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ala wai canal 1920 to 1928

 

 

This beat-up stump, with its embedded pipes and wire-mesh fence, was all Lisa and I found left of Hula's Bar and Lei Stand in 2002. Us being about eight years apart, we were two of countless generations of queer kids in Hawai'i who were first exposed to a gay bar here. Hula's opened in 1974, one year before I was of drinking age. The mirrored disco dance floor. The popcorn machine. The toilet paper dispensers that provided the perfect surface for cutting cocaine. The shabby wood fence that we pushed down to escape the tear gas that homophobes would toss into the bar. And the famous gigantic banyan tree laded with lights, pouring onto the tables below.

The lot that Hula's stood on was sold to developers in 1998 for yet another Shopping Center. The last night at Hula's featured a slide show of its 24 years - celebrities and regulars. Just before the doors were shut at 2am on Monday July 20th 1998, everyone held hands to form a circle around the banyan tree. The developers planned to cut down the tree despite objections from Waikiki residents and former bar patrons.

I had read somewhere that 25 years before Hula's, this was a taxicab stand. The taxis would park under the shade waiting for sailors and their girlfriends to come out of the Kuhio Theater across the street, driving them back to their hotels or back to base.

Gaye Chan, 2003