Rearview Mirror: How Natalie Wood’s Yacht Reached Hawaii and More

By Sigall, Bob | Honolulu Star - Advertiser, April 3, 2020 | Go to article overview

Rearview Mirror: How Natalie Wood’s Yacht Reached Hawaii and More


Sigall, Bob, Honolulu Star - Advertiser


Before I jump into this week’s column, I want to say that I never thought last week’s Rearview Mirror article about toilet paper would have the impact it had.

The Washington Post excerpted it Sunday, and the BBC World News interviewed me about it Tuesday. Maybe toilet paper is the common denominator of our culture, the thing that brings us all together.

Moving on … This week I thought I’d respond to several questions readers have asked me. One is about the boat that Natalie Wood died on or near, which ended up in Hawaii. The next is about whether Hawaii was the first place in the U.S. to sell Honda automobiles.

I’ll also write about the Christmas tree guy, Richard Tajiri, and a particular location at Kahala Mall.

THE SPLENDOUR

An anonymous reader asked about actress Natalie Wood, who drowned off Catalina island on Nov. 29, 1981. Her family yacht, the Splendour, ended up in Hawaii. It was named after her 1961 movie, “Splendor in the Grass.”

“What is the story behind how it came to be in Hawaii?” the reader asked. Did Natalie Wood’s fateful voyage take place in Hawaii?

The Splendour had been in Hawaii for many years and was recently demolished.

Natalie Wood (born Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko) began acting at age 4, and by 25 already had garnered three Oscar nominations,

Wood was 43 in 1981 when she; husband Robert Wagner; their two daughters, 7 and 11; captain Dennis Davern; and actor Christopher Walken took a weekend boat trip to Catalina island, off the coast of Los Angeles. Wood was making a film with Walken at the time.

They dined ashore and returned to the yacht. Wood retired to the bedroom. Walken and Wagner got into an argument. Afterward, Wagner could not find Wood and called the Coast Guard. They found her body a mile away at 8 a.m.

Wagner believed Wood had been trying to secure a rubber dinghy, which was banging against the 60-foot yacht in the middle of the night, and slipped and drowned. Walken also believes that her death was an accident.

Los Angeles Coroner Thomas Noguchi found no evidence of foul play, although suspicions have continued ever since. Her blood alcohol level was high at 0.14.

Ron Nelson bought the Splendour in 1986 at a Long Beach auction and brought it to Kewalo Basin in Hawaii around 1996, where he spent a lot of time and money refurbishing the wooden boat.

Los Angeles sheriffs decided in 2011 to reopen the investigation into Wood’s death and asked to see the yacht. CBS also came and filmed a “48 Hours” mystery show on her death.

Nelson said he was planning on chartering the boat, and the publicity came at a good time.

In 2020 the Splendour, then at the Ala Wai, had racked up over $12,000 in mooring fees and was in poor condition and in danger of sinking. The boat was impounded in December and demolished in January, ending the 60-year saga of the Splendour.

It’s interesting to me that, in so many ways, national and international news stories often have a Hawaii connection.

FIRST IN THE NATION?

Doug Oda of Pacific Honda (formerly Pflueger Honda) told me they have claimed to be the “nation’s first Honda dealer.” But is it true, he asked? He wasn’t sure.

I went back and searched the newspaper archives. …

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