Archive for July, 2014

Step out of your comfort zone

By
July 23rd, 2014



JAMES GARRETT / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISERThe inaugural Diner en Blanc brought hundreds of hungry guests to the grounds of 'Iolani Palace for dinner and dancing.

JAMES GARRETT / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER

The inaugural Diner en Blanc brought hundreds of hungry guests to the grounds of 'Iolani Palace for dinner and dancing.

Some of us can be real hypocrites. Myself included. We all talk about wanting something new, something different, celebrating change and all that, yet something comes along that’s even a little bit out of the norm and nobody wants to try it.

You see an event happening and go to the Facebook event page or someone’s Instagram post while it’s happening and ask if it’s crowded. You hear about a new restaurant and see a photo of a killer meal and ask, “what’s the verdict?”

JAMES GARRETT / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISERGuests at Diner en Blanc were required to bring their own tables, chairs and linens to the popup dinner party — as well as clean up after themselves when the event was finished.

JAMES GARRETT / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER

Guests at Diner en Blanc were required to bring their own tables, chairs and linens to the popup dinner party — as well as clean up after themselves when the event was finished.

Lord help us all if we want to actually take that leap to actually try for ourselves. If everyone is waiting for someone else to try something to validate if they should or not then what does that make us?

There are more examples, but I’m specifically talking about last weekend's Dinner en Blanc. I know many have heard of it now after seeing it all over Instagram and here on the Pulse, after-the-fact photos of a magical dinner where everyone was decked out in all white dining together in some sort of upscale picnic setting in front of ‘Iolani Palace.

I knew about it because some friends were hosting but still wasn’t too interested.

“Who wants to go to dinner where we have to bring our own dinner, table, and chairs?” I thought. That just sounded like too much to deal with.

There were half-hearted inquiries among my close friends to try it out, all met with a “nah.” Dressing in all-white is one of those things where it’s nice once everyone is at the party, but getting there is a huge headache. You pretty much always have to buy something new because of how turnt up you got at the LAST white party. Then there is the whole paying to bring everything to a party where you don’t even get to drive — a.k.a. feeling stranded and not in control of when you get to dip out.

The table settings were elaborate and beautiful (Courtesy Emma De Vries)

COURTESY EMMAM DE VRIES

Table settings were elaborate and beautiful at Diner en Blanc.

Not knowing where the party is, not knowing what setting it would be, seeing a huge rain storm headed straight for Honolulu; all of these factors were turning this big mystery French concept in to a jaunt that was downright laughable for me and my friends.

The joke turned out to be on all of us.

I was fortunate enough to get booked to play music for the adventurers who signed up, so I still was able to experience the event, even if it was from a DJ standpoint. The second I found out the mystery location was in fact the most enchanting place possible on Oahu, I knew we blew it.

When I got to ‘Iolani Palace everyone was already set at their tables they brought and probably about halfway through their dinner. I was blown away by the lengths people went to make the event special. Save for the glorious setting of the palace grounds, the entire event was what it was because of the people there. Tables, linens, beautiful centerpieces, fresh flowers, table settings, glassware and décor by the hundreds was everywhere, plus all the people dressed to the nines in white.

The best part was how many different types of people were there. All ages, backgrounds and social circles were lined up, smiling and dining. Everyone was so blown away by what they were actually doing that the entire sacred grounds felt alive with a vibrant energy. I was completely blown away.

As soon as I could find co-host Malie Moran I gave her the biggest hug. She was risk-taker numero uno for this whole thing, in a way very similar to how I helped bring Pow! Wow! to Honolulu. She was in Los Angeles taking in that city's Diner en Blanc in 2013, immediately falling in love and becoming inspired.

JAMES GARRETT / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISERThe author at work on the turntables at Diner en Blanc.

JAMES GARRETT / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER

The author at work on the turntables at Diner en Blanc.

