Mr. Selfridge, Season 3, Part 6 of 8


The third season of the popular series, starring Jeremy Piven as the flamboyant American entrepreneur who founded the famous Selfridge’s department store, picks up the story in 1919. The acclaimed cast includes Aisling Loftus, Katherine Kelly, Gregory Fitoussi, Amanda Abbington and Tom Goodman-Hill.


Part 6 of 8
Harry and Victor spiral deeper into despair, as do Mardle and Grove. Serge and Violette fly high after a crash.


Mr. Selfridge, Season 3, Part 5 of 8


The third season of the popular series, starring Jeremy Piven as the flamboyant American entrepreneur who founded the famous Selfridge’s department store, picks up the story in 1919. The acclaimed cast includes Aisling Loftus, Katherine Kelly, Gregory Fitoussi, Amanda Abbington and Tom Goodman-Hill.


Part 5 of 8
Gordon’s debut as store deputy skirts scandal. Kitty confronts her attackers. Doris wrestles with a dilemma, then takes a tragic step.


Mr. Selfridge, Season 3, Part 4 of 8


The third season of the popular series, starring Jeremy Piven as the flamboyant American entrepreneur who founded the famous Selfridge’s department store, picks up the story in 1919. The acclaimed cast includes Aisling Loftus, Katherine Kelly, Gregory Fitoussi, Amanda Abbington and Tom Goodman-Hill.


Part 4 of 8
When Locksley makes a surprise move, Harry ups the stakes. Princess Marie makes her own move. Victor and Violette are caught off guard.


Mr. Selfridge, Season 3, Part 3 of 8


The third season of the popular series, starring Jeremy Piven as the flamboyant American entrepreneur who founded the famous Selfridge’s department store, picks up the story in 1919. The acclaimed cast includes Aisling Loftus, Katherine Kelly, Gregory Fitoussi, Amanda Abbington and Tom Goodman-Hill.


Part 3 of 8
Surprising accomplices turn up in the search for Kitty’s assailants. Agnes and Henri call it quits, and Harry and Nancy reach an understanding.


Mr. Selfridge, Season 3, Part 2 of 8


The third season of the popular series, starring Jeremy Piven as the flamboyant American entrepreneur who founded the famous Selfridge’s department store, picks up the story in 1919. The acclaimed cast includes Aisling Loftus, Katherine Kelly, Gregory Fitoussi, Amanda Abbington and Tom Goodman-Hill.

Part 2 of 8
Harry attends a fateful auction. Henri has a flashback. Edwards’ new book instigates a crisis for Kitty.


Seeds of Aloha


Learn the life story of George Kahumoku Jr., award-winning slack key guitarist, songwriter, performer, teacher, artist, sculptor, author, farmer and entrepreneur. Through his everyday activities, we discover the roots of his extraordinary life, the meanings of aloha and ohana, and how these values have made him the man he is today.


Rise of the Hackers


Our lives have gone digital. We shop, bank and even date online. Computers hold our treasured photographs, private emails, and all of our personal information. This data is precious — and cybercriminals want it. Now, NOVA goes behind the scenes of the fast-paced world of cryptography to meet the scientists battling to keep our data safe. They are experts in extreme physics, math and a new field called “ultra-paranoid computing,” all working to forge unbreakable codes and build ultra-fast computers. From the two men who uncovered the world’s most advanced cyber weapon to the computer expert who worked out how to hack into cash machines and scientists who believe they can store a password in your unconscious brain, NOVA investigates how a new global geek squad is harnessing cutting-edge science — all to stay one step ahead of the hackers.



Christine Camp


Original air date: Tues., Jan. 11, 2011


Living the American Dream


Korean Immigrant Christine Camp rose from poverty to create her own development company, the Avalon Group, of which she is President and CEO. Leslie Wilcox talks with Christine about the struggles of adjusting to America and growing up with “tough love” from her mother, which led to her running away from home at age 15. Christine also discusses working for several well-known companies where she gained the experience to launch her own business.


Christine Camp Audio


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I love this country. I love this country only in a way an immigrant can say it. I’m a first generation American, I came to America, I’ve seen what it’s like on the other side. And America is a beautiful country, and I love it for all that it stands.


Patriotism for the United States is sometimes intensified when your country of origin is a foreign land. Our next Long Story Short guest began life in South Korea, immigrated to Hawaii as a young girl, and grew up to become a successful real estate developer. The contrast between her life before, and after her move to Hawaii, is enough to make anyone believe in the American dream. Meet Christine Camp, next.


Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.


Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. At the age of thirty-two, Christine Camp launched Avalon, a real estate development company in Honolulu. Now, that may sound young, but by then, Christine Camp had experienced a lifetime’s worth of lessons. Her school of hard knocks education began at birth.


Tell me a little bit about your very early life in South Korea.


We had very little. We came from the poorer side of, I guess everybody was poor in those days in Korea, because we were a nascent nation in the sense that we’d just come out of the war. I was born in 1966, so it was a few years after the war, but still, there was very little resources.


How big was your family?


I have four siblings. There were five of us, and my mother and my father. And they were searching for a better opportunity for us. And they left the five children in Korea, and came to Hawaii for two years when I was I was only eight years old. From between the time, eight to right before I turned ten, my sisters raised us, and we lived with various relatives while they were setting up a home for us here.


Did you feel adrift at that point, with your parents away?


Well, it was very confusing, because I was fairly young, and no one really explained. My sisters are eight and six years older than I am; so older. And they were in their teens, and they really took care of us. Both of them dropped out of school to take care of the younger kids and studied from home. So we were home schooled, while we were waiting for my mother and father to bring us to Hawaii.


Now, when you say you were poor, what does poor mean?


Very little resources. I think my mom sent some money to help take care of us. But we didn’t have much meat. We ate mostly vegetables. We didn’t have running water. [CHUCKLE] And we lived in one room and the five kids stayed in one room in apartment house. It was part of a section of a house of our relatives. And there winters when we had to go to the pump house to pump water, because our well wouldn’t work. And we’d walk five blocks and down the hill on the mountainside to get water from the common pump well. That’s how poor we were.


Did you worry that your parents wouldn’t be seen again? Or were you looking forward to joining them?


No, we just didn’t think that it would take that long to get the immigration done. I think everyone thought that it would be just a matter of a few months, and it ended up being a couple of years. When I think back, I think of how resilient all of us were. Because I think for us, were hoping for a better life, and so we didn’t know what we didn’t have. Because the people around us kind of had the same means. And so we enjoyed our times, but without parents were a little difficult.


I can see a big culture shock coming, because your—




—parents did send the money for you to—did you all come over together?


We did. Five of us came here. And boy, was I sick on the airplane the whole time. [CHUCKLE] But we came here, and I remember smelling the air.


And you’re nine years old.


I’m nine years old, and smelling the air, thinking, my goodness, this is what Hawaii—I didn’t differentiate Hawaii as an island. I thought this was America, this is the big country. And I thought, wow, where are the buildings? I mean, this is not America. Korea is much more developed with high rises and everything, which I saw very little. But all the lush tropical jungle-like places. Because we came from concrete, not a lot of landscaping. And for me to see all these trees and flowers; oh, my gosh. It was amazing.


Could you speak English?


My name is. [CHUCKLE] My name is Hyun Hee Camp. Hyun Hee was my Korean name. And, I am hungry. I am hungry. [CHUCKLE] I am hungry. [CHUCKLE] And those were the only things that I could say. And I could say the ABCs.


When Christine Camp started classes at a public grade school in Kaimuki, she recalls that students threw rocks at her, and called her an FOB, or fresh off the boat. Picking up more of the language, and moving to a different public school in the same district gave her a chance for a fresh start.


And we moved to Wilson Elementary right before we ended the fifth grade year. And so I had an opportunity to recreate who I am, not be so foreign, and meet friends. And I made some really good friends, and I was able to blossom in there, and did very well in school. I had some really amazing teachers. In that school, I remember Mr. Kosasa, who basically spent extra time with me, letting me know what my assignments were. And that was my fifth grade homeroom teacher. My sixth grade homeroom teacher was Mrs. Hasegawa. And everyone didn’t like her, because she was really tough. And I was afraid of her; she had a reputation. But she was the one that made me feel so accepted, that I was smart. We had to write some poems for an English class. And I wrote about maile lei, and it was about maile lei, it’s long, it’s beautiful, and you can see the leaves, green leaf after green leaf. I don’t remember just precisely what I wrote. I think I must have had a lot of spelling errors. But she picked it out, and she said, This is one of the best poems I’ve read, and I’m going to read it out to the class. And she read it out. And it made me feel so special. It made me want to do more.


What were your parents telling you about how to behave in this new world?


Well, by then, my father was very ill, and wasn’t really cognizant of what’s going—he was dying of cancer. And my mom was busy working. So it was really up to us to kind of find our own way.


How were finances in the new land, after finances had been so rough in Korea?


When we first came here, we lived in what I thought was a mansion. It was a beautiful spot. It was a two-bedroom walkup. When I look back and I still see the building on Waialae Avenue, I think, Wow, we all squeezed in, five of us in a little room. And then my mom saved up enough. She felt that she had four girls, so she wanted us to live in a community where there would be no other Koreans, where we would be speaking English, and that we would have the best public education possible. So she found this house on Ainakoa. I mean, talk about every house was white. This one was brown from no paint. [CHUCKLE] On the hillside, dilapidated, with termites, but it was the only one she could afford; leasehold house. And we went there, we fixed it up, we spent all of our free days and nights working on this house.


That’s quite an accomplishment.




She was a—


It was.


—waitress, and worked different waitressing and minimum wage jobs with tips.


Koreans, they kinda help each other out. And I think Vietnamese, they’re the same. And Japanese, when they’re here, it’s the same. Koreans call it kei; I think Japanese, they call it tanomoshi. They put into a pool, they bid for the money, and they can have access to a pool of money. Ten, twenty thousand dollars, and there are twenty, forty people putting into this pool. And my mom was in one of those. And she was able to secure the down payment needed to buy the house, and she bought it on an agreement of sale. I’m not even sure if they have agreements of sale anymore.


And had to make the payments every month.


Right. And so, we were expected to help out. I worked from the time I was twelve years old. I worked as a babysitter. God, in those days you could babysit four kids, and people thought nothing of it. I was babysitting six, seven-year-olds when I was twelve years old. Can you believe that? [CHUCKLE]


I remember that. There were even certificates for twelve-year-old—






Yeah. I remember my first new clothes was for my father’s funeral. We didn’t have anything black, and someone said that we had to wear black. And someone gave us twenty dollars each and said, You guys go to JC Penney’s and buy clothes. And we didn’t even know how to shop at JC Penney’s, what to do, because we’ve never been in these stores for us. And so it was exciting, and sad at the same time.


Terribly sad.


It was so unfortunate that it was that time in which we had a chance to actually go to Kahala Mall. ‘Cause we’d been to Kahala Mall, and we went to McDonald’s, once every three months or something and had a hamburger. But to go into JC Penney’s to buy something; that never happened.


Christine Camp later excelled at intermediate and high school, held down several jobs, and became a cheerleader. But Christine’s mother, ever the disciplinarian, prohibited her daughter from taking part in extracurricular activities that would take her away from household chores. So, at age fifteen, Christine decided to run away from home.


And I thought, as long as I had all straight A’s, she should have nothing to complain about. But she did. And she was so tough, and my sisters were so tough on me. I was getting spankings all the time. And I felt that I could do better, I was making my own money. So I packed up my bags in a little pillowcase.




Yeah. [CHUCKLE] I said, I’m done with you. I ran away from home.


How could you make your own way at age fifteen?


Isn’t that amazing? I did. And I can’t … my rent was hundred and seventy dollars a month.

Where did you live?


