A PAUL & PAULA 21 STORY
Saturday, November 5, 2016
Paul & Paula 21 performs in Newark, New Jersey as the opening act for Michiko Takahashi. This concert is recorded in another document.
The Treehouse Tour
Friday, November 14, 2016
PLUR-MAkKikM, just outside Honolulu, HI
The cameras were in place, and the television crew was in a shady spot of lawn with a tire swing visible in the background. It looked as if only reporter Cynthia Benet and the two singing ten-year-olds, Paula Akron and Paul Macon, were present. The kids stood smiling next to a staircase.
Benet held still, waiting for her que and being sure that she looked good in close-up. The show wasn’t live, but she didn’t want to be edited out of her own show. When she received the sign, she began the interview.
“Hello,” she started, “I’m speaking today with the newest pop sensation out of Hawaii, Paul & Paula 21. We come to you from the treehouse they share, on the property of their legal guardian, Ted Michaels.”
The camera pulled back, and back, and back a little more. Viewers at home would see that the shady spot was underneath the treehouse, which sat nearly fifteen feet above the ground (4.6 metres), nestled in the branches of two monkeypod trees and a mango tree.
“So,” the woman continued as the TV image returned to Benet’s face, “the two of you live in this treehouse? Alone?”
The camera shifted to the children.
“Not really,” Paul replied. “It’s more like: this is our room. We sleep here but eat there.”
Paula expanded the answer. “We have breakfast and lunch and stuff in the main house. There isn’t even a kitchen in the treehouse, which is probably a good thing because people would be afraid we’d set ourselves on fire or something.”
“When Ted built this treehouse,” the boy added, “it was supposed to be a kind of guest room, for when people in Texas or Oklahoma wanted to visit him here in Hawaii he could put ‘em up here. When we came along, we got it.”
Bennet had too many questions to ask, but then most interviews are like that, and this one had to squeeze in a treehouse tour to boot. She had decided to get the basics and spend most of her time on the tour.
“How did the two of you first meet?”
Paula answered first. “It was at school. It was recess. I was bending over and picking up pebbles.”
“I was looking down her blouse,” Paul added.
The little girl giggled briefly. “I knew he was looking.”
The TV image shifted back to Cynthia Bennet’s face, and she wished it hadn’t. She knew that her expression was a discomforted one, and the cameraman’s smirk let her know that it showed on TV. A change of subject was in order, anything as long as it wasn’t about peeping.
“How old were you when you met?”
“Eight,” the two children answered together.
“When did you first decide that you wanted to sing together?” the reporter continued.
“When we...” began Paul Macon.
“After we...” began Paula Akron.
The two kids looked at each other, wiggled their eyebrows, and nodded. Somehow, this meant that Paul should speak first, because Paula had spoken first before, with the question of their first meeting.
“The first time I heard Paula sing,” the boy said, “well the first time we heard each other was in a clubhouse before our parents got arrested. About the time I was starting to think that Paula might be my girlfriend.”
“And the first time we thought we’d like to sing professionally,” the girl continued, “was when Michiko told us we were good enough to.”
“Ah yes,” Bennet exclaimed, “Michiko Takahashi, the fifteen year old pop star from right here in Honolulu. She’s been very influential, hasn’t she?”
“Oh yeah,” the little boy nodded.
“Yes, yes,” agreed the little girl.
The next question, Bennet was sure, would not involve any down-blouse peeping. “And how did you meet Ms. Takahashi?”
“Ted knows her,” Paul said, adding, “They’re, um...”
“They’re really, really good friends,” Paula finished.
“There are a lot of benefits to having friends,” Paul noted, with a grin which let Bennet, and everybody watching, know that this ten-year-old was fully aware of what he was suggesting.
Cynthia Bennet felt discomfited again, but she managed not to let it show. The rumors that Ted Michaels, the fifty year old man who was the legal guardian for the two children, was also the lover of Michiko Takahashi seemed to be confirmed, unless of course the kids were just screwing with her. Bennet started to think that this was a definite possibility.
“So,” she chirped, changing the subject again, “how do you like recording and doing concerts?”
“FUN!” the two kids shouted together.
“It’s not the easiest thing in the world,” Paula admitted. “There’s rehearsals and meetings to see what song the record company doesn’t want to let us sing this time, costume fittings, all kinds of stuff, but even those parts are fun. Well, rehearsals and costume fittings, and performing. I love performing.”
“Yeah,” Paul noted. “You work your asss-pirational desires off.”
“Too close, Sweetie,” the little girl giggled, and both of them descended into a giggling fit which, fortunately, only lasted for a few seconds.
