Friday, July 16, 2004


30 years of

It was a time of platform shoes and Pong. The Watergate scandal, the Symbionese Liberation Army, Muhammad Ali and George Foreman's "Rumble in the Jungle" and Carl Douglas' "Kung Fu Fighting."

'30 and Wild!'

Hula's Bar & Lei Stand 30th Anniversary Celebration (a benefit for the Life Foundation), with Jonny McGovern and the cast from NYC, Superstar DJ Keoki, Tony Conjugacion and halau, Derek Daniels and his Party Favor Dancers, Coco Chandelier and the House of Chandelier, the Men of Sensually Certified, and others

» Where: Honolulu Zoo

>> When: 6-10 p.m. tomorrow

>> Tickets: $10 advance (available at Hula's, Waikiki Grand Hotel, 2nd floor, 134 Kapahulu Ave.), $12 Hui cards and $15 at the door

>> Info: 923-0669 or

In 1974, the world was a far-out place and on the bustling Kuhio Avenue strip in Waikiki, an institution of Honolulu nightlife was established.

With a freshly-inked real estate license, Jack Law had been alerted to a prime property across from the Kuhio movie theaters by business partner Eaton "Bob" Magoon Jr., who had lofty designs for the location. "Bob said to me, 'We should open a bar there.' And I said, 'We don't know anything about the bar business,'" relates Law, chuckling at the recollection. "We went ahead with it anyway and, sure enough, we didn't know anything about the bar business. It took us about two years to get it right."

A quaint little enclave at the corner of Kuhio Avenue and Kalaimoku Street, Hula's Bar & Lei Stand was an indoor-outdoor retreat, modestly outfitted in lattices, mirrors and plants, which opened into a courtyard sheltered by a towering banyan tree. In the pre-disco days, before sophisticated sound and lighting systems, a modicum of accouterments provided its patrons with a casual, unpretentious setting.

"Lighting was a light bulb," Law quips. "I think we opened Hula's for $10,000."

Tomorrow, the long-standing venue celebrates its 30th anniversary with a grand shindig at the Honolulu Zoo, across the street from its newer location on Kapahulu Avenue, where it has enjoyed continued success since uprooting six years ago.

Recognized worldwide as a fixture on the Waikiki scene, Hula's is known more importantly as a cultural icon and a welcome refuge for Hawaii's gay community.

"The vision of Hula's was to have a place reminiscent of the old Waikiki that was really for everybody," says Law, who is also the president and founder of the Honolulu Gay & Lesbian Cultural Foundation. "I always wanted to have a place where gays and non-gays could have fun. It's primarily known as a gay club, but it always was, and still is, a very mixed place. We've had everyone from Elton John to Claire Boothe Luce, Dorothy Lamour, Dolly Parton and anyone who was in town come through. It was always a place to be seen and to see who was in town."

AS ONE OF the first clubs in Hawaii to feature live DJs, Hula's has also been something of a trendsetter over the decades.

"Hula's was truly the first disco in Waikiki," attests Law, who had once been commissioned by legendary New York nightspot Studio 54 to create an elaborate Hawaiian-themed Christmas party for them during Studio 54's heyday. "The latest fashion was always at Hula's, so as the fashion changed, so did Hula's. It was always a reflection of the cutting edge of what was going on in that culture. We had a lot of New York connections, so a lot of times, when something was breaking in New York, we would break it in Honolulu at the same time."

The madcap Halloween parties at Hula's also put Waikiki on the map as a place for adults to both ogle the outlandish and to model freakish costumes for passersby.

"It wasn't like you see today, where adults dress up in costumes and hit Waikiki," says Law. "In the early days, people would come down into Waikiki and just watch people go into Hula's. Now they watch people walk up and down Kalakaua. It became a really important tourist attraction in the fall, when tourism is usually down."

Law's keen business sense has allowed Hula's and its equally revered sister club, Wave Waikiki, to flourish through the years, though, as he points out, one must also be willing to roll with the punches and improvise on the fly to persevere.

"You don't sit there and plan things out. Things just sort of evolve and, if you're smart, you sort of go along with the trip. As John Lennon says, 'Life sort of happens while you're making other plans.' That's exactly it."

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