My Hawaiian Diary—Tab Hunter
Monday, Sept. 20: This is it! I’m on my way to Kailua, Kona, Hawaii where Lana Turner and John Wayne are making “The Sea Chase” and lucky you-know-who is in it, too! Promised good friend and writer, Jerry Asher, I’d keep a diary for him and Photoplay. So her-r-e it is (with apologies to Mr. Gobel) and this is the show!
Tuesday, Sept. 21: Up at dawn. Packed my gear. To early mass at Blessed Sacrament. Can’t help thinking—was that really me back in the Coast Guard who got halfway to Honolulu on a weather patrol? Will I ever make it all the way? I often asked myself. Now all this—with Warner Bros. picking up the tab, too, J think! To the studio where best friend, Dick Clayton, introduced me to Dick Davalos who plays my best friend in the picture. Coffee at drugstore across the street. Too excited to drink the stuff.
Later, 10 A. M.: Pineapple juice and sweet rolls in Aloha Room at Los Angeles International Airport. So I’m getting into the mood! Just saw a bewitching blond. Lana Turner going over on the same Strataliner—I hope—I hope! False alarm. Beautiful take-off at 11 A.M. Aloha toast and champagne at noon.
Sundown, Same Day: What can I say! It’s absolutely out of this world! Flight a bit long but great. Arrived shortly after sunset, greeted by hula dancers, orchid leis, palm trees swaying, perfume breeze. Where’s Dorothy Lamour? Cocoanuts everywhere. Feel like one’s in my throat. No wonder I can’t eat dinner. On to Kona, greeted by Hawaiian orchestra, more hula girls, more leis, more of everything. This is work?
Wednesday, Sept. 22: Up at 7 a.m. This is the way to do it. Arrive at night in excited state of exhaustion. Wake up in paradise. Davalos, Alan Hale, Jr., and myself sharing house mile and a half from Kona Inn. Most of the company there. Two bedrooms, two baths, large living room, phonograph and piano. Flowers and windows everywhere. This C. V. Crellin house originally planned for Lana. Studio reconsidered. Afraid of prowlers. It figures!
One Hour Later: To breakfast on terrace of Kona Inn. Stray dogs, barefoot kids, happiness everywhere. On to Disappearing Beach. Need sun tan badly. Too white from skating at Lake Placid recently. Wow! Went to sleep in sun with vinegar on my body. Woke up smelling like a tossed green salad! Can’t get over this fabulous place. White sand disappears on beach one month each year. Only lava remains. Body surfing so great here. Kona water is cool, very clean. Still no Lana!
Thursday, Sept. 23: No work today. Up at 6:45. I’m nutz! Too excited to sleep, no doubt. Starting to jazz it up with Aloha shirts and crazy hats. Breakfast at Kona Inn. Such cute little Japanese waitresses and polite waiters. What service! Only wish I could bring back Lloyd, Japanese boy who waits on our table. And Norma, the hostess. Beautiful like Hollywood glamour gal. Always smiling, these people. Bought bamboo pole, hook, sinker. Fished island way. Caught two “nothing” fish, measuring six inches together! Better I should stick to ice skating. Dinner at Inn. Filmed short subject on “Island Tour,” then home. Who misses the Mambo at Mocambo!
Friday, Sept. 24: First day of work. Nervous as a cat. Wish I could relax like natives. Three and a half hour trip out to sea. Work on the Margaret Schafer, called the Ergenstrasse in “The Sea Chase.” First shot after lunch. John Wayne gave me his navy jacket to wear for luck. Said he saw “Track of the Cat.” Wishes Wayne-Fellows had me under contract. What a great guy—even if he hadn’t said it. Not so nervous now.
Later: Home at 7:30. Long trip back and forth really cuts into shooting schedule. To bed. Am pooped in paradise!
Saturday, Sept. 25: Time to get up. Wha hoppen! Seems like my head just hit the sack. Got home early today. Saw familiar face. Harry Cerny, dock boy two summers ago at Lake Arrowhead. Small world isn’t it? Wayne very nice today. Still no Lana!
Saturday Night: Lana is here! Wonder if she ever got that fan letter. I blush when I think of what I said! Dinner at Inn. Kids working there also entertain. Got roped into dancing native hukilau. Personal to Fred Astaire: Please stop worrying! Won native cocoanut frond hat. Lana watched and laughed. That wonderful laugh. Finally found courage. Placed plumeria lei around her neck. Home to dream sweet dreams. Lana never looked lovelier!
Sunday, Sept. 26: To mass in oldest church on Hawaiian Islands. Went shopping. Bought Mom Miss Hawaii bathing suit, hibiscus pattern. On her it looks good. Went swimming with my stand-in, Fred Stromsoe. Caught up with Gail “Robbie” Robinson, terrific towering actor and stunt man. Robbie now shares house with us. Nothing but laughs.
Monday, Sept. 27: My first disappointment. Supposed to have big scene with Lana. Now it’s big nothing. Lana so kind and encouraging. What a doll! Beginning to be a bit uneasy about my part. Director John Farrow assures it will grow as we go along. Keeping my fingers crossed.
