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Imagine accidentally walking into a room – a ballroom of sorts – only to be greeted by the melodic voices of classic Hawaiian singers and the gentle sway of hula hips. Breathe in, as the fresh floral aroma fills yours lungs and welcomes you to beautiful Hawaii!
The only thing is, you’re nowhere near Hawaii; instead, you’re in the hustle-and-bustle of New York City, where crowded streets and skyscrapers clutter your view and car exhaust pollutes your lungs. The only peaceful getaway is Central Park, but let’s face it. It’s nowhere near Hawaii. So what was that wonderful place you stumbled upon earlier? It once existed during the 1930s-60s and bridged two disparate islands – Hawaii and Manhattan. The Hawaiian Room was considered a “big break” for Hawaii musicians and dancers selected to perform there.
This wonderful place became a famous NYC attraction in Hotel Lexington called The Hawaiian Room. It served as a gathering place for those with ties to the islands, allowing them to share the Hawaiian culture and practices throughout the East Coast. Needless to say, the East Coast loved it; the Room eventually garnered a large and perse audience and was the place to be for American celebs.
“The Hawaiian Room was the first of its kind and set a standard for Hawaiians sharing their own culture in the way they chose; not the way they were told by the corporate American bosses that ran the venue,” said Maile Loo, executive director of the Hula Preservation Society. She has been helping to organize a free exhibit at Honolulu Hale that will showcase the history of The Hawaiian Room.
Only the best of the best worked at this magical place in the Big Apple, including revered Hawaiian musician Ray Kinney, famed bandleader Andy Iona and top-rated hula dancers Ululani Holt, Mapuana Bishaw and Jennie Napua Woodd, grandmother of local musician Amy Hanaialii. Other notable artists were Alfred Apaka, Loki Ontai, Momi Kai and so many more.An upcoming exhibit will honor the history of The Hawaiian Room and everyone involved in making it a memorable part of history.
Sadly, the performers, audience and all who loved this place bid aloha to the Hawaiian Room in 1966, when fireproofing renovations that were too expensive forced its closure. Today – in celebration of its 75th anniversary – the Hawaiian Room will be remembered once again with a cultural exhibit at Honolulu Hale later this month. There will also be a presentation mid-September with the final session focusing on The Hawaiian Room.
“ THE HAWAIIAN ROOM” EXHIBIT • Aug. 27-Sept. 21, 2012; M-F 745am-4pm • Honolulu Hale, 530 S. King St., Honolulu • 808-247-9440
“ THE HAWAIIAN ROOM” PRESENTATION • Sept. 15, 2012 830am-4pm • Mission Memorial Auditorium, 550 S. King St., Honolulu • www.DistinctiveWomenHawaii.org
Photo Credit: Hawaiian Room Collection, Hula Preservation Society