‘Just Like Ol’ Times’ Dance Dedicated to Wife, Best Friend

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GARDENA — Leonard Kim presents his popular annual event, the “Just like Ol’ Times” Holiday Dance, on Dec. 1 at the Gardena Elks Lodge. Kokoro is the headliner and Asian Persuasion will be the opening act.

Yonny Koyama and Hiroko Kim

“This year is significant for me,” stated Kim. “‘Just Like Ol’ Times’ is dedicated to the memory of my wife, Hiroko Kim, and my best friend, Dr. Ryan Yonny Koyama, who unexpectedly passed away earlier this year. Both were significant to me and played a major role for the event.

“I just wanted to recreate the ol’ times of the ’60s and ’70s, the heyday of the popular collegiate Asian dances hosted by sororities and fraternities. And to provide a chance for the Sansei generation to get together and reminisce the good old days when young adults came from throughout Southern California to take pride in and enjoy the live Sansei bands, show off their dance moves, and to ‘check out the scene’ at Parkview in the Crenshaw area; Roger Young, downtown L.A.; the Baby Lion in what is now Koreatown; and other landmark venues.

“Oftentimes rival Asian gangs would attend these dances, and challenges took place on the dance floor not only for the best dancers but who looked the best. And in the parking they had to show off who had the best wheels.

“Yonny came to become a master collector of cars and had an unrivaled knowledge of the history and hierarchy of the Asian gangs. He created a beautiful and detailed banner depicting the gangs. His banner will be on display at the ‘Ol’ Times’ dance this year. Yonny will be greatly missed by everyone because he played such an important part in establishing this annual celebration with me. He was my partner in the success of ‘Just like Ol’ Times.’”

Hiroko Kim came to the U.S. at age 10, and her first experience at the movies was “The Absent-Minded Professor” starring Fred MacMurray at a theater in Hermosa Beach, and she was so fascinated by the big screen. The first dance she learned was the Twist, taught by none other than Yonny Koyama.

She attended Gardena High, where she graduated in 1968, excelling in art. This is where she met Leonard Kim, a very determined young man as he puts it, but in her words it was more like “urusai.” But Leonard never gave up and he convinced her to go steady with him in July of that year. All during college they were together, but it ended when Leonard went into the service.

Both got married to other people, but both ended up divorced. As fate would have it, on Nov. 7, 1982, they finally got happily married. This year would’ve been their 30th anniversary.

Hiroko was a true partner in every sense to her loving husband. They have one son, Justin, who was the light in her eyes, her whole world. She couldn’t love him enough, and he was her pride and joy.

“Hiroko was at all the ‘Ol’ Times’ events and did whatever was needed. I will truly miss Hiroko, and more than for those spins on the dance floor. Like Yonny, they both will be missed by everyone, especially by me and my son Justin,” sighed Kim.

“Ol’ Times” features the fabulous Cherrystones Grill buffet along with live music and dancing. This year’s event is sold out; call early to make your reservations for next year.

Visit Cherrystones, located at 15501 S. Vermont Ave., Gardena. Open Tuesday through Sunday and closed on Mondays. Parking lot barbecue (Maui rotisserie chicken/huli huli chicken) on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For reservations or information, call (310) 329-8200 or 594-0033, or visit the website at www.cherrystones.org.

About Kokoro

In Japanese, “kokoro” is used to signify “heart” or “soul.” In music, the drums keep the beat or the “heart” of the music. The keyboards, bass and guitar represent the body of the music, and the vocals embody the “soul.”

The band Kokoro consists of all Asian Americans, and covers music from Motown to country, rock and pop, from the hits of the ’60s to current Billboard chart-toppers.

Though Kokoro has only been together a short time, individually the members have had the good fortune to work with many celebrities in the industry, including Gladys Knight, Jessica Simpson, Hiroshima, and Gene Simmons, to name a few. Additionally, throughout their individual careers, they have played high-level venues such as the Palladium, the Sunset Strip, the Flamingo Hilton Las Vegas and the American Music Awards.

The members of came together to form a band out of the pure love of music – they have found something beyond just performing — they have shaped their own musical family.

For more information, visit www.kokoroband.com.

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