Entries in the 'History' Category

January 28, 2007

Where’s the Tiki in France?

Filed under: Continental Europe,History,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 3:23 am
Insignia from a French Foreign Legion regiment
Insignia from the French Foreign Legion’s
5ème RMP

A thought crossed my mind today… in the past few years, most of the countries of western Europe have seen a tiki bar or two open: Italy, the Netherlands, Greece, Portugal, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland each have at least one, Germany has a half-dozen of them, the UK has a bunch, and Spain of course has more than their fair share. But as far as I can tell, France comes up with a great big goose egg. I once found a family pizza place that had tiki masks in relief in the cement outside the building, but that’s been it so far. Of course, France has its stamp all over Polynesia — Tahiti and the other islands of French Polynesia in particular, where French is the official language.

Why is this so? Is there Polynesian Pop in France and I’m just missing it? Do rum-based drinks hold little interest in wine-lovin’ France? Are the French just so over the whole Polynesian Pop thing, preferring their tiki a bit more legit?

On a related but different note: on Tiki Central, tikipedia recently posted a picture of a lovely insignia (slightly different from the one pictured here) for the 5ème Regiment Mixte du Pacifique, a division of the French Foreign Legion that was deployed to French Polynesia from 1963 until the unit was disbanded in 2000.

January 26, 2007

Latest News on Trader Vic’s Beverly Hills

Filed under: History,Los Angeles,News,Tiki,Trader Vic's — Humuhumu @ 7:28 pm
1950s postcard from Trader Vic's Beverly Hills, from the collection of Mimi Payne
1950s postcard from Trader Vic’s Beverly Hills, from the collection of Mimi Payne

A bunch of news erupted last week (and lots of links to my blog — thanks for that!). Here’s a quick roundup:

Plans have been changed — condos are out, Waldorf is in
When word first broke one year ago here on Humu Kon Tiki that the Trader Vic’s was threatened, the plans called for the corner of Wilshire & Santa Monica (where the Trader Vic’s sits on Hilton property) to be turned into a new tower of condominiums. The LA Times reports the developers have found significant resistance from the community, and have now revised their plan. The condo idea has been tossed, and instead they will build a 120-room Waldorf hotel on the spot. The plans still call for the Trader Vic’s to be demolished. The new plans will likely be voted on in the fall of 2007.

Trader Vic’s is considering a move
When the Trader Vic’s in Chicago tragically closed under similar circumstances in 2005, they immedieately made plans to save as much of the decor as possible, and move into a new Chicago location, partnered with Harry Carey restaurants. In July, my sources at Trader Vic’s told me that this would likely be the case in Bevely Hills, as well, and that appears to have been confirmed last week by John Maatta, who is on the board of directors, per a report from Franklin Avenue. The jury is still out on how well this has worked in Chicago: the new location hasn’t opened, and as far as I know, hasn’t even been announced. It’s better to have a new Vic’s than no Vic’s at all, but make no mistake — the new Vic’s will not have the same character, by a longshot. There’s simply no recreating 50+ years of history. The loss of the original Beverly Hills Trader Vic’s would be a tragedy, period.

How to act to save the Beverly Hills Trader Vic’s
I wish I had a single, clear, easy thing you can do, but it’s not quite that easy. There is a growing groundswell of resistance, from many different sides, to the Hilton developments, so you’re in good company. Because there are so many different sorts of folks who want to save the Trader Vic’s (which is a good thing!), the effort looks a bit like a hydra at the moment. Just pick a head, or two, or three, and run with them. The best bet right now would be to get in contact with the LA Conservancy’s Modern Committee. The LA Conservancy has experience with historic sites threatened by new development, and have made some great strides in saving Los Angeles landmarks. The Modern Committee’s discussion about the Trader Vic’s is here. There are, naturally, also folks at Tiki Central who are trying to figure out how best to act, and are starting to dovetail with the Mod Com efforts. You can follow the Tiki Central thread here. And of course, there’s the option of contacting the City of Beverly Hills directly, they’ve created an email address just for comments about this project: HiltonHotelComments@beverlyhills.org. Throw your hat into the various rings, and be ready to be part of the action once the plans of attack come together. Let everyone know you’re there to help.

