Honolulu Lite


History can be sexy if
you know where to look

In 1826, newspaper columnists interested in entertaining their readers would never start a column off with a date like I did here. Most people see a big hairy date like 1826 in a sentence and their eyes begin to glaze over.

Sex! But something interesting happened (sex!) in Hawaii in 1826 (sex!), and I am bound and (sex!) determined to write about (sex!) it. The only way (sex!) to keep your attention (sex!), I suppose, is to (sex!) interject a lot of sex (sex!) into the story. Actually, the story is (sex!) about sex, the desire for sex and the extremes (sex!) grown men will go to (sex!) to get sex, especially in the early (sex!) 1800s when just about everyone was (sex!) armed. So now that I (sex!) have your attention, we can dispense with the cheap sight gags.

In 18 ... uh, that year mentioned above, the 12-gun U.S. Navy schooner Dolphin pulled into Honolulu Harbor commanded by Capt. John Percival and manned by as randy a crew as ever inhabited a sailing ship. These boys had been at sea a long time and were happy to finally get to Hawaii. Actually, "happy" doesn't quite cover it. Excited, breathless and athirst are better. But to be perfectly accurate, these guys were horny. To be blunt, when they sang "Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum," they weren't interested in the "yo" or the bottle of rum, they wanted the two ho's in the middle. And they expected to get them, since prostitution in seaports was an indispensable, not to mention thriving, enterprise.

Unfortunately for the crew of the Dolphin, Kaahumanu, future queen but then governess of 11-year-old King Kamehameha III, had converted to Christianity and put an end to sporting women going out to entertain the men on visiting ships. There was still illicit "hookamakama" (prostitution) on land, but seamen stuck on board had come to expect room service. Capt. Percival, wanting to avoid a mutiny, no doubt, stuck up for his men. He was convinced Kaahumanu was under the religious spell of missionary Hiram Bingham, and it was Bingham who had banned the babes. The following conversation is said to have taken place:

Percival: Who governs the islands?

Kaahumanu: The young king.

Percival: And who governs him?

Kaahumanu: I do.

Percival: And who governs you?

Kaahumanu: My God.

Percival: You lie, you damned old b--! Mr. Bingham governs you!

I learned this in a just-published book called "Mutiny on the Globe: The Fatal Voyage of Samuel Comstock." Most of the book involves the 20-year-old Comstock's takeover of the whaling ship Globe and his attempt to establish his own kingdom on Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The Milians weren't keen on the idea and killed him straight away. The Navy dispatched the Dolphin to Mili to pick up any survivors. Two were recovered. Then the Dolphin came to Hawaii where Percival had his showdown with Kaahumanu. After threatening to fire his ship's cannon into Honolulu, less pious minds in government allowed the sporting women to visit the Dolphin, and peace, not to mention a righteous party, prevailed.

I share this little known bit of Hawaiiana with you simply to show that history can be interesting as long as it involves lots of sex.

Charles Memminger, winner of National Society of Newspaper Columnists awards, appears Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. E-mail

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