The telegram addressed to Orchids of Hawaii in New York City even felt a little frantic to the touch. It read: SEND DUPLICATE ORDER 50 ORCHIDS. DOG ATE PREVIOUS ORDER. The wire came from a customer in the Midwest who was giving a private luau, the sportingest kind of party to give these days, indoors or out. Last year, for example, 18,000 would-be Hawaiians wrote to Orchids of Hawaii to order merchandise or make inquiries about what would be needed to give an authentic luau. Owner Ted Uchida clears an approximate $400,000 on what he considers a sideline to his larger promotional business. The mail-order catalog, requested by people from as far away as South America, lists everything for the luau from colorful leis at 54¢ per dozen to the makings of a 6-foot artificial palm tree for $13.95. Also available is grass thatching (two pounds for $2.50), just the thing for covering a do-it-yourself hut or hiding those "unsightly pillars" in your living room. For $8.50 you can buy a compact kit containing 43 items designed to complete the luau effect.
The Polynesians, first to inhabit the islands of Hawaii, sailed there centuries ago in outrigger canoes, and much of Hawaiian decor and table setting preserve a nautical flavor. An outrigger set consists of "natural wood tray with contrasting colorful frosted-glass mugs" in which you may serve the famous Mai Tai-Wiki Wiki (a luau rum punch), Diamond Head Cocktail or Leilani Sour. Recipes for these and other drinks are included in the brochure along with recipes for appetizers such as Teriyaki Puu Puu and recipes for the main course (Leilani Ham, Chicken Coconut Isle). All ingredients are available at your supermarket. Most Hawaiian food can be prepared ahead of time, which gives the luau host and hostess more time to spend with guests beside that authentic grass hut under the palm tree. As to proper Hawaiian etiquette, Orchids of Hawaii has a few tips for haoles (Caucasians)—at least before the Mai Tai-Wiki Wikis take over. An insert labeled WARNING! tells us that ladies who wear flowers on the right side of head are "looking," on the left they're "taken," and in the center—auwe (ouch!). So, though building a palm tree may be a little liana (work) and a complete luau may cost a little kala (money), it's considered very akamai (smart). And, if you run out of food, orchids floating in drinks are edible. Okole maluna! (Bottoms up!) But put out the dog.
For brochure, write directly to Orchids of Hawaii, 305 Seventh Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10001, enclosing self-addressed, stamped envelope.