Cynthia Bennet was of two minds: on the one hand, she couldn’t help but like these kids. They were friendly, cheerful, clever, and able to be just a bit risqué without being unduly vulgar. They would be fun to hang out with. But on the other hand, this was television damn it! You can’t say some of those things on TV. But as soon as she’d thought it Bennet knew that it wasn’t true; you could say all of that and much worse on TV, in daytime or primetime. But only if you were an adult. So, the problem wasn’t that they were being inappropriate for television but that they were being inappropriate for children. Ah well; this was a part of their appeal, part of what was quickly making them famous.
Bennet knew she was taking a risk, but she decided to pursue something which had been mentioned. “About the songs and what the record company doesn’t want you to sing: how are your songs chosen?”
“The first thing,” the little boy began, “is that WE pick our songs. There’s rumors that we don’t want to sing some of them and the record company makes us. That’s, um...”
“Bovine scatology,” the little girl suggested.
“Yes,” Paul nodded. “Bovine scatology, and if you don’t know what that means look it up. I can’t say it on TV.”
Bennet was surprised at the choice of words; she got that the kids meant “bullshit.” What child hasn’t heard an adult say that at some time? But where did they find a phrase like “bovine scatology?”
“Anywho,” Paula continued, “it’s in our contract that we don’t have to sing any song we don’t want to. Ted and Michiko and a canoe full of lawyers made sure of it.”
“Now what they CAN do,” the young boy pointed out, “is they can keep us from singing songs, even if we want to. Copyrights and stuff like that; sometimes they don’t think a song is appropriate for kids our age. We don’t agree, but hey.”
“Yeah,” Paula continued. “So, that’s why we can’t sing ‘Friends and Lovers’ or ‘Love to Love You, Baby’ or, well a whole bunch of songs. Not appropriate for children. Phooey.”
Bennet carefully steered the conversation away from song titles.
“So, do they give you a list of songs they approve of, and you tell them which ones you like?”
“Oh no,” the kids intoned together before doing that eyebrow wiggle and nod thing again. As before, this seemed to communicate who should speak first and why, and to signal agreement. Bennet was suddenly reminded of her own parents, who also seemed to be able to communicate a lot of information to each other with a little bit of facial expression.
Paula spoke first. “What happens is we watch YouTube and when we find a song we like we take it to the company. Then they check if it’s OK with copyrights and stuff or if it’ll freak anybody out that kids are singing it. We get away with some stuff, though.”
Paul picked things up from there. “Sometimes Ted or Michiko or a friend from the old neighborhood will play a song for us, and we take it to the company.”
Bennet opened her mouth to ask what the ten year old girl meant about getting away with stuff, but then she thought better of it.
“So why a treehouse?” she asked instead. “Why not sleep in the main house?” She hoped to God the kids wouldn’t say anything inappropriate, like “because we’re too noisy together at night” or such.
“When we first got here,” the boy said, “we were running away, and we didn’t know Ted and we didn’t really trust him. We didn’t really trust anybody.”
“But he caught us,” the girl added, “and we didn’t have any other place to go, so we agreed to stay here. But we still didn’t like being in his house, and we really, really, seriously didn’t like being away from each other, even at night.”
“So, he said we could stay in the treehouse,” Paul continued, “so we could be close to each other instead of in two guest rooms far apart across from each other in the main house, and we could be further away from him and the people who stay with him.”
“Now it turns out he’s pretty cool,” Paula finished, “and the people he hangs out with are cool, but we didn’t know that yet.”
Cynthia Bennet wasn’t sure if this was good or not. While what the children had told her could be interpreted to mean that they were literally sleeping together, it could also mean that they were merely sleeping in the same building. She had a premonition that when the tour happened, there was only going to be one bed in that treehouse. But the tour had been promised and couldn’t now be cancelled; not without causing even more speculation.
“Well I want to thank both of you for talking to me, and for showing me your treehouse. Whe...”
“You’re welcome,” both children intoned with impeccable politeness.
“When we return from the break, Paul and Paula will show us their treehouse,” Bennet said into the camera, hoping that this whole thing wasn’t a huge mistake.
COMMERCIAL BREAK #1
When the commercial break ended the kids and the reporter were in the same place, but they were facing in another direction. As soon as Bennet got the sign from the cameraman she addressed the home audience.
“Now ordinarily you wouldn’t start a house tour under the house,” she started, “but then you wouldn’t ordinarily be touring a treehouse. Paula, Paul, could you show us some of the features here at ground level?”