January 7, 2007

Jungle Drums Are Calling You… to Watch a CBS Special Presentation

Filed under: History,Music,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 2:39 am

CBS Special ident from the ’70s

Anyone who was a kid in the ’70s or ’80s probably still experiences a pins & needles reaction when watching the above six scant seconds of gloriousness… this is the ident CBS played before their special presentations, i.e., the holiday specials. I am a huge fan of old holiday specials (especially Rankin/Bass), and I’ve amassed a pretty impressive collection of them on tape and DVD. The one thing that’s always missing, though, is the CBS Special Presentation intro… Hanford and I have dreams of building the Rankin/Bass-o-Matic, a custom video player that will hold all our holiday specials in digitized form, and will automatically play the CBS Special intro before each one. (Hanford worked on the original design of ReplayTV, so he’s terrifically handy for that sort of thing.)

Hanford just learned something that perhaps further explains my primal reaction to viewing this clip: the music used for it was composed by Morton Stevens, and comes from music he created for Hawaii Five-O. Of course! Why has it taken me this long to recognize that it was no ordinary call to the television — it was thundering drums pounding out an island rhythm. Or, at least the Hollywood version of an island rhythm.

The above clip is sadly not of the best quality; here’s a link to a higher-quality MP3 of the music. Also, Hawaii Five-O’s first season came out on DVD a short bit ago.

December 29, 2006

Grass Shack: Pre-Kahiki Bamboo Joint

Filed under: History,Midwest U.S.,Research,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 1:57 pm
Grass Shack matchbook, from the collection of uncle trav
Grass Shack matchbook, from the collection of uncle trav
Grass Shack matchbook
Grass Shack matchbook

This old matchbook from the Grass Shack caught the eye of its owner, uncle trav, one day recently. He found it a year ago, but only just now took notice of the address: 3583 E. Broad St. Columbus, Ohio. That’s the address of the legendary Kahiki Supper Club. He posted his matchbook on Tiki Central, and it turns out that the Grass Shack was owned by Kahiki founders Bill Sapp and Lee Henry, and it burned down in June 1958 or ’59, at Bill Sapp’s birthday party. Here’s the story, as it was related to Kahiki aficionado tikiskip:

The place did burn down, on Bills Birthday!
He told me he went home (party was still going on)
And got a call from sondro Conti, Bar Manager/drink inventer
Who said “Boss we got a fire here”
Bill said “well put it out”
Sondro called back and said “hey boss this things getting pretty big”
Bill “are we going to be open tomorrow?”
Sondro then called back and said.”Boss we no open tomorrow!”

They were going to start on the Kahiki the next day anyway.
Bill told me that they had matches with the raised boobs. I thought he was mistaken but there they are!

Another story from Bill Sapp, via tikiskip:

Mr Sapp did say that when they started the Kahiki
The fire marshal came in and said “you can’t use the thatch” Because it was a fire hazard.
They told him that they used fire proofing material on the thatch.
They then took him to the burned remains of the Grass Shack and showed him that everything but the thatch was burnt to a crisp!
So he let them use it.

A great matchbook, followed up by some great provenance, and some great stories, to boot.

December 2, 2006

Ft. Lauderdale: Mai-Kai 50th Anniversary Dinner

Filed under: Events,Ft. Lauderdale & Miami,History,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 4:57 pm
Ad for the Mai-Kai's opening day in 1956, from the Mai-Kai Archives
Ad for the Mai-Kai’s opening day in 1956,
from the Mai-Kai Archives

About a thousand tikiphiles gathered to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Mai-Kai this past October, as part of the annual Hukilau event. However, the real, actual date of the 50th Anniversary is coming up on December 28th, and a special, more intimate celebration is planned. Tiki Kiliki is organizing a group reservation for Tiki Centralites for the prime seats of the house — right in front of the stage. Every evening at the Mai-Kai is a really special experience, and about the only way it can be improved upon is by sharing the experience with other people who share your love of tiki and of the Mai-Kai. If you’re interested in joining the group, chime in on this thread on Tiki Central.

