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Tiki Central Forums » » General Tiki » » JOHN-O's Las Vegas (& Honolulu pg 8) Thread
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JOHN-O's Las Vegas (& Honolulu pg 8) Thread
msteeln
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 24, 2008
Posts: 280
From: Ka'a'awa, HI
Posted: 2010-12-01 12:15 pm   Permalink

Quote:
Is that the Hiram Olsen Trio?
"Hiram has been playing locally since 1957, and his trio is the only act in Waikiki (that we know of - and we looked) performing classic hapa haole tunes."

Nope, that's Kaipo Kahuhiko's trio. I don't think Hiram has a steady gig now. The Halekulani mgt. has seen fit to destroy the history and Aloha the great musicians helped make famous. These guys now get a whopping $75 a night, and are treated like dirt. That attitude is what killed off the once abundant good times in Waikiki. You gotta really know where to find the good-ol'-times remnants.

One of the bright Hawaiian lights that graced the Key's stage for many years, Harold Hakuole - steel/rhythm/vocals/nice guy, passed away yesterday morning.

[ This Message was edited by: msteeln 2010-12-01 12:17 ]


 
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JOHN-O
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Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2689
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2010-12-03 10:37 pm   Permalink

"Honolulu Confidential" Part 8 of 10

Let's go dive bar hopping again.

This time we'll start with a dive bar that's really not a dive bar (but used to be)…

The Side Street Inn



The Side Street Inn is actually one of Honolulu's most popular "in the know" restaurants. They serve up an interesting mix of Pan Asian and island comfort food covering simple dishes like fried pork chops, Kim Chee fried rice, yakisoba, kalbi, smoked pork, etc. The place really became well known when it became an after work gathering spot for some of Honolulu's top chefs. I highly recommend it when you want to go somewhere where you can feel like you're in on a local secret.



For a non-touristy experience, the fact that it's located on a seedy industrial street doesn't hurt matters either. It's also in proximity to some other businesses fairly unique to Honolulu (that also appeal to my Noir sensibilities).

I'm talking about "Korean Bars". This place is right next door...



At Korean Bars (aka hostess bars aka Lucas Vigor's "buy me drinkee" bars), girls who might be Korean but who could also be from Vietnam or China will come sit with you to engage in casual conversation. Drinks for you and your buddies will be cheap, we were paying $5 each for bottles of beer, mixed cocktails, and straight whiskey (not well stuff either). Drinks for your hostess(es) however will be much more expensive.



The hustling of these girls seemed to be relational to their age. At one place a group of twenty-something Taiwanese girls sat down with us, requested Crown shots ($20 each !!), downed them within seconds and then immediately asked for another round. When we declined to order, they promptly got up and left the table. Some of the older hostesses (forties +) will stay and chat longer, often times discussing how their teenage children are doing in high school. It's a surreal scene to say the least. How (seemingly) unemployed local guys can afford to spend money in these places is beyond me.



Keep in mind some of these places might house illegal activity. If the girl tries to get you to join her in the back room or in one of the high-backed booths in a dark corner, you should probably decline. Still for an "exotic" experience where you can live out your Korean or Vietnam war R&R fantasies, it is unique. Just make sure you ask how much the drinks are BEFORE you order for her. If you want to dispute your bill, I'm sure the 300-pound Samoan doorman will provide the appropriate mediation.

I think the iconography of these places is really cool. They have a timeless quality to them that suggests both seediness and exotic secrets (kind of like a devolving Tiki bar). On a future trip I may have to put together more comprehensive photographic documentation.







This nearby place isn't a Korean Bar, but it did have a super cool mid-century neon sign that I wanted to capture…




[ This Message was edited by: JOHN-O 2010-12-03 22:45 ]


 
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msteeln
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Joined: Mar 24, 2008
Posts: 280
From: Ka'a'awa, HI
Posted: 2010-12-04 12:26 pm   Permalink

What you do is walk in wearing shorts w/no underwear and loudly announce that you've just gotten off the boat and are going to spend everything right here right now. You'll immediately be mobbed by every hostess in the place, have a drink or not, depart after 5 min. of mutual groping for the next bar and repeat. Use them before they use you, just do it in a deft manner that allows you to quickly survive out the door. You'll have fun and stories to tell.

Most of these jive joints change names regularly and do have their risks, my fave was Club Ugly, no lie. But even scarier was the short lived strip joint Club Micronesian... the place was torn down after that.