On Harding Avenue, in one of these old Chinese schools that became an apartment house. Little sections of classrooms were apartment house, and I had a little apartment house next to the sewer line where the cockroaches gathered at night. [CHUCKLE]


And what about your neighbors; what were they like?


Six families. I have to say, I saw what I felt was to not have hope, to feel a loss in what our life would be. There was a welfare mom who dropped out of high school, had several children, and still within high school age. There was a woman who had two kids, and she was a prostitute. There were—it was just kind of like that. An alcoholic woman, another woman who couldn’t afford to eat regular food, and she was sharing her cat food, what I found out, and I would try to give her what I could. And the only bright light in that whole place were two college students who were a couple, and they were happy people. They were clean, and they were smart, and they had a hope of future. I mean, they had hope for their future. But I internalized this when a traumatic accident happened with me. I couldn’t afford electricity, so I didn’t have power, but I had a little gas oven. And these kids were running around without adult supervision, and I felt like I was the den mother. Whenever I had free time, I would have them come over to my place. And it was a child’s three-year-old birthday, and her mom was out. So I decided, I’m going to bake her a cake. And I’d never used the oven. Turned the oven on; nothing. It was a gas oven. And I realized, Oh, it’s a gas oven, I have to turn the match on. Turned on the match, and the whole thing blew up on my face. I had no hair on my face. Anyway, the emergency medics came, and they called the emergency and everything. And at that moment, while I was cooling off, they had ice on me, I’m sitting there, and I had an Aha Moment. All these images came to me of the people that were living around me, and the little kids. And the only bright spot that I saw were these students who had a future. And I felt that education was my future, I didn’t want to be there, and that I wanted to have hope. I didn’t want to lose hope like these people. And they’re wonderful people, but they lost hope for their future, and they weren’t taking responsibility for themselves. So I packed up my ego, packed up my things; I went home that day, the next day.


What was that reception like for you?


What was amazing is, my mom never asked me a question. I had called my sister and said, I’m coming home. And she didn’t go to work. She went to work seven days a week; she didn’t go to work. She was there folding laundry, she acted like nothing happened.


Through all of this, Christine Camp managed to graduate early from Kalani High School, and enrolled at Kapiolani Community College.


You’re going to community college, and working your way through school. Where did the idea of developer emerge?


The developer image; it comes from my first job, my first real job, my first fulltime job. All right. I think people say that, you have to have luck. And I’ve been very lucky so many times. And my luck comes in having my first job with a gentleman named Rex Kuwasaki. He has a development company, Arcade Development. And I went to work for him as his Girl Friday. And when he realized I can take on more, he gave me increasingly more and more opportunities to do different things, and he taught me so much. And that’s where I realized what an impact I could have in the community, and how meaningful it would be to be a developer, to create communities, from an idea on a piece of paper, to see buildings, to put people in homes. I just loved that idea. So I wanted to have my own company, and I wanted to be that, what he was doing.


So you worked for RK—










Rex Kuwasaki Development; yeah.


And picked up some very good basic—




—skills. And then, what?


Well, five years there. And Castle and Cooke was hiring, they had just gotten their zoning for Mililani Mauka. And they were hiring a brand new team, so I went to work for them. I started as a project coordinator in their planning engineering department. And did a lot of permit processing and planning with engineers and architects for homes. And I became such a budget cruncher, and I had such a love for affordable housing that I did a lot of affordable housing there, and had a lot of fun. So I did that for five years, and ended up being a senior project coordinator for the project department, and—


Okay; I’m noticing two five-year stints. Was that on purpose?


Yeah. I like five-year goals. I always believe that people need to see short-term goals, but you need to look out five years ahead. So that it gives you kind of a guiding light as to where one should go. So I had a five-year goal. I worked five years, and I thought okay, five years is enough. Went to work for Castle and Cooke, worked five years, and so it was to the month of five years, I went to work for A and B, Alexander and Baldwin as their project manager, and then ended up as VP of their development. And almost five years, but I found some opportunities where it made me want to leave a little earlier. So I think it was four years and ten months, or something like that.


What were the opportunities?


I found a couple of projects that I wanted to work on, that I thought I could do. Ended up becoming not a project, but it did give me the courage to move on to being my own developer, my own company, having my own company.


And how did you decide to focus your company?


I wanted to be my own developer, but I realized it was a lot harder in raising money than just doing projects. I had to not only do the planning and engineering, and design of the projects, the marketing of the projects, but I actually had to raise the money. And the capital was what was my obstacle in being my own developer. So I decided that I would have an advisory services company in leveraging my expertise. And that was a very profitable business. And then moved onto doing the projects. And I realized it was such a successful advisory services and doing brokerage, I wasn’t spending any time looking for my own projects. So I had to make sure I had a five-year goal to guide me again to say, okay, five years, I’m going to have my own projects. Right now, the mix was eighty/twenty; twenty percent of my projects, eighty percent other projects, other people’s projects. And I’m going to change that ratio in five years. And in five years, I was able to do that. I had my own development projects. And so I said, Okay, well, that’s good. Now what, for the next five years? And so I put some monetary goals. Like, if I could only make a million a year. If I could only do ten million, if I could only raise twenty million dollars. So those were kind of the goals that I put into place for five-year goals. And we finished our five-year goals. It’s been eleven years, and so we’re now looking at what we’re going to do. We, because our company has grown beyond just myself, and we are looking at our next five years.


Now, it’s very hard to do a five-year goal when a recession comes along, and just knocks the bottom out of budget.




Do you add two years there, three years?


Of course. I mean, the goals are just that; they’re goals. They’re not set in stone, and you don’t get depressed over it. You just adjust to the changing times. But there’s a guiding principle that carries you from one end to the other. As long as you have a goal in mind, I think it makes it easier for one to make a decision. ‘Cause isn’t it what it is; it’s always a series of decisions, how do you decide.


Do you have trouble deciding the decisions?


Never. I sleep well at nights. [CHUCKLE] Of course.


Because they provide the security of knowing, okay, here’s where I’m headed


Knowing where I’m headed, it makes it easier. But the last few years have been difficult decisions. I mean, to walk away from millions of dollars invested in a piece of property … difficult. To lay off half your staff … difficult. ‘Cause I felt that, the way I justified it to myself is, I had to cut off one arm to keep the rest of the body alive. And a lot of people say that. But cutting that arm off was so painful. Walking away from the millions of dollars was easier than laying people off. It was that difficult. Because I knew it was their livelihood. I knew they had a mortgage to pay, and family to support. And so it was really, really hard.


So you chose to name your company Avalon.






My love of books. I love reading books, and I love two genres. I have a hard time with nonfiction, but mystery novels and mystical fairytales. And fairytales, King Arthur stories fascinates me.


Now, Avalon was where King Arthur pulled Excalibur out of the stone, isn’t it?


Well, no; it was the Isle of Avalon where all the power came. And remember when he died, he went back.


Oh, and he recovered there.


And Isle of Avalon, they took his power back, they took the sword back. So the way I saw Avalon, aside from the fact that it starts with an A, so it will be the top of the alphabet [CHUCKLE]—


That’s a good one.


But we live on an island, as Avalon. But really, what it was, it was about king makers and the source of power; source within. And I liked that. And the recent books, the recent renditions of this fairytale, there’s a mist of Avalon where all power comes from the priestesses, which is the women. So even more so, I thought, very apropos. And that’s why I named the company Avalon.


During election years, some developers try to cover their bets. They give equally to all political candidates in order to be in the good graces of the eventual winners, whoever they may be. Christine Camp has other ideas. For example, she openly and enthusiastically supported Mufi Hannemann, when he ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2010.


You’ve had some leadership positions in government. You were—




You were heading the Police Commission, you—


I was.


You’ve been active in different political campaigns. Must be a little tricky, when you’re looking for approvals as a developer.




And you are also wishing to participate in government. I mean—




—those are tricky currents you have to navigate.


Absolutely. A lot of people said, Are you nuts? You’re a developer, and you’re supporting a certain candidate. And I always believed an election is just that. You have to make a choice. You vote. And if you really believe in something or someone, then you need to stand behind it. And people who are elected need to understand that it was just an election. Now that they’re there, we as the constituents will stand behind them because they are our elected leaders. But during the election period, I don’t believe in kind of walking the middle line all the time. That’s not America. America is about making choices, to protect your freedom, and protecting your views.


Any issue coming up that you’re scratching your head about how to solve?


One thing that really affects me is the homelessness. I’m a developer, and yet, it’s so difficult to develop homeless housing first; I believe in that. I was homeless for a few days. I actually slept in a park when I ran away from home. And I’ve been poor, and I was that close to being homeless. And when I opened my own business, and when I didn’t have enough cash flow to pay the payroll, I thought about being homeless. We’re that close to being homeless, a lot of us. And there are so many people in such vulnerable positions, we’ve gotta do something. We’ve gotta do something.


But why doesn’t it ever get beyond, we’ve gotta do something? I mean, it just never seems to materialize into something that sticks.


‘Cause people don’t—can I just say. I cannot understand why people say this is a state problem, but yet, they want the funding to come from the people who are buying homes, or the funding to come from the developers. They don’t believe that this is a state problem. If this was a state problem, it should come from our tax base, not from people who are buying homes to stay away from being homeless. It’s adding to the cost of buying homes, to sheltering these people. By taking it from the developers when they’re doing affordable housing, or just adding more housing stock so that it becomes affordable, it just adds to that burden. It ultimately has to be paid for by everyone else. Why do we think it’s so expensive? So people are scratching their head thinking, we’ve gotta do something, and yet, there’s no funding from the general fund. Of course we’re not going to solve that problem.


What’s your current five-year plan?


My current five-year plan is actually looking at—I created a company, a holding company, Avalon Group. And we’re expanding in our development services business, but we’re also buying other companies, and really believing in Hawaii, and growing other businesses. So the next five years is really diversifying, and creating the next layer of managers. That it’s not about me, but it’s about having managers manage the projects and companies.


What does your mom say? I mean, I know your mom hasn’t been a big talker. She’s a doer.


She’s a doer.


But now, she’s seen you make this wonderful transition to American life, and be extraordinarily successful as a professional, and a mom. And what does she say?


She still treats me like I’m thirteen years old. [CHUCKLE] She wants to comb my hair, and [CHUCKLE] make sure that I’m wearing the right color. No, she’s extremely proud of me. She’s very thankful. She took care of me, so now I take care of her. And she helps me raise my son. And it’s come full circle.


What happened to that leasehold, termite-ridden house in Ainakoa?


She sold it. But I remember the Aha Moment of when I thought, I’ve finally made it, is she was buying the leasehold into fee, and she didn’t have enough income to qualify for a mortgage. And I remember co-signing her mortgage, and thinking, Wow, I really made it, I’m co-signing a mortgage for my mom. And so that was …


That’s worth more than money.


Yeah. I remember how proud she … I’m choked up now, ‘cause I remember seeing her, and I’m feeling, wow, I did it. I really did it. And she was so proud of me.


Christine Camp’s mother has reason to be very proud. Her daughter is active in community organizations, and has received awards for achievements in her adopted country. At the time of this conversation in 2010, Christine is busy with a new accomplishment. The business owner says she’s keeping a work-family balance as the single parent of a two-year-old son. No more marathon weekdays, and no more long weekends at the office, she says. Family life does not keep her from continuing to set those business goals, though, five years at a time. Mahalo, Christine Camp, for sharing your story. And thank you for listening, on Long Story Short. For PBS Hawaii I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou kakou.


For audio and written transcripts of this program, and all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit pbshawaii.org.


I live in the present. A very insightful friend told me, Christine, if I look at a life’s matrix for you and how you look at the world, your past like this, your future like this, and the present is like this. And I think I live in the moment, and it makes me happy, and doing what I believe is the right thing to do, making decisions that allows me to go to the future. As long as I have a peg, and I can see it, that’s my five-year goals, I know where to go.


