Entries in the 'Research' Category

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.

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!

September 3, 2006

Information Sought on McVicker Art

Filed under: Art,Ft. Lauderdale & Miami,History,Research,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 8:55 pm
McVicker art of a Polynesian revue
McVicker art of a Polynesian revue
Detail of McVicker art
Detail of McVicker art

The above art was posted by someone on Tiki Central who is looking to learn more about it. It’s lovely — I’d love to know more about it, myself. According to the poster, thegreenman, this lithograph was acquired via his aunt, who is in a south Florida retirement village. His aunt got it from a woman “who knew the artist” (the work is signed “McVicker”). This woman said it was created as a promotion for a “Polynesian gardens fire dance,” and it is from 1959. I don’t know how accurate any of that is, but I do know it’s a great scene — complete with fire dancers, hula dancers, a band, well-dressed patrons, a serving wahine, a bartender, a mysterious shady figure at the back, even a full-on decorated a-frame. It’s almost too perfect… I would have guessed that it was a modern piece, the way it so perfectly nails every Poly Pop cliche. Regardless, it’s gorgeous.

McVicker signature
McVicker signature

I did a quick search on “McVicker” and turned up an artist, J. Jay McVicker; he created some pieces of a similar tone, and which date from a similar age, but his style was more abstract, and a close comparison of the signatures looks like a mis-match. Thegreenman hails from Ft. Lauderdale, and a piece of framing tape on the back says “Schwarms Photo Center Bahia Mar Commercial Photography – Illustrative- Architectural-Marine” (today, there is a Bahia Mar hotel near the water in Ft. Lauderdale). The mind, of course, leaps to the Mai-Kai, which opened in 1956, but in those days the Mai-Kai wasn’t the only game in town — or at least, wasn’t the only game in south Florida. There are many folks more knowledgable than I am about Florida tiki history (Kailuageoff’s presentation at the Hukilau should be a treat), hopefully someone out there can clear up the mystery.

UPDATE: thegreenman has left a comment, stating that he learned from his aunt that this was a promotion for the Polynesian Room at the Yankee Clipper — the official hotel for this year’s Hukilau!

July 26, 2006

Bamboo Hut Tiki’s Provenance Revealed?

Filed under: Central California,History,Research,San Francisco,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 2:25 pm
Large tiki at Bamboo Hut
Large tiki at Bamboo Hut

When creating the souvenir passport for this year’s Tiki Crawl, I paid a rare visit to the Bamboo Hut’s website, and noticed a mention that the large tiki near the entrance is from “1948.” It doesn’t say anything else about it — where it came from, how they got it, or whether perhaps it’s supposed to look like a tiki that could be from 1948. 1948 — that’s pretty darned old, and I thought perhaps it could be a typo. In the course of conversation this weekend, I learned from someone (Will the Thrill, I think) that they’d heard when Bamboo Hut opened in 1999 that the tiki had come from some old Chinese restaurant up in Sacramento that had closed. We couldn’t figure out which place it was, no names we could come up with jogged his memory.

I did, however, remember a great thread on Tiki Central that Sabu the Coconut Boy had started about a number of similar-looking tiki signs (I posted about it here on Humu Kon Tiki in February). While we were at Bamboo Hut on Friday I made sure to get some good pictures of the tiki, and just now I finally caught a moment to dig up that old thread and compare.

Coral Reef napkin
Coral Reef napkin

Sure enough, not only does this tiki echo the look of the tikis in those other signs, one of the places that seemed to have a logo that matched is the Coral Reef, a Cantonese restaurant in Sacramento. Pictured here is a napkin that shows the logo tiki, which looks to be a near-perfect match for this old tiki.

I must admit — I’m not a big fan of the design of the tiki — I honestly thought it was something they’d hacked together with plaster. But knowing it might have an interesting history, while it may not make it more attractive, does make it (and Bamboo Hut) a ton more cool, and the simpleness of the design makes a lot more sense when you understand that it was intended to be viewed from many, many yards away.