So she made it happen. Despite all the risks. She didn’t do it alone though. Maleko McDonnell and Aubrey Akana also worked tirelessly to educate the foreign concept to as many people as they could. The result was 750 people going the extra mile to bring the event together, with hundreds of posts online and a tremendous amount of FOMO (fear of missing out) among those who didn’t sign up.

When I asked Malie when the next one is, she said it’s a secret. But you can count on this event becoming a thing in Honolulu, especially because of how many people immediately jumped in to try it out.

Thank God for those people. I appreciate you. I want to be one of you. I would like to think I am but I know that sometimes I am not. I am definitely chalking this one up as a lesson learned.

———

Christa Wittmier has chronicled Honolulu nightlife since 2004. She is senior marketing director at Young's Market Co. of Hawaii and executive director of music for Pow! Wow! Hawaii, and also helps promote the popular Bacardi Pool Party on Oahu. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.

The show must go on

By
July 16th, 2014



Everything I was working on last week came to a screeching halt on Thursday when one of my worst nightmares came true.

Dear friend and trusted colleague Matt Bendik was found dead in his Philadelphia hotel room by a maid while on a business trip. He was there checking out the nightlife, looking to expand his already healthy portfolio of successful nightclubs. Honolulu knows him as the young nightlife tycoon who opened Addiction Nightclub after being hired by the Modern Honolulu as a third party entity to totally re-brand and manage the club formerly known as Crazybox.

COURTESY CHRISTA WITTMIER The author and Matt Bendik in 2011,

COURTESY CHRISTA WITTMIER

The author and Matt Bendik in 2011,

Of course, I had to get the news from Twitter after seeing multiple “RIP @MattBendik” updates. I had been wondering why I hadn’t heard back from him that day. He usually gets right back to me, often calling the minute he lands in Honolulu to meet up for lunch or dinner. I missed his recent Honolulu trip, getting a text while in Taiwan that he was back in town.

“Bummer!” is the last text I ever got from him.

Before any of us could even take the time to process the information or grieve properly, we had a new promotion to execute at his club. It was the first night of a new monthly called “So Fancy!” that features an all-female DJ lineup every second Thursday of the month.

Hours before the doors were to open I was reaching out to the club’s managers, trying to figure out our next step.

Are we really going to go through with this? How?

It’s true, only a handful of people outside the Addiction staff would even really know Bendik. In every sense of the phrase, the show must go on. If anything, that’s what Matt — the utmost professional — would have wanted.

It was going to be the toughest night of our lives.

A rush of thoughts poured over me driving to the Modern that night. I thought of Bendik's beautiful girlfriend, “Glee” star Becca Tobin; he was head over heels in love with her and often brought her to Honolulu.

photo 1I thought about a lunch we had together in the courtyard of Du Vin, not knowing why people were staring at her until much later. I remembered how deliriously in love they both were and how happy I was for my friend.

I thought of his business partner and good friend Tyler Dickinson, who has taken on more responsibilities as they worked on more and more projects in Los Angeles. How he told me on a trip to the North Shore that he got the job working for Bendik by simply reaching out and asking how he could help, similar to the way Bendik got his first-ever nightlife job when he was still a freshman in high school.

I thought of every single person who works at Addiction, just about all of them hand-picked by Bendik himself. I thought about the multiple staff swaps Bendik had done with his Los Angeles club staff and was planning to do with the Honolulu staff. There were so many people in Honolulu who owe this man so much, and now he is gone.

Meanwhile, the news was traveling fast in the outside world. The story was picked up by every major (and minor) celebrity news source. By the time I got to the Modern, the story had become the number one trending topic on Facebook. Unfortunately for many friends, it’s also how they found out.

The shock I was feeling was mirrored by the rest of the staff, many too stunned to grieve. But the doors were set to open and people soon began pouring into the nightclub. A video projection image created by Addiction barback Alex Kim rotated the promotion’s logos set against a background of the blue sky with floating clouds. Every once in a while the words “We Love You Matt” would slowly come on the screen. Luckily, Kim had gotten the news as he was creating the video file and was able to make this simple yet momentous message for the night. It was beautiful.

