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Like many “Tahiti-philes” who keep coming back to these islands, Jimmy Buffett has visited Tahiti and Her Islands on several occasions. Some people recall when he used to sit at the end of the bar at Hotel Bali Hai on Moorea during the early 1980’s, quietly playing his guitar and singing for his own pleasure. Others remember seeing him at Bloody Mary’s on Bora Bora in 1986, where he gave an impromptu performance.
Tom Moffatt, a popular radio personality and journalist in Hawaii, who helped bring rock and roll performers to the Islands, is also Jimmy Buffett’s South Pacific manager. In 1982 he booked a concert for Jimmy Buffett at Tahiti’s Cultural Center, which was then called OTAC.
Jimmy Buffett recalls that when they arrived at the airport in Tahiti they were met by Hugh Kelley, one of the three “Bali Hai Boys” who had left Southern California in the early 1960s and eventually owned the Bali Hai hotels on Moorea, Raiatea and Huahine.
Jimmy said that he and Hugh became instant friends. While sitting in Kelley’s big Urufara house in the mountains above Cook’s Bay on Moorea, he looked down at the vista and a song came out as if it had been sitting inside him waiting for the moment.
Jimmy called this song, “One Particular Harbor” and it has become one of his most popular creations. During his two concerts at Bloody Mary’s in January, a group of young Polynesian girls from a church choir in Bora Bora sang the Tahitian lyrics during a rousing rendition of this song.
During that first visit in 1982, Jimmy Buffett and Huahine resident Bobby Holcomb worked together to compose “One Particular Harbor”, with Bobby contributing the Tahitian phrases. (See related story on Bobby).
After Jimmy’s show at OTAC in Papeete, he and Tom Moffatt talked with Monty Brown, a friend from Kona who was then general manager of the Hotel Bora Bora. Monty invited their party to spend a few days at the hotel.
During their stay on Bora Bora Jimmy, Tom and their friends also visited the nearby restaurant called Bloody Mary’s, which had been named for a character in James A. Michener’s book, “Tales of the South Pacific”.
After all the other customers had left the restaurant that night, they were treated to a surprise screening of “South Pacific”, shown on a 16mm projector. Jimmy was especially fond of the song, “Some Enchanted Evening,” which they all hummed on the way back to the Hotel Bora Bora.
A year later Tom Moffatt received a call from John Gabilou, Tahiti’s premier entertainer, asking him to put together a fundraiser for victims of recent cyclones (hurricanes) that had wreaked a tremendous amount of damage in Tahiti during March and April of 1983.
Jimmy immediately agreed, and other entertainers for the concert in Tahiti included singers Gabilou, John Rowles and Loyal Garnier. While he was in Tahiti during that visit, Jimmy Buffett finished recording “One Particular Harbor”.
And when he left Tahiti Jimmy sent down 25 chain saws to give away to help clear away the debris left by the cyclones.
“Jimmy came back to Bora Bora in 1986 and stayed at the Hotel Bora Bora,” said Rick Guenett. “Craig and I were at Bloody Mary’s then”.
Bloody Mary’s former owner, Baron George Von Dangel, had sold the restaurant and bar to Dexter Hewett in 1985. After wearing several different hats, Craig Gould is now operational manager and Rick Guenett is general manager of Bloody Mary’s. They formerly worked at the Hotel Bora Bora.
Jimmy Buffett is one of the 230 names listed on the “walls of fame” at the entrance to Bloody Mary’s. “He’s been one of our favorites,” Rick said. “He went fly fishing by the airport with David Nakano, who was then working at the Hotel Bora Bora,” he added.
“In 1986 when he came to Bora Bora Jimmy Buffett flew down in his first Falcon military plane. He now flies a Falcon 900 and came with two pilots,” Rick said.
He added that he and Craig flew with Jimmy on the Sunday morning following his second performance at Bloody Mary’s in January. “His Australian producer was making a DVD, a 10-15 minute film to be shown at intermission during the Jimmy Buffett concert tour in February. It will be seen by 1.6 million people during the tour—which is great advertising for Bora Bora and Bloody Mary’s,” Rick said.
Jimmy Buffett left his airplane in Bora Bora for a couple of days, along with the two pilots and most of his entourage, while he sailed to Taha’a and Raiatea to do some bone fishing, one of his favorite sports.