June 3, 2006

Tiki Research Adventure: Pirate’s Table

Filed under: History,Los Angeles,Research,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 3:16 pm
Mystery Ladies at Mystery Tiki Location, 1970
Mystery ladies at Pirate’s Table, 1970,
from the collection of Matterhorn1959

Matterhorn1959, who runs the excellent Stuff from the Park blog, posted on Tiki Central four photos he found of a group of ladies, all dressed in black, with pink & black hats & pins, having dinner at a tiki bar somewhere in Southern California. The square, color photos are imprinted with “June 1970″ and have tikis and glass float lamps in the background. An orange menu can just barely be seen in the photos.

Using some clever photo forensics, tikigreg was able to just barely make out the words “Pirate’s Table” on the menu, providing a fresh lead this mystery restaurant. Tikigreg searched on the internet and found a ship-themed Pirate’s Table in South Dakota, of all places. Tikigreg called the South Dakota Pirate’s Table, and was able to speak to Ron Beshara, the son of the founder & owner, Jim Beshara. It turns out that the South Dakota Pirate’s Table didn’t open until 1984, but the Besharas were inspired to open their restaurant after a visit to a restaurant called Pirate’s Table at the Anaheim Holiday Inn! Ding, ding, ding, ding!

Sabu the Coconut Boy was then able to chime in, right on cue, with his late-’60s brochure from the Anaheim Holiday Inn, which was just across the street from Disneyland. The brochure features full-color photos of the Polynesian Room, and the Ship’s Lounge — which shortly after the printing of the brochure must have merged into the Pirate’s Table. The photos from Sabu’s brochure are a perfect match for the scenes in Matterhorn1959′s photos. As Sabu points out, it was fairly common in those days for the establishments surrounding Disneyland to be themed in keeping with Disneyland attractions — in this case, the then-new Enchanted Tiki Room and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Excellent investigating by all involved, with fantastic photos of a little-discussed tiki location: stellar!

January 7, 2006

Denver Tiki Slideshow at Tiki Boyd’s

Filed under: Denver,Events,History,Research,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 11:20 pm

Tiki explorer and historian ZuluMagoo is presenting his third session of tiki slideshows at Tiki Boyd’s on Thursday, January 12 at 9:00. This session will be a look at the history of tiki in Denver. Recently, ZuluMagoo uncovered the exciting revelation that not only had there been a tiki bar in Denver, but it had been on the exact site where Tiki Boyd’s stands today. ZuluMagoo does his homework and puts his heart into it, and this show is sure to be a winner.

November 3, 2005

Tiki Research Adventure: TAI Tahiti

Filed under: History,Research,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 2:28 pm
TAI Tahiti mug, from the collection of Virani
TAI Tahiti mug, from the collection of Virani

Every so often, I have a reason to do a bit of research (okay, so it’s mostly just Googling), and the results can be very satisfying. Today the inspiration came in the form of the small mug to the left. I had actually seen it the day before, when one was put up for trade by an Ooga-Mooga member. It was an interesting little mug, but I didn’t recognize it. Of course, it was a nice surprise to see today that Virani, completely independently, posted this mug up on an existing thread on Tiki Central, looking for more information. It can also be found on page 54 of Tiki Quest, where it had escaped my notice. Virani’s mug says “Jean-Pierre le Tahiti” on the bottom, while the mug up for trade on Ooga-Mooga by Kohalacharms has the letters “TAI” printed clear enough to read on the side. There’s a faint trace of the “TAI” on Virani’s mug, and he’d naturally not been able to tell what it said. Armed with this info, I went on a search for what this TAI from Tahiti was. My search turned up a lot of websites in Japanese and French, but not a lot in English. I found a beautiful old promotional poster from TAI Tahiti airlines, and an ashtray for sale on eBay in France. I was able to surmise that the mug was likely a promotional item from TAI Tahiti the airline. Armed with this new info, Virani was able to learn that TAI Tahiti began service in 1948, continuing at TAI until 1963, when they became UTA — they later joined Air France in 1990. TAI Tahiti made its first one-stop trip from France all the way to Tahiti in June, 1963.


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Humuhumu
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Humuhumu is the creator of several tiki websites. She is a designer and programmer based out of San Francisco.

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