There used to be plenty of cool old Like Like (lee-kay lee-kay) style eateries and bars, lots of neon, real 40s/50s local ambience, cheap eats/drinks w/free pupu and good times. That's real scarce today.


 
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JOHN-O
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Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2689
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2010-12-04 1:01 pm   Permalink

Well at least these women will listen politely when I try to explain Tiki culture to them, smiling and shaking their heads in agreement.

Your average non-Tikiphile will look at you like you're crazy.


[ This Message was edited by: JOHN-O 2010-12-04 13:10 ]


 
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JOHN-O
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Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2689
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2010-12-04 2:14 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2010-12-04 12:26, msteeln wrote:

There used to be plenty of cool old Like Like (lee-kay lee-kay) style eateries and bars, lots of neon, real 40s/50s local ambience, cheap eats/drinks w/free pupu and good times. That's real scarce today.


What's the scoops on this place?...



I was hoping this would be as you described above, but it was closed that night. It's right around the corner from the Side Street Inn.

Any recommendations on places you just described that are still around?


 
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Phillip Roberts
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Joined: Sep 09, 2003
Posts: 1597
From: OAHU/Seattle
Posted: 2010-12-04 4:16 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2010-12-04 14:14, JOHN-O wrote:
What's the scoops on this place?...



Quite a good little local bar. Good pupu's, drinks, and occasional live blues music...

_________________
Waikiki Tiki; Art, History, and Photographs.
Available now from
Bess Press Hawaii.

[ This Message was edited by: Phillip Roberts 2010-12-04 16:18 ]


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msteeln
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Joined: Mar 24, 2008
Posts: 280
From: Ka'a'awa, HI
Posted: 2010-12-04 7:54 pm   Permalink

The Bone is one of the few places I'll bother with these days as I'm no longer into the common stupidity bars can be, it's very mellow and kind of an open secret, it should be packed but never is. My friends play good Hawaiian w/Bobby Ingano on steel Tuesdays and usually to just me... Phillip, a little help! Closed Sun., mix bag the rest of the week, a band most nights but no junk music (WARNING - they can karaoke) and those nights they have a bit more crowd. The drinks are ok/standard but stiff, generous, and cheap-ish = $6 for a decent B-tea. Be a nice regular and they're real friendly with them, before 7pm get free pupu, so rare now! Nice local style, good sound system that they keep at a sensible level (thank you), TVs, with a rough but pretty cool decor and mini stage that Mark, the rhythm player designed/built as an old plantation lanai/front porch. Food can be good, with an interesting selection, the chop steak or fried salmon belly are ono. Management care and try, uncommon these days and it's much appreciated, kind of a Hawaiian Cheers, and they will pull a NORM! on you.

Imua Lounge (google map it) is notable for the rowdy but nice/fun crowd and high quality old style Hawaiian music on Wed. night til 10pm, played by Nani, a truly surreal spectacle of large mahus and friends that really hits high gear if Jeff Ah Hoy sits in on steel, but always superb non-the-less. Not to be missed (I hope they are still there...).

The flip-side is Waikiki's Outrigger hotel's Kani Kapila Grille
http://www.alohaupdate.com/hawaii-directory/kani-ka-pila-grille/ with their new and beautiful outdoor dining area where slack key giant Cyril Pahinui w/Jeff Au Hoy and Jeff Teves play on Wed. evening, great stuff, with other quality performers thruout the week. The corporate Waikiki attitude is tempered here, fortunately. It's sweet.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqVPJI29u54 Giving 'Aloha Bruce' credit for including the entire song in his mini Grille tour.


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JOHN-O
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Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2689
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2010-12-06 6:54 pm   Permalink

Great intel !! Thank you. I will definitely check out those places on my next visit. Let's recap some of the places I did get to...


"Honolulu Confidential" Part 9 of 10

Several of these places have already been documented here on TC, but let me include them here for the sake of trip report completeness.

One major street just outside of Waikiki with lots of local flavor is Kapahulu Ave. Let's start with...

Rainbow Drive-in



Anyone I know who grew up in the Honolulu area has nostalgic memories of this place (since 1961). The shoyu chicken appears to be the cult item. It's Honolulu's version of Original Tommy's or Pink's Hot Dogs (i.e. it's old-school and Teflon-proof). It's as good a place as any to experience the classic Hawaiian plate lunch (i.e. 1 entree + 2 scoops rice + 1 scoop macaroni).



