Working Late

Honolulu works and plays by moonlight.

I was born at 5:50 p.m., which, I theorize, is why I’ve always been a night person. Sure, I get up around sunrise now, like most everybody else, crawl my way to a cup of coffee, get into the office. But I still begin feeling my best around 6 p.m.

Dinner time would make the perfect breakfast time and then, who knows? Over the years, I’ve spent late nights—2 a.m. was a typical bedtime—reading, studying, listening to music, hanging out with friends, driving around, playing whatever videogames the times offered, from Atari to Xbox, hitting the town as soon as I was old enough. In school, while other students pulled all-nighters out of desperation, I pulled them by choice. As a writer for this magazine, I have wrapped up many a draft just as the caffeine and nicotine wore off and the morning sky grew pale.

One thing I’ve never done, however, is hold an actual night job. Lots of people do, for lots of reasons. Theirs is the world we explore this month. We found more than 20 people who work at night, in all sorts of occupations. One of my favorite examples is Michael Corcoran, a city worker who drives around replacing the bulbs in burned-out street lights.

This is the sort of thing that goes on at night, the quiet, steady work that keeps civilization humming. We sleep, Corcoran changes the light bulbs.

Sometimes, we play at night, too—which means other people have to work. You’ll find a bartender, a bouncer, even a go-go dancer in these pages. In recent months, I’ve also gotten to know two of the hardest working night owls in Honolulu, promoters Robbie “Flash” Hansen and Matty Boy Hazelgrove. (We profiled Flash in our May 2005 issue.) When I’ve seen these two working their parties at Skyline at the Hanohano Room, they seem to be having a great time, going from table to table, checking on the customers, buying them drinks, having drinks with them. When I grow up, I want to have their jobs!

Michael Corcoran, city worker, keeps the street lights glowing. photo: Sergio Goes

Except, I’ve learned, their jobs entail a 15-hour day on the night of an event, not including the weeks of prep work. Around 11 a.m., says Flash, “I wake up to e-mails, text messages, our page, checking in with people who want to be on the guest list or inquiring about a table.” That goes on all day while they finalize paperwork with the venue, print out seating charts, make sure the lights and sound are set up, transport any out-of-town talent to the event.

The event staff arrives a half-hour before the party for instructions. Flash and Matty work out security details, do a final sound check, work with the venue’s food and beverage director on bottle orders. “Once the night starts, for us, we’re there to make sure everyone else is having a good time, ‘Is there anything I can do for you? Are you happy with your table?” And all that fun socializing is work, too, in a way. “It’s part of our job to make it seem like we’re not working. People have fun if they see us having fun.”

When their parties close around 2 a.m., there is more to do—pay the staff at a wrap-up meeting, go over any rough spots to fix for the next event, fill out more paperwork with the venue’s management, and so on. Maybe, by 4 a.m., Flash and Matty will be enjoying a pau hana drink of their own somewhere.

Hmm. On second thought, maybe I’ll keep my day job. But we’ll get to work with Flash and Matty on magazine events—the first will be next month, Jan. 14, at the W. Watch the magazine and this site for more details. And get some sleep before you come to the party; it could be a late night.

Send letters to the editor at