The Lemon Tree – Honolulu Hawaii

In spring of 1968 our band found itself in Honolulu, Hawaii, playing in a club at the very tail end of Waikiki. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget and not just because the girl I was going to meet here. It was the height of the Vietnam war and maybe 80% of the guys in our club were military, either stopping here before heading to the jungle, back for R&R and returning to the jungle, or finishing their tour here before heading home from the jungle. We were in a bubble, neither going or coming but a little piece of home to them. I nearly lost my life here, discovered how good but how sick Blue Hawaii’s can make you, how high gange from southeast Asia could get you, discovered how magical and exotic a tiny speck of land on the top of an undersea mountain can be and brushed across people in the International sex trade. Hawaii was the most beautiful and the most dangerous place I’d ever been in, and that includes Las Vegas. How much of this will make it into the book, that is already so jam-packed with our adventures I cannot say but the memories come flooding back as I write. The Lemon Tree, Honolulu, Hawaii, Kalakaua Ave at Liliuokalani Avenue

In researching the background for this section of A Naked Car Thief, I Google Earthed myself to the island to view again Sandy Beach and other places where we went to on the island. The last time I had been in Honolulu, I had looked for the site of the Lemon Tree, the club we played at, and the hotel that was just across a narrow alley from the club. I remembered the club as huge, directly across the street from this incredibly beautiful but usually deserted beach directly across Kalakaua Avenue. But I couldn’t find it. Yet with the magic of Google Earth I found the corner of Kalakaua and Liliuokalani Boulevard and there it was. Of course the building was smaller and cut up into smaller stores, the most prominent a McDonald’s. But behind it was that creepy, ramshackle hotel we stayed in, now some kind of a Korean barbecue restaurant. Even the curved columns from the old hotel showed up. It was great to look down nearly 45 years later on this fateful corner of the world and the feelings it brought back from the bones of these buildings. I’m sharing a screen capture of this corner for all my old band buddies.

  15Comments

  1. Bob Krzeminski   •  

    Was on R&R from Viet Nam in April of 68. My wife and I were celebrating our 2nd anniversary. Came across the Lemon Tree by accident and was fascinated by the name of the group playing. Thoroughly enjoyed the band and the evening. My wife and I have recently celebrated our 46th anniversay, but the one we celebrated in hawaii will always be special.

    • NakedMe   •  

      How great to hear from you Bob. Congratulations to you and your wife. Did she come to Hawaii to see while you were on R&R? We opened in April so we must have just started playing there. That was such a special time for us. I met a local girl that came to the mainland and married me. Complicated story but a lot of things happened to me in Honolulu, and not just cause of the wacky-wacky gange that some of your buddies brought back from the jungle. 🙂 At least I don’t think so.

      I’m writing a memoir about the years I spent in the band, and the chapters from the Lemon Tree are among the most magical. You see, I was inducted into the army and was supposed to go to For Hood for basic training before being shipped to Vietnam the year before. I would never try to explain why that didn’t happen except in the context of the book, but it was emotional meeting so many guys coming back, or just going.

      I’m just writing my second draft, and coming up on the Lemon Tree chapters in the next few weeks. I’d appreciate hearing from you about anything and everything you remember from that club. Did you meet any of us? I wish I could have met everybody but I don’t know if I could have taken it. The music we played seemed to remind everybody I met about something in their past. Music is such a powerful force …

      Larry Dunlap,
      If you’d like to see the website for the book its: http://ANakedCarThief.com

      • Bob Krzeminski   •  

        I was surprised to get a response from you on my prvious comment…..THANKS. My wife did fly to Hawaii to meet me for our second anniversary. I was there with 2 other solders from my unit who also met there wives, They, unfortunately did not go to see your band.

        My wife and I are planning to go to Hawaii for our 50th anniversay in 2016. I will be sure to grab a burger at the”Lemon Tree” Mcdonalds in remembrance of your band and our vist there in 67. Thanks for the memories!

  2. russ hook   •  

    Hi Larry, I stayed at the Surfboard Hotel behind the Lemon Tree for 6 mos. in 1971. I was 18 then. My brother Mike was there before me, and we rented a room with a kitchenette directly behind the club. Mike and I helped ourselves to 2 kegs of Primo Beer that was in the cooler behind the club only a few yards from our room. L0L We had a Keg Party with lots of crazy street people. What was the name of your band? I met a couple of the Chambers Brothers on Kalakaua Ave. one day. I remember those big Pimp Hats they used to wear back then. 3 Dog Night, and Cat Stevens was playing on the radio a lot. I was reading the Hobbit back then. I used to go to some little bar at the Marketplace. I was only at the Lemon tree club once, b/c I was under age. Cheers….

