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Who was Hilo Hattie?

Who was Hilo Hattie?

Clarissa Haili was born in Honolulu in 1901. She became an entertainer in part, so the story goes, by accident. On a cruise to Portland, Oregon in 1935, a shipboard entertainer who was to perform the hula became ill. Clarissa who claimed never to have had a hula lesson stepped in and danced a comic hula to the song, When Hilo Hattie Does the Hilo Hop. It was a monster success and it became her signature tune. And her singing, dancing and comedy career was launched. By 1940, she was hired as part of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel orchestra.

In 1942, shortly after the beginning of WWII in the Pacific, Clarissa legally changed her name to Hilo Hattie. She was a favorite of the troops stationed on Oahu.

Hilo HattieHattie joined the Webley Edwards-hosted Hawaii Calls broadcasts that went out to 600 radio stations around the world. The show provided morale and goodwill throughout the war. And in fact Edwards was one of only two broadcast journalists to be invited aboard the USS Missouri to report the surrender of the Japanese military in Tokyo Bay.

Hattie went on to become a global household name, touring the world and performing in movies and eventually on television, often in Hawaii Five-O. She was still touring the mainland in 1956, when she performed four days and nights at the Merced County, California Spring Fair. Hilo Hattie and her Hawaiian Revue played the Peabody Auditorium in Daytona Beach, Florida in January 1959.

Back in Hawaii in 1960, Hilo Hattie began doing two shows a night, six nights a week, at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Tapa Room. It was an arrangement that continued for more than a decade. Her acting, dancing and comedy continued for many more years.

In 1972, she recalled having once made an attempt at retirement, but live performing was too much fun. Hilo Hattie passed away in December 1979.

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