Rearview Mirror Polynesian entertainment owes much to Elaine Frisbie By Bob Sigall Sept. 6, 2013 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! COURTESY KALO MATAELE SOUKOP / 1968Kalo Mataele-Soukop, second from left, danced at the Puka Puka Otea show from 1964-1968. Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. Last week I wrote about Puka Puka Otea, the Polynesian show at the Queen’s Surf restaurant in the 1960s. It was on Waikiki Beach next to the Aquarium. There were so many interesting stories to write about it, that I broke the story into two parts. Here’s part two. Elaine Frisbie began Puka Puka Otea in 1961, doing private parties and special events. She was the daughter of Robert Dean Frisbie, who traveled the South Pacific in the early 1900s and wrote about his adventures in several books and magazine articles. Elaine was born on a tiny coral atoll called Puka Puka in the Cook Islands. It was less than half a square mile in size and only 200 people live there. It’s about 3,000 miles due south of Hawaii, "In 1963, Puka Puka Otea started performing on a regular basis at a small club called the Sandbox, on Sand Island," Frisbie recalls. "The show was staged Friday and Saturday nights. The crowd was generally local and had good attendance. The general manager of the Queen’s Surf, Jiggs Ritchie, approached me with an offer to perform there, which I accepted." When Puka Puka Otea started performing to large tourist groups at Queen’s Surf, the production evolved into a tour of the South Pacific via dance. Geoff Heise says when he first arrived in Hawaii around 1966, one of his first jobs was at the Queen’s Surf. "I had just moved up from Western Samoa where I was raised. My Polynesian wife worked cocktails and danced at Queen’s Surf so I was there all the time." "One night when the emcee for Puka Puka Otea didn’t show up, Elaine Frisbie asked if I would fill in. "She knew I spoke fluent Samoan and would be able to pronounce the Polynesian words properly. I was very young, probably 21, and had no idea what to do. I was horrified. "She said, ‘You’ve been in here before. You know the numbers. I’ll give you some notes. The main thing is you can pronounce the names.’ "I got up and said, ‘Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Elaine Matua Frisbie’s Puka Puka Otea, presenting the songs, chants and dances of the South Seas.’ "I did the show and guess it went well, because afterwards, Elaine told me the job was mine if I wanted it. The other guy was fired! "I worked there for about nine months. It was an amazing time. At the late show all the bartenders, waitresses and night owls from Waikiki would come down for a pau hana at 1 a.m. The last show could get very raucous. "Sometimes celebrities like Ava Gardner would slip into the Queen’s Surf with dark glasses and have a drink or four or five. I saw William Holden and Rory Calhoun many times. Many Hollywood types would arrive for drinks where they knew they would not be bothered." Former Territorial Tavern owner Bob Hampton says he worked on a cocktail cruise ship in the 1960s. "We’d sail out toward Diamond Head and back. As we passed Queen’s Surf, the drums from Puka Puka Otea would be pounding. I’d pull out my harmonica and play along with them. Our passengers loved it. When we pulled back into port, I’d often get great tips." Jack Thompson remembers Frisbie as "the pioneer that started the first Polynesian show in Waikiki." "I credit Elaine Frisbie and Puka Puka Otea for giving Cha and me a start in the entertainment business in Hawaii. We learned a lot from her. She was kind and cared about her performers, and was, at the same time, very strict and wanted the best out of all those that danced for her." Today, Jack and Cha Thompson’s Tihati Productions puts on 13 Polynesian shows on four islands. Cha Thompson recalls that she was probably one of the youngest dancers there. "It was exciting every single night. Wages were low but the love of dancing reigned supreme. One night a gentleman approached Elaine and said, ‘Would that girl be interested in being a Playboy Bunny?’ "When Elaine asked me, I said, ‘What’s a Bunny?’ I was blissfully ignorant, just a kid out of Kalihi! I named my first daughter after Elaine. When Queen’s Surf closed in 1969, it felt like a part of Hawaii disappeared." Jack Thompson expressed the same thought: "It was truly a sad day when Queen’s Surf closed down." Elaine Frisbie retired from show business to become a mom. She lives in California. ——— Bob Sigall, is Hawaii’s business historian. His three “The Companies We Keep” books can be found at Native Books at Ward Warehouse. Email him at Sigall@Yahoo.com Previous Story Isle icons cut their teeth dancing in 'Puka Puka Otea' Next Story Hawaii's Shriners Hospital marks 90 years of 'miracles'