Jack Cione


Original air date: Tues., Apr. 1, 2014


He was an entrepreneurial showman, best known in the 1960s through the ’80s for staging risque spectacles in Honolulu nightclubs. On this episode of Long Story Short, Jack Cione, now retired, reflects on his colorful business life in Honolulu, which included highly publicized arrests. He freely and gleefully admits that it was he who called the news outlets when police arrived. Women would become some of his best customers – at luncheons featuring nude waiters.


Jack Cione Audio


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So, when you were born, you had a different name than the one you have now.


Yes. [CHUCKLE] Jackie Cioni. Real Italian. C-I-O-N-I.


Traditional Italian home, Catholic?


Oh, yes; Catholic, a little town right out of Chicago, where everyone was Catholic. I remember one time, I dated a Jewish girl. My family had a fit, because, they were very, very [CHUCKLE] strict. You were Italian, you went to the Italian church. You only associated with Italians. And in that little community, there was the Polish church, the Irish church, the Italian church, the Lithuanian church. [CHUCKLE]


And you stuck to your people at your —

— own church.






The families in those days kept to tradition.


And … I’m fast-forwarding to what you did in later life. How did that go over with the traditional —


Well, I —


— Catholics —


I left. [CHUCKLE]





I left my Italian community at a very young age. I had an uncle that belonged to the Al Capone gang in Chicago, and … I loved his way of life. Expensive cars, and fancy clothes, and eating in fancy restaurants.


What did your family think about his lifestyle?


Oh, they didn’t. That’s when they disowned me. And I didn’t speak to my father for years. At — when I graduated high school, I left the Cioni family. [CHUCKLE]


How old were you when you gravitated to your uncle?


Fourteen. I was a piano player. Boogie – woogie was real popular then. And so, he got me a job in a nightclub in Chicago, which —


Which was many miles away.


Eighty miles. It’s right — we were — lived in the suburb, a small farm town.


So, you commuted?


And stayed with my uncle, and played the piano there. And of course, met all the Mafia gangs. At that time, one of the big ones they owned was Joe Louis. Which is very funny. Because I had that whole story in my book. I met Joe Louis when I was very young. And then he became world champion. In 1960, he was broke, ‘cause all his wives took his money and all his friends. And he was working for Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas as a host. And so, a choreographer there wrote a show for him, starring Joe Louis and His Lovelies. And he called me and he said, I want to rehearse the show; can we use your nightclub, the Forbidden City? I said, Sure, bring ‘em over. And it was Joe Louis and his chorus girls, and Freda Payne singer. And so, they rehearsed, and they opened the show at the Forbidden City.


This is the one in Honolulu that you started?




Not the Las Vegas one.


No; my nightclub. They were breaking it in and gonna take it to Caesar’s Palace. So, when I saw Joe, we brought back old times, how I knew him and my uncle. I said, Joe, you can’t do this show in Las Vegas, you’re too big of a man to let these girls with red sequined boxing gloves punching him, and all that kinda stuff. I said, you’re too big for that. The public will laugh at you. Well, he did the show here, and he got bad reviews. Some of the press liked him. I don’t know whether you’d seen him then.


No, I didn’t see it.


No. [CHUCKLE] Anyway, he didn’t do the show in Vegas. He took my word, and he stopped it. And then, of course, he passed on. But that was the last time I had seen him.


What else appealed to you about your uncle from the Al Capone gang? Was it just the money? Just the access to —


— His way of life. He had the big Packard with those white – wall tires on each side. [CHUCKLE]


And you were fourteen years old. I mean, you were just a kid.




Playing at nightclubs —


I did, yeah.


— ‘til — what time did you go to sleep?


Well, I changed my age. I was … I was twenty then. Everybody thought … ‘cause I had a mustache at fourteen. I didn’t look like a high school student. And I was making seventy – five dollars a week. That was good money in —


A lot of —


— 19 — [CHUCKLE] —


And how did you keep up with school when you were actually working in the city?


Yeah. Well, I didn’t keep up with school. That was the sad part. I remember one day, a teacher said to me, Jackie Cioni, you’re gonna be a bum. You’re gonna be a bum if you don’t learn Algebra and English. And I said, Get out of my face, honey. I make seventy – five bucks a week; what are you making? Schoolteachers [INDISTINCT] made thirty – five dollars a week.




And so, I got expelled. They kicked me out of school. But the principal was building bleachers for the football team, and he needed a show to raise money for the bleachers. And so, I was working at this nightclub across the street from the Oriental Theater, and there was Les Brown and his orchestra, and they had a girl singer by the name of Doris Day. She had not made Sentimental Journey yet. They were recording it, but it had not been released. And so, I said, Doris, you’ve gotta come to my high school. She said —


High school?


I remember her saying, Your high school; are you in – I said, Yes, I’m in high school, and we’re raising money; would you come and sing a song or two? And she did. She brought her trio with her, and we did the show, and we raised money. See, when they worked at the Oriental Theater, they used to do four and five shows a day. In those days, they showed the movie, and then they have a stage show.


Oh …


And the movie and a stage show. So, in between shows, she would hang out at the bar where I was playing. So, she knew I played the piano.


So, at fourteen, you were very worldly wise.


Yes; I was making money and living a good life at fourteen. School was not part of my life, that’s for sure.


So, you were just trying to get out —




— and continue to make money.


And that’s when my father disowned me; yeah.


Did he actually disown you?


Oh, yeah. He wanted nothing to do with my Uncle Mike and the way of life that I was living. So, I carried on and made my money, and did my thing.


How about your mom saying, What happened to my little boy?


Well, they moved to Arizona, because of health reasons. And I did help drive them to Arizona. They had a trailer, and they went to Tucson, Arizona. And we were all living in the trailer; my sister and I, and the two of them. Can you imagine, four people in a trailer with – oh, in the desert of Arizona in 1946? [CHUCKLE] It was horrible. So, I changed my name to Cione; C-I-O-N-E. I followed the Dione Quintriplets; they were popular then. They were in the paper all the time. First time somebody gave birth to five babies.




And they were so cute, and everybody would say, Dionne. So, I thought, Why not Cione? So, I carried it on; Jack Cione.


And you stayed in Arizona?


No; I went to Hollywood. I had saved a lot of money playing the piano.


How much did you save?


Oh, I think I went to Hollywood with about a thousand dollars. And all my clothes, and I was gonna become a movie star. That’s my second repotting. And so, when I got there, I stood in line for auditions. And I thought, This is a ridiculous way to make a living. I did one movie, Good News, with June Allyson and Peter Lawford.


What’d you do in the movie?


I was a dancer.




Yeah; I was a dancer. I didn’t want to play the piano anymore. The piano, by the way, kept me out of the service, too. I was with the USO and – at the time my draft came up. Bob Hope picked our – I had a band called The Jolly Jacks, and he picked the band to go on tour with him. And I said, I’m being drafted, so he got me out of the draft. And I toured with the USO then.


That’s how you spent the war?


That’s how I spent the war; yeah.


Oh, amazing.

First time they came out here, by the way, was with Bob Hope’s show. We played Pearl Harbor and … Kaneohe and Schofield.


And after doing the USO tour, you stayed in Hollywood?


Straight back to Hollywood, trying to become a movie star. But it didn’t work. But I met … I met lots of movie stars there.


You sound like you were a real streetwise —




— young man.


Yeah; I met Eleanor Powell and Dorothy Lamour. Oh, that was funny with Dorothy Lamour. They were filming the Road Show with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, and, of course, I knew Bob Hope from working with him. And I said, Dorothy, I wrote to you when I was in high school, and you sent me a photograph, To Jackie Cioni, with all my love, Dottie Lamour. She said, You still have it? I said, Yes, I still have it. That was the end of that. But —




— Dorothy used to come here every winter, and stay at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. And I had the nightclub in Waikiki called Le Boom Boom. And she used to come into the club. And so, one night, I said – she said, Do you still have that picture? I said, Yes, I do. So, I brought it, and she autographed it again, and we took a new picture. And I have that. Which I think is a wonderful story, because she used to come to the club every year and spend lots of time there, until she passed away.


Mm. All these relationships that stretch over —


A relationship —


— [INDISTINCT] areas.


— that I met when I was young —




— and came back when I was… old. [CHUCKLE]



So, when you – so, you’re in Hollywood and you’re deciding, I don’t want to be auditioning, what was the life plan then?


Oh, one more story which I think is very funny. In Hollywood, I used to get dressed up every night and go to Ciro’s, Mocambo —




— and Earl Carroll’s – those were the big nightclubs, and sit at the bar thinking I was gonna be discovered. But one night, I sat at the bar, and Van Johnson and Peter Lawford were at the bar. And so, I start talking with the. We met, and his friend Keenan Wynn came in, and the maitre d’ came over and said, Your table is ready. And I thought, Oh, wouldn’t it be nice if they invited me. But the three of them just got up and left me sitting there. And I was very disappointed. But when I opened my Dunes Club here in Honolulu, I was buying acts, and I bought Van Johnson. [CHUCKLE] So, I brought him over here, and he worked at The Dunes. And I had brought that story up; I said, You know, you … blew my mind when you didn’t ask me to have dinner with you and … the other two. And he remembered the story. [CHUCKLE]


Oh, he really did? Ah …


But I thought —


So, you made an impression.


I thought it was funny that he’d end up working for me at The Dunes.

How many nights did you spend sitting there, waiting to be discovered?


Used to go every night.


For how long?


Oh … mm, thirty, forty minutes in each bar.


For years?


Oh, no; for how long? No, I gave that up … and the year was 19 … 1948. And I moved back; I had no place to go. I spent all my money. I moved back to Phoenix with my mother and father. Which was not too happy. But I got a job then at Arthur Murray Dance Studio.


Because you could dance.


Yeah; ‘cause I could dance. And I met my first wife.


Who was a dancer? Student?


Who was a dancer; yeah, she —


Teacher or student?


No, she was a teacher. And we both worked there at Arthur Murray’s.


Doing ballroom dancing, and what other kind of dancing?


Oh, that was ballroom dancing. That’s another story. [CHUCKLE] We went to New York and worked … thought we were gonna work for Arthur Murray. But the studio in Phoenix blackballed us, and the studio in New York said, We don’t have an opening right now, but we’ll have something later.


Why did they blackball you?


Because we left the Phoenix studio.


Oh, I see.


And we were their best dance team they had. And so, they thought by blackballing us, we’d come back to Phoenix. So, instead, we got a job with the Fred Astaire Studio, and I worked for Fred Astaire. And I became—in the daytime, I’d go to audition for Broadway shows. And I auditioned for the Arthur Murray Show. [CHUCKLE] And I became Kathryn Murray’s dance partner.




We’d rehearse in the daytime, and I’d teach dancing at Fred Astaire’s at night. But that was so funny. [CHUCKLE]


And she knew that?


And – no, she —


Oh, she didn’t.


— didn’t know that. [CHUCKLE] But the show …




We left New York because my wife became pregnant, and went to Phoenix, and I opened a dance studio. And they sued me. Because —


Non – compete.


I had a contract. Right. But I was underage when I signed the contract. [CHUCKLE] And my first wife said, I married a child. I said, Yes, you can be

picked up for rape. [CHUCKLE]


[CHUCKLE] So, you got in trouble with your wife, but you got out of the lawsuit.


She didn’t know I was so young. But, we got out of the lawsuit. And then, my studio just bloomed; we were big, big, big. I ended up with, fourteen studios all over the State of Arizona.


So, from an early age, you were good at earning money. But now, you’re good at making money. How did that happen? What was that transition?


Oh, I had a good business sense. And …


Where’d you get it?


