Every once in a while one experiences
a magic moment in the theater:
Where Klieg Lights Meet Sidewalk.
In, 2006 there were many such moments inside the Flamingo Showroom on the Las Vegas Strip. The Society of Seven was being honored with a star on the Walk of Stars, their namesake to be embedded in concrete on Las Vegas Boulevard. The criteria for this distinction states: Honorees must have by their presence in this area, contributed to the charm, worldwide prominence and name recognition of Las Vegas, Clark County. The Society of Seven was joining the ranks of icons such as Sigfried and Roy, Liberace, and Wayne Newton.
I knew it was a well-deserved honor, but I had no idea how far they had come and just how much they had contributed to the world of entertainment.
SOS honored on Walk of Stars.
“Is that Rich Little?”, someone asked. “Yes, and that’s Jun Polistico. He used to be in the group’s “head”, known as the Frank Sinatra of the Philippines.” Everywhere you turned cameras were flashing pictures of former SOS members, the American Ambassador to the Philippines, their award-winning costume designer, their choreographer; family members, friends, and fans. The remarkable celebration brought representatives of Senator John Ensign, Congresswoman Shelly Berkley, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, and the governors of Hawaii and Nevada. Mayor Mufi Hanneman had flown in from Honolulu. In all, some 400 guests filled the showroom at the Flamingo.
Coming from Hollywood where few relationships last longer than it takes to digest a Caesar salad, meeting people who had flown in from around the world to honor old friends and co-workers, some dating back to the 1960’s, was on the level of a spiritual awakening. Founding members Tony Ruivivar and Bert Sagum had weathered everything from performers going solo to untimely death, bouncing back time and again. When asked, Ruivivar calculated SOS as having performed some 25,000 shows.
Fran Kirk, CEO of Outrigger Entertainment in Hawaii, and the group’s original manager took everyone back to Hong Kong when she and her partner produced The Fabulous Echoes, the original name of SOS. She explained, “A Little Bit of Soul” was number one (in Hong Kong) for thirty-two weeks - surpassing even the Beatles. They became very popular and we used them as an opening act for such stars as Pat Boone, Patti Paige, Louis Armstrong, Sammy Davis, Jr., Ella Fitzgerald, and many more.”
The beautiful and talented
Lani Misalucha sings
from pop to opera.
In 1964 the Fabulous Echoes got a four-week contract at the Thunderbird in Las Vegas. “Two weeks into the engagement a middle aged couple came into the show,” Kirk continued, and our lead singer went down and sang to the lady.
”After the show there was this tremendous commotion backstage, and apparently the couple turned out to be Mr. And Mrs. Ed Sullivan and they invited the Fabulous Echoes to perform on the Ed Sullivan Show.
”Well, going to New York was very expensive and we were very short of money. So to help us out they got us a great gig at the Copacabana, but we couldn’t cash our check until Monday. I counted all our money, and on New Year’s Eve we had thirteen dollars left. So, I went and bought the cheapest thing I could find - egg sandwiches at the deli. We sat around, passed the egg sandwiches out, and I bought a small bottle of brandy and we each took a swig and drank to a happy New Year.”
Kirk explained that a Canadian group called the Echoes threatened to sue Ed Sullivan as well as the Hong Kong Echoes. “There wasn’t much we could do about it, so we came to the realization that we would have to change our name. We were sitting around a table writing names of groups, and nothing clicked. Then I wrote down “Society of Seven” and I passed it to Bert (Sagum). He looked at it and said, “That’s it!” He passed it to Tony (Ruivivar). He looked at it and he said “That;s it!” It went all the way around the table and we had unanimous agreement and that’s how the Fabulous Echoes became the Society of Seven.”
Karen Ruivivar, Mufi Hanneman, Mayor of Hawaii, and Tony Ruivivar.
Don Kelly, another longtime associate told the audience that he had finally figured out the group’s secret of success. “It’s the laughter! It’s their laughter, it’s their outstanding, unique ability to make others laugh that is the link that bonds them so tightly together. I mean, all these guys, Lani (Misalucha) included, simply love to laugh.”
“They approach life, each other, and most importantly their audiences through laughter and laughter is the music of their soul. And Tony and Bert evidently you learned very early in life that not only is music understood around the world but that everybody smiles in the same language.”
The accolades continued with Mufi Hanneman, the Mayor of Honolulu, a young, tall Harvard educated politician who genuinely reveres SOS as “America’s greatest showband”. After having become so important to the islands, Hanneman complimented the second Hawaii-based SOS for continuing the group’s thirty-five plus years at the Outrigger Waikiki. He presented each Las Vegas member with a key to Honolulu, and proclaimed November 28th Society of Seven Day in Hawaii.
Mendrei Leelin, SOS producer and president of Rosy Cheeks Entertainment Group spoke about the group’s unique brand of showmanship, musical virtuosity, and sense of comedy before describing his introduction to Lani Misalucha, who he said was already known in the Far East as Asia’s Nightingale. “I have not heard a person sing with so much versatility and range. And most importantly, have the ability to sing impeccably in every genre. So far, there is only one person that has all these amazing attributes, and she’s none other than Ms Lani Misalucha.”
Click Photo to stay at the
Flamingo Las Vegas.
After the applause subsided he continued, “When you combine Hawaii’s best and America’s premiere show band with one of the most outstanding talents (Misalucha) into one show, and have the support of the Flamingo and Harrah’s, “the world’s largest entertainment and gaming company” - the result can be very impressive “ and that is exactly what the Society of Seven show with Lani Misalucha delivers!”
Having seen the show on a number of occasions I can honestly say that it is always fresh, always funny and always thoroughly entertaining. The talent is real. Hoku Low uses his falsetto voice to bring Franki Valli to life. He also plays bass and horns. Wayne Wakai is a virtuoso caliber musician, giving Kenny G a run for his soprano saxophone and also playing guitar, and keyboards. Roy Guerzo performs a wicked Sammy Davis, Jr. as well as playing two or three synthesizers at the same time. New addition, Vince Mendoza brings skill and energy to the drums and the act. While Mark Escueta, also new to SOS, has a clear, clean voice that blends into the seasoned mix or solos as a crowdpleaser. I should mention that when Lani uses her five-octave range to sing Puccini’s Nessum Dorma, you can hear a pin drop.
The Society of Seven with Lani Misalucha is one of the few Las Vegas shows that bring back the spirit and elegant showmanship of old Vegas while being appropriate for people of all ages. Dollar for dollar it is one of the best buys in entertainment. Playing at the Flamingo Las Vegas at 3:00 pm Wednesday through Sunday. (dark Monday and Tuesday).
Don't miss Toni Braxton,
also singing at the Flamingo.
Click photo for details.
Tickets are $49.95 plus tax and fee. For reservations call 800-732-2111 or 702-733-3111.
— Feature by Linda Lane, Jetsetters Magazine Las Vegas Entertainment writer.