Lions and Tigers and Pin-Ups, Oh My! – Jungle Drums by Shag

Corey Helford Gallery downtown

The artist Shag (aka Josh Agle) has a new solo show, Jungle Drums, at the Corey Helford Gallery through February 13, 2016. But before you jump in your car to head for Culver City, you must know that the gallery has moved to a new space in the industrial Arts District of downtown LA.

Shag Jungle Drums

Before you browse the art, you should watch Eric Minh Swenson’s two videos on display in the entrance area (or check them out online). “Shag: My Tiki Cup Runneth Over” gives a glimpse at Shag’s collection of tiki mugs and carvings.

Shag's pin-up inspiration

Meanwhile, “Shag: Jungle Drums” presents some background on the show, including a look at the main source of inspiration: a set of vintage 1950s pin-up decals “in all their politically incorrect glory” that Shag found at a thrift store in his formative younger years.

Jungle Drums art show

One of Shag’s challenges for his first show in this new location was utilizing the “airplane hangar”-like space, so he designed these tall “spirit totems” peeking out behind this wall-sized piece. I like how subjects from his art often show up again in 3D form. (Even the stylized skull tiki torches were made tangible in a collaboration with Mod Fab Group to make the “Skorch.”)

Bunny and the Beasts by Shag

In the show’s artist statement, Shag says: “In the decades since, I’ve seen women reclaim the Pin-up Girl aesthetic: strong, tattooed models and independent female photographers have revived and revitalized the genre and turned themselves into pop culture stars.” This theme of empowerment is represented in “Bunny and the Beasts,” an idealized vision of a 1950s shoot with pin-up photographer “Bunny” Yeager and the iconic Bettie Page.

Primal Cuts by Shag

“Primal Cuts” is the largest painting in the show, clocking in at nine feet long. The female revelers are attired as panthers and their “man-eating” capabilities illustrated by the butcher chart emblazoned on the brown jacket of the man on the far right. (This reminded me of “Predators and Prey” from the 2012 show “Animal Kingdom.”)

close-up of Primal Cuts by Shag

A print of “Primal Cuts” was just made available for purchase online, and Shag: The Store Palm Springs is hosting a release party on February 13th. (Shag is also participating in a few other events during Palm Springs Modernism Week, including a fundraiser cocktail party at the recently restored Caliente Tropics hotel.)

Living room by Modernica Props

The highlight for me is this mid-century modern dream of a living room outfitted by Modernica Props. (It should come as no surprise that they’ve worked with “Mad Men,” amongst many other TV shows.)

Pinup with Tiger and Spirit Mask by Shag

This is also where visitors first encounter Shag’s series of tributes to those jungle pin-ups, each posed with a wild animal and a “spirit mask.” (I’m guessing they weren’t called “tikis” since they’re not in a Polynesian environment?)

Shag spirit masks

Corey Helford Gallery is open from 12 p.m.-6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. The address is on Anderson Street, but you’ll actually find the entrance and fenced-in parking lot by turning right onto Willow Street. The paintings can also be seen on the gallery’s website, but I highly recommend seeing this setup in person if you can.

Corey Helford Gallery
571 S. Anderson St.
Los Angeles, CA 90033
310-287-2340

Germany Tiki Tour, Part 3: Trader Vic’s Munich

Trader Vic's entrance

Our little tiki tour of Germany started in Nuremberg with Kon Tiki and Die Blume von Hawaii, and concluded a little farther south into Bavaria with Trader Vic’s Munich. During the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, “Trader Vic” Bergeron ramped up the expansion of his eponymous Polynesian-themed restaurants. However, of the more than 20 locations from its mid-century heyday, only a handful of those original establishments are still around today. Trader Vic’s London, which opened in 1963, is the oldest operating branch, followed by Trader Vic’s Munich, which made its debut in 1971.

Inside entrance

This is the only Trader Vic’s location left in Germany (or continental Europe, for that matter), since the closures of Trader Vic’s Berlin (2003-2009) and Trader Vic’s Hamburg (1990-2013). The restaurant is located in the basement of the Bayerischer Hof, an historic hotel that’s a favorite of politicians and celebrities. To the right of the main hotel doors is a blue awning underneath which a Marquesan tiki stands sentry.

Stairway

This entrance leads straight to the staircase descending into this subterranean tiki retreat. It’s flanked by carved tiki poles and decorative metal tiles. (If we’re drawing comparisons, I’d say the tapa-covered spiral stairway of Trader Vic’s London may be more impressive, but Trader Vic’s Munich has the edge when it comes to the rest of the decor.)

Reception

Here, you’ll be greeted by more tall tikis and the reception stand. Straight ahead is the bar and lounge area, while the various dining rooms are to the right.

Bar

On a future visit, I’d try to snag one of the small tables in the bar area, since it’s in the middle of the action. It was a bit confusing to figure out where the lounge seating technically stops, but we were told that anything without a tablecloth is up for grabs. (We checked back here later in the evening and the whole section was full, so I’d recommend arriving on the early side.)

Interior

The space is a labyrinth of interconnecting rooms and it can be difficult to get your bearings, especially if you’ve had a few Mai Tais. But who wouldn’t want to get lost in these gorgeous surroundings?

Dining area

The bamboo and woven matting ceilings are laden with glowing glass fish floats, outrigger canoes, pufferfish lamps and fish trap lanterns. Underneath this medley of textures and ambient lighting, diners are seated at rattan peacock chairs and green banquettes.

Chinese ovens

A glassed-in room houses the large wood-fired Chinese ovens, a signature of Trader Vic’s restaurants. A small sign describes (in German) that the temperature reaches nearly 500°C (around 900°F) and the oak imparts a subtle, smoky flavor to the meat that’s hung inside to cook.