Those of us who are inconveniently located across the country may have to miss out on the dinner, but Tiki Kiliki has something special for us, too: every day between now and December 28, she’s sharing an image from the Mai-Kai archives, or from the archives of the family of Mariano Licudine (the Mai-Kai’s original genius mixologist). The image here comes from the Mai-Kai archives, and is an advertisement for the Mai-Kai’s opening day, on December 28, 1956.

Happy Anniversary, Mai-Kai!

November 22, 2006

This Week at Arkiva Tropika

Filed under: Arkiva Tropika,History,Los Angeles,Midwest Canada,San Francisco,Tiki,Washington, D.C. — Humuhumu @ 4:16 pm

I’m a bit late with my weekly roundup of gaze-worthy items from Arkiva Tropika… but better late than never!

Postcard from the Beachcomber in Winnipeg, from Arkiva Tropika
Postcard from the Beachcomber in Winnipeg, from Arkiva Tropika

This postcard, from the Beachcomber in Winnipeg, Manitoba, gives a great view of a typical, middle-of-the-road Polynesian restaurant from the 1960s. This restaurant was no Trader Vic’s, or Kon-Tiki, or Kona Kai, or Mai Kai, or Kahiki, or any other of the famous, big-name restaurants. But, as was the case with virtually all Polynesian restaurants of the day, details were not skimped on — massive faux palm trees beneath a “star lit sky” create a full-fledged [i]scene[/i]. There are glass floats and other beachcomber lamps (including a lovely one covered in tapa), bamboo and matting envelop a dining alcove, and a decorative, open steak pit lets diners watch the master chefs at work. It’s hard to conceive, but this was simply a very typical Polynesian restaurant — this level of theming was every bit the norm, which is what makes these restaurants so fascinating. Mimi has more detailed views of this postcard on Arkiva Tropika.

Detail from 1952 cocktail menu from Lanai in San Mateo, from Arkiva Tropika
Detail from 1952 cocktail menu from Lanai in San Mateo, from Arkiva Tropika

This 1952 cocktail menu from the Lanai in San Mateo appeals to me for a number of reasons. First of all, I love the art style (I can’t help but wonder if the artist was inspired by an early Don the Beachcomber menu, as I was when I created the design for Humu Kon Tiki). Secondly, the Lanai was in our neck of the woods, and probably would be our watering hole of choice if it was still around today. Thirdly, the drinks on the menu are true classics, with drinks likely lifted (the names, if not the recipes) from those created by Don the Beachcomber. The Sidewinder’s Fang is served today at Forbidden Island, using the same recipe that was once served at the Lanai (I had one last night, they’re yummy).

Detail from '60s cocktail menu from Doc's Place in Toronto, from Arkiva Tropika
Detail from ’60s cocktail menu from Doc’s Place in Toronto, from Arkiva Tropika

My interest in this 1960s cocktail menu from Doc’s Place in Toronto has more to do with my love of lettering than my love of tiki. This menu is an excellent example of the difference real hand lettering makes over the over-used mock-hand lettering fonts of today. Look at the two places the word “Swizzle” is used — look at the “zz” in particular. Each “z” is different. There are a lot of “G”s on the page, too, and you can really see the difference there. This is where a font typically falls down. Sometimes a font will at least provide two variations of a letter, which helps a lot, but it still doesn’t really have the character and life that true hand lettering does. I’m a font fiend — I am crazy for a good font — but they have to be used with good judgement, and if this same menu was recreated with a hand-lettered font, it would look corporate and dull. I wish more people would just take the time to hand letter things — it’s a dying art. (Mea culpa — I’ve not done much hand lettering, as my attempts have been less than glorious — but that’s all the more reason to practice!)

Page from 1956 cocktail menu from the Luau in Beverly Hills, from Arkiva Tropika
Page from 1956 cocktail menu from the Luau in Beverly Hills, from Arkiva Tropika

This 1956 cocktail menu from the Luau in Beverly Hills is gorgeous — it’s not unusual to see neat illustrations of the drinks on cocktail menus, but a menu full of illustrations of this size and quality is rare. Not entirely surprising — the mugs from the Luau were also detailed, colorful affairs of high quality, designed by Gabe Florian, and are among the most highly-sought vintage mugs. Restauranteur Stephen Crane went on to create the popular Kon-Tiki chain of restaurants for Sheraton hotels.

