The HONOLULU 100 – Maiki Aiu Lake to Kimo McVay

Ma’iki Aiu Lake (1925-1984)

Ask any of O’ahu’s established kumu hula who they’ve studied under, and you’ll likely get the reply, “Auntie Ma’iki.” Recognized as the most important hula teacher of the 20th century, Ma’iki Aiu Lake founded her halau in 1946.

More than 40 of her students have gone on to become kumu hula, including Vicky Holt Takamine, Mapuana de Silva and Robert Cazimero. At least 30 of her graduates’ own students have also formed their own halau.

“She coined the phrase ‘hula brothers’ and ‘hula sisters,'” says her daughter, Coline Aiu, who’s presided over the halau since Lake’s death. “I think she would be filled to overflowing with love knowing she had all these children and grandchildren.”

Both a loving and demanding teacher, Lake welcomed everyone to her hula studio in Honolulu. She introduced the concept of the “hula book,” now standard among halau, where students record their notes, dance steps and research. And she spread hula to the world, becoming one of the earliest dancers to perform in Japan.

“I don’t know if hula would’ve survived without her,” Aiu says.

photo: courtesy of Coline Aiu/Belknap Publishing and Design


photo: courtesy of the children of Kui Lee

Kui Lee (1933-1966)

In his short lifetime, Kui Lee never received the recognition he deserved. The 34-year-old singer and songwriter died of cancer in 1966. Although he performed regularly at Waikiki’s Queen’s Surf, Lee became known mainly as the composer behind many of Don Ho’s hits, including “One Paddle Two Paddle” and “I’ll Remember You.”  

Music aficionados now acknowledge Lee as an innovator, who helped usher in a new era in local music by fusing jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and R&B to create a distinctly modern Hawai’i sound. In the decade before his death, Lee composed about 40 songs, characterized by simple music and poetic lyrics. 

“If he had lived, who’s to know what he could have written?” says Harry B. Soria Jr., host of Territorial Airwaves on KINE-FM 105.1. “He was so prolific. There was just so much creativity there, that as our world changed and our music changed, I think we would’ve seen more from him.” 


Hal Lewis (1917-1983)

Before the terms “shock jock” and “talk radio” were ever coined, there was J. Akuhead Pupule, who dominated local radio from the late ’40s to the early ’80s. 

“We always used to say, ‘There are two kinds of people in Hawai’i–people who listen to Aku and people who listen to Aku but say they don’t,'” says Michael W. Perry, who, with Larry Price, succeeded the morning disc jockey on KSSK.

Aku, whose real name was Hal Lewis, was a violinist from San Francisco who wasn’t afraid to break all the rules of traditional radio. He laced the daily news with his own opinions, including attacks on local and national politicians. According to Perry, Lewis was the first Hawai’i disc jockey to air live phone calls, knowing how people loved to eavesdrop.

But the disc jockey also riled hundreds of listeners with his antics. One April Fool’s Day, he announced a fake Easter parade, for which thousands of unknowing Islanders showed up. People loved him anyway; by the time he died in 1983, Lewis was reportedly the highest paid DJ in the country.

photo: Honolulu Star-Bulletin


photo: Hawai’i State Archives

Queen Lili’uokalani (1838-1917)

“The call for Hawaiian sovereignty began 101 years ago, with Queen Lili’uokalani,” wrote Poka Laenui, in his 1994 essay, “Straight Talk on Hawaiian Sovereignty.” “But the basic demand and the moral, historical and political foundation remains the same–the right of a people and nation to self-determination.”

Hawai’i’s last monarch “had a remarkable inner strength capable of overcoming adversity,” says Stuart Ching, curator of the ‘Iolani Palace. “She was a deeply religious woman.” In addition to her haunting song, “Aloha ‘Oe,” as well as other compositions, her legacy includes the Queen Lili’uokalani Children’s Center and the Lili’uokalani Trust. “Her love and concern for children was manifested even after her death in 1917,” says Ching. “It was the queen’s wish that an orphanage be established in her memory.”

Today the Queen Lili’uokalani Children’s Center each year provides services to more than 9,000 orphaned and destitute children, as well as to additional families. According to Dr. Claire Asam, president and executive director of the center, “The Queen’s lands, which generate revenue, allow us to offer our services for free.”


Jack Lord (1920-1998)

Hawai’i Five-O star Jack Lord may not have started out as a Honolulu citizen, but once the New York-born actor came here, he never left. In 1971, early in the show’s run from 1968 to 1980, Lord told TV Guide, “This show will be it for me. I’ll never leave the Islands. They’ll have to carry me out.”

Much has been said about how Hawai’i Five-O created a local film and TV industry where nothing comparable had existed and how the show beamed the outdoor beauty of the Islands to millions of Mainland TVs.

But to watch the show now, 25 years later, is to realize how intensely urban the series could be. It might as easily have been titled The Streets of Honolulu, as McGarrett and company chased bad guys through Chinatown, down Beretania, up King Street and into the postwar suburbs then springing up on O’ahu.