    • NakedMe   •  

      Russ, how great it is to hear from you!!! I have always wondered what that hotel was called. I just finished my Hawaii/Lemon Tree chapters (4 of them) from 1968 in Look Back In Love, tales a A Naked Car Thief. Our band was Stark Naked and the Car Thieves. We played there from mid-March until almost the end of May. Many, many tales. That alley back of the club, between the hotel and the club was a little black market at the time. There were a couple of very cool bars in the International Marketplace. I can’t remember exactly who was there when we were, but somebody we new from the mainland and we liked to go see them. At the Outrigger bar, I think it was, in the Royal Hawaiian??? was Dick Jensen, whose band we’d also gotten to know at the Hullabaloo Afterhours on Sunset in Hollywood in ’67.

      • russ hook   •  

        L0L Yeah, that was me who subscribed to you. I’ll buy a copy when it comes out.I remember when I first got to the hotel. It had NON-VIOLENTS spray-painted on the front!!! What a flea-bag! The family friends who brought me just shook their heads. One day I was showering and the floor fell out from under me FFS. TERMITES!!! I was hanging on to the showerhead. L0L Remember those silly styles back then? I was wearing a new brown thick corduroy bell-bottom pants/vest with a scarlet silk shirt when I arrived. L0L White as a ghost! (= It wasn’t long before I adjusted to the flip flops, and shorts. I used to play frisbee across the street at the beach with this black d00d who was an ex running back. He taught me how to throw it. He could whip it over 100 feet and run and catch it himself as he rolled into the surf. We had spectators watching us play. The bar I used to go to was towards the back of the IMPlace on the ground/center. One late night on the way home drunk, a tranny picked me up on my corner, by the hotel, but I didn’t know it til I got to IT’S place. I was outta there in a hurry!!! L0L I met a d00d who was Elvis’s bodyguard. He had some stories to tell. I remember the Outrigger. There was a buffet around there, and we used to climb over the lanai and sneak in b/c we were usually broke. I did a few D&Ds at Dennys etc also til I got a job dishwashing.

    • NakedMe   •  

      Russ, can’t tell you how helpful this was! I’ve been trying to describe the room, and this little bar, at least when we were there was just inside. There was a lanaii out front. I remembered it with a palm thatch, over it but it was three years earlier that I saw it. Now the place is a McDonalds. So glad you put this up here. Was that you that signed up for the newsletter on the book? Hope so. I’m going to put a Hawaiian excerpt up in honor of the two cool pieces of information you’ve supplied.
      The Lemon Tree - Waikik, Honolulu, Hawaii 1972

      • russ hook   •  

        I just remember some older white d00d with a backup band headlined there(Lemon Tree) it seemed for ages b/c I could hear them when I walked by all the time. W0W, that was over 50 years ago but I still remember a little. Did you ever play Vancouver? I used to club it a bit in my 20s-30s. I met Annie from Heart at the Pender Auditorium. I was bouncing that night. Also had a few beers with K.D. Lang in Gastown. She had those cut-off cowboy boots then. Louie and the Rockets were a FAV also. Yeah, Waikiki has changed so much! Down behind the Surfboard Hotel was a ghettoish area called the Jungle. We used to score our drugs down there. It was towards the canal.

  3. Penny Rapoza   •  

    I’ve been trying to locate, at least, a few pictures of the outside/or/inside of The Lemon Tree. My mother, Pat (Patsy), ran The Lemon Tree, with her Crew. I find that some of the comments here are from 3 years ago. I’m glad you Posted this Blog about the memorable ‘The Lemon Tree.’

    • Larry J Dunlap   •  

      Hi, Penny. I only know about the Lemon Tree during the spring of 1968, but it was an important time for me and is the setting for the first quarter of my new book, Enchanted. The owners at the time were Stan Alapa, and Shirley, who was soon to become his wife. They apparently owned the club together, along with the Surfboard Hotel, directly behind the club on Liliuokalani. I can remember how the club looked from the outside, with the street-side lanai that ran across the front of the club. Its entire front wall could be louvered back to make the place feel like it opened right onto Kuhio Beach. Our stage was on the opposite wall next to a door into a small alley between the hotel and club. I’ve never been able to find any pictures of the club though so if you find any let me know, please. Not sure what you meant by your mother, Pat ‘running’ the club means. Do you mean officially managed it at some point? Or do you mean something more unofficial. Would love to hear about it.

      • Penny Rapoza   •  

        Pat managed the Club, Bar Tend and wore that shiny badge (officially sworn in…Matron)…I knew The Alapa’s…I was a young teen at the time…Waikiki has sure changed a whole lot and yes, whenever I go back to Waikiki, I get lost. Have a good one, Larry…take care.

  4. Tomj Ballard   •  

    I was there in November and December 1969. A band from LA, that played a lot of Buffalo Springfield, was there almost every night. I went out with a waitress from The Lemon Tree, her name was Merilee. She was very kind and beautiful, from somewhere in the East. Good times.

    • Larry J Dunlap   •  

      🙂 Always glad to hear from someone who enjoyed the Lemon Tree. Thanks for posting. It was a magical time and place for me. By Nov and Dec of 1969, we were opening the Crown Room at the top of the new International Hotel in Las Vegas. We’d been at the Sky Room in the Flamingo since January. It was an interesting time.

      – Larry

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