Shortly after 2 a.m. that night, the club raised the lights and the host Roxy on the Mic led a quick moment of silence for Bendik. Save for the staff, many had no idea. Everyone was quiet at that moment while we remembered our friend.

COURTESY CHRIS KAYSDJ Zilla performs at Addiction Nightclub as a message to Matt Bendik is displayed on the screen the night he died.

COURTESY CHRIS KAYS

DJ Zilla performs at Addiction Nightclub as a message to Matt Bendik is displayed on the screen the night he died.

Everyone runs their clubs different, but Bendik put quality of service before everything. Design, operations, entertainment — nothing came before the guest experience. When he opened Addiction in December 2011, he heard pool parties were all the rage, so he arranged to have one every week that month. He was never afraid to take an idea outside the box if it meant doing something impactful. Each holiday, each event had to be better than the next.

Above everything, he personally took so much pride in the level of service he provided. The weekends that Bendik was in Honolulu, he would be at the front in his suit, walking the VIPs up to the bar, buying them a round and having a bit of conversation with them before going back downstairs. He was never above greeting anyone in this fashion. Just last week, I heard a club manager say they wanted to be at the same level as Addiction, yet they completely overlooked this simple yet effective quality.

How you treat people is so very important. It’s reflected in your club’s vibe. This is what keeps the right people coming back. Bendik knew this.

COURTESY CHRISTA WITTMIERHanging out at Bendik's house in Los Angeles with Kristina Kova in 2010. He deeply admired the Russian DJ who was "gifted at the art" of running the door at a nightclub. (Christa WIttmier)

COURTESY CHRISTA WITTMIER

Hanging out at Bendik's house in Los Angeles with Kristina Kova in 2010. He deeply admired the Russian DJ who was "gifted at the art" of running the door at a nightclub.

Bendik never batted an eyelash while accompanying me to events around town, often handing me his phone and saying, “here, post something cool on my social media,” while making sure to greet everyone I introduced him to with a warm handshake and his business card.

“Call me if you ever need anything,” he would tell people.

Matt’s confidence came from operating some of Los Angeles’s most elite nightclubs in addition to the one in Waikiki. He has literally worked every job possible in a club since before he even graduated high school. I remember being a bit intimidated to work with him at first, but winding up incredibly empowered by his support and appreciation for even the smallest things I could do to help his business.

One of his favorite proverbs became mine as well: “Speak well of your friends, of your enemies say nothing.”

At this point we still do not know what caused his death. What we do know is the autopsy was inconclusive, meaning there was no definitive trauma or organ failure.

Some are presumptuously citing stress as a possible cause. Those of us who know and work with Matt knew he definitely had a lot on his plate, but also had a very relaxed and methodical approach to everything. It’s why we all admired him so much. We all knew him to be extremely moderate in his drinking habits and he never did drugs. That’s why it’s still so shocking.

Whatever the cause, it was definitely too soon and will take a long time to fully accept. He leaves so much behind. The next time you are in Addiction take a minute to reflect on what he has done and remember Matt Bendik.

———

Christa Wittmier has chronicled Honolulu nightlife since 2004. She is senior marketing director at Young's Market Co. of Hawaii and executive director of music for POW! WOW! Hawaii, and also helps promote the popular "Bacardi Pool Party" on Oahu. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.

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Avoiding the dreaded B-word

By
July 9th, 2014



With summer in full swing and another action-packed Independence Day holiday weekend in the books, it’s only fitting the first question people ask me is, “When do you sleep?”

COURTESY CHRISTA WITTMIEROne look at Pulse blogger Christa Wittmier's schedule from July 4 and you can tell it was a busy day.

COURTESY CHRISTA WITTMIER

One look at Pulse blogger Christa Wittmier's schedule from July 4 and you can tell it was a busy day.

My answer is standard: Whenever I can, as often as I can.

