He played at Coco Palms until it was damaged by Hurricane Iniki in 1992 and never reopened. When he sings of the resort and his time there, it comes from the heart.
The birthday cake that comes out later that evening reads, “Happy Birthday, Mr. Coco Palms.’”
“Beautiful Coco Palms, where I want to be,” he sings. “Aloha is the spirit of beautiful Coco Palms.”
When he sings “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” with Lurline on keyboards and vocals, everyone joins in. It is Larry Rivera at his best. Warm, witty, friendly and sharp. Even on his last day of being 86 he is quick, smart and bright. He connects with people.
Rivera, one of the island’s Living Treasures, still commands the spotlight.
“I wish I had hula dancers here,” he says, looking out at his daughter and granddaughters standing in the back. “Please, for my birthday, come.” They do. Within a minute he and Lurline are playing “Waialeale” while others in the Rivera ohana dance gracefully, beautifully.
Rivera started at Coco Palms in 1951. He was a dishwasher, busboy, bellhop, waiter, bartender and manned the front desk. Eventually, he turned singer, performer.
He was a natural and he became popular with tourists staying at the iconic hotel made famous by Grace Guslander.
He recalled making good tips, $5 an hour. But more important than money for