Tableau

We were brought to a table in the farthest section of the restaurant, not too surprising since we hadn’t made reservations. (We had called earlier in the evening and were told it wasn’t necessary for that particular night.) Above our table there was a pretty little tableau of glass fish floats, shells and fake orchids and foliage. (Since we were in a semi-private alcove, I didn’t feel like I wasn’t making too much of a spectacle photographing the meal…)

Crab Rangoon

When you see the menu prices, you will remember you are in one of the fanciest hotels in Munich. Most of the main dishes are in the 30+ euro range, though there are a couple options for about 20 €. Of course, there are Trader Vic’s signatures like the cosmo tidbits platter, ham and cheese bings, bongo bongo soup, etc. Crab Rangoon (11,60 €) is one of my favorites so we had to start with that, especially since our German friend had never tried it before.

Barbecued duck

The menu seems much more extensive than what you’ll find at other remaining locations. (I noticed overlap from vintage menus from Trader Vic’s Beverly Hills.) It was a little overwhelming trying to decide on a main course from all the curries, continental fare (lobster Thermidor) and Chinese oven and wok specialties. I eventually settled on the barbecued duck breast with Polynesian spices, pineapple, mango chutney and Hawaiian potato gratin (30 €). (I don’t know what was supposed to be Hawaiian about it, but it was tasty.)

Wok-fried kangaroo

Our friend chose one of the chef’s specials, which was wok-fried kangaroo with ginger, prunes, shiitake mushrooms, sugar peas and scallions (24,50 €). He wanted to take the opportunity to try a more “exotic” meat than the pork that’s so plentiful in Germany.

Trader Vic's drinks

You’ll find all the classic Trader Vic’s cocktails, naturally, plus the Munich Sour. (The server told us it’s just like the London Sour, but with Cognac instead of Scotch.) I went for the Tiki Puka Puka (16,90 €), while our friend selected the Suffering Bastard (12,30 €) intrigued by the novelty of the name. The drinks were potent, to be sure, but could use a little more finesse. Thankfully, the fantastic setting helps one overlook any flaws.

Trader Vic's sign

If you’re traveling through Germany, be sure to take a momentary detour from the beer gardens and stop in for a Mai Tai at Trader Vic’s Munich. This treasure is like stepping into a tiki time capsule. It’s central and not far from the Marienplatz, Frauenkirche and other sightseeing attractions. As this menehune in the sign helpfully points out, Trader Vic’s is open every day from 5 p.m.-3 a.m.

Trader Vic’s Munich
Bayerischer Hof
Promenadepl. 2-6
80333 München, Germany


Related Posts:

Germany Tiki Tour, Part 1 – Kon Tiki

Germany Tiki Tour, Part 2 – Die Blume Von Hawaii

Don the Beachcomber featured at “To Live and Dine in L.A.” Menu Exhibit

Entrance to To Live and Dine in LA

Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt essentially created the concept of what would later be called tiki bars when he opened Don’s Beachcomber Café in Hollywood in the 1930s. Naturally, he’s an important figure in tiki, but it was interesting to see him acknowledged in the overall Los Angeles restaurant scene at the Central Library’s recent exhibit “To Live and Dine in L.A.: Menus from the Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library.”

Green tables at To Live and Dine in LA

It was set up so that you could sit down at tables to admire the vintage menus under the glass. Each area corresponded to a theme — cafeteria-style counters for Clifton’s, a round table with a lazy susan stocked with condiments for Chinese restaurants, etc. — but all were painted neon green to provide some continuity.

Cruise line menu

In the section “Feasts, Balls & Banquets,” we saw some of the collection’s earliest menu specimens, which go as far back as 1875. According to curator Josh Kun, “The banquet tradition extended everywhere, from the SS City of Los Angeles [1930] steamer cruise to Hawaii, where you could feast on poi alongside spiced fig fritters.”

Don the Beachcomber 1941 menu

A 1941 menu for Don the Beachcomber was included under “The Menu as Map” as an example to illustrate “…how restaurants subjectively envisioned the borders and limits of the city that surrounded them…(what was on their maps was just as important as what was left off).” This cover draws a connection (literally and figuratively) between Hollywood and the Polynesian islands across the ocean that inspired the restaurant.

Don the Beachcomber

Don the Beachcomber was also featured among the restaurant photos plastered on the walls, along with other iconic spots like Bob’s Big Boy, Tail O’ The Pup and The Tamale.

Kelbo's menu

I also spotted the menu for Kelbo’s, a Hawaiian bar-b-q restaurant that was famous for its ribs and eclectic decor. (It shouldn’t be that surprising that a longtime employee of Kelbo’s was part of the family that started dear, departed Bahooka.)

Zamboanga

Previously unknown to me was Zamboanga, a nightclub that “tried to represent its vague ‘South Seas’ theme and Philippines namesake by turning its menu [circa 1940s] into a tailless pipe-smoking monkey.” (Tiki Central has a couple interesting threads on this spot with some lovely photos of the bamboo-filled space as well as context for the un-politically correct origin of the name and logo.)

A "My LA Menu" submission

Visitors to the exhibit were encouraged to put together their own “ultimate L.A. menu” to represent the city. Of the dozens up on display, I noticed this one mentioned their ideal appetizers and drinks as fried shrimp, spareribs and a Mai Tai from Don the Beachcomber. What would your ideal L.A. menu be?

To Live and Dine in LA

The exhibit has already concluded, but you can pick up the companion book To Live and Dine in L.A.: Menus and the Making of the Modern City by Josh Kun.