“Hawaii Five-0” fans may not realize this, but every Monday night we get a glimpse at royalty.
I know to many of you, Alex O’Loughlin plays the King of Five-0, Steve McGarrett, yet there is another face in the credits who was once even greater than Mr. McG. We see this regal gentleman in the opening of the show, when a shot of his famous statue flashes across our screen every Monday evening.
It seems very appropriate to write about King Kamehameha I, also known as Kamehameha the Great or Kamehameha Pai‘ea, this week as we celebrate his royal reign in Hawai‘i.
In Hawai‘i, June 11 (which this year fell fortuitously on “Hawaii Five-0” Monday) is a state holiday for most of us, in which we celebrate Kamehameha Day. Kamehameha I, who was born in the mid 1700’s, was a celebrated Hawaiian monarch, who united the main Hawaiian Islands and formally established the Kingdom of Hawai‘i in 1810. He ruled until his death in 1819. In 1883 King Kalākaua erected the famous statue in front of Aliʻiōlani Hale, which is now the state judicial building in Honolulu, and is the known exterior of the Five-0 headquarters.
When “Hawaii Five-0” held its season two premiere during “Sunset on the Beach,” many fans took a bus tour of the island and got a chance to see the famous statue — one of three Thomas R. Gould statues that were created to honor Kamehameha. Unfortunately, the statue does not look like the portraits that survived of Kamehameha, or even of Polynesians of the time, and while it was created to represent the great king, the statue recalls Roman statuary because of its European facial features.
For the most part, Kamehameha Day is celebrated on O‘ahu with a floral parade through Honolulu and the draping of lei on the Kamehameha statue in front of Ali‘iōlani Hale. It typically is a day of leisure for local folks as most state and city agencies are closed. Other lei draping ceremonies are held on Hawai‘i Island where the original Gould statue sits at Kamehameha’s birth place, and in Washington D.C. where the third Gould replica stands in the Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol.
The annual floral parade is an amazing visual representation of the royal pa‘u riders who are the symbols of the royal court on horseback. It is made up of the queen and her princesses who represent each island. She wears a pa‘u—a large skirt that drapes over her horse — in the color of her island.
Additionally, all of the flowers that decorate her hair and her horse are also from her representative island. The riders and their horses are absolutely exquisite and it is a huge honor for a woman to be asked to be a pa‘u rider in the Kamehameha Day parade.
AS FOR our “Hawaii Five-0” connection, I believe the most the show has really talked about Kamehameha was in the episode when Mamo re-enacted the Battle of the Nu‘uanu in “Kūpale.” The Battle of Nu‘uanu was one of the most famous battles Kamehameha fought, as this was the battle which completed his quest to unify the Hawaiian islands.
In this battle Kamehameha fought Kalanikūpule who was the King of O‘ahu, for control of the island. After Kamehameha defeated O‘ahu at the Nu‘uanu Pali, another shooting location for “Hawaii Five-0,” the last island in the chain, Kaua‘i, peacefully capitulated to Kamehameha, and the Kingdom of Hawai‘i was complete. The Kamehameha line lasted until the death of Kamehameha V, Lot Kapuāiwa, in 1872. Lot Kamehameha offered Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop the crown on his deathbed, but she declined the throne, instead starting the Kamehameha Schools and the Bishop Museum, which continues to serve her people today.
In Mamo’s reenactment on the show, the “battle” was shot at the Kualoa Ranch, not actually at the Nu‘uanu Pali. Many of you may recognize the valley from other famous movies and from the opening scene of the “Hawaii Five-0” Pilot episode as it doubled for “North Korea.” Mamo and the Nā Koa warriors in the scene are authentically dressed in malo.
Mamo also wears an ‘ahu ‘ula, or feather cloak, as well as the mahiole, or feathered warrior helmet. Modern artist Herb Kane created the most famous picture of the Battle of Nu’uanu, and in the painting, we can see the viciousness of the battle as well as the accurate dress. The fierce facial expressions of the actors in the scene are very telling of the brutal forces of Kamehameha’s against Kalanikūpule’s army.
So we are lucky enough to celebrate the great King Kamehameha on June 11 every year with a parade and a summer holiday, and are just briefly reminded of him every Monday night while we watch the “Hawaii Five-0” credits.
But I am pleased we still talk about Kamehameha, even if perhaps we do not always think of his impact on Hawai‘i and her people. I am always pleased when a fan comes to my home and wants to see the statue because they recognize it from “Hawaii Five-0.” It always allows me to tell them Kamehameha’s story and the to tell them the truth of our history and culture — which is always a joy to any Hawaiian.
So thank you, “Hawaii Five-0,” for giving me that opportunity to tell as story about a great King who once lived and ruled with a Nā Koa heart.
Redux Side Note:
The Oahu Five-0 fans will be gathering at Big City Diner Pearlridge on Saturday, June 16 at 5:30 p.m. to watch the 8 p.m. show of “Ha‘i‘ole.” Come and join us for “Hawaii Five-0 Summer Hiatus Therapy.” There will be ‘ono food, great company, and fun episode to watch and discuss. You can RSVP here and let us know you will be joining us!
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher who lives and works in Honolulu. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.