Menu from an unknown Bali Hai, from Arkiva Tropika
Menu from an unknown Bali Hai, from Arkiva Tropika

Thanks to the popularity of the 1958 film South Pacific (based on the Rodgers & Hammerstein Broadway musical, in turn based on the James Michener book), the name “Bali Hai” sprung up all over the place in the early ’60s, and naturally a number of Polynesian restaurants adopted the name. Like the mystical island from the film, this Bali Hai is extremely elusive — Mimi has both a dinner menu and a cocktail menu, and neither give any hint as to where it was located. The menu advertises a “Pit of Eternal Fire,” but odds are not good that it is actually still burning. Mimi has taken the time to type up some of the text from the menus; “florid” seems a tad insufficient, but it’s certainly apt.

Menu from Luau Hut in Washington, D.C., from Arkiva Tropika
Menu from Luau Hut in Washington, D.C., from Arkiva Tropika

As Mimi has noted on Arkiva Tropika, this menu from the Luau Hut in Washington, D.C. is a good example of something that was pretty common during the golden age of tiki — ripping off of menu imagery. The tiki on the cover of this menu was certainly lifted from a menu for the Kahiki in Columbus; this is the Kahiki’s famous signature fireplace. There are many examples of this sort of graphic “borrowing;” it rarely, if ever, created a legal issue, as the imagery was taken from far-flung restaurants, and the risk of getting caught was low. Today, the risk is much higher, and this sort of lifting doesn’t happen nearly as often.

We’re already halfway into a new week of great Arkiva Tropika posts — be sure to check them out yourself!

November 13, 2006

Tiki Quest: Collecting the Exotic Past

Filed under: History,Shopping,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 5:17 pm
Tiki Quest: Collecting the Exotic Past, by Duke Carter
Tiki Quest: Collecting the Exotic Past,
by Duke Carter

Tiki Quest isn’t new, it actually came out in 2003, but a conversation I had with someone who’d just purchased it last week is inspiring me to spotlight it today. It’s every bit as deserving of a place on your bookshelf today as it was when it came out three years ago.

Tiki Quest is the creation of Duke Carter and his wife Amy, who have amassed a very impressive collection over their years of tiki obsession. The book is 183 pages of large, full-color images of items from their collection, beautifully photographed so that every detail can be appreciated. All of the items in the book are from the vintage era of Polynesian Pop (’70s and earlier), and most of the book is dedicated to tiki mugs, although postcards, matchbooks, swizzle sticks and other items are also presented. A bit of history is included, particularly around the manufacturers of the mugs and their sometimes tangled relationships to each other.

Pages from Tiki Quest, by Duke Carter
Pages from Tiki Quest, by Duke Carter

As is typically the case, Duke and Amy struggled a bit in getting their book published — most publishers who had interest in the book wanted to cut corners on the quality of the book (the quality of the photographs was of high importance to the Carters), or insisted on including current-day values, turning it into a price guide (understandably, the Carters didn’t want the focus to be on the monetary value of the items). In the end, the Carters took the bold step of self-publishing, and made a deal directly with a printing & binding shop.

Pages from Tiki Quest, by Duke Carter
Pages from Tiki Quest, by Duke Carter

The result is well worth the extra effort, as the final product is a loving tribute to the golden age of Polynesian Pop. I fell in love with tiki all over again when I first received the book. The pages are now falling out of mine after spending lots of time admiring and savoring the items shown in it. It’s one of my favorite Tiki books.

If you’d like to order Tiki Quest, it’s available on Amazon.com, or directly from Duke & Amy’s Pegboard Press.

November 11, 2006

This Week at Arkiva Tropika

Filed under: Arkiva Tropika,Central California,Hawaii,History,Las Vegas,San Diego,San Francisco,Seattle,Tiki,Trader Vic's — Humuhumu @ 5:54 pm

A weekly review of my favorite among the many items Mimi Payne has posted to her Arkiva Tropika website in the past seven days:

Trader Vic's Trading License, from Arkiva Tropika
Trader Vic’s Trading License, from Arkiva Tropika

This is a souvenir Trading License, given to customers in the ’40s at Trader Vic’s, granting the recipient “trading privileges.” This one was granted in 1945 to a couple after having dinner & a scorpion at the Oakland location.

