Eaton Harry Huha “Bob” Magoon Jr. — kamaaina businessman, real estate developer, songwriter, Broadway producer and playwright — died Sunday at his home near Middletown, Calif. He was 96.
Born in Honolulu, the son of Genevieve and Eaton Harry Magoon Sr., Bob Magoon graduated from Punahou in 1940. He continued his education at Yale University — taking time off for military service with the Army Air Corps, where he served as a bomb site mechanic in North Africa and Italy during World War II. After graduating from Yale with a degree in international relations he took graduate classes at New York University, Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco and the University of California at Berkeley.
By profession he was a businessman. Magoon served as treasurer and managing director of Magoon Brothers Limited and Magoon Estate Limited, and also sat on the board of Central Pacific Bank for many years. One of his most prominent projects as a developer and real estate executive was the Eaton Square retail and condominium development in Waikiki – which he named after his father.
Outside of business, his love was music. Magoon was the president of the Hawaiian Recording and Publishing Company and enjoyed significant success in the 1950s and 1960s as a hapa-haole songwriter. His most enduring composition, “Numbah One Day of Christmas,” co-written with Ed Kenney and Gordon Phelps, and recorded by Ed Kenney in 1961, has been a perennially popular seasonal favorite for more than 50 years on local radio stations and is one of the most popular hapa-haole Christmas songs ever written. Magoon’s other compositions include “Geev’um,” which was recorded by Don Ho in 1967, and “Mr. Sun Cho Lee,” which was popularized by Keola & Kapono Beamer.
Magoon also wrote for the stage. “13 Daughters,” a musical based loosely on the life of his legendary great-grandfather, Chinese businessman Chun Afong, and even more loosely on events in Hawaii during the second half of the 19th century, was presented on Broadway in 1961, starring Don Ameche and a cast that included Nona Beamer and her sons. Magoon also wrote the book and lyrics for a musical comedy, “49th Star,” which was produced in Hawaii in 1957; and wrote the music and the lyrics for “Thank Heaven for The Heathen,” which was produced in Hawaii in 1968 and on Broadway in 1972. Another musical, “A Little Life Like This,” co-written with Steven Judd, was produced by the University of Cape Town in 1991.
Magoon made a major contribution to the Honolulu entertainment scene when he and his business partner, Jack Law, opened Hula’s Bar & Lei Stand on Magoon Estate land at the corner of Kuhio Avenue and Kalaimoku Street in 1974. Hula’s was not the first gay bar in Honolulu and it was far from the last, but it became a haven for the gay community while welcoming straight people as well. When economics forced Hula’s out of its landmark location in 1996, Law succeeded in finding a new location for Hula’s on the second floor of the Waikiki Grand Hotel.
Magoon and Law created a second Waikiki entertainment landmark when they opened the Wave Waikiki at 1877 Kalakaua Avenue in 1980. The Wave developed into an arts and music center where all were welcome. It also became the site of concerts for a long list of artists that included George Thorogood & The Destroyers, Bow Wow Wow, Fleetwood Zoo, Japanese punk rockers the Blue Hearts, and Grace Jones.
Magoon spent the last 22 years in semi-retirement in northern California. He continued to write musicals and songs for his company, Magoon Shows International, until last year.
Magoon is survived by his long-time companions Steven Judd and Kerry Zadel, and by his long-time friend and former business partner Jack Law.
Funeral services are pending.