Hawaii’s “Glades era” was glamorous. But it was also the darkest time for LGBTQ+ performers

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) — Hawaii‘s modern laws are quite progressive in protecting LGTBQ rights.

But there was a dark period in the islands’ history when this wasn’t always the case. This chapter was known as the Glades era, when drag performers couldn’t walk the streets without fear of being beaten and arrested.

Jerrine Madayag, who burst onto the drag scene in the late ’70s, remembers the Glade Show Lounge as a safe haven.

“Glades was a time of glitz and glamour. That was basically it,” Madayag said.

This story is part of a series by Hawaii News Now for Honolulu pride.


“The energy of the club was just so… it was alive. I went to this club when I was 17 years old. The energy, it was like we were in our own little world at that point because when we left the club it was different.

The club saw Hawaii’s first “female impersonators” take the stage for several shows a week.

“It’s this huge, huge stage, two stories,” Madayag recalled.

It was the epitome of glamor and fantasy. But outside, the performers were walking targets.

SPECIAL SECTION: Honolulu pride

“Sometimes the police would harass,” said Connie Florez, a filmmaker who is in the middle of a nearly 20-year project to put together a documentary about the Glades era.

“The girls talked about being hit on the hind legs and the back of the head with a clubstick.”

She added: “I have old pictures of signage… saying no mahus allowed in this restaurant, no mahus allowed in the pool hall. Remember, this is the time of civil rights – and yet it is happening here in Hawaii within our own indigenous Mahus culture.”

The Glades nightclub was a haven for the LGBTQ community in the 1970s.(decency)

Drag performers faced jail terms and hefty fines under Hawaii’s 1963 Declaration of Intent Act.

They were forced to wear a button identifying them as boys, and authorities even tried to lock them up in certain blocks of Chinatown.

“It was like that for Mahus – you have no job security. There is so much discrimination that you can’t even get an apartment. So a lot of homeless people, a lot of prostitution,” Florez said. “It can happen again and history repeats itself and if we don’t teach our generations today what was, it will repeat itself.”

Away from the stage, the performers were considered outcasts of society – banned from the streets and violently attacked.

“I would say I’ve been out there at least three times and one of my really good close friends was hit so bad she was bleeding in the hospital with a broken jaw. It was bad,” Madayag said.

The law on deception was repealed in 1972. The buttons from this period are now a symbol of past oppression.

CONTINUE READING: “I’m a boy”: The simple button that was Honolulu‘s scarlet letter

“It’s crazy what we had to avoid and run away back then,” Madayag said. “We’ve come a long, long, long, long, long way, but we still have a long, long way to go.”

Florez’s documentary is now in the home stretch of production.

She not only wants to broadcast it on TV and streaming platforms, but also integrate it into the education system at universities.

“We can learn a lot from this mahu community and it’s important,” Florez said.

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