Detail of a menu from the Islander in Stockton, from Arkiva Tropika
Detail of a menu from the Islander in Stockton, from Arkiva Tropika

This is a bit hard to make out here, but I love this bit from a menu from the Islander in Stockton. “The Gourmet Deluxe Dinner” (“For those discriminating people”) cost $4.75 per person, and was served with a bottle of Paul Masson Rose Wine. Also: “The Islander is available for private parties, fashion shows or any special activity.”

Menu from Halekulani Hotel in Waikiki, from Arkiva Tropika
Menu from Halekulani Hotel in Waikiki, from Arkiva Tropika

This 1952 dinner menu, from the Halekulani Hotel in Waikiki, is just dag-flippity gorgeous. The artwork and color palette look like they could have come straight from a vintage rayon aloha shirt. The Halekulani, and its famous House Without a Key restaurant & bar, are still operating today.

'60s or '70s postcard from the Hanalei Hotel in San Diego, from Arkiva Tropika
’60s or ’70s postcard from the Hanalei Hotel in San Diego, from Arkiva Tropika

With the sad news about the remodeling of the Islands Restaurant at San Diego’s Hanalei Hotel this week, Mimi pulled out a lot of great Hanalei & Islands items from her collection. Above is a great postcard from the ’60s or ’70s, showing how the front of the hotel used to look, including its famous sign, which was sadly removed a few years back.

'60s brochure for the Hanalei Hotel in San Diego, from Arkiva Tropika
’60s brochure for the Hanalei Hotel in San Diego, from Arkiva Tropika

This brochure from the 1960s has lots of full-color pictures from the Hanalei’s heyday, inclulding views of the Islands Restaurant.

'60s postcard for the Hanalei Hotel in San Diego, from Arkiva Tropika
’60s postcard for the Hanalei Hotel in San Diego, from Arkiva Tropika

Another postcard from the Hanalei has two different views of the Islands Restaurant.

Page from a '60s cocktail menu from the Islands restaurant, from Arkiva Tropika
Page from a ’60s cocktail menu from the Islands restaurant, from Arkiva Tropika

And this ’60s cocktail menu, from the early days of the Islands restaurant, features some fantastic illustrations of tropical cocktails.

'60s appetizer menu from Aku Aku in Las Vegas, from Arkiva Tropika
’60s appetizer menu from Aku Aku in Las Vegas, from Arkiva Tropika

Another item inspired by a recent closing — this 1960s appetizer menu is from the Aku Aku in Las Vegas, which was part of the Stardust Casino for 20 years. Aku Aku closed in 1980, but the Stardust closed just last week.

'60s postcard from Trader Vic's in Seattle, from Arkiva Tropika
’60s postcard from Trader Vic’s in Seattle, from Arkiva Tropika

This postcard shows the exterior entrance to the Trader Vic’s in Seattle, which was in the Benjamin Franklin Hotel (today it’s the Westin). The Seattle location was Vic’s second restaurant, after the original Oakland location; it was initially named the Outrigger, and was renamed Trader Vic’s later on to be consistent with the rest of the chain. This picture is from the 1960s. Trader Vic’s used birdcage lamps like these in several locations; when the Seattle Trader Vic’s closed in 1992, some of these lamps went to the then-new Crocodile Cafe a few blocks north, where they can still be seen today — perhaps even the lamps in this very postcard!

Gadzooks, Mimi went on a posting rampage this week! This is truly just a smidge of all the great things she posted — be sure to check it all out yourself at Arkiva Tropika.

November 8, 2006

Tiki Research Adventure: Disney Studios & Pago Pago

Filed under: Disney,History,Los Angeles,Research,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 12:47 am
Disney artist's rendering of the Walt Disney Studios in 1947, from the collection of Matterhorn1959
Artist’s rendering of the Walt Disney Studios in 1947,
from the collection of Matterhorn1959

I love being able to watch as bits of tiki history are uncovered — and it’s especially fun when a bunch of tikiphiles work together to unearth the past. This week is one that especially appeals to me — a rumored hangout of Disney artists in the ’40s and ’50s, called the “Pago Pago Club.” I am a freakin’ massive Disney nut. You all know how much I love tiki — I love Disney more. Old Disney, especially. So, this one’s right up my alley.