It just came natural, I guess. I opened the one studio, and I was doing all the teaching. And pretty soon, we had too many students, and my wife was pregnant, having the baby. I had to hire teachers and more teachers, and more students, more teachers. And then, my sister got involved, and she was just sixteen at that time. And —


How old were you? Twenty-six? She’s ten years —


Oh, I was —


— younger?


Let’s see; that was 1948 … I must have been nineteen.






So, already, you’re married and you’ve got all these —




— dance studios?


Uh-huh. Well, the studios took ten years, but … I stayed in Phoenix ten years. And we made all these studios, I got a divorce, she got the Tucson studio. I kept the Phoenix, Scottsdale, and all the rest of ‘em. And then, I start selling them off to teachers who would run the studio and pay me a percentage of their gross. And so, I had all these studios.


Did you figure out that business model? ‘Cause that’s smart. That’s ongoing revenue; right?


Yeah, it’s ongoing revenue.




[CHUCKLE] And so, I did the same thing here in Honolulu with nightclubs.


So, how do you think you had the wherewithal to be so adult in your sophistication when you were a teenager? I mean, when you were doing an adult’s job on the piano.




And then, you …


I just —


— [INDISTINCT] businesses.


I just liked to make money.


And you’re marrying an adult.


I’m marrying an adult. Yes. It all fit together pretty good.


You didn’t have to really think about it at all?

No; I wouldn’t want to change a day of it. It was a wonderful life. I must say, the Lord was very good to me. I worked with the rough element. Nightclub business is not an easy business. But I stayed the straight line, and did it as a business. I don’t drink; I never did drink. [CHUCKLE] And so, I always said people want to buy me a drink. I said, I’m in the business to sell this; I don’t drink it.


So, throughout the time you operated nightclubs, and made a good living off alcohol, you never drank?


Never drank.


Not ever tempted? ‘Cause a lot of people get in trouble; they don’t think they’re interested —


Oh, I’d have —


— and then they’re exposed —


— a social drink —


— to it.


— you know, like a martini once in a while. But I was never a drinker.


What was your passion about running nightclubs?


Doing shows.




And, directing shows, and producing shows. And so, that opened a whole new

field for me.


Okay; let’s back up. Because right now, we’re still in Tucson, and you’re …


We’re in Phoenix.


I’m sorry; Phoenix, and you’re … getting passive revenue from the individual sale of you —





— studios. And then, what happens?


Well, I did a first television show. Had a weekly live TV show, which got me into producing dance numbers. In fact, Wayne Newton was on my first show. He was … twelve years old.


Could you tell he was gonna be a star?


Oh, yes. He had lots of talent. And he also worked for me at The Dunes here.




[CHUCKLE] Later … I started producing shows, and then I produced them in nightclubs. So, I had a show at the Guys and Dolls, which was on the south side of Phoenix, and I had a show on the north side of town called The Sundown. And then, I personally appeared at the Westward Ho Hotel in the fancy Contra Room. Was the equivalent to our Monarch Room here. And my sister and I became a dance team there … so, I was into producing shows. And sent a show to Las Vegas at the El Rancho, and then I was into tap dancing and dan – and doing all of these shows.


And your talents as far as dancing and piano; they’re all self – taught? Who taught you how to dance?


Yeah. No, I studied some tap.




When I was in Los Angeles, I took tap.


Because you were a budding —




— actor; right?


I was in a class with Vera-Ellen and Donald O’Connor. And Peggy Ryan.




Do you remember Peggy?


Yes; she was married to Eddie Sherman.


Eddie Sherman; right. We were in the same dance class. And … Vera-Ellen; we thought we were gonna team up as a team.


Wow. So, lots of people flowing through your life, lots of different ways to make a living.


Right. Can we stop a minute?




Well, can we go back to your first wife? So, you—how old were you when you proposed to her?


I think I was about eighteen.


Eighteen; and how old was she?




And she didn’t know you were a teenager.


No; ‘cause I was twenty – I was twenty-four. ‘Cause I changed my age.


Oh, I see.


So, Arthur Murray’s thought I was twenty – four.


Was that ever a point of friction between you, that you hadn’t told her how old you really were?


Not; not until we won the court case. [CHUCKLE]




‘Cause I was only eighteen when I signed the contract.


Yeah. So, that turned out to be your saving grace —




— actually.


M – hm.


Okay. So, here we – so now, you are – where are we now? You were selling your dance studios.


Yes; I told my dance studios. Well, while I was dancing in the Contra Room, that’s where I met my second wife. She came in one night for dinner with … a party of eight people. She had just moved to Phoenix; she was from Dallas, Texas. And … I met them – after the show, we’d always go around and talk to the customers. So, I said, Hello, I hope I’ll see you again.


Did you say that to everyone?


Well, to her. I shook her hand and said – I said, I hope you’ll come back again. And … three nights later, she came back again. This time, she brought her friend. He’s the baseball player, Dizzy Dean and his wife, Pat Dean, which they were close friends from Texas. And so, after the show, they asked me to join them, and that’s how we became friends. And in talking, I found out that she had a daughter that was eight years old, and my son was with me at that time and he was seven years old. And I said … How about going to the State Fair, Sunday? Take our kids; wouldn’t that be fun? She thought that was our first date. So, we took our kids to the fair, and from then on, it … turned into a romance, and we got married.


What made her a keeper?


What made her, what?


What made her a keeper?


A keeper?


Fifty years; that’s … that’s a keeper. [CHUCKLE]


I’ve been ma – yes, we’re celebrating our fifty – eighth wedding anniversary.








[CHUCKLE] I’m an old man now. [CHUCKLE]


What made her the one?


Well, she was such a lady. My first wife was a dancer. And it was an entirely different type of personality. My first wife was in show business, and I was in show business, and … my other wife was not in show biz. She used to manage Elizabeth Arden’s main [INDISTINCT] in Scottsdale, Arizona. And I used to teach dancing there, too. That’s where we had all the celebrities from Hollywood used to come there and try to rejuvenate. Like, Greer Garson, Rosalind Russell, Bette Davis. We even had Mamie Eisenhower. And they would all take down – the dance lessons from me. I personally there. So, it was —


And you liked the idea of being married to somebody who wasn’t in the showbiz




— realm.


Right. And then … we just hit it off beautifully. And so, we got married, and we were on our honeymoon. We … was gonna do the Orient. We did Japan and Hong Kong, and Australia. And we were at Fiji and the plane was going to Tahiti, and I said, I’m so hungry for a hamburger. In those days, the restaurants were not good, even in Tokyo and Hong Kong. And the plane was announced, All aboard for Honolulu. I said, Why don’t we change our tickets and go to Honolulu?


For a hamburger?


[CHUCKLE] Well, to finish our honeymoon.


[CHUCKLE] I see.


And so – because we – we were – told everyone we were gonna be gone two months. And so … we got on the plane to Honolulu, and we stayed in the Hawaiian Village Hotel for a while. And then we said, Why don’t we … get an apartment. So, we got an apartment, paid a month’s rent. And while we were there, we said, Why don’t we get a job. We liked it here so much. So, we both started looking for a job. Well, I couldn’t find anything, but she found a job at the Biltmore Hotel. She was secretary to the manager; worked right in. And one night, we went to the Forbidden City, ‘cause we had dinner across the street at the Fisherman’s Wharf.


On Ala Moana Boulevard —


Oh, yeah.


And Forbidden City was —


Across the street.


Right – yeah, where Ward Warehouse is now.


Right. And we were in there, and there were six customers. And all these Japanese girls in the show. And so, the manager came over and talked to us; Chinese man. And I said, How can you pay the rent with six people in here? And the show was a god awful show.


What kind of show was it?


Kabuki dancing.




Japa – in that period, there was the Oasis, the Ginbashi [PHONETIC], the Forbidden City, the Ginza. It was all Japanese hostesses. There were no Korean hostesses then. [CHUCKLE] And they would dance. And so … I just told him how bad his show was, and he said … Do you want to do a show for me? I said, Yeah, I’ll do a show for you, I have nothing to do. He said, How much is it gonna cost? I said, I’ll do a show for you for nothing. I just need something to do. Well, that gets into a very involved story because … the lady who was his partner was the mistress of John Wayne, who had his boat parked across the street by the Fisherman’s Wharf. [CHUCKLE]


So, how did that get involved?


Well, that got very involved because it’s so funny. And meeting John Wayne, I told him, I don’t know what we’re gonna do with our son. And he said, I have the same problem. I said, I have a ranch in Arizona, five hundred acres, and I wanted my son to take it over. Pat said – or John said, Where is it? I said, It’s right outside of Phoenix. He said, I’ll take a look at it when I’m back in Hollywood. So, he had to get out of town. I did him a favor here. And … he bought the ranch for his son, Pat.


He bought your ranch for his –




–son, Pat.


[CHUCKLE] And the story; when I took the check to the bank, it was so funny. The cashier said, Is this John Wayne, the actor? I said, Yeah. And you’re gonna cash it?




I said, Yes, I think so. [CHUCKLE]




That was, I thought, very interesting. That’s how I got in —


So, even in Honolulu, you’re running into celebs.


Yes; yes. So … I did a show at the Forbidden City. And I did two shows that made a lot of money. One was Black Bottoms, the first time —


Black Bottoms; could you explain?


Black Bottoms, an all Negro show.


Ah … and what happened to the Japanese dancers? Uh-oh. Bye —


They were—




— his waitresses; yeah.




And then, I did an ice show. First time we had an ice show at the Forbidden City. I called it Nudes on Ice.


So, you put in an ice skating rink?


Yeah; it was about twice the size of this table.




Portable. And two skater friends of mine from the mainland. I brought them over and said … Come and skate; a paid vacation, two weeks. Airfare, hotel, meals. Oh, yeah, we’ll do that. So, they came over. And I had the Japanese girls and … and I used them as showgirls, and the girl skater would come out and skate. And then, they’d – the boy would come out and skate, and those Japanese girls. And I talked three of the Japanese girls into going topless.


Now, this is – you’ve just punched through an envelope, because you weren’t doing this before; right?


No; no. [CHUCKLE]


You were doing regular —




— choreography and dancing —




— and show tunes. All of a sudden, you’re doing naked stuff?


I just had them open their kimonos to add a little more to the show.


And what were the skaters wearing?


Oh, they wore regular —


Regular —


— ice skate – yeah, they were … professional —


So —


— skaters.


— now, by opening the kimono, you’ve just —

But it was —


— taken a step into a different —


Nudes on Ice; and it was such a sensation.


Wait. Nudes on Ice; so they weren’t wearing regular skating clothes?


No. The skaters wore clothes, but the three girls that stood there [CHUCKLE] on the ice —


Oh; I see.


They were the nudes on ice. [CHUCKLE] That was my hook. Every show needs a hook, you know.


Yeah; because you’re a marketer, too.




So, now you’re really kinda dealing in a different kind of venue.


Right. And there were no nightclubs having any nudity. It was against the law.


And when did you – now, you already lied about your age, but now you’re talking about breaking the law.


Well, there were no laws. Hawaiian dancers were topless … in King Kalakaua —


Throughout history. [CHUCKLE]


Right. And so, what was the law? What was the – what was the big deal? So, the next show I did was complete nude show. I brought burlesque in. It wasn’t nude; it was just topless. The girls then had to wear pasties and …




— silk bras. But it eventually evolved. And every time we would do that, they would come and arrest me. And —


You’re saying this like this is, you know, just part of doing business. But I mean, you – and what was the charge? Was it lewdness, open lewdness?


Lewd and lascivious conduct.


How did you feel about that?



Well, they’d arrest me, and I’d say, Excuse me, can I go to the restroom? And I’d run in my office and I’d call the TV and the newspaper, and I’d stay there until they got to the club.


