bands signed up.
It took six months to prepare.
"We were doing this for the sake of reuniting ourselves as a band," Kimura said. "We did it as a last hurrah."
Then a funny thing happened. Everyone on stage saw it immediately in the audience — all those fortysomething and fiftysomething couples gettin' down.
"From the first song, people were on the dance floor," Kimura said. "We hadn't seen the baby boomer crowd in ages. We had been out of the nightclub circuit. When they rushed the stage and started dancing, it pumped up the band."
Even before the instruments had been cleared, people were asking when Au and Kimura would do it again. There were no venues playing the music of their youth, and they wanted more of it.
"It was a flashback," Au said. "The aura in the room that night, it was just a feeling of ... of back then. It was friends who got together who used to go out nightclubbing. They were all there."
Each reunion has been a party on a grand scale, "the biggest party you could ever be at," said Irwin Santos, a 46-year-old computer consultant and entertainment coordinator for Hawaiian Brian's. Santos has helped promote the reunions and manages a massive online collection of event photos.
"You have boomers who are in their 50s and approaching their 60s and they used to dance to all this music and everyone wants to recapture that, bring back their youth," he said. "You'd be surprised they are still dancing, though not as agile."
Or as svelte . For most of the guys, the tight-fitting Angel Flights pants are nothing but nostalgia.
"Not everyone fits their clothes, and they aren't wearing their Angel Flights," Santos said. "I had Angel Flights, but man, that was five to six sizes ago."
The events regularly bring together Leanne Teves and her Pearl City High School classmates from 1978. They'll buy a table for 12 and relive an era they never thought they'd see again, she said.
After graduation — and occasionally before — Teves was a regular at the Point After, Atlantis and Bobby McGee's. But life took over and college led to graduate school and marriage and three children to raise.
"Now that we are going back, I didn't realize how much I missed it," she said. "It's been a blast. Nobody really sits down."