LIHUE — A set of three Lagoon Restaurant menus with celebrity autographs has the tour guide of the Coco Palms hotel very excited.
It seemed too good to be true, Bob Jasper said of his discovered treasure. But the Coco Palms caregiver took a leap of faith when he saw an online ad selling original Coco Palms menus from the mid-60s with autographs of Elvis Presley, Ann Francis and Shirley Temple Black.
The Elvis autograph would be the first from Coco Palms to be made public.
“Elvis signatures are rare,” Jasper said Tuesday, as he showed the purchases, “and never, ever, ever have I seen an original Coco Palms menu.”
Kendrick Marchant of Kapaa placed the autographs on Craigslist on behalf of the owner who did not wish to be identified. The original owner was a former waiter at Coco Palms who apparently coaxed the autographs from the famous guests on restaurant menus and then sneaked them out, he said.
The employees were not allowed to take menus, Marchant added. Manager Grace Guslander would likely not have approved asking guests for autographs either, he said.
“A lot of people wanted to buy them,” Marchant said. “This is the only signature that places Elvis here on Kauai.”
The former waiter died about seven years ago and the menus were given to a friend shortly before he passed away, Marchant said.
Jasper said there is more proof that gave him confidence the menus and signatures are legitimate. A 4 percent excise tax shows that the menus were used between 1965 and 1969. The state had a 3.5 percent excise tax from before statehood until it changed to 4 percent in 1965, he said. The menu design changed again when AMFAC acquired the property in 1969.
“That means that Elvis probably signed that menu in 1968,” Jasper said.
Marchant said the owner was asking $6,000 for all three menus and signatures.
Jasper said he met the owner on Tuesday morning. He looked over the signatures and menus and negotiated a deal. He would not say what he spent.
“This was amazing,” Jasper said.
Elvis always booked King’s Cottage No. 56 — the only one with two refrigerators. Even though he came several times over a decade, no one has ever produced an Elvis autograph from Coco Palms — until now it seems.
The last time Elvis was at Coco Palms — which was destroyed by Hurricane Iniki in 1992 and is scheduled to be rebuilt later this year — was in 1977, just months before his death at the age of 42.
Jasper has two other Elvis signatures that were not given on Kauai. One is an autographed copy of the “Blue Hawaii” album.
A signature expert verified the Coco Palms autograph and he hopes an additional test will prove the age of the ink corresponds with the signature. The menus offer $5 prime rib dinners.
Shirley Temple Black (1928-2014) had strong ties to Hawaii and was still America’s most famous child star on her first visits in the 1930s.
Anne Francis (1930-2011) may have signed her menu while on Kauai to film the 1968 Universal Studios film, “Lost Flight.” She was a frequent visitor, however, and would sing on stage with Larry Rivera’s Coco Palms show.
Jasper, who leads daily tours of Coco Palms, has helped preserve many items from the hotel.
Everything that was in the former Coco Palms museum is in storage and will return when the new hotel is completed.
But the Elvis signature is staying in Jasper’s private collection.
“It’s going to take a while to get this one verified,” he said. “I took a chance.”