Thursday, July 16, 1998

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Abigail Kawananakoa at a 1994 news conference.

Palace dispute
could be seat of
the problem

Jim Bartels, who quit Iolani Palace,
and Abigail Kawananakoa were at
odds on her sitting on the throne

By Susan Kreifels


It may have stemmed from a dispute over who could sit on the throne.

Jim Bartels, managing director of the Friends of Iolani Palace, and Abigail Kawananakoa, the support group's president, disagreed on whether she could sit on the palace throne for a photo, according to a photographer who was shooting pictures of Iolani Palace for Life magazine in April.

Bartels recently resigned.

Neither Bartels, the palace curator for 21 years before his promotion last year, nor the group has given a reason for the decision.

But an officer of the group said that Bartels' resignation letter referred to a conflict with board members over how he performed his job, and that there appeared to be a personality clash with Kawananakoa.

Bartels yesterday would not comment about the throne disagreement, and Kawananakoa could not be reached.

Photographer Harry Benson was shooting for a Life magazine project on royalty around the world, which appeared in a Summer 1998 special issue. Hawaii's monarchy received a several-page spread.

Benson, who is based in New York City, said he asked Bartels if he could take a photo of Kawananakoa, a prominent descendant of the Hawaiian monarchy, sitting in the palace throne.

But Bartels told him "nobody is allowed to sit on the throne, only the real queen," Benson said yesterday in a telephone interview.

Benson instead took a photo of Kawananakoa sitting on a nearby chair.

When Benson told her about Bartels' instructions, he saidshe disagreed and responded: "I can sit anywhere I want."

Benson then took photos of her sitting on the throne.

When Bartels saw what was happening, he told Kawananakoa not to sit there.

Benson said Bartels did not yell and the dispute was "not a big deal. The one most upset was me."

"I think she was entitled to sit on the throne," he said. "It was a more appropriate picture."

Magazine editors chose in the end to run the picture of her sitting on the chair near the throne.

"She was a real character," Benson said. "He was a charming man. He really loves that place.

"I'm sorry if this got him into trouble," Benson said.

The Friends' board of trustees meets today, and trustees are expected to accept Bartels' resignation.

Kawananakoa said in a written statement Monday that Bartels had not been fired and that the resignation was a "mutual and amicable agreement."

She said Bartels would continue to be a consultant for the palace.

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