Fri, 28 November 2014
It was almost inevitable that Nalani-alua Olds Napoleon would become an entertainer. Her father was Hawai`i’s best known male hula dancer in the 1920s and 30s – dancing at the grand opening of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood and appearing in films with such luminaries as Dorothy Lamour. Her mother was a singer, dancer, and actress during this same period. Following in her parents footsteps, the lovely Nalani also became a triple-threat: singer, dancer, and model.
Nalani’s career began more than a decade before her appearances on the Hawaii Calls TV show. (Note that she never appeared on the radio program – only the TV program. Perhaps it was the intention of show creator/host Webley Edwards to capitalize on her beauty which would have been lost on radio audiences.) She was first the featured dancer and singer with the trio of Alice, Linda, and Sybil – also known as the Halekulani Girls for the hotel where they held court. She was then with fellow future Hawaii Calls cast member Haunani Kahalewai in her show at the Top of the Isle. Next a stop in New York City for an extended engagement at the Luau 400 Club (which would replace the Lexington Hotel’s Hawaiian Room as the top nightspot for Hawaiian entertainment through the late 1950s and 60s). And when she returned to Hawai`i, she spent six years performing with the then newly opened Hawaiian Village Hotel’s lu`au, followed by a lengthy stint with Danny Kaleikini’s show at the Kahala Hilton Hotel. During this time Nalani was also waxing singles for Decca Records – often accompanied by members of the Hawaii Calls group – followed by two enduring solo albums in the 1970s.
I met Auntie Nalani in September 2007 when she was a judge for the Aloha Festivals Falsetto Contest. We became fast friends – bonding over our mutual love of the sounds and entertainers of Hawaiian music’s golden era. But she serves her audiences differently now – as a Trustee-At-Large for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs since 2000.
In this performance from the Hawaii Calls TV show, Nalani performs the endearing “Pua Mae`ole” – a performance made all the more special still when we realize that the song was composed by fellow Hawaii Calls cast member John “Squeeze” Kamana. I hope you appreciate seeing this clip which likely has not seen the light of day for nearly 50 years.
Next time: An encore from Ms. Olds…