So, you’re actually enjoying this.


Oh, loving it. And the next morning, it was in the papers and it was on TV.


Was that part of being a showman?


Yes. And business increased. People would see that. Oh, look, arrested, nude. We gotta go see that [CHUCKLE] at Forbidden City.


And how did your new wife think about this?


Well, [CHUCKLE] she didn’t particularly like it. But it was making lots of money. And so, we opened that club, then we opened another one. I ended up with twelve bars here. And —


And how many arrests?


Oh, gosh; I was arrested so many times, but not once conviction.


Because as you said, the laws hadn’t caught up with this business activity.


Right. We went topless, then we went bottomless, and then we went totally nude. And then, of course, my biggest hit of all was the naked waiters out at The Dunes. And that just happened by accident.


And not only – I mean, I think people who weren’t aware of this era would be surprised to learn that not only were there naked waiters, but … your customers were touching these guys.




And I mean, there was a lot of touching going on.


Yes; on the waiters. The females went wild. All these years, I was doing the shows for men. We used to have a businessman’s lunch at The Dunes.


Back when three martinis were tax deductible; right?


Right. And it was all businessmen.




And the show was a striptease show. And these secretaries said, We’re so tired of coming with our boss; why don’t you put a naked man on stage for us? And I just happened to say, Well, why don’t you get me a reservation for fifty ladies, and I’ll have a naked man for you. That’s how it started.


And how many – did you get a reservation for fifty?


Oh, gosh; they called about two weeks later. They said, We have your fifty; you’re gonna have a naked man? And I said, Yes. Well, by the time the two weeks came, they had two hundred reservations. That filled up my room. [CHUCKLE] They kept out my men customers. The ladies took all the seats.


And did you have your naked waiter in line?






I didn’t have any.


How do you hire a naked waiter?


In those days, this was now 1973 … and there were no such a thing as Chippendales and men strippers. But I had a beach house in Haleiwa that I was renting to five surfers. And they were behind on their rent. So, I called them and said, You guys gotta pay the rent, or you’ve gotta come in and do me a favor. They said, What is it? I said, Well, you gotta come to The Dunes, Friday, and you’ve got to drop your pants on stage. Oh, hell, yeah; we’ll do that.




And so —


And nothing said about, I need you to be good serving people.


No, no.


‘Cause you will be a waiter now.


I had waitresses.


Oh; and were they topless?


All topless. Don’t you remember? That was the —


I didn’t know you combined them. Okay.


Well, this was new. I felt —


So, topless women, bottomless men.


Well, at that time, the topless waitresses were the draw for the male customers. And I thought this woman secretary was doing this for one night, one day, Friday afternoon. So, I got her the naked men. I didn’t know it was gonna become so famous. Those women stayed all day. We had the biggest bar business I ever did that afternoon. They all drank, drank, and the surfers were enter —




Paraded, without their pants. And [CHUCKLE] the waitresses were mad, because the ladies at the table would say, Get away, I want a naked waiter, I don’t want you. And they weren’t making any tips, and the surfers were making all the money. So, when I saw that, I thought, Oh, this is a goldmine. So, in a week’s time, I told the gals; I said, We’re gonna have waiters every day.


Instead of waitresses?


Instead of waitresses.


Because the women were the ones who were paying more money.


Yes. And so —


As clients.


That’s how it happened. And then, the publicity went … outstanding.


Along with the publicity of, Wow, look what happened, you gotta go see this, I’m sure there was also this drumbeat from citizens saying, What is this guy doing, it’s so vulgar, it’s so lewd, it’s just …


All —


— horrendous on society.


— the churches … all the churches. And there was a gal here, I’m sure you interviewed her. Her name was Jerri Mann [PHONETIC].


Oh, I don’t remember. I’m sorry.


University of Hawaii. She wrote editorials to the paper every – every week. And she was down on it.


And fact is, you’d come from somewhere else, and brought this vulgar stuff to Hawaii; right?




How did you … justify that?


Well, we just continued it. I had the naked waiters in the daytime, and the strippers at nighttime. And … soon opened another spot in Waikiki.


So, it didn’t bother you, all the —




— criticism.


And we’d get arrested, and they had no charges. The Liquor Commission was then in charge. And they had vice squad in those days. The vice squad would come in and see it, and they’d say, Oh, what’s this? Nothing. But the Liquor Commission would do all the complaining. But they lost every case.


Did you spend a fortune on legal bills?


No, I had a wonderful attorney. He —


Who was your attorney?


Myer Symonds. He’s —


I recall his name.


— dead now. But he loved this type of work, and he took every case and won it. And then the Liquor Commission start making the rules. They forbid the waiters to walk around on the floor, which the rule said, Hey, you have to be on a platform, eighteen inches off the floor to work nude. Meaning, you have to be on a stage. But I built a platform behind the salad bar.




Eighteen inches off the floor. [CHUCKLE] I put the nude waiters behind the salad bar.


You must have had law enforcement just ready to —






So, they couldn’t do anything with that. It was eighteen inches off the floor. But they couldn’t walk around on the floor.


So, among all of this – I just sense that your guiding force is money and showbiz. But you weren’t really into the flesh stuff of it all?




Or the –




Or the drinking, clearly.


No. And of course, with all the national publicity, we opened a waiter show in Waikiki, we opened a waiter show in Los Angeles, and one in San Francisco. And again, I sold them as a franchise. I let them use the name, and I helped them put the show together. So, we had four shows going at one time. And we made every national magazine. The London papers, the German papers; they sent reporters with their photographers to take their own pictures.


I would have thought, say, the women’s lunch, that would have been kind of a … you know, one-occasion affair for a lot of women.


That’s what we thought.


But was it repeat business?


Five years.


And people keep coming back?


Oh … unreal. Four hundred lunches, Monday through Friday.


And where was that lunch place located?


At The Dunes.


Which was, where?


Nimitz Highway.


Nimitz Highway.


Out by the airport, right next to The Plaza Hotel. It’s torn down now; it’s a car lot. But that was the biggest attraction we ever had. And I give all the credit to Sophie Tucker. You remember her?


I do remember Sophie Tucker.


Because when —


I’m sure everyone in Honolulu does.


When we bought The Dunes, we made it a fancy supper club, and we played Pearl Bailey, Van Johnson, Kay Starr …


When you say you played them, you mean you played them —


They —


— their audio?


They worked there.


Oh, they came in and performed there.


Yeah; that was the – the place to go for dinner and see.


So, that’s a classy joint.


Very classy. But … it was Sophie Tucker who told me when she worked there; Young man, there aren’t fifty-two stars on the books to fill this room fifty-two weeks a year. You’ve gotta come up with a gimmick if you want to make money in the nightclub business. ‘Cause all that time, I was playing these stars and paying them ten thousand dollars a week. Unheard of —


So, your gimmick was nudity.


Gimmick was nudity. And from then on, it just went. Girls in the cages, the first Twist Bar here in town, doing The Twist. First sex change, local boy from McKinley High School. Sandra and her Donkey. Oh!


Sandra and her Donkey? I think I missed that one.


[CHUCKLE] You missed that one. You never heard the story about Sandra?


No …




Do I want to hear it?


[CHUCKLE] We’ll put it in, but you might want to cut it out.




That was a story. When people would to go to Cuba or Mexico to see Senorita and her Donkey.


No; tell me about. What —


Oh, it was —


Why did they go see her?


Because she would perform a sexual act with the donkey. It was —




— quite famous in the 50s. Everybody; it was cocktail conversation. And so, I took a local stripper, Sandra, and I rented a donkey from Waimanalo. And we did the stage with the bales of hay and a barn. And Sandra danced Donkey Serenade, hung her clothes on the donkey, kissed the donkey, laid on the bale of hay. But nothing ever happened. When people would see that, they’d come out and say, Jack Cione, that’s the dumbest show I ever saw. And I’d say, You should have been here last night; the donkey really went wild. They’d come back the next night to see. [CHUCKLE]


So, marketing was very much a part of what you did.


Marketing was my business; yeah. My partner counted the money and stayed in the office. I did the marketing and the frontend of all those clubs.


And you went to the police cell block.


I did the —


On behalf of the business.


Yeah. He said, When they arrest you, you’re going, not me.


But you know, it’s – you – sounds like you grew up fast. At fourteen, you’re playing in nightclubs. And now, it sounds like you’re a kid in an adult business.


Well, I’m in the business that I learned when I was playing the piano in the bar business.


It’s what people really want.




So, you got to know some of their baser desires.




And you mentioned there were unsavory people, kind of on the fringes who were involved.


And instead of paying … Kay Starr or Redd Foxx ten thousand dollars a week —


You hired a donkey.


A hundred dollars a week for the donkey, and two hundred for the stripper, and packed the place every night. [CHUCKLE]


What are some of the things that happened as a business owner on the edges there that surprised you? Any surprises about running the business with authorities … with businesspeople, with people you hired?


No. It was – it was – I had great employees.


What kind of competition did you start to face? Were there copycats?


No. I had twelve bars; there were no copycats.




I had The French Quarters on Maunakea Street, The Show Bar on Hotel Street, The Dunes out by the airport, Casbah Lounge, the Forbidden City, Soul City —


Le Boom Boom.


Le Boom Boom at the International Marketplace. The Clouds Hotel, Little Dipper, the Money Room. I had all these strip shows going on. And I only had one club, and the manager of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel … said, Can you come and do something with my show in the Monarch Room?


To pep it up?


Yeah. So, I went and redid their show. That played two years. And in that show, I did a Hawaiian show. Real Polynesian, which never knew anything about, but learned. It starred Ed Kenney, Beverly Noa, Marlene Sai.


Oh, that was big time.


Mottie Ing [PHONETIC].




Al Harrington was my … knife da — with a knife —


Fire dancer?


Fire dancer. And Jack Tahiti Thompson, who owns – they still own the business, was my Samoan slap dancer. Kimo Kahoano —




He was …


Your emcee?


No; one of the boy dancers. He was just a young kid.




And so, that show played there to great reviews. It was called Her Little Island. And so, after that, I always wanted to do another Polynesian show, which I did at Le Boom Boom. When we bought Duke’s, and Duke’s was, a club that … had Don Ho and … Martin Denny and all those stars, and I bought it and put a review in there featuring Prince Hanalei.




The shock —


Not – not —


— of Waikiki.


Yes. Now, he was famous. I remember he was known for being able to make tassels —




— twirl in opposite directions.


Standing on his head, on fire. And when I put him in to headline that show, the tourists …


And where were the tassels attached?


On his back side.




And the tour company said, Oh, Jack, we’re not gonna support that show. I said, Bring your customers. So, the first night, they loved it. It was such a hit that the so – show sold out every night. And in those days, we were doing two shows a night; a dinner show and a second show. Today, everybody does one show a night.


But you could sell out two.




What happened to Prince Hanalei? He was the talk of the town.


He died. He passed on.




Yeah; very young. But he was a great act. And then, I made copies of – Follies Polynesia, it was called, at the Le Boom Boom. It stayed there. But I sent a second company to Las Vegas, and to Lake Tahoe, and to Hong Kong.


Were you working all the time? Sounds like —


All the time.


This is – you were working at night, you were doing business deals —




— during the day.


And so, all of those shows, you see … somebody else was running them, but they were all bringing income.


And what did this do to the powers that be in town, the ones who were supposed to make sure that, you know, citizens, you know, aren’t bothered by an unsavory element? Did you run into trouble with – obviously, the police were on your case, but what about politicians?


No; no, the politicians agreed that this was something the town needed. Honolulu was ready for this.


Who said that?


Oh, I’m not gonna name their names, but the politicians were no problem. They could see that there was a need for this. We had military here, a large population of military. So, this is a tourist town. If you saw it in Las Vegas, why wouldn’t you see it in Honolulu?