I know I’m not the only one with a full schedule. In fact, it’s actually pretty lenient considering I don’t have a family to look after. Things usually don't start out that bad, but as the week moves on more and more appointments in my calendar get filled with work obligations, community obligations, friend obligations, nightlife things I want to do and nightlife things I want to try.

The more we take on, the more at risk we become to suffer from the dreaded word I’m almost too scared to even mention: Burnout. It’s a very dangerous ailment, one I suffered from years ago and made a commitment to myself that I will never allow to happen again.

A lot of people mistake everyday fatigue for burnout, but there are very real symptoms and warning signs that can alert you to change your lifestyle immediately.

The first and most important is your state of mind. How cynical are you? Is everything you’re dealing with making you even more irritated or hopeless? Have you lost interest in everything? Do you feel like nothing you do is appreciated? These are serious warning signs.

Many of us are stretched thin and stressed out. This is often a motivator to keep going. The dangerous line between too much stress and burning out is the giving up part. Wanting to isolate yourself from everyone and not handle your responsibilities is not normal.

The good news? There is quite a bit you can do to take care of yourself and your mental state to prevent burnout. My favorite and definitely my most utilized method is to foster my creative side. Stimulating my right brain as much as possible with music, art and emotion is the most powerful antidote to combat any stress. That’s about all I need — besides as much sleep as much as I can, whenever I can, of course.

Another way to reduce the risk of burning out is to start your day with a relaxing ritual. For me, it’s hitting snooze then rushing to sit in my car for a half hour, but having a nice relaxing CD in my car stereo is good enough for now. If you are able to get up with 10-15 minutes to spare and can take that time to work on meditation or quiet activity, you will be saving yourself colossally.

One practice that offers the greatest benefits – and the one I saw a drastic change for the better with personally after trying it myself – is eating right and making sure to exercise. It only takes about two weeks of doing something repeatedly for it to become a habit, and improving my diet and getting active literally changed my life.

Not only was it about dropping weight, but the changes resulted in me sleeping better, approaching things more positively and just having a much better overall outlook on everything after only a few weeks. The hardest part is taking the first step, but I’m telling you, after that everything falls in to place. You can do it.

Summer isn’t usually a stressful time, but take this blog post as a good opportunity to think about how to be prepared for the end of the year when things typically pick up. Just think, if you start now you'll be fit and healthy and happy by the time the holidays roll around — and then you can eat and drink and celebrate as much as you want!

———

Christa Wittmier has chronicled Honolulu nightlife since 2004. She is senior marketing director at Young's Market Co. of Hawaii and executive director of music for POW! WOW! Hawaii, and also helps promote the popular Bacardi Pool Party on Oahu. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.

Celebrating summer milestones

By
July 2nd, 2014



I really don’t understand how time is just zooming by this year.

Is it like that for everyone? Or just us 30-somethings? This is crazy. It was just March!

STAR-ADVERTISER / 2013M NIGHTCLUB CELEBRATES ITS SECOND ANNIVERSARY ON THURSDAY.

STAR-ADVERTISER / 2013

M NIGHTCLUB CELEBRATES ITS SECOND ANNIVERSARY ON THURSDAY.

Speaking of crazy, this week is already off to a wild start — I'm writing this post while on a quick business trip to California — but the long Fourth of July weekend already marks the unofficial halfway point of summer (even though it was just Memorial Day!).

In addition to all the regular Independence Day activities, there are two big milestones being celebrated this week.

Kakaako nightlife mothership M Nightclub celebrates its second anniversary on Thursday. It's been a longer journey for the club's partners, but as M they have a solid two years under their belts and are easily sitting atop the Honolulu club scene with their massive space at Waterfront Plaza.

M is the kind of club you can immediately see the investment when you walk in. Whether it’s new lighting, an updated sound system, crisp staff uniforms or new security barriers, you can just tell this is a club that is always focused on improvement.

Add frequent special guests and headliners, plus mega-O.G. graffiti artist Slick of Dissizit driving the ship’s branding, and it’s truly a gift to all of us that M is alive and kicking after two years. It definitely went by fast.

