That’s Entertainment


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Tom Moffatt’S Ala Moana office walls are covered with his collection of concert posters and tickets, artist photographs, sports memorabilia and other objects spanning 60 years of entertainment in Hawai‘i, but when I ask point blank whether he considers himself a collector, he responds, “No, I don’t collect anything.”

Collectors are people obsessed with the chase of the objects of their affections, often meticulous about researching and cataloguing their prized possessions. Moffatt does none of that.

Though no doubt a collection, Moffatt’s memorabilia is the accumulated visual diary of his life ever since he arrived from Detroit, Michigan, and discovered his place on the airwaves and behind the scenes of some of the largest entertainment spectacles Hawai‘i has known. He happens to be one of those lucky individuals whose interests, passion and career are aligned.

Like any good showman, Moffatt’s success started with impeccable timing, as he bridged the generations during a time music and radio were undergoing radical change between the big band and rock ’n’ roll eras.

Visitors to his office are greeted by a couple of hand-painted folding chairs from Bon Jovi’s 2010 The Circle Tour, left behind in their dressing room, and a 1950s jukebox, provenance unknown. After making the rounds of Honolulu bars and lounges, it was gifted to him, and though it hasn’t worked in all the time he’s owned it, it serves as a conversation piece that dates to his radio roots.

His first shows, beginning November 1957, took place at Civic Auditorium, the predecessor of Blaisdell Center. His “Show of Stars” series comprised 31 concerts featuring four or seven acts each, representing a who’s who of radio. Many of those early rockers eventually made it into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, such as Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry. The first bill featured The Five Satins, Sonny Knight, Don & Dewey and Chuck Berry.

To inaugurate the opening of the newly built Blaisdell Arena in 1964, he hosted two “Million Dollar Parties” featuring 10 to 11 of the hottest acts at the time on each bill, including The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, The Kingsmen, Peter and Gordon and band—featuring Hal Blaine, Glen Campbell and Phil Sloan, Paul Revere and the Raiders.

Working with Consolidated Theatres, one of his early scores was a hat worn by Elvis Presley in his debut film, “Love Me Tender,” which Moffatt gave away during the film’s 1956 premiere screening at Waikiki Theater.

He recalls the theater was full of screaming girls, and the success of the event led Elvis’ manager Col. Tom Parker to make a phone call to Moffatt. Suddenly, Hawai‘i was on the map as a destination that would welcome the young star. Presley performed at Honolulu Stadium in Mo‘ili‘ili in November 1957.

Elvis figures prominently in his collection because of his friendship with the colonel that continued long after Elvis’ death. These include a bottle of Graceland wine, an “Aloha Elvis” wine created in memory of his 1973 benefit concert in Hawai‘i, and countless photos.

Moffatt has dozens of photos of himself with celebs. One he enjoys distributing to press is one of himself with the Harlem Globetrotters, whom he brought in for four basketball exhibitions between 1983 and 1994.

Also in his possession are: boxing gloves signed by Brian Viloria, whose fights he presented between 2009 and 2013; and a gold record for “Born Free,” the title song from the 1966 feature film about reintroducing zoo lioness Elsa back into the wild. He felt early on that the movie was going to be a big hit, and was one of the first to begin playing the song on radio before the film’s release. Sure enough, the song became a No. 1 U.S. Billboard hit and won the Oscar for Best Original Song.

Moffatt also is proud to have brought Sammy Davis Jr., Liza Minnelli and Frank Sinatra to town in 1989, but he says the biggest act welcomed here was Michael Jackson, who sold out two January 1997 concerts at the Aloha Stadium: 70,000 tickets in a single day.

When he learned the first show was going to sell out, he quickly got commitment from Jackson’s management for a second show. The only question was whether it would take place on a consecutive night or give Michael a break in between. Jackson was in Southeast Asia at the time, where it was night, so they could not reach him.

But the show’s announcement had to be made, and the tickets were sold with the time and date to be announced. “People bought them blind,” he says.

In comparison, The Rolling Stones could not sell out a second show at Aloha Stadium in 1998, and tickets moved over a six-week period. It marked the third time Moffatt brought them to town. The first time was in 1966.

Bruno Mars sold out three shows in a single day in 2010, but at the much smaller Blaisdell Arena, for a total of 19,000 seats.

The one act that got away was The Beatles. Moffatt said that he had befriended Ringo Starr when the drummer visited the Hawaiian Islands in 1967, and the month after he returned to London, The Beatles manager Brian Epstein called to arrange a concert in Hawai‘i. But a few weeks later, Epstein died and the show never materialized. Moffatt still holds out hope that he may one day be able to bring Paul McCartney here for a show.

As music became big business, Moffatt says big entertainment companies have taken over promotions, and it’s become much more expensive to bring acts to town. In the past, it was cost effective to stop in Hawai‘i en route to and from Asia: “But now, planes fly over us, and the amount of equipment needed to stage some shows can fill five semis.”

And then there are the infamous contract riders. Back in the 1960s, when large-scale concerts were new, musicians were strangers to diva-like demands. Moffatt said there was no such thing as catering. If an artist got thirsty, they pointed the way to the water fountain outside.

These days, catering costs for artists and their crews often range from $10,000 to $15,000, and the stars can request all sorts of amenities.

Michael Jackson had to have a special dressing room, and Moffatt was able to create a room with a Middle Eastern vibe. The Rolling Stones had to have a pool table.

Through it all, Moffatt rolls with the times, always maintaining his cool and wearing a smile.

“If I get uptight, people around me get uptight, so I try to keep it light and sunny,” he says.

He continues to work hard as ever, arriving at his office by 9 a.m. weekdays, and working countless weekend shows. Ironically, he’s never watched any of the shows he’s presented from a seat with the audience.

“I have to be available while it’s going on,” he says. “I don’t have to watch the show to know how it’s going. I can feel it before they even take the stage. You can feel the crowd.”

Some of his early “Show of Stars” promotional fliers can be found online, selling for about $245, but beyond monetary value of photos and ephemera, the memories are priceless.

Surveying all of priceless the memorabilia around him, Moffatt says, “I’m happy all this happened.”

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