And what about as a nexus for organized crime? We had local organized crime in those days. This was the 60s, 70s, and by the 80s I think things were changing. But local organized crime who were getting kickbacks at other places. Did they get them from you?


Never bothered us; no. Never bothered us. I thought we were approached once, but when they found out that the … money would be too hard to get, because it was run as a business. They preyed on mom and pop bars.


Under the table payments.


Yeah; where the owner of the bar would put the money from the cash register in his pocket, you see. But my businesses all had managers and we had to show the tally every night. And if you took money out of the register … no, I never had any trouble with them.


They didn’t say, You know, we’ll provide —


You know —


— security —


— who I had trouble —


We’ll provide security for you, Jack; just send a check over to me —




— every week.


I had my own Samoan security.


But it doesn’t matter; they could have still billed you for security.


No; didn’t do that … the biggest shakedown I thought I had was at the Le Boom Boom Club. The bus drivers that would bring the tour groups into your club … and they would bring fifty, a hundred, two hundred a night in those days. And so, I had … one bus driver said … You like the numbers I’m bringing you? I said, Yeah, it’s fine. He says, You know, I can take them to the Al Harrington Show. I said, I know that. He said, But for a dollar a head, I’ll keep bringing them here. I said, Where am I gonna get the dollar? He said, Out of your register. I said, I can’t, it all goes to the books, I can’t just go in there and take a hundred dollars out because you brought me a hundred customers. They were – then another one tried the same thing. They were the ones shaking me down.


And that didn’t work?


And besides, the tour companies were charging twenty-five percent of the ticket for them.




Now, they’re up to forty percent, I hear.


Oh …


That’s why there are no shows in Waikiki.


Because of all the feeders off the shows?


All feeding off the shows. Right.


Why did you stop doing shows?


Because of that.


What was the biggest cost factor that made you stop?


When they were asking thirty percent.


For delivery of —


Of —


— customers?


Yeah; for a dinner and a show ticket. That mean I would have to raise my price. And it – and it’s ridiculous.


M-hm. Can I ask you in general terms, how much money did you make from all of this? It sounds like —




— you had this burgeoning empire.


Well, I’m living at Arcadia now, which is very expensive.


After having lived at Diamond Head in a house you owned.


Yes. [CHUCKLE] Well, we were in the house business. My wife and I used to buy old houses and decorate them, and sell them. That was her hobby. And I sort of participated in it, too. Arcadia is very expensive. Wonderful place to live, but very expensive.


I know there were eyebrows raised when you applied to live in Arcadia, because it’s a very distinguished place with retired judges —



Retired attorneys, and … did you – what was that like? What was that application process like for you?


When I first moved in, it was a shock, yes. I wasn’t sure that it would last, but it did. And I started the Follies, and we did a little show there using the … residents. It was called School Days, and we dressed them all up in their little kindergarten clothes and did silly jokes, kiddie jokes. And sang Sesame Street songs. [CHUCKLE] And so they all loved it, and the show grew. I’m doing one this year; this is the ninth year. We’ve lived there now ten years. And this is the ninth year of the Follies. We’re calling it Mardi Gras Follies. I used to do Mardi Gras Follies at Pearl Harbor.


That’s right; twenty years. It was a great show.


Twenty – twenty years, we did it out there as their fundraiser. And they made a lot of money on that show. And now, we’re doing it here as a fundraiser, ‘cause we don’t sell tickets.


No skin showing?


No skin showing.




And we have a cast of thirty-five this year.


All from the Arcadia?


All senior ladies. We’ve got one in there is ninety-five years old.


Is she dancing?


She – she … has trouble walking, but she wears the costume, and …




And we added some from Craigside. You know, Arcadia has another place called Craigside. So … the casts are from both places.


Are you still enjoying the shows?

Oh, love – I love doing it. Yeah. It’s a lot of work, though. You – they don’t realize how much work it really is. But I have a good assistant, and I have good costume people, good light person. And so, I’ve got a crew now.


And so —


So, just to clarify, going back. Because the law are different now, and people are used to different rules in place. What … when you had naked waiters, when you had strippers, are you talking about people wearing skin-tone tights, that kinda thing, or G-strings? What kind of nude waiters are you talking about?


No; my waiters took their clothes off. They worked in the nude. I had them wear butcher aprons; that was fun. So, they looked like a waiter. Tied the apron in the back, you know, the butcher apron. And when they come to the table, the ladies would lift up the apron, and the waiter would say, Uh-uh, that’s gonna cost you money.


And how do you tip a naked waiter?


And then they’d teach them how to tip a naked waiter.


And how is that? How do you do that?


They’d take the five-dollar bill off the table, and roll it up … hook it around, and lift up the apron and …


And that was part of their entertainment.


That was part of the entertainment. That’s why they’d stay all afternoon.



But it went – and so, that’s a form of touching, but it went to full – on touching too; right?


No, that’s about all they did to the waiters. They’d be … strict about that.


The waiters would have to control —




— the lady’s action?


See, we did a show on stage, so that was basically what you came to see, is what you say, a naked waiter became a stage show. And when you came in, we charged you a cover charge, and we tied a yellow ribbon around your finger to show that you paid. And when our star would come out, he would dance to Tie a Yellow Ribbon Around That Old Oak Tree. And so, when he was totally nude, he would say, Okay, ladies, this is your chance; would you like to come up and tie your yellow ribbon around my oak tree? And they would line up, and it would take thirty, forty minutes for everybody to tie. That was the show. [CHUCKLE]


Wow. And you were taking it all the way to the bank.


All the way to the bank. Yes. [CHUCKLE]


What was happening in other cities around the world, or around America? Was the same kind of —


Yes; it was —


— nudity going on?


It was all – right. It was a phase that … I think the general public was ready for nudity. It no longer sells. Who’s interested? You can see it on television, you have videos. We didn’t have those in the 60s and 70s.


So, all of the laws that have to do with stage shows and … contact with nudes, and nudity; those all developed right after you came on the scene and —


That’s right.


— probably because you came on the scene.


Right here in Honolulu; yes. If you looked at the Liquor Commission laws, if you were to open a bar and wanted to do nudity, they would give you these rules and regulations. The other thing, if you think about … I remember in nineteen-thirty … mm, six or seven, there was a movie called Gone With the Wind. And Scarlett O’Hara said, Rhett, what am I gonna do, what am I gonna do? And he said, Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. Ah! That shocking. Do you remember that?


I do remember that.


Oh, my; that’s all we talked about. He said, damn, in the movie.


So, very different context. But still, nudity, I mean, that was – you were a pariah.


Yeah. Well, so then it – it progresses, you know. There were several movies. Remember Deep Throat?




Big money. Blue Moon, and all these movies start coming out. Now, who cares? [CHUCKLE]


How did you know people would go for exactly the kind of entertainment that you were offering?


I didn’t. It just happened by accident. When I put those surfers on the stage and they dropped their pants, I didn’t know that that was gonna last five years. I thought it’s a – a gimmick today, it’ll be over tomorrow. But the ladies said, We want more, more, more.


And then, you were very good at packaging that and franchising —


Then I start —


— it.


— hiring waiters.




You know, I remember … you had to find beautiful bodies. And the secret was, the man had to like women. Because the women sense that. And so, I went to Los Angeles to Gold’s Gym. And guess who was running Gold’s Gym? Arnold Schwarzenegger.


Oh, I think he likes women.


Yes. And so, I talked to Arnold about holding an audition at the gym. And when I opened the show in Waikiki, I brought five … musclemen from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s gym. Arnold was gonna come over at the time, ‘cause he was managing the gym. But he had an audition for a movie, and he didn’t want to – and that’s how he became famous. But he – he supplied me with my five waiters at the Merrie Monarch.


Did you personally inspect all the auditioning people? The topless women, the —


Y —


— nude guys.


Well, in the Los Angeles show when we did it, we hired there, ‘cause we didn’t want to bring a cast from here. So, we ran an ad in the paper. Men wanted for a new musical, have to work nude, must be well endowed. And must be able to wait on tables. And so, I did the audition at the theater and we had three hundred men show up. And so, I explained to them what we were looking for. And I said, If you’re not well endowed and if you don’t enjoy the company of women, please don’t come up on the stage and waste our time, ‘cause that’s what we’re looking for. Well, these men would line up, twenty-five at a time, and drop their pants. And I thought, My gosh, they never been in a gym before, had never been in a shower with other men; they all thought they were super studs.




And so, [CHUCKLE] out of the three hundred, we hired eight.


That’s a tough rejection —


A tough —


— on a job interview.


— rejection. Right. [CHUCKLE]



So, as you look back on that career – I mean, you were materially very successful, you resulted in change of law. But it’s – and you’re a very good showman. Everyone talks about how you’re very good at choreographing and pacing. But it’s kind of a weird thing to be known for, isn’t it?


Yes; because if they don’t know me, they think I’m just another nightclub freak that features nudity. But I did it strictly as a business. I raised my children, and I have five great – grandchildren, by the way. And I’ve always been a member of the church, even though they fought me tooth and nail. But I said, Can’t make donations to the church if you don’t let me make money. And … I never drank. And sort – sort of lived just – it was a business to me. I was in it as a business.


You were asked once, you know, who’s been influential in your life, and you – the first person you named is your uncle, who was a member of the Al Capone gang. And another you mention is a bishop, a pastor, a priest. It’s a wide range there.


Yes. He was the pastor of the Waialae Baptist Church.




And I opened a show at the Monarch – Merrie Monarch Restaurant on

Beachwalk and Kalakaua. That was Spencecliff restaurant. And that night, when I went to the club at six o’clock … there were about fifty women in robes with a candle, and a man with a cross hanging on his back, standing at my front door, telling the customers not to go in, that this is a sinful show. And it was his church group. I couldn’t believe that they would have the nerve to do that. But it was the most wonderful thing that ever happened.




It was opening night. The press covered it. We got worldwide press on it. This is a tourist town. It made papers in – Des Moines, Iowa [CHUCKLE] read about it.


So this is the pastor who was influential in your life?


Well, no.



He did that, and … later on, I saw him at a charity event, and I thanked him for doing that. I says it was that opening that I never thought of staging anything like that.


And he’s … he’s thinking.


And he said … Well, good. Anyway, we became friends. We’d have dinner together every now and then. And he started out with the idea to convert me. I said, You don’t have to convert me. I am a religious man. I was born and raised Catholic, but I’m not Catholic now because I don’t believe in what their beliefs are. But I believe in Christ, and I follow Christ. And so, we became friends. [CHUCKLE]


So, that was true all the way along? While you were doing nude shows, you were —




You were following —




— Christ?


Yeah; but then he left. I think he moved to Texas.


M-hm. So – and you remain religious and —


I —


— and a —


I still —


— Christian?


I go to church now; yes. My wife hated to go to – we used to go to St. Andrews Cathedral. And she did volunteer work there. But I said, when we go to church on Sunday and we’re sitting there, the people behind me, since I’ve had my picture in the paper so much, would say, There’s Jack Cione, look at him. Wouldn’t you know, he has lots of nerve to go to church. So, I st – felt guilty about it. So, I didn’t go for a long time, until the last ten years now.




Since I’m out of the nightclub business. It’s twenty years since I’ve been out it. And – but people still talk about it.




It was like [CHUCKLE] a volcano eruption.


[CHUCKLE] It was kind of like that —




— [INDISTINCT] time in those days. In more recent years, you’ve continued to do shows, and you’ve had beneficiaries, charitable …


Yes, I —


— groups have received your —


Twenty – five years with Pearl Harbor. We did the Mardi Gras Follies, which was a charity fundraiser. I taught tap dancing at the Waikiki Community Center for ten years. And now, I’m at Arcadia, and our show raises money by selling ads in the program, and we have a boutique. And we give that money to Arcadia for the people who need help in staying there. They outlive – we have people that are a hundred and five years old.


