Friday, September 28, 2012

Elvis, Blue Hawaii and the Coco Palms Resort

The Island of Kauai is getting ready to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the film Blue Hawaii. Don’t worry that it is actually 52 years since the film was shot (1960) and 51 years since it was released - this is Hawaii.
Nonetheless, on Saturday in Kapaa on the island of Kauai, there will be a celebration featuring ‘Elvis’, a showing of the film and a tribute to Grace Guslander.

Grace Guslander was the long-time manager of the Coco Palms Resort (her husband Lyle was the owner) where Elvis and the rest of the movie crew stayed and where the wedding scene was filmed. At the time it was a luxurious resort fronting on the Pacific with a lagoon and a 16-acre, 2000-tree Coconut grove.

Lyle died in 1984, the property was sold and Grace retired. Then in 1992 the resort was all but destroyed in a hurricane. Legal wrangling between the owners and the insurance company left the property vacant and further deteriorating.

Blue Hawaii is celebrated on the Garden Island not just because of Elvis but because it was the first time that Kauai was portrayed in its own right rather than as a stand-in for another location. South Pacific was shot there in the mid-fifties but Kauai was supposed to be, among other things, Bali Hai.

I am always saddened when I see the remains as I pass by on the Kuhio Highway on my way to the north shore, where I always stay around Hanalei. But once again there is hope that the resort will be rebuilt and maybe this time it will happen. Since the hurricane there have been numerous attempts to redevelop the property, all have failed and left Kauaiians, like Cubs fans disappointed but holding out hope for next year. However it is widely believed that this redevelopment will actually happen. Relax Hotels is said to be working with a group of investors to reopen the resort.

Hawaii and Kauai in particular have seen a boom in film and television production. Much of the George Clooney film The Descendants was shot in and around Hanalei as well as Honolulu. The TV series Lost was filmed in Hawaii. Earlier TV’s Fantasy Island – “The Plane, The Plane” - was shot on Kauai. And of course both iterations of Hawaii 50 were and are being shot in Hawaii, primarily Honolulu. And, of course, who can forget Magnum, P.I.

Could we get some of that kind of work here?

So, fifty years or not, on Saturday, as the celebration in Kapaa is going on, rent a copy of Blue Hawaii, make yourself a Mai Tai, enjoy yourself and think of Grace Guslander and hope for the revival of the Coco Palms Resort.

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