It all started with a postcard belonging to Matterhorn1959 (if you love vintage Disney, too, check out his blog Stuff from the Park — it’s hardcore vintage Disney porn, and it’s updated daily). The above postcard has a watercolor and ink sketch of the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, and was mailed in 1947. The written note at the bottom describes life at the studio, and makes mention of a nearby “Pago Pago Club.” After being posted on the Stuff from the Park blog, an anonymous commenter said:

I used to work at the studio… The pago pago was the local “studio” bar across the street from the studio East of the corner of Buena Vista St. and Alameda. (even warner bros. had their watering hole as well) Its now an unmarked Disney building that holds the travel office. (If you drove the alley to the pago, one would see all the studio work bikes parked in the alley).

This piqued Matterhorn1959′s interest, as he’s a tikiphile, himself. He posted a call for more information on Tiki Central a few days ago. I personally knew of a few unrelated Pago Pagos having existed over the years, including spots in Long Beach, Portland and Tucson, but not in the San Fernando Valley. With such scant, and quite possibly unreliable, information to work from, it seemed entirely possible that this place might not have actually existed, or perhaps was not called Pago Pago, or perhaps was at another location entirely.

A few of us tried to pin down which block it may have been on, based on what had been learned so far — a spot across the street from the Disney Studios, near the intersection of Alameda & Buena Vista, with an alley nearby. Still wasn’t much to go on; the buildings in that area have pretty much all been rebuilt. Sven Kirsten chimed in, saying he’d heard a rumor of there being an underground passage to the bar, something he didn’t take seriously. Freddiefreelance had a distant memory of possibly seeing a sign for Pago Pago at that spot, “caddy corner to St. Josephs” (the medical center that is also at the intersection of Alameda & Buena Vista) when he used to ride his bike through the area to work in the ’80s. Matterhorn1959 found an older post on Tiki Central that quoted an interview with Paul Page, where he said he’d played off & on at a bar in the San Fernando Valley called the Pago Pago Club for ten years. Still, nothing solid, but a few more smidges of info indicating that this place once existed. So tantalizingly close!

In comes Naomi Alper to the rescue. Naomi owns the 8-Ball store in Burbank, and has some serious researching chops (she’s also Sven’s girlfriend). Naomi tracked down an address from a 1952 Burbank City Directory for a Pago Pago Club — 2413 W. Alameda Ave. Bingo! That address maps to this location, directly across from the Walt Disney Studios, diagonal from St. Joseph’s, and a stone’s throw from the intersection of Alameda & Buena Vista:

Likely location of Pago Pago Club
Likely location of Pago Pago Club

Naomi also learned a bit about that sign that Freddiefreelance remembered:

One of the librarians who assisted me in the search recalled hearing that a Disney animator liberated the Pago Pago sign when the bar closed. This story was corroborated by this blurb that I found in the LA Times archives from an article dated 1/23/1994:

“A sign in the back yard reading “Pago Pago” offers a clue to the party’s origins. “It used to hang outside this bar across from the Disney studios, in Burbank, where the old-time animators met and drank,” says Dave Spafford, a Disney vet himself before forming Spaff Animation with [Debbie Spafford] in 1989. Among their credits: “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and Woody Woodpecker’s Oscar presentation for Best Animated Short Film of 1990.”

To get more than that excerpt, you have to pay for the full article; I haven’t decided if I want to pony up the $3.95; it may not say anything more about the Pago Pago than that blurb does. If you’re curious, you can find it here.

I’ve now added Pago Pago Club to Critiki. The next step is to see if any emphemera or other documentation of this place is out there — naturally, something with some images would be highly desired! Chisel Slinger thinks he may have a matchbook from there in his collection.

Even without having any real way of knowing if there was anything truly tiki about this place beyond the tropical-sounding name, I love the idea of it. I get to daydream about hanging out with Disney artists in the heyday of Disney animation, at a tiki bar across the street. That suits me just fine. Many thanks to all the wonderful Tiki Centralites who have pitched in on this one!