Who’ve outlived their money.


Outlived their money; yes.




Takes a lot of money to live at Arcadia. [CHUCKLE]


How do you feel – I mean, you’re in your mid-eighties now? You’re eighty – six.






Coming up in March. [CHUCKLE]



What does it feel like? I mean, do you feel like the same guy?


No; I’m getting older.


How does it feel different?


[CHUCKLE] It feels different; believe me.


Physically, or are you’re talking about in another way?


I have allergies I never had before. My voice is different; never had before. My knees are giving out; can’t dance anymore. I can still direct a show, but … yeah. You notice … I still have my teeth. [CHUCKLE]


You mention that you father disowned you and was just – thought you would be a bum. Did you ever get close to him again?


Oh, yes. We became very good friends. He worked with me in my dance studios. And then, when I had all the nightclubs here, I moved he and my – him – my mother and him over here. And he changed his name to Andy Cione, which made me very proud that he did that. And yeah, we became very close and very good friends.


But it took … decades.


Years; yeah. But yeah; in the nightclubs, he’d stay up ‘til four o’clock in the morning and work the cashiers and … have breakfast with me.


So now that you don’t do the breadth of activities you used to do, how do you spend your time?


Right now, the next five months, we’ll be working on the Follies.


Is that pretty much your fulltime volunteer —


I’m having —


— gig?


— another chill.



You talk – well, let’s go back a little bit to … when you were getting criticized in the press, you were getting arrested … you has this … this, Hey, I’m making money on, this attitude. Did any part of you care that you were being criticized? People thought what you were doing was terrible for society.




And there should be laws about it, that you were escaping.


[CHUCKLE] I always remembered, Clark Gable saying that in Gone With the Wind, when he’s told Scarlett, Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.


You truly didn’t give a damn?


I didn’t give a damn what the press was saying, as long as the public was showing up and supporting it. If the public didn’t support my clubs, I would have closed them. But all of the clubs were very successful, and we sold them, and new owners took over, but they all folded up one at a time. So, it was a period that the public was supporting this. I don’t think it would happen now. If I would open a nudity now, I would be very skeptic. The young generation … they’re not obsessed with the nudity. It’s people my age that were raised – and your age, that were raised that it’s naughty, don’t do that, musn’t do this. And that’s what you believed in.


And that’s why Forbidden City was so attractive —


It —


— to your customers.


Right. An – and it was a free stall for them to learn something new about life. Life is – for us, it’s a banquet and most fools are not enjoying it.


So, you didn’t ever go home and say, Oh, this really got – this guy I respect out there is criticizing me for what I do. No?


No; never did.


No hesitation, no —


I —


— second thoughts?


I always had … the public on my side. And I thought, as long as I have support from the public, then I must be doing something right.


But is it an accident that you weren’t doing this near your hometown? Would you have done this in Chicago …


Oh, Chicago; yes.


Even though your family was right around the corner over there?


Well … part of my family would not have … been in favor of it. My little down, Spring Valley, I would have never done it. Because the public there would not have accepted it.


But anywhere the public would accept it, you’d feel —




— fine about it.


Right. And I – I felt like it’s – it’s needed. And that’s why today, I don’t think it would go over. The young public is not interested. Who cares about … Sally standing, or Sally Rand dropping her fan? Who cares?


Mm. You used the word repotting. What does that mean?


Repotting, sort of, I’ve taken that on as that’s what I’ve done in my life. When I was a youngster, I played the piano, and then I went from that into dancing. So, that was my first repot. And then, on to Hollywood for another repot, and then to Arthur Murray’s ballroom dancing, another repot. And then, family man, and then dance studios, and then divorce, and new wife, and a new business. All those years, I’ve repotted.


Always reinventing yourself.


Reinventing myself; right. And that’s the name of my new book that I’m writing, and should be out this year. It’s called Repotting Can Be Such a Bitch. It won’t be on the Times Bestseller List, but my first book did sell fifty thousand copies, right here in Honolulu.


Well, it did have the word naked in the title. [CHUCKLE]


That’s right. But you know, for a book to sell fifty thousand copies, that’s a lot of copies.


That’s true. When you say it can be a —


Why was repotting so hard? It seemed pretty easy, the way your life flowed.


Well, as you live it, you know, there were some ups and downs in it. It wasn’t all gravy. I made money, I was broke, I made money, I was broke.


Because of when you sold or tried to sell businesses —




— or when they didn’t work out? So, you did know what it was like to …




— just go through a rough time.


And I know what it was like to be poor. Living in Spring Valley, I didn’t have indoor plumbing in our house until I was in the eighth grade.


Wow; that must have been a stark contrast when you – then you were – then you were —


I know.


— at your uncle’s house with all the —


A contrast.


— doo – dads.


And have you ever been in the Chicago area in January and February, and using an outhouse? [CHUCKLE]


How broke did you get?


That’s broke. [CHUCKLE]


But what about when you were an adult? I mean, when you were —


Well —


What was the —


— when I went —


— brokest time?


When I went to Hollywood.




‘Cause I – all the money I made playing the piano … I spent it all there.


Did you lose faith in yourself at any time?


No, but I didn’t know what I was gonna do. You know —


So, it wasn’t – repotting wasn’t a no – brainer?


No; right. And at that time, I looked for a job, and … got the job with Arthur Murray’s. I would have taken any job.


So, isn’t it interesting to see how that job led to this, led to that?




And if any link in the chain didn’t happen, what would you have done?


Well, I don’t know. Well, the Lord looked after me. [CHUCKLE] So, here I am.




And he’s given me the chance now to do another show. And this will be the ninth one. I hope I can do the tenth anniversary show at Arcadia. [CHUCKLE] This is my ninth one coming up.


And it’s a lot of work, I know. It’s – your mind – you have to really be able to multitask over a long period.


And it’s more work, because I’m working with amateurs, people that have never been on the stage before. So, it’s not only writing the show; it’s teaching them.


I’ve heard you’re patient, which kinda surprises me.


Yes; I’m very patient. You have to be, when you’re working with seniors. [CHUCKLE]


Mm. Thank you so much. This has been just a joy. Really appreciate your time.


You’re welcome.


Yes; we sold fifty thousand of those.


That’s terrific.


Can you imagine? That’s the way it is.



Layla Dedrick


Original air date: Tues., Mar. 3, 2010


Leslie Wilcox talks story with Layla Dedrick, Pacific Business News’ 2009 Young Business Leader of the Year. Layla is C.E.O. of Bella Pietra, a natural stone company, and she runs her business on values that are part of her Hawaiian heritage: Kuleana (responsibility), Malama (caring for), and Kupono (doing the right thing in the right place). She talks with Leslie about her journey from her childhood in Waianae, to attending Kamehameha Schools, to teaching special needs children, to running a highly successful business with her husband.


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My parents’ business; they owned a gas station in Maili, right on Farrington. So we were either at home, in the service station, grease monkeys running around, and right across the street was the beach. And that was our playground. So my memories of Maili are very much about the ocean, and that is still a really strong connection for me.


Born and raised on Oahu’s ruggedly beautiful Waianae coast, Layla Dedrick grew up in a family business. Before she turned 40, she would establish her own business and win recognition as a business leader. It’s her second career. First she was a special education teacher. She says that special-ed background has helped her tremendously in business…because she knows how to set clear expectations and give positive feedback. Layla Dedrick’s “Long Story Short” is next.


Aloha mai kakou, I’m Leslie Wilcox. In this edition of “Long Story Short”, we’ll meet Layla Dedrick, C-E-O and owner of a natural stone company, Bella Pietra…and the 2009 recipient of the “Young Business Leader of the Year” award, from Pacific Business News. Layla Dedrick is a graduate of the Kamehameha Schools and the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and she’s a former public-school teacher. With her husband Andrew, she founded Bella Pietra in 2001. The first year out, their business brought in revenues of 600,000 dollars. By 2008, the revenues were up to 11 million dollars. At that point, the economic crisis slowed things down. Through it all, Layla Dedrick looks to her Hawaiian upbringing and she remains committed to doing business in a culturally correct way.


I think one of the other things that I think about Maili is a kind of…not just natural, but a ruggedness in the natural environment, as well as the people. It’s a hot, dry place by climate, economically has been and still is depressed. So a very kind—I think resoluteness about that affects how you grow up there. Our family business being very public—I mean, it was a service station and repair, so everybody in Waianae at that time literally drove through my family business. It made us very aware of the role that you play in the community. It’s real easy to look at Waianae and see the negative, but I learned from early on that you need to be a positive influence in the community in however you choose to do that.


You mentioned the community was depressed economically, and your parents owned a business.




That must have been tough for them to operate the business and they must have been asked for credit a lot, is my guess.


I still remember to this day an old cash register, the kind you punch the buttons and, cha-king, and it opens the drawer. And in one of the drawers that didn’t have dollar bills in it was an old beat-up Casio watch and a little, very small, tiny diamond ring back sitting the drawer. And those were collateral that they had taken from people who say, Well, you know, if I don’t fix my car, I can’t drive to town and go to work, but I can give you this, can you fix my car. And my parents would do that, and they’d put it in the drawer, and they were supposed to, you know, come back and pay cash. Those are the kinds of things they did, because they knew that’s something little they could contribute.


Did you always hang out at the service station? Did you work there?


I did. I’m the last of six children. We stood out a little bit in the community, because there were all these hapa Haole girls working in this dirty, grimy service station and pumping gas, and fixing tires.


Can you fix a car these days?


Not anymore. It’s more computer than car nowadays. But I did pump gas and help my mom fix tires, and that kinda thing. It was great life experience.


Back in the days when—


For sure.


—gas was pumped for the customer.


That’s right. Yeah, no automated anything.


After attending Maili elementary, Layla Dedrick enrolled at the Kamehameha schools, like her older sisters before her. Just getting to the Honolulu campus in Kapalama was a daily challenge.


Was it a bus ride for you?


It was a bus ride.


That’s a long—






Up at four-thirty, five, at the bus stop before six behind Tamura’s Supermarket with Clancy the bus driver, who was the bus driver for my sisters. And that was—it was a long ride in the dark in early morning. And then getting home at four-thirty, five-thirty in the afternoon. That was a big change, having pretty much grown up all of my days, my social activities and schooling in Waianae. Soon, I think maybe about my tenth grade year, started to get an inkling of, I better not waste this. You know—began to see the opportunities that Kamehameha offered. And then just fell in love with the whole experience, academically, involved in sports.


You did sports even though you had to take this bus ride home?


Well, from tenth grade, I started driving.


I see.


So my mom’s rule was, if you want a car, give me a reason that you need a car. If you’re just gonna go to school and come home, ride the bus. But I was starting to be interested in sports, swimming and water polo and with sports, again, leaving home at four or five in the morning to get in the pool at six. Practice after school, getting home at seven o’clock at night, just enough time to sit down and wolf down a dinner with Mom and Dad, and then hit the books. So high school is a blur, but very fond memories.


Did you become less of a tita?


[chuckle] I hope so. [chuckle] I hope I can—


At Kamehameha.


I hope I can—there’s a lot of great qualities about the tita-ness…self reliance, not being afraid to speak up for yourself, that helps me, I think, on a daily basis, try to cut through kind of all of…when you’re running a business and have lots of employees, and work with the public like we do.


Any drawbacks to the tita background?


Yes. [chuckle] How candid do you want to be?




Let’s see. I would say, delivery, how you say something has a huge impact on how it’s received. And so that same quality of wanting to cut to the chase to help solve a problem doesn’t mean that you get to be rude…


What about—you were one of six kids, and—




—sometimes you’ve gotta fight for position. I know sometimes people say the youngest has it easiest.




