September 24th, 2014
I'm so tired of those list posts everyone shares in their Facebook feeds. There’s hardly any I actually click through to read — save for the too-enticing, eye-dragging images of the most beautiful places to visit in the world. (Hello, Great Blue Hole in Belize!)
So I didn’t need to read through a recent list of the 18 Worst Things About Hawaii tons of my friends shared to know it was probably all true. The truth is, to me, the worst thing about Hawaii is saying goodbye.
This weekend will be the toughest goodbye for me to date, as someone in my very close circle of friends is taking on the opportunity of a lifetime with one of the largest media groups in the world.
The sum and scope of people Sarah Honda made an impact on while back home is huge. While most of the current nightlife generation knows her as a stylish, stern and devoted VIP host at both Addiction Nightclub and the Bacardi Pool Party I help produce, the Punahou graduate has been involved with or created nearly everything cool that’s happened in Honolulu over the past decade.
Next month she returns to New York City, where she spent almost all of her 20s, after holding a number of jobs in the local publishing industry — including her final gig before moving, a stint as an editorial director at Oahu Publications, the parent company of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
I met Honda in 2005 when she ran the hippest and most colorful fashion publication, Smart Magazine, with business partners Amy Alston and Molly Watanabe. They were known for hosting fabulous parties that drew a who's who of guests to the old W Honolulu, and that's where we crossed paths.
It was there she also met and began working with Flash Hansen and Matty Hazelgrove, two of the most successful promoters at the time. For the next four years Sarah was a VIP host at the hottest parties all over town; she helped take care of guests at nightclubs, hotels, hotel sky lounges, restaurants, Chinatown, pretty much anywhere there was a place to party in Honolulu.
Not a single one of these venues are open anymore, but I'll bet there are still quite a few people who remember Sarah from SKYLiNE at the Hanohano Room or its spinoff party, Two at Palomino. She could also be found at Wonderlounge at the W Honolulu, Pussycat Lounge at Fashion45, The Candy Bar at Pearl Ultralounge, Hapa at PF Chang's and even Cancun Thursdays at Señor Frog's Waikiki.
Not as noticeable in Hawaii was the mark she left in New York. From time to time — usually when a big hip-hop star was in town — someone would see her and run over to give her a huge hug, reminding the rest of us how our friend was a pretty big deal prior to coming home. Her hyper-humble nature hides the fact she had a very successful music management career during a golden era of hip-hop in the city where it all started.
Once she was back in Honolulu, Honda became a key player in many philanthropic organizations, exposing her passion for the arts and education. After serving in various capacities with the Hawaii International Film Festival, she departed in 2009 to launch Interisland Terminal with Wei Fang, Anderson Le, Sean Shodahl and Ben Trevino.
A very intelligent, creatively conscious group, Interisland Terminal focused on programming in areas including film, design, food and art. Some of my favorite programs were the Jeff Staple pop-up shop and discussion, anything they did at Kakaako coworking space and coffee shop R&D, along with tons of innovative food and art events.
Interisland Terminal's current project, Kaka‘ako Agora, is unlike anything else in Honolulu. They have taken a warehouse at 441 Cooke Street and turned it into a beautiful indoor pavilion for the community that has already hosted tons of creative events.
Being inside Kaka‘ako Agora is as invigorating as it is ingenious. It's also where Honda's friends and colleagues can wish her good luck this weekend before her departure for New York; a free farewell party will get started at 9 p.m. Saturday.
"Hawaii is always in my heart and I take it wherever I go,” she said. “It truly makes me who I am. (But) I am excited to move back to New York. I lived there for nine years.
“I will be working at Complex Media and its network of websites, including Four Pins, Pigeons & Planes, First We Feast, Sole Collector and more.”
There have already been jokes of starting a Sarah Honda support group for those of us who will undoubtedly suffer from withdrawals — the kind of joking where we chuckle then realize it's actually true. I really am trying to keep my cool and be happy for my friend. Sadness would be selfish.
This is such a huge opportunity, but I can’t help but keep thinking its the people of New York who are the lucky ones. They get Sarah Honda.
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.