Entries in the 'Los Angeles' Category

April 30, 2007

BREAKING: Beverly Hills Trader Vic’s Has Closed – UPDATED

Filed under: Los Angeles,News,Tiki,Trader Vic's — Humuhumu @ 2:10 am
Beverly Hills Trader Vics
Beverly Hills Trader Vics

Breaking news from Atomikitty: The Beverly Hills Trader Vic’s last day of operation could very well be Tuesday, May 1.

I just finished up my bartending shift at Saints and Sinners, and one of my customers happened to be a bartender over at Trader Vics Beverly Hills. This person (who asked to not be named) told me that the staff has a ‘meeting’ tomorrow @ 10am, but as of now, the last day on the schedule is this Tuesday May 1st!

That certainly doesn’t bode well. It sounds as if the bartender was fairly convinced that this is the end for the Beverly Hills Trader Vic’s. While it could be quite some time before any construction starts on the new tower at the Beverly Hilton, there’s nothing stopping them from shutting down the restaurant now. Doing so sooner rather than later lets them do it relatively quietly, and makes one of the arguments against this very unpopular development moot.

More updates as more information comes out (particularly after tomorrow’s meeting with staff), but it doesn’t look good — I’d suggest heading there tonight to pay final respects and get your last good Navy Grog.

UPDATE @ 11:55: Brain says in the comments:

Trader Vics is closed. Last night was the end.

If true, this morning’s meeting is likely all about final paychecks. Still waiting to hear confirmation, but it doesn’t look good. Stay tuned…

UPDATE @ 12:05: I just got off the phone with the Beverly Hills Trader Vic’s. I spoke to a very flustered woman, who clearly didn’t know what she was supposed to say. When I asked if they were open, she said “no.” When I asked if they were closed forever, she became even more uncomfortable, and stammered out that they were closed “for renovations.” When I asked if it was still going to be Trader Vic’s, she hemmed and hawed and said something about the bar moving to the hotel, and that she didn’t know if it was still going to be Trader Vic’s. That sounds to me that after 50+ years, Trader Vic’s Beverly Hills is gone.

UPDATE @ 12:35: Eater LA has heard similar rumblings…

UPDATE @ 1:10: When Eater LA called Trader Vic’s, they got the same spiel, and were told that Trader Vic’s specialty cocktails will possibly be available at Circa 55, which is a newer restaurant near the pool.

If Trader Vic’s veteran bartenders decide to make the move to Circa 55, the drinks should still be pretty good, but if the bartenders decide they’re done with the Hilton, I’d guess the drinks would be iffy. Some of the Trader Vic’s bartenders have been there for a very, very long time, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if some of them opted to retire instead.

I would love it if some of the bartenders decided they’d like to semi-retire in the Bay Area and sling Mai Tais at the Palo Alto Trader Vic’s part-time, but I’m not holding my breath.

UPDATE @ 3:45: An eyewitness report from Tom Slick:

I just got back from Trader Vic’s, and I can confirm with authority they are no longer open to the public. I took a few photos, and was immediately sweated by the beverly hills hilton police as to why was I taking pictures. I told them I was an urban archeologist taking pictures of americas mid century architecture.haha, well they were very uneasy, and asked me to leave the property and to take pictures from the sidewalk. I asked if I were doing something wrong, and the suit told me not really, but the (get this!)owner doesn’t want anyone on Trader Vics property other than the people setting up a private party & private party invitees. I can only assume from this point that it is an employee farewell party.
I asked if I could come to dinner tomorrow night instead of tonight…”probably not”…..
The 2 black suits with ear pieces were guarding the entrance to Trader Vic’s. There WAS activity going on inside, and I did see toolkits. Setting up for a private party seemed to be legit, but the suit wasn’t saying who the party was for…I can only guess…

UPDATE @ 5:45: Eater LA has a press release from Trader Vic’s:

From the press release: “The new Trader Vic’s Lounge will be located next to the new Circa 55 restaurant and the Aqua Star pool area. The menu will feature Trader Vic’s signature drinks including the world-famous Mai Tai, invented by Victor “Trader Vic” Bergeron, the Scorpion Bowl and appetizer plates that are ideal for sharing with friends. … ‘We are pleased that the popularity of Trader Vic’s continues to grow around the globe,’ said Robert Davies, President and CEO of Trader Vic’s. ‘Our loyal patrons and hotel guests can be assured that while the atmosphere may be more casual, our new Beverly Hills offering will continue to reflect the finest of our company’s island-style service and culinary quality.’ ”

By “more casual” he must mean smaller and less, um, tiki. Sure, some of the decor will be moved over, but it’s still basically a renovated lounge filled with Trader Vic’s memorabilia. Nonetheless, the new lounge will reopen on May 3. We’re told GM Chai Rojana will still be running the show, and many of the bartenders will move to the new digs.