But on the other hand, it’s a group, and sometimes you get put aside. How did you—




—handle that?


I would say that but truly, I was really, really blessed, because I think I had the best of both worlds. I was the youngest, but there’s a big span between me and the other five.


So there was not a lot of sibling rivalry.


Not sibling rivalry. I had more than one mom. I had my mom and my sisters, who all helped take care of me. My mom had me when she was almost forty-three, which is late.




And so I have the perspective of kind of the older generation, her values. But then I also have the values of…most of my siblings are Baby Boomers. I was actually spoiled, would be a good word. But in a good way, in that I was showered with love in a healthy way.


You did a newspaper article I read, and you introduced yourself in the article in Hawaiian style. You—




—began with your genealogy.


M-m. Yes, and that’s important to me, and something that’s become really clear as a business owner. ‘Cause I’ve been challenged more than I ever dreamed as a business owner. And introducing myself through my genealogy, when I think of myself in those terms as a kanaka maoli, it helps me remember that I am not just me, that I am part of a long line of strong, intelligent people, through all of my ethnicities, whether Hawaiian or Chinese, or Caucasian, and that part of Hawaiian cultural beliefs are—is that literally, your ancestors, your kupuna are literally standing ready to assist you. And so how can I be anything but ready to go forward when I think of who is standing behind me saying, Go, imua, go forward.


Who’s standing behind you right now?


Oh wow. I can’t talk about that without crying. Sorry. [SNIFF]

Besides my most immediate ancestors, my father who’s passed on my mom is—still blessed that she’s with us, um, their parents. That’s who I know… but when I think about my Hawaiian background, I see these images of um, kind of these outline of people linked hand-in-hand. And for me personally, that’s their energy, their mana, their soul.


I am linked through to them through my genealogy and they are there for me as a point of nurturing for me, to give me the strength to go forward. Modern day Hawaiians are plagued by so many ills, physically, spiritually, mentally, the land and our food, and all of that. And I wish there was a way for us as a people to come together and harness that energy that I feel. Because there’s lots of reasons for Hawaiians to complain, be divisive.


Because of all the losses of—


Because of all the—


—of history.


Because of all the losses and the current state of our people, and to want to point fingers, and blame, and et cetera. And you can spend a lot of energy doing that, and maybe that’s part of the process of healing, people feel that they need to go through that. But I feel it’s time to move on past that, as a people, not just Hawaiian people, but until we move past what dis-unifies us into what unifies us, we will never have the resolution of our ills that we are looking for. And whether your chosen cause is land rights, or sovereignty, or control over kalo. As long as those issues are divisive, our move forward will be stunted.


And you feel that your reliance on ancestors helps you—


I think so. Because—


—go forward?


How could this people, quote, unquote, technologically illiterate people get on a boat, and sail thousands of miles to a place they’d never been before, right? This little speck in the ocean, and then sail back, and come back again. How could they build a civilization here in these islands.


The most isolated islands in the world.


Exactly; the most isolated islands in the world, by some estimates in the millions, healthy, strong…




Totally sustainable; there’s one. That’s a strength that to me, we have yet to duplicate now. We’re not sustainable. We rely on imported foods, and our quality of life and all those things, that how could you not look back at your ancestors and say, they offer something to me today to make a positive difference in our life. It would be dishonorable for me to not use that as a strength, because they came a heck of a long way, metaphorically and physically. So they, must have had something right.


Let’s talk a little bit about your college years.




Had you decided what you were gonna do with your life?


Oh, no. I wish I was one of those people who…I meet people who knew, they had this passion from when they were little that they were gonna be a teacher, or be a nurse, or write, or they knew how they were gonna contribute to the world. I was clueless, made lots of kind of fits and starts. But, when I was in college, I had been in college for a year, my freshman year on the mainland, because that’s what you were supposed to do after high school, right? You’re supposed to go to a good college. But it was not really where I wanted to be. So I took a year off, and did a volunteer year at an international school in Vancouver, Canada. Met some incredible people from all over the world, one of the best life experiences I’ve had. Came home, I’d said I would take two classes that I would never want to take. So I took an accounting class.


Why would you do that?


Because I wanted to challenge myself. So I took an accounting class, which I was totally right about, was not gonna be an accountant. That one, I had right on. Didn’t want to be an accountant. And then I took a political philosophy class. And I fell in love with philosophy. Ended up getting my undergraduate degree in political science. Had a wonderful time.


Could you tell how you were gonna use that? Did you see a profession—






Not at all. And that was another thing, to the consternation of my mother. What are you gonna do with that? You know, my mom, get a good job, make sure her daughter’s secure. But fell in love with the whole idea. And what I learned about political science and again, breaking down a preconceived notion, is that it’s not about going into politics. Political science at its heart is about how do we govern each other with justice and fairness, and how do we create a framework and a structure called society that helps humanity move forward and become a better race of people. And that was fascinating to me, because I thought, that’s why we’re here.


After pursuing her passion for political science, and receiving a bachelor’s degree from the U.H. Manoa, Layla Dedrick earned a teaching certificate to work with special-needs children. She continually calls upon her teaching experience as a business owner and operator.


Was that your answer to your mom, who said, How are you gonna make a living with this?




And you got a special ed certificate? Or were you—


That again, was why did I do that. I needed a job, really. I mean, you graduate with a political science degree, I knew I wasn’t gonna go into politics, I wasn’t gonna get a law degree, which is kind of the next common thing to do. I wasn’t gonna run for office, that’s not me. I had previously done education classes, ‘cause for a while, I thought maybe that’s what I was gonna do. Which actually ended up being an excellent place, because then going back and getting my special ed certification kinda helped me tie together a lot of the different things I had learned in my exploration. The things that I learned in that special ed program, it’s a lot about classroom management. Besides the particulars of learning about disabilities and ADA law, and all of that, it’s about classroom management and how do you manage such disparate abilities and needs. I use those management skills every day at work, because some of the things I learned as a classroom teacher are not just what special ed students needs, is what people need. People want clear expectations, they want to know what you want. You’re the boss, what does my boss expect of me. They want clear guidelines on how to get there.


As Layla Dedrick and her husband, Andrew, established and grew their natural stone business, she met company challenges with a distinctively Hawaiian view of the world. She instilled the native values and responsibilities of kuleana, malama, and kupono in the workplace.


You said that you wanted to do more than sell your—




—product. But why did you choose, one, to start a business, and two, to sell stone?


Yeah. M-m. To start a business; that’s interesting.  My parents were small business owners; maybe just that experience. My husband and I have been together since I was eighteen years old; that’s when we met. And this year, I will have been married eighteen years. And from when we were very young, always kind of knew that we wanted to be entrepreneurial someday. And so why stone? I wish I had some really deep answer that was very meaningful. [chuckle]


Or family background in masonry?


No. I wish, but I don’t. When we were both in college, we both needed jobs to support ourselves, and my husband went to work as a sales guy, just took a sales job in a company that did lots of different products from plumbing products to Jacuzzis, to metal strapping. And one little, tiny division that was just kind of a—they were dabbling in stone. Some little twelve-by-twelve marble polished tiles, like five colors or something. And he took that product and that became a major part of that company, grew that division. And so he had the particular knowledge of that product, and then with my management background, organizational background, decided that that is what we would do. That was in 2001.


Was that before 9/11?


One month before 9/11, we opened our doors. And so that was a scary time.


How did you do it? You just hunkered down and held on?




How did you handle it?


Very interesting, and I have no statistics, but 9/11, other than the initial kind of constriction, nobody doing anything for the first few weeks, I think within three months after that for Hawaii in particular, I think turned out to be a great opportunity.


People were cocooning weren’t they?


People were cocooning, and at that time in the economy, a major part of our business was high end luxury. When we first started out, that was a big part of our market. And because after 9/11 the foreign investment was now very scary, people with disposable income were now wanting their luxury home, their vacation getaway in Hawaii, instead of a villa in France or a villa in a bungalow in Bali or—


Right; the safety [INDISTINCT].

Safe. It was still the United States, but it was exotic, and it was beautiful and the weather was fantastic.   So 9/11 for us, the bleeding was short. It was fast, but short. And now, I mean, us like everyone else, long term difficulty, and I think, knock on wood, slow but steady recovery.


How do you strike a balance? I mean, because there’s always something more you could be doing in—




—any one phase of your life. When do you decide to push yourself away from the table, or whatever else you’re doing?


Yeah. Continual struggle.


Always balancing?


Always. And what today’s balance looks like may not look like what tomorrow’s balance is. So today’s balance maybe requires that I’m physically at the office for eight, ten, twelve hours sometimes. Tomorrow’s balance might be I’m on a field trip with my kids, and I’m not at the office. Very fortunate that my husband and I are able to trade off duties, et cetera, with the business and with kids and made a conscious effort when we had kids that we would try to err on the side of them and family. Not just them, but us as a family unit, and he and I as a unit.


Even though when you own your own business, that may be tougher than ever.


It is.


Especially now, in this, as we speak, there’s a deep economic downturn.


Yes; the decisions I make and how attentive I am to the health of my business direct impact on the people that come to work for me every day. And that’s a huge responsibility, and that more than anything else is, what’ll keep me up at night. If I have, twenty-five plus employees that choose to come here every day, and that is humbling to me. I’m like, wow, they choose to come and spend most of their waking hours with me? Well, my husband has to do that. [chuckle] But nobody else has to do that. My kids have to do that, nobody else has to do that. ‘Cause it has to be more than about stone. I have to have a reason for coming to work every day beyond the particular widget. And that’s something that I kind of shared and bounced ideas off with other people in the business community is beyond what particular service you provide, what are you doing?


It’s not just what, it’s how.


Exactly. It’s how, and then you have such a wider impact in the community when you think of it that way. Our product, it’s not gonna change the world, it’s not like I’m an ER doctor saving lives. I’m not a kindergarten teacher that is setting a stage for a child’s development through their educational experience. I sell a product that you could take it or leave it. I mean, to be really honest.


And it’s high end, so it’s not necessary.


It’s not a necessary. It’s not a discretionary product, right? So then for me, my business, besides wanting to provide a quality product with good customer service, there has to be a purpose to Bella Pietra and why it exists, beyond are you gonna use this stone in your kitchen or this one. It’s really about the guiding principles focus on how Bella Pietra fits in the community, and some of the wording from those guiding principles is about a standard of excellence in our interaction with all of our stakeholders at Bella Pietra. And our stakeholders include the obvious ones, our customers, our employees, our vendors, what business is next door to us down the street, because how we conduct ourselves in our business, affects our neighborhood. So that’s our hood over there at Pier 21. So a standard of excellence…our values are three Hawaiian words kupono, malama, and kuleana. So malama, how we take care of each other, how we take care of our clients, and how each individual in the company takes care of the company. Kuleana, doing your job every day to the best of your ability, and realizing how your kuleana and whether you do it or not affects somebody else’s kuleana. And then kupono, doing the right thing, in the right place, at the right time for the right reason.


Layla Dedrick is a part Hawaiian Maili girl who grew up to become a business owner and operator. She uses Hawaiian cultural values and her background as a special-education teacher, setting clear expectations, to run her natural stone company, Bella Pietra. In 2009, she was named outstanding “Young Business Leader of the Year” in Hawaii. Thank you, Layla Dedrick, for sharing with us here at PBS Hawaii. And thank “you” for joining us on Long Story Short. I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou kakou.


In high school, I wasn’t in the popular group. I wasn’t a cheerleader. I wasn’t exceptionally outspoken. I wasn’t in student government, wasn’t a song leader at Kamehameha, all of the kinda high profile places. I was kind of a little bit of the sports, little bit geeky, little bit kinda fringe person. So I don’t think that they were expecting anything this high profile.


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