You’d be hard-pressed to name another TV series that was so thoroughly influenced by its city setting.

photo: Honolulu Star-Bulletin


photo: Hawai’i State Archives

Cherilla Storrs Lowrey (1861-1918)

It’s a point of pride for Honolulu that this city is free of the billboards that clutter so many U.S. towns. For that, thank Cherilla Storrs Lowrey, who in 1912, founded the Outdoor Circle–Honolulu’s pioneering environmental group, which continues to strive for her ideal of a green and open Honolulu.

Lowrey first threw herself into the beautification of Honolulu after her youngest son left for college in 1909, campaigning for the preservation of open space, the elimination of billboards and outdoor advertising and the creation of more sidewalks, curbs and playgrounds around town.

She proved adept at rallying supporters; the Outdoor Circle’s ranks quickly grew, with hundreds of devoted women who planted trees, cleaned up vacant lots and otherwise worked to improve the city.           

After her death in January 1918, the Outdoor Circle’s executive director eulogized Lowrey: “She was fearless in her attitude and in the accomplishment of work, tactful almost to a fault, yet never swerving a fraction from her duty. Her judgment was never found lacking and her well balanced mind kept this club of nearly 600 women busy with work that will live and grow.”


Richard Mamiya (1925- )

Many Honoluluans owe their lives to Dr. Richard Mamiya. At one time, Mamiya did every heart surgery at Kaiser, Tripler and Straub and many for Queens, Kuakini and Kapi’olani. Since closing his medical practice after 38 years, Mamiya has slowed down a bit–although even in his retirement, he keeps regular office hours.

Coming from a very poor family, Mamiya says, “Medicine was nowhere in my vision during college.” But following a college zoology course, his professor coaxed him into applying to medical school.

He received his M.D. from St. Louis University and remained there for his residency. Although Mamiya intended to stay in academic medicine, he performed surgeries while teaching at the University of Hawai’i and eventually chose to do surgery full-time. As a pioneer in cardiac surgery, Mamiya says, “It was very challenging, but it’s so interesting, you don’t get nervous.”

photo: Olivier Koning


photo: courtesy of Tim McCullough

Reyn McCullough (1918-1984)

Aloha wear has been around since the ’30s, but it was Reynolds McCullough who is credited with turning the aloha shirt into the uniform of the Bishop Street set. In 1959, when McCullough opened up his menswear store in Ala Moana, there was already a push in Honolulu to loosen up the restrictive, suit-and-tie business dress code, but it was a movement of baby steps. A year earlier, the territorial government observed Aloha Week by allowing its male employees to wear “short-sleeved sport shirts of subdued colors & aloha print shirts will not be permitted.”

McCullough made a breakthrough by creating an aloha shirt with a more conservative, button-down collar pattern, using reverse-print fabrics for an understated, faded look. “What he did was take Hawaiiana and gave it business acceptance, so that Hawaiian prints would be palatable in the boardroom,” says his son, Tim McCullough. By the ’70s, a Reyn Spooner aloha shirt had become not only acceptable for Hawai’i businessmen, but also de rigueur.


photo: Rae Huo

Ah Quon McElrath (1915- )

Ah Quon McElrath was never considered a labor leader, at least in the traditional sense of the phrase. But the slight, no-nonsense McElrath became one of the most important voices for Hawai’i laborers. McElrath’s work with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union began in the late 1930s, after she met union head Jack Hall. She married ILWU official Bob McElrath in 1941, but it wasn’t until 1954 that she took on the position of social worker for the union, the first such union position in Hawai’i.

She counseled members on substance abuse, mental health and other social issues, making the ILWU a pioneer in local employee-assistance programs. At the Legislature, McElrath urged public officials to look beyond wages to such issues as healthcare and occupational safety.

An advocate on many fronts, McElrath has spoken out on issues ranging from physician-assisted suicide to the near-closing of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. “Today, she certainly is, more than anyone today, the conscience of the labor movement,” says Bill Puette, director for the UH Center on Labor Education and Research. “Someone needs to stand up for the abused, exploited and all the causes that need to be stood up for. Ah Quon is never gonna let us forget that.”


Kimo McVay (1927-2001)

When he signed the Beamer Brothers, talent manager and impresario Kimo McVay celebrated in style. “He had a thousand dollars in one-dollar bills and he was throwing it around the room,” recalls Kapono Beamer. “He was a tremendous promoter, flamboyant, extravagant, a hell of a lot of fun.”

The kind of man who had an office in a grass shack and often carried a Bloody Mary, McVay was the king of Waikiki.  “A man with enormous ideas,” says Jon de Mello, CEO of Mountain Apple Co. “He was instrumental in shaping Hawai’i’s scene in the heyday of showrooms, from the late 1950s to 1970s.”  

“He could discover talent, groom it, sell it,” says Tom Moffatt, president of Tom Moffatt Productions. “He did everything from manage Don Ho to race cockroaches.” McVay is also notable for opening Duke’s in Waikiki, and received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1999 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards. At McVay’s memorial service, Ho sang, “I’ll Remember You.”