216 HONOLULUMAGAZINE.

COM November 2010
afterthoughts
BY KATHRYN DRURY WAGNER
executive editor
The Party That
Ended All Parties
A night featuring debauchery so extreme, people are still talking about it 62 years later.
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HIS TIME OF YEAR, you hear a lot about party eti-
quette. “Prepare a list of current events for small
talk,” or, “Don’t photocopy your rear end.” Also
taboo: Flirting with your coworkers, gaudy outfits
and injudicious quantities of booze. Some of these
social constraints exist for good reason—drunk
driving just isn’t funny. But the
other straitlaced rules, well,
blame them on the hedonists
who overdid it and ruined it for
the rest of us. I point the finger
squarely at the Honolulu chap-
ter of the American Institute of
Architects.
To understand why, step
with me back into the night
of Saturday, Sept. 18, 1948. A
Beaux Arts costume ball, spon-
sored by the local AIA, “will be
held at the Ala Moana pavilion
tonight,” the Star-Bulletin an-
nounces, “In a setting so lush it
will make the moon look cheap.”
The event has a surreal
theme, “A Night in Bali with
Dali,” and, as at many upscale
shindigs, an orchestra is play-
ing. But they are performing in
the pool.
You walk over a glass floor,
with live, nude women under-
neath. You drink cup after cup
of a cocktail called “Mission-
ary’s Downfall,” until you notice
the punchbowl is cluttered with
cigarette butts. Acrobats per-
form, and a woman swishes by
in a see-through dress, her but-
tocks winking at you. You overhear someone say that they spent
$4,110 to throw this bash [$36,227 in today’s dollars]. Deciding
it’s time to leave, you step over businessmen, engineers and a
professor, some passed out, others making out with their dates.
I know these juicy details because people were still
reminiscing about the debauchery two decades later, when
HONOLULU wrote about the party. “There was too much
booze and not enough food and what resulted was a first class
bash, commonly pronounced ‘firsh clash bash,’” the magazine
wrote in 1968, blaming the party for why “our parks today sport
signs that say have fun, but no drinking, please.”
The party had not only scandalized the town, but possibly
the entire country, because Life magazine had a photographer
there and published evidence of the bacchanalia in a four-page
story that ran nationally.
The Honolulu AIA “were
heavily criticized, and told
they couldn’t have anything
in public like this again,” says
89-year-old local architect
Frank Haines. Haines arrived
in town in November of 1948.
“That was after the notorious
party, but people were still talk-
ing about it.” He later served as
chapter president.
According to Haines, the
following Beaux Arts Ball was
held at the Queen’s Surf (a res-
taurant and nightclub that
closed in 1969) and was not
nearly as risqué. “The whole
thing was more sane. My wife
and I attended that one. But it
wasn’t like you had to pay for
scrip. You paid for the ticket
[and then it was an open bar].
Architects can get awfully
drunk, you know.”
Despite some lingering de-
bauchery—one architect’s wife
cavorted bare to the waist with
glowing Christmas lights on
her breasts—the chapter was
clearly growing up, and the fol-
lowing years featured no Beaux
Arts Balls. “They talked about it but it never got o the ground,”
says Haines.
So if you want to live large this year, don’t aspire to party
like it’s 1999, or party like a rock star. You want to party like
an architect.
For more of Wagner’s writing, see her online column, “Guilty
Pleasures,” at honolulumagazine.com.
The 1948 Beaux Arts Ball.