Northern California resident Jean Jacques was born Jean Price, but she occasionally goes by her Hawaiian name, Ka’onohi a lilo loa (Translation: “The one at the center because of dedication”).
Jacques has always been appreciative of the Islands and Polynesian culture. A scholar of the hula dance, she briefly lived in Hawaii after a Pacific Palisades youth.
"I lived in Waikiki after I turned 18,” Jacques told Patch Thursday, which happened to be her 70th birthday. “I Swam in the water ballet there. I’ve been dancing all my life, studying ballet and hula dancing."
Jaques used to dance with the drill squad at Santa Monica College, she said.
“About eight years ago, I was dating a fella who played the ukulele,” Jacques continued, chuckling. “They had hula classes next door."
Jacques, an accomplished dancer, reconnected with her old Tiki flame: the hula dance. A few months ago, she began teaching the hula at the Half Moon Bay Community Center for the Department of Parks and Recreation. She dons a pa’u skirt and teaches hula history and vocabulary.
“I have four four-week sessions,” she said. “The City of Half Moon Bay has already signed me up for four more four-week sessions.”
Even Jacques's recent love life has kind of been a hula dance: circular. She and husband Paul Jacques, dated for 20 years before breaking up in 2001, only to reconnect again in 2008 and marry in 2010. On this day marking her seventh decade, she was expecting a visit from her youngest daughter, who lives in Redding.
Yet she took time to reflect on her Pacific Palisades youth, during which she some interesting experiences. Her first kiss was at age 11 with a younger boy named Patrick...better known years later to the world as Love Story actor Ryan O’Neal.
“Back then, he was Pat O’Neal,” she said, recalling that memorable smooch. “That was at the old Bay Theatre.”
Nancy Sinatra was a classmate at University High, and a former Honorary Mayor of Pacific Palisades, Vivian Vance (Ethel Mertz on I Love Lucy) was one of her neighbors.
“She lived across the street my girl scout leader on Frontera,” Jacques remembered. “She was one of the judges. Jim Arness was one of the judges.”
That would be actor James Arness (brother of late actor and prominent Palisadian Peter Graves).
“We moved around quite a bit,” said Jacques of her family. “We started on 928 Chautauqua, and we ended up moving to the corner of Akron and Bienveneda, and later Las Pulgas.
“My mother ran a store called La Femme, a clothing store that specialized in womens’ clothing, for 25 years.”
La Femme closed in 1980.
“There used to be a real estate firm in town called Townsend and Simpson Real Estate,” Jacques said. “My dad was a real estate broker. He bought out Mike Townsend and worked with Vinnie Simpson."
Both of Jacques' parents were members of the Chamber of Commerce, she said. In Palisadian terms, Jacques is a pioneer of sorts.
“I was the first Miss Palisades in 1958,” said Jacques.
This was before there was a Palisades Charter High School. She attended University High in West Los Angeles with Robert Mitchum’s son. Nancy Sinatra graduated the same year as her.
Jacques left California in 1959 and returned to the Golden State in 1962.
“It had a wonderful small-town feel,” Jacques said of Pacific Palisades. "The last Honorary Mayor I remember is [Warner Bros. voice actor Mel Blanc]. I did come back to visit from time to time. My dad left the Palisades around 1968 and moved to Northern California. He died in 2005. My mom stayed in the Palisades after 1980. Now she’s living near Monterey. She’s 93.”
Once a single mother with two daughters who put herself through law school before settling into estate planning (working with Diana Ross, Barbara Eden, and the Nat King Cole estate), Jacques has always been involved with the Rotary Club. She is currently a member of the Rotary Club of Half Moon Bay.
She has only warm and colorful memories of the Palisades.
“The guys would try to climb a greased pole at the Halloween festival,”Jacques said. “There was the Hot Dog Show, across the street from the Bay Theatre. It was like a drive-in but it wasn’t a drive-in. They named the hot dogs funny names. It was a fun place to go, a hang-out.”
She remembered the community plays at the Palisades Recreation Center. One year, her father played Scrooge. She said she married the first time at Corpus Christi Church.
“It was pricey then for the time, but not like it was now,” she said of home prices in the area.
She remembers wiling away much time at “my mom’s store, and the record store across from my Mom’s store. The Palisades was a fun place.
“Every Saturday, everyone would go to the matinee, It was a different time, wasn’t it?”
Today is a new day, and Jacques motto is A’a I ka hula, waiho ka hilahila i ka hale. Translated: “When one wants to dance the hula, bashfulness should be left at home.”