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.

Another Year, Another Tiki on a Rose Parade Float

The Bachelor float at the 2016 Rose Parade

If you watched the 2016 Rose Parade in Pasadena, you might have noticed that there were a couple tikis on the float “Love is the Greatest Journey” for the romantic reality show “The Bachelor.”

Hot tub on The Bachelor float at the 2016 Rose Parade

Granted, they might have been easy to miss since the tikis were next to a hot tub filled with girls in bikinis. The new Bachelor himself, Ben Higgins, was sitting up on a lifeguard stand nearby. According to the official description, the setting is supposed to reflect “the most anticipated highlight of the season — the romantic fantasy adventure date on an exotic tropical beach.” (Out of curiosity, I took a look at some of the upcoming season’s spoiler speculations on RealitySteve.com and it sounds like they actually went to the Caribbean, not Polynesia.)

Tiki on The Bachelor float

Anyway, my boyfriend is of the opinion that “if you’ve seen one (float), you’ve seen ’em all.” I have to admit that this year, he may have a point. When we went to the post-parade float viewing, I noticed that the tikis were quite similar to the ones from last year’s Dole float, Rhythm of Hawaii.

Tikis on 2016 Rose Parade float

Both floats were produced by the company Fiesta Parade Floats, so it’s not that surprising. There are some slight differences in the mouths and headdresses, but it seems obvious that they reused the molds or base.

2016 Rose Parade float

That wasn’t the only moment of deja vu, though. It looks like they also reproduced the water effect from last year, right down to the white onions in the waves. I wonder if we’ll see the tikis again next year?

Related Posts:
Tikis on Dole’s 2015 Rose Parade Float “Rhythm of Hawaii”
The City of Downey’s 2012 Tiki Float “Enchanted Paradise”

Atomic Tiki Terrors Art Show at Creature Features

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With its impressive stash of collectibles and memorabilia, Creature Features in Burbank is a must-stop shop for pop culture geeks. Every few months, the store’s gallery hosts themed art shows and the most recent one was “Atomic Tiki Terrors!” It was a mash-up of tiki and ’50s and ’60s monster movies.

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How are they related? Both these forms of escapism tapped into common desires and fears of the time period. Faux-Polynesian paradises were mini-vacations from day-to-day life while the fantastical sci-fi films drew inspiration from the collective anxiety of the Atomic Age.

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I’ve cherrypicked a few of my favorites, including the groovy “Lost Planet” by Woody Miller. (He also had a few tiki-themed pieces in Creature Feature’s The Enchanted World of Rankin/Bass Art Show I blogged about previously.)

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I also liked the frenetic action in Ken Ruzic‘s “Atomic Tiki Terror” (in a Bamboo Ben bamboo frame), the cool blue stare in Christine Benjamin‘s “Tiki Invasion” and the cute little skull in the glass fishing float in “Mai Tai Monster” by Tiki tOny. (You’ll have to zoom in to see it.)

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I’ve never really watched “Star Trek” so I had to look up the significance of “Atomikitty” Susannah Mosher‘s painting, “Vina – Orion Slave Girl.” This seductive green alien appeared in the initially unaired pilot (“The Cage”), which was repurposed into a later two-part episode entitled “The Menagerie.” (I love how Susannah incorporated the Star Trek combadge into the tapa print background.)

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Over on the Facebook event page, you can see more of the art from Atomic Tiki Terrors and hear about the inspiration behind some of the pieces. Doug Horne spun quite an origin story for the half-man, half-Tiki-Bob-mug depicted in “Tiki Freak.”

More Tiki Art:
Tiki at “The Enchanted World of Rankin/Bass”
The Book of Tiki Art Exhibition at M Modern
“The Contemporary Idol” Art Show