“Sure thing,” the little boy chirped as he led the others forward. “Here we have a tire swing. It’s the same as any other: it hangs from a strong branch of the mango tree, a branch that isn’t supporting any part of the treehouse. The only thing that’s different is that the steel cable isn’t wrapped around the branch. This can choke a growing tree and cause the branch to die. So instead it’s attached to a special collar which protects the tree and which can expand as the branch grows.”
The cameraman zoomed in on the collar where it connected to the branch nine feet or so off the ground (2.7 metres). Both he and Bennet understood that they had just heard a rehearsed speech, but that was alright; so long as it provided the information.
“Now over here,” the little girl said as she took up the tour with another rehearsed speech, “in between the mango and the first monkeypod, if you look up you will see monkey bars. There is a platform about eight feet up (2.4 metres), and a foot underneath that (30 cm) there are monkey bars. Both the platform and the bars are made of hardwood, and are twelve feet long (3.7 metres).”
Paula hopped up with a little assist from Paul. She then brachiated from one end to the other. Paul walked alongside. As soon as she dropped down the boy hopped up, with an assist from her, and brachiated back to where Bennet stood, Paula walking alongside this time. They were both competent brachiators, but then they lived here and could practice often.
Paul Macon continued the tour, walking to a spot near one of the trees.
“Over here,” he told them, “is where all the plumbing and electrical and fiber optics and stuff come into the treehouse.”
The boy was pointing to a carved wooden pole, bigger around than Bennet’s head, and carved with Hawaiian designs. The work was quite good, but then Ted Michaels could afford it. There were two bicycles, one to each side of the pole, and as Paul moved one of them out of the way, Paula opened the hidden door and revealed the crowded insides, with its pipes and wiring. The pole itself wasn’t visible at all unless you were close; the trees blocked it from view. The little girl closed the door again, and you couldn’t see any sign of an opening even when you knew where to look.
Paula Akron now led everyone around the tree to a smooth brass pole, smaller in diameter than the carved wooden conduit. It rose high into the branches, never touching the treehouse itself.
“This isn’t a flagpole,” the little girl told them, “and it isn’t a stripper pole either. It’s a fire pole, and it’s the last thing we’ll show you at the end of the tour.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Ted had a stripper out here before he met us,” the boy mused.
“Maybe he still does,” the girl speculated. “When we’re on tour and can’t see her.”
Paul grinned. “That would be cool.”
Paula walked over to the pole and put her hand on it. She walked around it and began to sway as if to music only she could hear. Then she stopped.
“I’d better not,” she deadpanned before walking to stand next to her boyfriend again.
Cynthia Bennet was starting to wonder how much of this was going to make it to air. At least the show wasn’t live.
Both children together led Bennet and the camera crew to the staircase. This was made from wood, and the sides were carved with more Hawaiian designs. This made sense: the treehouse was originally for guests from the mainland who would appreciate these touches. The children headed up the curving flight and Bennet followed them. Eight feet up (2.4 metres) they encountered a landing and a platform with railings, almost like a lanai or balcony.
“This platform,” Paula informed them, “is the same one you saw before, with the monkey bars.”
The kids waited to see if the crew would walk out onto the platform, but they did not. Too bad; there was a nice view of the Ko’olau Mountains from the far end. But instead everyone continued up the stairs. The staircase let out onto a deck, again with railings. This deck wrapped around to the front of the house itself, with the front door right at the top of the stairs.
“Let’s see if anybody’s home,” Paul joked, knocking on the door with the brass knocker. “This is a nice knocker, too. Just one, but that’s enough.”
Paula shrugged. “At least it’s got one.” It wouldn’t have been so bad if she hadn’t winked into the camera. Bennet knew this was deliberate, but of course she couldn’t prove that the child-couple was making a boob joke. Paula was pretty flat, but then, she was only ten years old. Bennet knew she couldn’t say anything, since that would only call out the joke to the few people at home who hadn’t caught it, assuming of course that it made it to air.
Paul opened the door and everybody filed into a room, a room with a fourteen foot high ceiling (4.27 metres) over about half of it. The trunk of one of the trees came up through the floor and out the ceiling.
“It’s a little messy right now,” the boy warned.
“We’re getting ready for a party tomorrow,” the girl explained.
The room didn’t look very messy, except for some bead curtains and some unidentifiable items lying over the dining table and couch. Bennet’s eyes grew wide when she saw three saucers on the coffee table, each holding a dozen sugar cubes. This might not have made her feel like she was feeling now, had it not been for the fact that each sugar cube had a blue dot on it. The little boy noticed her look and soon realized the reason.
“That’s not what it looks like,” he told the reporter, “but that is what it’s supposed to look like.”
By this time the other ten-year-old had noticed the situation.
