Aging Well: club owner Jack Cione changed Honolulu's nightlife scene
Almost six decades ago, Honolulu businessman Jack Cione opened his first nightclub, and radically changed the landscape of Hawaii's nightlife scene. He kept heads turning and tongues wagging for three decades.
Almost six decades ago, Honolulu businessman Jack Cione opened his first nightclub, and radically changed the landscape of Hawaii's nightlife scene. He kept heads turning and tongues wagging for three decades. He's 92 and aging well, because he's lived his life with no regrets.
Pantless waiters, topless dancers - club owner Cione offered this and more at his string of Honolulu nightclubs, starting with The Forbidden City in Kakaako, which had a traditional Japanese act when he bought it in 1960 and made changes. "I took the kabuki dancers and got three of them to open up their kimonos and we did a show called Nudes on Ice," he recalls.
Colleague Jack Law, who opened Hula's Bar & Lei Stand 45 years ago, says he admires Cione. "Jack Cione was always on the edge. He was ahead of his time," says Law.
Acts like these were definitely new to Honolulu: "The topless waitresses was a big winner. And then the bottomless waitresses. We did a fashion show with ten nude models. They'd model lingerie," laughs Cione.
Cione was equal opportunity. He gave the ladies an all-male revue. Law remembers, "He had totally naked waiters. All these office ladies from downtown heard about this and would go to the Dunes for their lunch!"
The police raided his clubs and arrested him more than 40 times. He turned those into photo opps. "I'd say, 'I have to go to the bathroom first.' Then I'd call [newspaper columnist] Eddie Sherman, [newspaper columnist] Dave Donnelly, Star-Bulletin, and all the TV stations."
Cione has done hundreds of shows over the years, and even though he retired three decades ago, he says he still has one shocking production left. He's writing a tell-all book of scandalous tales from the stage, for publication after his death - the old showman and his grand finale.