November 6, 2006

New York Trader Vic’s Tikis Headed to Portland

Filed under: History,New York,Portland,Tiki,Trader Vic's — Humuhumu @ 9:42 am
Robert Volz with tikis from New York Trader Vic's
Robert Volz with tikis from New York Trader Vic’s

A wild, almost too-good-to-be-true story came to me from Robert Volz yesterday. Robert is the owner of the new Thatch bar in Portland (development is well underway, and the bar will be opening soon, hopefully). Robert has already had some fantastic scores of items for use in his new bar, including original Armet & Davis booths from a local Denny’s that was one of the last midcentury Denny’s in the nation to be remodeled, and all of the decor from the local Jasmine Tree restaurant that recently closed.

Robert, who was once editor of a magazine for scooter enthusiasts, recently took part in a coast-to-coast scooter race. (Yep — from Pacific City, Oregon to Orange, New Jersey in ten days, on a scooter.) Once he was in New Jersey, it was clear that he wasn’t going to be one of the top finishers, so when he saw a sign saying “Restaurant Auction Today,” he decided to take a breather. In between the kitchen equipment and other typical restaurant fixtures were eight tikis. Not just any tikis, really honkin’ big tikis. And they were reported to be from the New York City Trader Vic’s. Robert said:

The funny thing, is that no one bid on the eight large statues that used to be in the NYC Trader Vic’s in the Plaza Hotel.

After no takers on several, I wrote a note to the auctioneer who passed it onto the the manager. The note was a ridiculously low offer for all of them.

To my surprise, I got them all.

Back of one of Robert Volz's Trader Vic's tikis
Back of one of Robert Volz’s
Trader Vic’s tikis

Now, as I said at the top of the story — too good to be true. But I think in this case that it could very well be true. For one, two of the tikis are the same design as the Trader Vic’s salt & pepper shakers, and have “TRADER VIC’S” carved in the back of them — which anyone can do, but the carving doesn’t look fresh. For another, the tikis look somewhat consistent with (though larger than) some tikis Trader Vic’s still has in their possession, as seen when they loaned them out for the San Francisco Airport tiki exhibit.

If these tikis did indeed come from Trader Vic’s, it’s likely they date to 1965, when the Trader Vic’s moved from the Savoy Hotel to the Plaza Hotel; when Donald Trump bought the building in 1989, he closed the Trader Vic’s. These tikis have been somehwere — probably a warehouse — ever since.

Shipping these fellas back across the country was no small feat — shipping was quoted to Robert at $3,200, so he rented a van and drove all the way to New Jersey and back to get them himself. He says these guys are all going into Thatch, where they will get to hang out with the three massive cannibal tikis from the Portland Kon-Tiki he scored from the Jasmine Tree. To learn more about Thatch, check out this thread on Tiki Central, and this one where Robert asks a bit about one of the tikis.

UPDATE — Perhaps a bit too good to be true, after all. Sven Kirsten and Tim “Swanky” Glazner have weighed in on Tiki Central, and they’re of the opinion that these are more recent carvings (Sven speculates that perhaps these were rounded up for a proposed re-opening of Trader Vic’s in New York that didn’t happen).


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About Humuhumu
Humuhumu
hello@humuhumu.com
http://www.humuhumu.com
Humuhumu is the creator of several tiki websites. She is a designer and programmer based out of San Francisco.

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A look at the 1960s Los Angeles mod, pop, surf, and music scene

Eye of the Goof
Pop culture with a tiki tinge

Forbidden Island
My Wednesday hangout, the Bay Area’s best tiki bar

Humuhumu’s Life in Photos
Pictures of my adventures

Humuhumu.com
I build websites

Junkyard Clubhouse
Random interesting things from Humuhumu & Hanford Lemoore

Kevin Kidney
Kevin loves tiki, I love Kevin, you will too

Konakai
Tiki links galore

Mai Tai Online
Montreal-based tiki ‘zine

Ooga-Mooga
Tiki Mug Collection Organizer

The Jab
Follow the way of the jab

Tiki Bar TV
Public Access meets Modern Drunkard

Tiki Central
Community forums

Tiki Magazine
Periodical publication covering the wide world of Tiki

Tiki Talk
Hot Lava’s Tiki Blog



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