“The party tomorrow is this hippie, 1960s thing,” she explained. “We’re gonna wear tie dye, listen to the Beatles and Jefferson Airplane, say ‘groovy’ a lot, stuff like that.”
“That’s why we got all the beaded hangings and stuff,” Paul continued. “And of course, we can’t really do ... what you just thought maybe we were doing. That would be illegal and besides, we’re just kids.”
“Yeah,” Paula finished, “but what we can do is take a lot of sugar cubes and put a drop of food color on each one and PRETEND it’s ... what you just thought maybe it was. Then we can eat one and pretend ... well here I’ll show you.”
With that the little girl picked up a blue-dotted sugar cube and popped it in her mouth. It didn’t take her long to eat it, and when she had her jaw went slack and her eyes grew huge. When she spoke, her voice seemed far away.
“Wooooowww...” she drawled, “I can see the music; I can taste the colors.”
Suddenly her face and voice returned to normal. “Like that. Of course, we wouldn’t dare really ... well, you know.”
“You can take a few of them with you if you want,” the little boy offered. “Get them tested; make sure it’s just sugar and not ... you know.”
“Does your guardian know about this party?” Bennet asked.
“Oh yeah,” Paul nodded. “Who do you think got all the beads and tie dye?”
“The sugar cubes were his idea,” Paula added. “We were going to use pieces of paper, but he was afraid that the printer ink might not be good for us. I had no idea they used sugar cubes back in those days.”
“We’re even gonna have marshmallow pies,” the boy concluded with no little pride.
Cynthia Bennet gave her head a shake. If kids could have pirate parties and ninja parties where they pretended to stab each other to death, this hippie party shouldn’t be the moral event horizon, but she doubted any kid in her neighborhood would be serving these sugar cubes anytime soon.
Looking around, Bennet realized she couldn’t see anywhere to sleep. When she asked the kids about it they did their nod and eyebrow thing and then Paul took up the tour.
“This couch,” and he pointed, “can unfold into a bed. ‘Course you gotta move the coffee table first, but that’s easy. It’s not very heavy. A kid like us, a short grown-up I guess, could just sleep on the couch like it is. But...”
When the boy looked at his girlfriend and winked, she took up the narrative.
“The main bed is in the loft,” Paula told them, “but first we wanna show you the bathroom and some of the views out the windows and from the deck.”
The Main Room, as the children called it, took up most of this level. About twenty feet by twenty (6.1 by 6.1 metres), it was a combination living room/dining room and, if the bed were unfolded, a bedroom as well. There was an entertainment center, a dining set, and a refrigerator. The windows did indeed provide nice views of Ted’s property.
The bathroom was larger than Bennet had expected: just under nine by seven feet (2.7 by 2.1 metres) with two sinks, a toilet with bidet attachment, a closet, and a tub with shower. The beaded curtain was already in place, and Bennet remembered that her grandmother had had one of those when Bennet herself was still in her pre-teens. Like the rest of the treehouse, this bathroom was scrupulously clean.
“Do you two keep this place clean yourselves,” Bennet asked, “or do have a maid? I know it’s like pulling teeth to get my son to clean his room, and this is a whole house. Well, a small house, but still.”
“We’re pretty good at cleaning up after ourselves,” Paula said, but then she admitted, “Ted does bring in a maid service every two weeks. But it’s our job to not let it get ratted out between visits.”
Paul added, “She gets paid extra for cleaning the extra place. Ted says some people would be pigs on purpose, just to make sure she earns every cent. But we want it to be easy money for her, so we keep the place up and she only has to give it the professional touch on top of what we do.”
“Two different times,” Paula informed everybody, “the maid had a kid who was a fan, so we worked out a time for her to bring her daughter or her son, it was a boy one time and a girl the other time, to bring the kid over to meet us, and we signed autographs. We want to do a big meet and greet sometime, but the security has to be tight for that.”
The kids and media people stepped out onto the deck. It was a spacious one, with several chairs and even two small tables, each tucked into a corner. One of the trees which supported the treehouse came right up through the deck, and there were potted plants hanging from a branch. The views were amazing; the Ko’olau Mountains were visible from one of the tables and from near the staircase one could just barely see the ocean.
“OK,” Paul announced, “they’re making signs that it’s time for a commercial, so when we get back it’s time to see the sleeping loft.”
COMMERCIAL BREAK #2
When the commercials were over the children, crew, and reporter had re-entered the treehouse. As soon as the cameraman gave the signal both children pointed to where the loft was: directly over nearly half of the Main Room and a small part of the bathroom as well. From the loft one would be able to see almost all the Main Room, and a beefy safety railing made of hardwood insured that no one would fall.
Bennet looked about. “How do you get up there?”