The USO Hollywood Canteen
Spending an evening in the 1940s for charity
November 24, 2005
It was Saturday night, Nov. 19. The boss man had a job for me that I couldn't refuse.
"Lookie here, kid," he said. "I want you to cover that Hollywood Canteen benefit over at the King Kamehameha Country Club in Waikapu. It's a 1940s party so wear somethin' nice, will ya?"
Duck soup, I thought. So I shined myself up like I was going to Paris, hopped in my boiler and left.
The red-carpet entrance was flanked by guys and gals oohing and aahing at the attendees. Flash bulbs sparked as various cats and kittens looking like Marlene Dietrich, Bette Davis, Fred Astaire and Carmen Miranda primped and posed in front of the paparazzi.
I blew by in a hurry and began looking for the dame in charge.
"Hey, excuse me, doll," I said to the broad doling out fake liberty bonds as tickets. "Have ya seen Tracy?"
Tracy Edelhertz, of Pink Diamond event planning, was the party planner and my go-to girl for the evening. She wasn't around but thankfully had my badge and press hat waiting for me at the door.
While the big band played in the dance hall, servicemen mingled with Janes in silk gowns and white gloves, their hair pressed in huge curls tucked under pins and hats. A slick zoot suit walked by with his moll, while another glammed-up tomato showed off her gams in tap shorts and stilettos.
I passed all the guys and girlies in glad rags and found the gin mill. It was next to a table serving champagne flutes with cubic zirconias in the bottom of each glass. For 35 bucks a pop, you might get the glass with the real diamond, valued at over $5,000.
"Listen baby, I don't have a lot of cabbage," I said to the barkeep. "I'm a little low on the berries, if ya know what I mean. Just toss me a bourbon, neat. I've got some chinning to do."
Then Kate Smith, a fine canary acting as the dinner bell, sang "God Bless America." She was a real torcher, that one.
After the chow down, I met the butter and egg man, Marc Tolliver—the night's Event Chair and producer, as well as Club Service officer for the Kihei-Wailea Rotary. I asked him to give me the goods on the event.
"I want people who lived in that time period to feel as though they were back in 1942," Tolliver said. "And the younger people like us to feel like we're on a movie set."
In the hallway leading to the cocktail lounge were booths selling wares like makeup application, soaps and plant seeds for the fundraiser. Behind one—the Kissing Booth—was a real sweet-looking chippy and some kid gettin' goofy with a horn. For all I know it coulda been Lana Turner and Harpo Marx.
A few feet away, at the live auction, a wisecracker bellowed out the dibs on local artwork while a tuxedoed gink walked around, displaying the paintings in question.
"You'd do a helluva job as a cigarette girl, Dick!" said the auctioneer.
I was just about ready to blow the joint when I noticed a young man in a suit with the press hat—another newshawk like me. He approached before I had a chance to down the rest of my eel juice and breeze off.
"So what's your take?" he asked. He shook the ice in his glass like keys on a jail warden's chain.
"Good turnout," I said. "The dames look swell. I've talked to a few birds and they all have nothing but great things to say about the shindig. But I can't seem to crab an angle."
"Yeah," he said. "My game is to just sit back and observe—get a feel for the place, you know? And then move in."
"Nice plan, toots," I said. Then curiosity got the best of me. "Say, what paper do you work for?"
"Oh, me?" he said. "I'm a chef, not a reporter. I'm just wearing the hat."
The Kihei-Wailea Rotary's USO Hollywood Canteen raised a lot of dough towards the Maui Food Bank, the Kihei Boat Ramp, Iao Theater Restoration and Maui Public School drama departments. MTW
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