STAR-BULLETIN / 2005
The men of Halau Hula 'O Napunaheleonapua from Kaneohe performed during the kahiko portion of the 2005 Merrie Monarch Festival hula competition. CLICK FOR LARGE
Ancient art meets pop culture, with mixed results
Nanette Naioma Napoleon compiled this set of anecdotes on hula from the archives of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
Hula Skirt brings misery to visitor
In 1961 a federal court in Honolulu awarded $125,000 to a 21-year-old Canadian woman who had suffered crippling burns from a hula-skirt fire four years earlier.
The woman had purchased the skirt from the Around the World gift shop on Lewers Street in Waikiki while vacationing. She testified that she was wearing the skirt at a luau-themed party near her hometown of Westminster, B.C., when it suddenly exploded into flames. The cause was unexplained.
Her burns were so severe that she spent 17 months in the hospital undergoing skin grafts over 75 percent of her body, and suffered a permanent leg disability.
The woman brought the suit, originally in the amount of $350,000, against the store owners. The woman testified that the salesperson assured her that the Tahitian-syle skirt was chemically treated and fireproof.
The defendants argued that they did not sell the type of skirt that the plaintiff said she bought.
STAR-BULLETIN / 2006
Contestants, below, practice at the Edith Kanaka'ole Tennis Stadium. CLICK FOR LARGE
Hula-for-hire a political taboo
In 1940 all city-county and territorial employees were banned from dancing hula, singing or playing music at any political campaign rallies, if they were paid for their activity.
This was decided by the territorial civil service commission, which concluded that such employment was definitely political in nature, for the purpose of helping the candidate get elected, and therefore contrary to law and regulations.
The commission clarified that making music and dancing at rallies was the same as making speeches and other campaigning activities, and therefore unlawful.
Political candidates fought against this decision to no avail.
Soldiers take solace in hula photos
During World Ward II, when tens of thousands of military personnel swept through the islands, many young women (18 and over) were recruited by photo gallery owners to pose as "hula hula" girls with servicemen in studio settings. These photos were carried as keepsakes by the men, who were going off to fight in the Pacific.
The women were paid $100 per week, plus a 25-cent bonus for every set of pictures taken over a set quota. Business was so good that many of the girls would take home more than $500 a month, a big income for young women in those days.
Because most of these galleries were in the same neighborhood as rowdy bars and "peep show" establishments, most of the shop owners had to hire bouncers to keep inebriated men from storming their establishments and behaving inappropriately with the girls.
Poses were limited to two or three standards: his arms around her neck, cheek to cheek or a hug around the waist. No wandering hands were allowed.
In 1944, police arrested and charged two men and one woman of the Victory Amusement Center in connection with alleged "soliciting and aiding in an indecent entertainment" and "indecent posing" in hula girl-servicemen photos. At the trial, policemen testified that as many as 50 soldiers and sailors were crowded around the posing platform prior to the arrest.
The hula girl was fined $50 and given a suspended 30-day jail sentence.
Nanette Naioma Napoleon is a freelance researcher and writer in Kailua, and a hula student of Ka'anohi Aipa, also of Kailua.