General admission to the anniversary party is $20 at the door; click here to purchase tickets online. Guests who book a VIP table to celebrate on Thursday will be treated to an array of limited edition M-branded items designed by the team at Dissizit.

STAR-ADVERTISER / 2014 PARTY PEOPLE PACK THE DANCE FLOOR AT M NIGHTCLUB.

STAR-ADVERTISER / 2014

PARTY PEOPLE PACK THE DANCE FLOOR AT M NIGHTCLUB.

The night will also feature guest headliner The Cataracs. Originally a trio that downsized to a duo, it's now just one producer (Niles “Cyranizzy” Hollowell-Dhar) representing the SKAM Artist DJs this week. The Cataracs have worked with many of the industry’s top talent, including Kaskade, Jason Derulo, Sean Paul, 50 Cent, Robin Thicke, Schwayze, Krewella and even Beyonce. This translates to stardom, even if it’s with a name most of us in Honolulu don’t hear often.

It’s always fun to see a special guest's take on what a party really is, especially coming from someone so well-versed in all aspects of popular music. It’s perfect for the M's anniversary!

ANOTHER MILESTONE comes from monthly girl-party Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, celebrating their first anniversary at The Safehouse inside The Republik on Thursday.

The promoters behind this one started it as a lesbians-only event, but it quickly exploded in to the “other” type of night out — one where the entire LGBT community can feel comfortable attending. The positive vibe has garnered the team quite a few straight fans as well, myself included. These days, they routinely pack the entire Safehouse and spill over into The Republik.

“We are so excited for the next phase of (our party),” promoter Erin “Roxy on the Mic” Bunda said via text message on Tuesday. “This one-year anniversary commences our ChittyBang Expansion Project: additional venues, more diverse events, concerts, field-day fun days, and … a bigger team!”

STAR-ADVERTISER / 2013MONTHLY PARTY CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG CELEBRATES ITS FIRST ANNIVERSARY ON THURSDAY AT THE SAFEHOUSE INSIDE THE REPUBLIK.

STAR-ADVERTISER / 2013

MONTHLY PARTY CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG CELEBRATES ITS FIRST ANNIVERSARY ON THURSDAY AT THE SAFEHOUSE INSIDE THE REPUBLIK.

Starting out with three promoters — Bunda, Yooey Kim and Candy Ho — they are now seven members strong, plus three resident DJs. I’m really looking forward to what is coming up with this group. Known for tons of visual stimulation in forms of underwear models, go-go dancers, prize giveaways and always-fun birthday celebrations, this party is usually the best way to kick off a new month before heading to First Friday the following night.

COMING UP next week, Courtyard Cinema at Ward Village returns. This is one of the coolest things I’ve seen pop up in Kakaako since Honolulu Night Market. It's totally family-friendly and free.

Park at the massive TJ Maxx store and walk across the street to the old IBM Building parking lot that’s been renovated into a beautiful modern courtyard, complete with water features and palm trees. Chairs can be brought in, dinner can be bought from the food trucks outside and drinks can be purchased from a full bar.

The Howard Hughes Corporation partnered with the Hawaii International Film Festival to host the elevated film program. This month's featured flick is the hilarious “Ping Pong Summer,” which was very well received at Sundance this year and may have slipped under a lot of people’s radars.

Set in 1985 with all the right music, fashion and comedy, it’s definitely one not to miss. There will also be an '80s Costume Contest for those brave enough. Tickets for Courtyard Cinema are sold out, but the standby line doesn’t sound like such a bad idea with The Pig & The Lady, Aloha Pops and Beyond Burgers serving up goodies from food trucks outside the entrance.

———

Christa Wittmier has chronicled Honolulu nightlife since 2004. She is senior marketing director at Young's Market Co. of Hawaii and executive director of music for POW! WOW! Hawaii, and also helps promote the popular "Bacardi Pool Party" on Oahu. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.

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