Tribute to ‘Captain Kenny’ Neizman to be part of Progressive Dinner Party
LAHAINA — Captain Kenny Neizman was a distinctive character in Lahaina — a large, rotund man who walked the streets pushing a shopping cart filled with his artwork, or sat under a tree sketching and sharing his unique perspectives on life with all who stopped to chat. (One of his favorite sayings was, “In God We Fishing.”)
Those who saw his artwork were often astounded; his whimsical portrayals of fish and marine life were not only colorful, but richly creative and memorable. Many local residents own Captain Kenny pieces, and celebrities such as Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Carole Burnette, Elton John and Dustin Hoffman have collected his work.
Captain Kenny died in 2003. His memory will be honored on Friday and Saturday night at Lahaina Restoration Foundation’s Progressive Dinner Party, which will include a dinner theater show featuring Captain Kenny as portrayed by Chuck Dicker.
The Progressive Dinner Party features a chef-prepared gourmet dinner served in three courses at three unique historic sites in Old Lahaina, including the Wo Hing Museum, the Old Lahaina Prison and the Pioneer Inn. It’s a benefit for Lahaina Restoration Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to restore, maintain and interpret the physical, historical and cultural legacy of Lahaina.
Acclaimed local chefs, including Chef Sheldon Simeon and Jay Kulukululani of Star Noodle, Chef Ryan Luckey of Pineapple Grill and Chef Mark Ellman, owner of Mala Ocean Tavern, will be preparing special dishes especially for the two evenings.
“I am very excited to be cooking for the Progressive Dinner; I’ll be doing a very simple dish of the highest quality ingredients, such as Kobe Filet Mignon from Snake River Farms Gold Label that goes for more than $45 per pound wholesale,” said Chef Ellman.
“It’s an incredible piece of meat. The dish will also include Local Yellowknife Tuna Sashimi (#1 grade), served with Sprouted Quinoa and Local Pumpkin from WeFarms Kapalua.”
“I am happy to be part of a walk down memory lane where Captain Kenny Neizman will be played by a local actor,” said Chef Ellman. “I remember Kenny when I had Avalon (the restaurant); when you saw Kenny, you smiled.”
“His whimsical paintings are fascinating to me,” said Ellman. “He made sea creatures like the ‘Golf Club Fish’ — he would first draw the golf club and turn it into a fish.”
Chef Ellman plans to feature artwork by Captain Kenny in Honu, a new restaurant he will be opening in July next to Mala Ocean Tavern on Front Street. “We will be hanging almost a dozen of Kenny’s Paintings at our new Honu Restaurant that my wife Judy is designing,” he said. “Judy chose the Captain Kenny paintings to honor his work; they will be displayed as you first walk into the Honu building.”
“Since Mark was planning on using Captain Kenny artwork for his new restaurant, and Mark was being featured at the Progressive Dinner, it seemed a natural to include Captain Kenny in our original dinner theater production, ‘Saturday Night in Lahaina,’ “ said Theo Morrison, executive director of Lahaina Restoration Foundation.
“Then the perfect actor, Chuck Dicker, offered to play the part and it all fit together.”
In the now-defunct “Shave Ice” column in The Maui News, writer Tom Stevens wrote about encountering “Captain Kenny” Neizman pushing through the starlit back streets of Lahaina a shopping cart full of extraordinary art. While generic whales or seascapes brought thousands in nearby galleries, Captain Kenny gave away vivid felt-pen renderings of toothy sea creatures as original as anything Grandma Moses ever did.“
Today, Captain Kenny’s pieces are found in galleries, such as Edward Montgomery Fine Art in Carmel, California. “His artwork is becoming increasingly valuable,” said Edward Montgomery Waznis, who plans to publish a book on Kenny in the next year or two.
According to the Edward Montgomery Fine Art website (www.edwardmontgomeryfineart.com/artists/captainkenny_neizman/@@bio.html), Captain Kenny Neizman was born in 1932 and died in 2003. He grew up on Maui and worked at the Pioneer Mill Company in the sugar cane and pineapple fields. He eventually purchased a fishing boat, from which he earned his living for a period of time.
Kenny later took to art, sketching pictures of fish and other sea creatures with large teeth and incorporating everyday objects such as eyeglasses, scissors and ice cream cones in ways that showed the depth of his creative imagination. The Maui News reportedly described him as “the Picasso of the Pacific” in 1977.
In addition to the portrayal of Captain Kenny, the dinner theater show will include local actors, hula dancers and obon dancers performing in a production created by Kristi Scott of Great Scott Productions. The show is based on an old song, “Saturday Night in Lahaina,” written by homesick sailors aboard a ship stationed offshore in the Lahaina Roadstead during W.W.II.
The show includes hula by Halau Kealakahinano’opuna, led by Kumu Joy Salvador, with dancers Logan Hanohano, Taryn Cabingas and Carley Kimokeo. There will also be Obon dancers, including Alyce Yoshino, Jane Agawa, Mary Nakamura, Carol Inaba and leader Arleen Gerbig. Actors in the show include Robenn Robb, Allen Cohen, Ute Finch, Michelle Nakagawa, Derek Nakagawa, Garrett Probst and Bailey Keller.
The evening also includes Asian-themed appetizers prepared by Star Noodle chefs Sheldon Simeon and Jay Kulukulalani served at Wo Hing Museum, a salad of organic greens harvested fresh from weFarm in Kapalua served at the prison, and a grand dessert buffet served under the stars in the open courtyard of the Pioneer Inn.
Chef Ellman will prepare Friday night’s entree. Chef Ryan Luckey will prepare the entree on Saturday night. There will also be a selection of locally brewed beer by Maui Brewing Co. and wines by Chambers and Chambers Wine Merchants, as well as Southern Wine and Spirits.
There will also be the opportunity for dancing to live music during the dessert course at Pioneer Inn, with music provided by Haiku Hillbillies on Friday night and Rock ‘n’ Rogues on Saturday night.
You can purchase tickets for either Friday or Saturday evening. The seats are limited to just 68 diners (34 couples) per evening and are $135, all inclusive. Each evening will begin at 5:45 pm at Wo Hing Museum.
“We are also offering special VIP tables for eight for $1,000,” said Morrison. “With this package, you get private reserved table with a personal server at each site, complimentary parking for four cars at the Baldwin Home parking lot at the corner of Dickenson Street and Front Street, and one copy of the book, ‘Exploring Historic Lahaina,’ for each VIP.“
A portion of the Progressive Dinner Party ticket price ($60 per individual ticket or $400 for a VIP table) is U.S. tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.
Dinner reservations are available to adults over age 21 only. Call Lahaina Restoration Foundation at (808) 661-3262 or visit www.lahainarestoration.org.