Thursday, Sept. 30: Nothing eventful last three days. Trying my darnedest in whatever bit they give me. No work. Just standing by on rolling ship—and waiting. So far have only said aye, aye, sir, yes, sir, and just plain sir. Oh well, guess I can always sell used cars in Culver City if I don’t like it. Fine talk from a bright-eyed youth who loves Hollywood!
Saturday, Oct. 2: No work today. Poor Wayne suffering from skin-diving ear injury. Some reward for such a hard-working hombre. My first weekend on Honolulu. Lunch at Hali Kelane hotel on Waikiki Beach. Run into Wayne’s son Pat (such a nice guy), also Nick Adams. Both working in “Mister Roberts” on location there. Dinner at the Embers. More yakking at Queen’s Surf. Run into friend Perry Lopez, played Marine in “Battle Cry.” Which reminds me, must send wire to Jeff and Aldo.
Sunday, Oct. 3: Cocoanuts falling on hotel roof sounded like bombs. Breakfast. To 10 o’clock mass with Pat and Nick. Next stop Waikiki Beach for sun and surfing. What a job. Wish I were Superman. Later, to luau with Pat and Nick. Wore lava-lavas and leis for kicks. By mistake walked into strictly formal black-tie luau at Queen’s Surf! One bottle of smelling salts coming up for the official greeter.
Monday, Oct. 4: Back to Kona. Real bad news from home. A wire from Mom telling me about brother Walt’s losing his youngest little girl, Mary Claire. It doesn’t seem possible. Feel sort of empty. What can I do here? Sent flowers. Thought about Walt all day.
Thursday, Oct. 7: No work last three days. Wayne’s painful ear acting up again. Keeps flying to Honolulu for treatment. Thank the good Lord for friends who write letters. Received 16 today. Wrote 16 today. How they’ll hate me! Love it here, but it’s beginning to get lonely. Such a romantic spot—but no romance except six young, beautiful girls just walked in. Smothered me with leis. All around nine and ten! Took them all to a bar and treated to Shirley Temples. This wicked life is getting me.
Saturday, Oct. 9: Wayne has been wonderful. Am definitely unhappy about my part. Talked to Wayne who said: have a nice honest quality when you act. But I was like you at your age and had to learn to keep broader in certain scenes and not play down emotionally.” Gotta remember this. Must never forget advice from an expert.
Sunday, Oct. 10: Real treat. Slept until 6:45. Went to 8 o’clock mass. Hawaiians sing hymns with great joy. Amazing people. Later, went to luau at Napoopoo. Started to rain. Danced in mud in bare feet. Took Betty and Margaret, two wonderful Hawaiian women who take care of us. Strung leis. Always keep the house filled with flowers. Betty and Margaret’s first party since they married. Mother of six, Margaret always hapai (pregnant). Told her am writing a song called “Hapai Honey!” Well, she thought it was funny! Luau rhymes with WOW. Low tables, Hawaiian music, native dances, swaying palm trees, star-studded skies, so romantic and no romance. Who says I’m getting homesick? I do.
Thursday, Oct. 14: My lowest day. Now staying on until November. God has been very good to me. Shouldn’t complain. Miss Mom, home and friends. Can’t help it. Letter from Mom thanking me for gifts. Clipping from Dick Clayton. Hollywood says Lori Nelson and I no speakee. She’s a real honey. Where do they get that feuding bit?
Monday, Oct. 18: Finished shooting early. Finished off ole Davalos, too. Shark got him. In the picture, that is! Three days off, thanks to director John Farrow. Honolulu, here I come. Closing night of Aloha week. Big parade, fireworks and big send-off for Jane Harlan, Lana’s seamstress. Going home. Lucky girl. Fireworks until five under my window at Surf Rider Hotel. Slept right through it all.
Saturday, Oct. 23: Sent wire to Debbie and Eddie. Tried to send her white ginger lei and orchid lei to him to wear at engagement party. Invitation reached me here too late. Bought myself a coolie coat. Just the thing to wear at the Brown Derby!
Monday, Oct. 25: Back to Honolulu. Take Margaret and Betty to Carnival, starring my friend May Edwards in Ice Classics. She’s just terrific. Back to Kona. Wayne feels much better. Lana feels much happier. Lex Barker just arrived—lucky guy. Work here’s winding up rapidly.
Friday, Oct. 29: Longest week of my life. Getting ready to go home. Gave party for Betty and Margaret. They gave me shirt with white ginger blossom pattern, flower of love. Dancing, singing, crying. Promise girls I’ll be back. Know I will—someday. Blissfully happy. To bed. Still keeping my promise to Mr. Robertson. (His son is one of the three top skaters in the world.) One decade of the Rosary every night. Have never missed, as I promised Mr. Robertson when he gave me the rosary.
Wednesday, Nov. 3: After seven weeks I’ll never forget as long as I live—home. That wonderful word—home! At the airport. Everyone there, more crying, more promises to return, more Hawaiian music, leis, perfume, swaying palm trees. And one last look at the most beautiful sunset in the world. Learned a lot watching these people of the Islands, this simple, friendly, care- free race. So much closer to God than a lot of phonies who can peel off a roll of bills when the collection comes around every Sunday. It’s been a beautiful experience. Aloha and God bless them all.
—BY TAB HUNTER
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE MARCH 1955