The word that the bartenders and GM are being retained is good, but contradicts what Atomikitty had heard — that the bartenders were worried about their ability to find new jobs. Eater LA is waiting to hear solid confirmation that indeed the highly-skilled bartenders — who should be treated as the treasures they are — have not lost their jobs. It would be shameful if they were given reason to suddenly worry about their livelihood.

This sucks.

April 12, 2007

San Clemente: Tiki Farm Parking Lot Sale

Filed under: Art,Events,Los Angeles,San Diego,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 4:50 pm
Tiki Farm

Tiki Farm‘s annual parking lot sale is coming up this weekend, on Saturday, April 14, from 9am-3pm. It all goes down in the parking lot at Tiki Farm’s HQ in San Clemente, and it’s a great way to see where the magic happens, and also take home some great tiki mug deals. In addition to special Tiki Farm deals, there will be a couple dozen tiki-centric vendors, including Bamboo Ben, Crazy Al, Velvet Glass, BarTiki, Ken Ruzic, Chongolio, Tiki Magazine, Monkeyman and Doug Horne. Many of the vendors have posted examples of what they’ll be bringing on Tiki Central, and it’s a pretty impressive lineup of goods. The event also includes a free concert by the Glasgow Tiki Shakers. Be sure to get there early and get the best deals!

Saturday, April 14, 9am-3pm
Free admission
1305 Calle Avanzado
San Clemente
Call (949) 940-1006 for more info

April 9, 2007

1968 Photos of the Enchanted Tiki Room

Filed under: Disney,History,Los Angeles,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 9:38 am
1968 photo of Maui at the Enchanted Tiki Room, from the Daveland blog
1968 photo of Maui at the Enchanted Tiki Room, from the Daveland blog

I can never get enough of old pictures of the Enchanted Tiki Room. Dave over at Daveland has just posted some lovely ones, taken in December of 1968, with modern-day pictures for comparison. Above is vintage Maui — poor Maui is much bluer today, with a pretty garish turquoise paint job. Overall, the refurbishment that was done about a year ago was great, but I wish the paint colors had been a little bit better. Dave also has a whole bunch of vintage and current Enchanted Tiki Room pics at his website.

March 6, 2007

Profoundly Lame Aku Aku Motor Inn Remodel

Filed under: Los Angeles,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 1:53 pm
Aku Aku Motel postcard, from the collection of Tim Haack
Aku Aku Motel postcard, from the collection of Tim Haack
Aku Aku Motor Inn remodel, from Curbed LA
Aku Aku Motel remodel, from Curbed LA

Curbed LA has photos of the recently completed remodel of the Aku Aku Motor Inn in Woodland Hills, just north of Los Angeles. Until very recently, the Aku Aku looked very much like the artist’s rendering seen in the above postcard from the collection of Tim Haack. The distinctive A-frame was demolished last fall, to make way for this completely blech new facade. Why did they even bother to keep the name?

February 15, 2007

My Travels: I’m Tiki-Ti Bound!

Filed under: Events,Los Angeles,My Travels,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 11:17 am
Headed to Tiki-Ti!
Headed to Tiki-Ti!

Aloha! I’ve got so, so much great stuff to post, but first, I have to head south for the winter — or at least for a weekend. Los Angeles, and the dulcet tones of Robert Drasnin’s Voodoo 2, are calling me.

First stop: Tiki-Ti.

We’re hitting the road now-ish, and we’ll get to L.A. in late afternoon, hopefully in time to be at Tiki-Ti not too long after it opens at 6p.m. If you happen to be in the area, please come by and say hello! I’ll be the blond chick with the bamboo handbag. (As pictured here, but the hair is shorter. On me. The handbag is bald.) A number of other folks in town for the Drasnin recording will probably be there too, it promises to be a very fun night. Tiki-Ti is kind of like pizza and sex — an off night is still fantastic, and when the night’s a winner — whoo boy.

