Palm Springs Modernism Week – “Welcome Aboard – The Pan Am Experience”

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The tour of the Royal Hawaiian Estates was the main draw for me for this year’s Palm Springs Modernism Week, but there were a few other interesting things we were able to check out during our quick trip.

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I was glad there was an event that gave us an excuse to see the rainbow spectacle that is The Saguaro. One of the ballrooms at the hotel was hosting an exhibition entitled “Welcome Aboard –– The Pan Am Experience.”

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These days it’s hard to imagine air travel as anything but a hassle, but Pan American World Airways aspired to make it exciting and glamorous, as emphasized by this photo of Marilyn Monroe climbing aboard one of their planes.

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Pan American Airways started in 1927 as an airmail service from Key West to Cuba and was America’s largest international airline, reaching its zenith in the Jet Age of the 1950s and ‘60s. According to the exhibit’s information: “Pan Am introduced the Boeing 747 creating the favorite airline of the rich and famous and was renowned for its stylish stewardesses, first-class amenities, including the first sleeper seats, fine dining and Clipper cocktails.”

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The airline ceased operations in 1991 when I was still pretty young, so I don’t remember any personal experiences with it. Aside from the short-lived TV show in 2012, I’m probably most familiar with Pan Am from those blue and white bags with the iconic logo. They’re still so covetable that reproductions of those retro styles are still sold today.

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The exhibit was all from the personal collection of actor Phillip P. Keene (“The Closer,” “Major Crimes,”) who has been amassing Pan Am memorabilia for 20 years. A wide variety of items were on display, including travel posters, uniforms, wing pins, toys, books (even a cookbook) and ephemera like matchbooks.

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I was particularly amused by these lighters shaped like the Pan Am Building. This New York skyscraper opened in 1963 and was the headquarters for the airline. It was sold in 1981 and is now known as the MetLife Building.

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We spent quite a bit of time browsing through the binder full of vintage travel brochures. Some had wonderful, over-the-top poetic descriptions like: “From the mists of Time, from the illimitable blue vastness of the Pacific, came the Polynesians. Searching for new homes eastward beyond the wide ocean, guiding their frail craft by the glittering pinpricks in the heavens, they came at last to Hawaii.”

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I loved the juxtaposition here of the tattooed Maori native having his picture taken by the buttoned-up tourists, who look like Don and Betty Draper on vacation in New Zealand. Another brochure tempted travelers with this text: “A thrilling excursion into the primitive past, the ancient ceremonies of the Maoris, their little villages with beautifully carved meeting houses, are easily within reach through the magic of the Flying Clipper.”

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Meanwhile, this Bermuda brochure (false advertising, much?) looked like something we would have seen at the “Mid-Century Mermaids: A History” presentation by Vintage Roadside at least year’s Modernism Week.

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The collector himself was on hand during our visit. He was guiding around a few former Pan Am flight attendants that I believe were Scandinavian. It must have been an interesting sort of trip down memory lane for them…

Related Posts:
Modernism Week 2013 – Tour of Royal Hawaiian Estates
Modernism Week 2012 – Mid-Century Mermaids Lecture
Modernism Week 2012 – Architecture Bus Tour

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Tiki on TV: Moai Eye Spy

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While channelsurfing last night I was surprised to discover not one but two tikis on TV. The first was on a re-run of “The Colbert Report” from February 27. During his monologue, Stephen Colbert brought up a photo of a Moai to poke fun at John Kerry’s rather elongated face:

“Folks, if you watch the news then you know that earlier this month John Kerry was sworn in as Secretary of State….And this past Sunday he embarked on a 10-day, 9-nation marathon that I was surprised to see did not include his homeland of Easter Island.”

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An hour or so later I spotted another Moai, this time in a commercial for granola bars, of all things. A girl is sitting on the dock (eating a granola bar) then she jumps in the lake and imagines a wild adventure in which she swims with killer whales (I hadn’t really been paying attention at this point and assumed this was an ad for Sea World). Then she encounters battling pirate ships and finally washes ashore on a  beach with this giant Moai nearby. Who knew granola bars could be so magical?

Related Posts:
Moai at The Louvre, Paris
Moai at the British Museum London
Tiki on TV: Moai on “Archer”

Saying Goodbye to Bahooka

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It’s always a bummer when tiki bars shut down, but hearing last month that Bahooka would be closing was a particularly tough blow (as you might have been able to tell from all my tweets on the subject).

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It was such a unique place with its mazelike corridors and intimate booths surrounded by fish tanks. (See my previous review for more photos of their nautical style.)

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The owners said they wanted to sell due to an illness in the family and wanting to retire. Word on the street is the space is going to be turned into a new restaurant, which would be better than a parking lot as was also rumored. The fish tanks are supposed to stay but the tiki stuff is going. The Bahooka owners are also keeping the rights to the name with the intent to start selling their signature salad dressing. (UPDATE: The building’s fate is apparently in limbo again…)

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Bahooka had long been a special occasion spot for local families, and they turned out in full force to say farewell. The response was so great that the restaurant stopped taking reservations a few days after announcing the closing. I snagged one for Saturday, March 9th, the night before they were supposed to officially close. (Although they ended up deciding not to re-open the next day.)

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These fellows donned their best “Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas” attire to pay tribute to Bahooka’s cameo in the movie. Probably not a coincidence that they were standing next to the framed film stills of Johnny Depp.

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As the kitchen was running through the last of the food supplies, they were serving a limited menu of sandwiches, teriyaki chicken, fried shrimp and ribs. (Glad I got my fill of crab puffs and stuffed shrimp on a previous visit.) But more importantly, all their cocktails were still available so we shared a couple of Honey Bowls.

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They’ve been selling off bits and pieces of the decor for the past couple weeks, but I’ve heard the big stuff will be sold in a yard sale on March 17th. The details are supposed to be announced on Bahooka’s Facebook page. (UPDATE: Andrew Meieran purchased many of the iconic items for his upcoming relaunch of Clifton’s Cafeteria. Los Angeles magazine has more on the story.)

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By the entrance they had a table where they were selling those glowing tikis in the photo above ($75 & $100), wine glasses ($2), drinking goblets ($5) and this 46-year-old paiting ($100), which Mr. Baseball saw somebody later purchase.

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Behind them was a pile of plastic parrots waiting to be adopted into new homes for $20 each.

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Some tiki artists were inspired to create commemorative items for Bahooka’s closing, like these tiki pendants ($40) made by Tiki Al. “Goodbye Bahooka – 2013″ was written on the back.

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Also on offer were postcards featuring Eric October‘s drawing “Last Bowl at Bahooka.” I love how it captures so many iconic things about Bahooka, including tikis based on ones in the restaurant, bucket lamps, parrots, a chain running through the table, and of course Ruffus noshing on a carrot.

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I couldn’t resist giving a goodbye kiss to that famous fishy face. Here’s hoping our currents cross again someday…

Related Posts:
Bahooka Ribs & Grog Review
Tiki Treasures & Polynesian Pin-Ups Event