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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 12:03 p.m., Thursday, September 26, 2002

Waikiki hula show bids final aloha

Dancer Tristin Viloria, front, and other performers at the Pleasant Hawaiian Hula Show, formerly the Kodak Hula Show, wave goodbye at Kapi'olani Park today after the final performance of the 65-year-old visitor event.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer

The recording of the Cazimeros' "Aloha 'Oe" usually fades into the background as visitors clatter up the aluminum bleachers to their seats for the Pleasant Hawaiian Hula Show in Waikiki.

This morning, however, it added an especially poignant note to the sweet sadness of the day. The show ended its long run today, a victim of the dropoff in tourism and a changing economic climate.

Carol Disario, a former Honolulu resident now living in Florida, felt the sadness. "Oh, the last show!" she moaned.

"I can't believe it. When I lived here we came here a lot. Oh man. That's a sad shame."

Seated next to Disario, Catherine Smith of Vancouver, British Columbia, shared her feelings. "We've come here three times in 20 years," she said. "We tell everybody about the Kodak show."

She hesitated.

"It's still the Kodak show," she said, a tip of the hat to the original and longtime sponsor.

Three years ago, when Kodak decided to end its sponsorship, Pleasant Hawaiian took over. But the 65-year run ended today.

Show performer Wallace Akeo, resplendent in a king's red cape and helmet, reacted philosophically.

"Life goes on, life goes on," he said as he made his aloha entrance.

"Auntie" Mae Brown, now the narrator and a fixture with the show since 1938, maintained a sunny smile.

"I feel fine," she said, "because I started here in 1938 and I'm still here, and it's looking better and better and better.

"I was looking forward to coming here and doing what I always do." As if to demonstrate her resolve, she did a bit more than that: She took a turn at dancing a hula.

"Auntie Mae hasn't danced here since I've been with the show," emcee Kimo Kahoano told the audience.

The audience was treated to all of the show's familiar, now-famous elements.

The dulcet tones of Auntie Mae calling out imagery from Hawaiian songs "the gentle raindrops ... the water falls" while holoku-clad dancers performed the motions.

Tributes paid for anniversaries and other occasions celebrated by visitors in the stands.

Akeo leading a percussion section in a Polynesian drum solo.

The traditional tourist hula lesson.

Elements so familiar, so famous, it's hard to believe they are now historical footnotes.

"It's really a sad day for us," said "Auntie" Leilani Nakamura, a veteran of the dance and musicians' corps who now plays hostess. Her daughter, Charlene Campbell, still sings with The Royal Hawaiian Girls Glee Club in the show and three of her granddaughters have danced.

"I can't believe it's over because it's been part of our family," she said.

It's been part of other families too.

"We've come here for a month every Aloha Week, and we always come here," Disario said. "So much has changed," she said with a sigh. "This is the true Hawai'i."

Reach Vicki Viotti at vviotti@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8053.