A dime a dance … guests could pay 10 cents to dance with a girl for 90 seconds.
Clustered in a rectangle, two by eight city blocks in size, in the less elite business district, were Honolulu’s seven taxi-dance halls. Around the entrance sit sellers of leis, corsages, and boutonnieres.
The ballroom is just a large room, whose floors are heavily painted, varnished, and oiled … Lining the walls are benches where the girls sit and wait for dances, or chat with the men.
In one corner is a counter and an ice-box, where soda pop is sold. A peek into the ice-box reveals about a dozen leis and corsages, presented to the girls by admirers.
They are not worn because, in the stuffy smoky room, they wilt quickly, and because they offer too much incumbrance to the hopping around of the girls. (Lord & Lee)
“Dance halls that cater to Filipinos waste no money on overhead. The Filipinos have a need for feminine companionship, and accept it under any conditions.
“They are offered partners, room to dance, and exceedingly “hot” music. These halls are smaller, darker, more crowded, and to a considerable degree, more odorous.” (Lord & Lee)
“Considered one of the more popular and common forms of masculine recreation during the 1920s and 1930s, taxi-dancing all but disappeared following the years of World War II.”
“A taxi-dancer or dance hostess is usually a Caucasian, Hispanic, or Asian female between the ages of 18 and 25 (sometimes older), employed by a public dance establishment which caters to the tastes of male customers by providing paid women partners for dancing within a reasonably acceptable social sphere.”
“A man can, in effect, “rent” a woman’s company for as long as he likes; thus, the term “taxi-dancer” appears applicable.” (Meckel)
“The customers (would buy) tickets by dollar’s worth or two dollars’ worth, and they would dance with the girl. And if the girl not so good, they would change.”
The customers “were mostly Filipinos, Japanese, Chinese (local and a few servicemen —and lot of servicemen too during the war. Yeah, a lot of servicemen used to go.” (Dacossos; NPS)
There were live bands … “The Brown Cats of Rhythm played in a taxi-dance hall called the Casino Ballroom, which was located on the corner of Nu‘uanu and Beretania Streets in downtown Honolulu.”
“It was a typical dime-a-dance hall with about sixty to sixty-five hostesses of all nationalities. The dances lasted about two minutes and then a bell would ring.”
“Soldiers and sailors frequented the place, buying rolls of tickets at ten cents a ticket, which they would give to the hostesses at the end of each dance.”
“The music was a mixture of popular tunes and hard-driving jazz, riffing very much in the Kansas City and South-Western style; …The musicians worked from 8.00 to 12.00 p.m., Monday through Saturday, for approximately thirty-five dollars per man.” (Storyville)
“When a lull occurs, the customers are scarce, the girls pair off, and rather than let the music go to waste, dance together, displaying an amazing series of intricate steps, slides, dips, twirls, and backbends. Because they have to be able to follow anyone, they display rare ability and grace. They are marvelous dancers!”
“The taxi-dancers are all much alike in appearances. The average age is twenty-two years, with eighteen as the lower limit and thirty-eight as the upper, most girls being around eighteen years.”
“Out of about three hundred girls, forty are Portuguese, thirty-one are Filipino, twenty-eight are girls (are) pure Hawaiian. twenty-seven are Hawaiian-Chinese, twenty-four are Japanese, fifteen are Korean, and twelve are pure Chinese. No girl admits having either Negro or Jewish blood.”
“The older dancers are of the Caucasian races, and the reason is an obvious one. They come from the mainland where dance halls have been operating for years and they are old hands at the game, whereas in Honolulu, dance halls are a comparatively
“One distinguishing characteristic of the taxi-dancer is the inevitable permanent wave. This, added to plenty of mascara and eye shadow, rouge and lipstick, is supposed to render her sexually attractive.”
“She usually chooses a dinner, or cocktail dress, of clinging form-revealing lines, and of medium length, worn with sandals — for comfort and for durability.” (Lord & Lee)
“Previous to becoming a taxi-dancer, the girl works in the pineapple cannery, in private homes as a house maid, or in a restaurant as a waitress. Monotony, long hours and little pay are the rewards of these positions. However, at this period, she still retains her neighborhood or childhood friends.”
“Through another taxi-dancer or a patron of the dance hall, probably just a chance acquaintance or a friend of recent development, the girl gains her introduction to this vocation.”