Richard Postma, an American expatriate living in Bora Bora for many years, chartered a sailing catamaran with skipper and crew from The Moorings in Raiatea to take Jimmy from Bora Bora to Taha’a and back.
Richard owns the Taravana Yacht Club in Taha’a, which is managed by his son, Maui. Richard got an early start from Bora Bora on Sunday morning in one of his own boats, so that he would be on hand to welcome Jimmy that afternoon when he arrived in Taha’a.
Richard Postma was instrumental in Jimmy Buffett’s return to Bora Bora. He had attended Jimmy’s show in Hawaii last year and planted the seed that grew into two concerts to raise funds for a children’s playground on Bora Bora.
Rick Guenett kept in touch with Jimmy through Skype and plans were then made and confirmed for Jimmy Buffett’s two benefit shows at Bloody Mary’s. The recreational area will be called Tire Swing Park after Jimmy’s song, “Life is But a Tire Swing”.
In addition to the tennis court, skateboard ramp and regular playground equipment, there will also be two tire swings, just like the ones Jimmy Buffett played on when he was a kid in Mobile, Alabama.
“The proceeds from the donations and the door (entry fee of 5.000 CFP per person) and the Jimmy Buffett tee-shirts are all going to the kids’ project,” Rick Guenett said. On the first night (Thursday) a Canadian man left half a million French Pacific francs for the children’s playground,” he continued.
“On Friday night Bloody Mary’s had a private party of 90 people who were part of the ADC Incentive group from the USA—a world-wide organization. They contacted me prior to the concert on Saturday and paid two million French Pacific francs to attend the concert on Saturday,” he said.
Jimmy Buffett’s official site stated that his two shows in Bora Bora raised US $40,000 for the children’s playground.
Jimmy’s Coral Reefer band normally consists of 15 musicians. During his Bora Bora trip he had only two of his band with him—guitarist Mac McAnally and steel drum virtuoso Robert Greenidge.
This trio of entertainers was totally sufficient to rock the rafters supporting Bloody Mary’s thatched roof—especially when they played the crowd’s favorite songs.
The set list for the show on Saturday night got off to a good start with, “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes”. This was followed by “Stars on the Water”, “Boat Drinks”, “Honey Do”, “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere”, “Come Monday”, “Son of a Son of a Sailor”, and “I Used to Have Money”.
When they played “Cheeseburger in Paradise” nine girls danced onstage, including blonde and beautiful Cheryl Hewett, wife of Bloody Mary’s owner, Dexter Hewett. The crowd went crazy, hooting and hollering and applauding.
The noise level would make you believe there were a few hundred of Jimmy Buffett’s fans (Parrotheads) in the audience. Some of them were dancing barefoot in the white sand floor as they guzzled their Margaritas, Hinano pression, or champagne.
After Jimmy took us down to the “Banana Republic”, John Gabilou brought us back home with a calming rendition of “Bora Bora E”. Jimmy and his musicians then played “Jolly Mon”, “Volcano” and “L’aire de la Louisianne”. Mac McAnally sang “Back Where I Come From”, and then they all continued with “Southern Cross”, “A Pirate Looks at Forty”, “Fins” (with everyone emulating sharks swimming around). Then came the last two biggies—“Margaritaville” and “One Particular Harbor” (with the Tahitian choir).
In the tradition of good entertainment, Jimmy had a couple of encore songs prepared. First he sang “Last Mango in Paris”. Then, to the surprise of his very appreciative audience, Jimmy Buffett closed his show with a very emotional version of “Some Enchanted Evening.” This was the first time he had performed this song in public.
Jimmy Buffett’s easy going style and friendly smile have earned him the title of “the troubadour of laid-back island living”. He is indeed a happy man who knows how to enjoy himself whether he’s recording a new album, writing another best-seller book, planning a new venture for his diverse business empire, or surfboarding through the pass of Bora Bora.
“Jimmy had such a wonderful time here that he wants to come back and go to Pitcairn Island,” said Rick Guenett. “His ancestor, John Buffett, was the first white man to live on Pitcairn after the “Bounty” mutineers. John Buffett’s descendants are now living on Norfolk Island.”