Other stops for our weekend include Disneyland, and hopefully a pop into the Bevery Hills Trader Vic’s. We’re long overdue for a trip to L.A., I’m downright giddy.

See you all soon!

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 6, 2007

Hollywood: Lava Lounge’s Final Night

Filed under: Events,Los Angeles,Music,News,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 12:05 am
Lava Lounge in Hollywood, CA
Lava Lounge in Hollywood, CA

Hollywood’s Lava Lounge is nestled in a tiny, nondescript strip mall (“nondescript” and “strip mall” are pretty redundant, I suppose) on La Brea, just off of Sunset. I’ve only been there a handful of times — parking in the area is a pain in the keister, and it’s not the tikiest of tiki bars — but I did think it was pretty cool. For one, it’s dark, and I love a dark bar. For another, they weren’t kidding around with the often too-casually-applied “Lava Lounge” name: the room was a mix of pitch black faux and real rockwork, contrasted against blonde bamboo, and it came together really nicely. There was a rocky wall at the back that wept water, and a very small stage area bathed in red light. The drinks were not very good, but at least they tried.

Now comes word that the Lava Lounge’s days are nearing an end. After 13 years, the small bar is closing at the end of February, and undergoing a remodel and name change — no word yet on what the new incarnation will be. 13 years for a bar is impressive, but it’s even more impressive when you consider the competitive environment of bars in Hollywood, and that when it opened in the mid-’90s, tiki was not a hot thing, but the realm of a small cache of hipsters. The bar is one of the very, very few that opened during the exact years that really cool, original places were shutting down all across the country.

If you can, stop in one last time to spend some time in this swell little bar. Lava Lounge mainstays the Blue Hawaiians will be playing a final show there the night of Friday, February 23. Hat tip to bigtikidude for the heads-up.

December 8, 2006

The Return of Sam’s Seafood?

Filed under: Los Angeles,News,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 1:06 pm
Sam's Seafood, on PCH in Orange County
Sam’s Seafood, on PCH in Orange County

Sam’s Seafood, an Orange County tiki institution, closed rather suddenly this past summer, when the owners sold the land to developers aiming to erect retail space and condominiums on the site. It appeared even then that any development would likely be delayed for a few years, and there were questions about what would happen to the restaurant in the interim. The bar has been open sporadically and briefly now and then over the past few months, likely in an effort to keep the liquor license active in the case that the restaurant may reopen.

Now comes word that indeed, the restaurant is reopening. Much is still not known — if the situation is still as it stands last June, it may simply be a way to make money off the site until the redevelopment can begin a few years down the road. When Sam’s closed, there were many rumors of the decor being scatted to the four winds, not to mention the tattered pieces that landed in the dumpster. Sam’s is a large space, and was in need of much repair; while it would be wonderful to see it restored, the cost to do so would not be small, and may not be worth it if the ultimate plan is still to only have the restaurant operating for a few years.

Regardless, Sam’s is coming back, which has many locals very, very happy. The timetables I’ve heard range from “soon” to “in a couple weeks.” It will be interesting to see what kind of shape Sam’s is now in, and what the future now holds. One thing we can be sure of — the food and drinks of the new restaurant’s management can only be an improvement.

For the latest updates, stay tuned to this thread on Tiki Central.

December 2, 2006

North Hollywood: Tiki Wonderland at Tonga Hut

Filed under: Art,Events,Los Angeles,Shopping,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 1:17 pm
Tiki Wonderland at Tonga Hut
Tiki Wonderland at Tonga Hut

After the huge success of last month’s shindig at the Tonga Hut, they’ll be throwing another soiree, on Saturday, December 16, from 7 p.m. to midnight. It’s a mug release party and a one-night-only art show. Two mugs will be debuted there: Tiki Farm’s new Marqo Pollo mug by Señor Calamar (a.k.a. Squid), and Tiki Diablo’s new Dia de los Marquesos mug. There will be art on display by Bosko, Atomikitty, Crazy Al, Derek Yaniger and more. I suspect there will be a return of Grog’s stupefying art rocks, as he’s organizing the event — be sure to get yours. There will be some drink specials, and better yet — they’re making sure to have an extra bartender on hand, dedicated to making tropical drinks all night long (apparently, there was a tragic tropical drink shortage at last month’s event). Tonga Hut is at 12808 Victory Blvd. in North Hollywood. It’s already looking like there’s going to be a great turnout of fun tiki-lovin’ people.

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!


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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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