I like that it's right next door to...

Bailey's Antiques



This is the mecca of Aloha shirts. They have an inventory of over 15,000 shirts !!

I remember my first visit several years ago, I saw a super cool vintage shirt hanging from the ceiling whose price I inquired on. I was ready to spend $200 on it. They told me the price was $5000 !! I had to pass but they did point me towards a $60 reproduction that I bought instead. I figured if the start-up company I was working for at the time hit it big (it didn't), I'd go back and buy that shirt. On subsequent trips I would always pay a visit to see "my shirt". On the last trip however I was disappointed to see the shirt was gone. They told me a TV celebrity, Anthony Bourdain (???), bought it. They display a picture of him wearing the shirt in the store which mocks me to this day.



The owner (who could be a double for Lakers coach Phil Jackson) knows his inventory and it's priced accordingly. So if you're the type of person who likes the "thrill of the hunt" and wants to score a vintage shirt for just $2, this ain't the place. Me, I like "the ease of the purchase" with all my preferences arranged by decade, type, and size. I bought of bunch of shirts from the 1970's neon rack.

The nice thing about this place is they carry some local brands which I've haven't seen anywhere else. The Kalakaua label does some great vintage reproductions. Keep in mind however that some of the brands are sold cheaper in the International Market Place (along with the Chinese knock-offs). Some of friends thought I was stupid for paying $30-$60 for a shirt at Baileys when IMP had much better deals. I insisted these labels were "special" and probably not available there. They had the last laugh when they spotted the same shirt I bought at Baileys for $10 cheaper at IMP. Just remember though to always look for the tag "Made in Hawaii". "Designed in Hawaii" is code word for Chinese made (and those Commies have no Aloha ).



There used to be a really cool Shave Ice place down the street but now it's a taco joint

Further down Kapahulu (0.3 mi) however is...

Ono Hawaiian Food



This is the "go to" place whenever you want to sample local grinds like kalua pork, lau lau, haupia, chicken long rice, lomi salmon, and poi. (FYI, real Tikiphiles eat poi.)

Want to piss them off when it's crowded? Don't wait outside like you're supposed to, just barge right through the front door. Damn tourists !!

Moving along we get to...

Leonard's Bakery



I like this place for it's cool mid-century signage (1952). They're famous for their malasadas which is a Portuguese doughnut or cream puff. They're fun to look at but don't eat them. Those things are bad for you !!



Let's return to Waikiki proper and visit a place that Phillip Roberts clued me in on...

So when you think of mid-century kitsch architecture, what comes to mind? Well Tiki of course and Googie, but what else?

How about a UFO-shaped bar/restaurant that actually rotates? !!! These places are a vanishing breed (only about 7 left in the U.S.) but Waikiki plays host to one. It's the Top of Waikiki, spinning since 1965.





Even the circular bar looks like the command center for invading aliens. I have to imagine this was a pretty posh place back in the day, when people dressed to the nines (even on a tropical vacation). That's not the case these days, but still I could appreciate its mid-60's cocktail culture coolness.



Oh no, only one chapter left to go. I don't want to leave Hawaii, but I do need to get back to Sin City to check out Mr. Smiley's recent Frank Bowers find.


 
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bb moondog
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Joined: Apr 18, 2006
Posts: 492
From: Gilbert AZ
Posted: 2010-12-07 08:22 am   Permalink

TOP Of Waikiki is FABULOUS..we ate there about 4 years ago after being DRENCHED on the streets of Waikiki on a particularly rainy night..the wait was long but got window side seating and the food and view were TOP NOTCH

 
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Phillip Roberts
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Joined: Sep 09, 2003
Posts: 1597
From: OAHU/Seattle
Posted: 2010-12-07 9:33 pm   Permalink

Quote:

There used to be a really cool Shave Ice place down the street but now it's a taco joint


That place is actually really good. They have a day of the dead / mexican lucha libre mask spraypaint mural on the building now.

Quote:


Let's return to Waikiki proper and visit a place that Phillip Roberts clued me in on...

It's the Top of Waikiki, spinning since 1965.






I guess you didn't get a chance to speak to the man with the BIG gold ring. Too bad. He has got wild stories about this town you would love.

_________________
Waikiki Tiki; Art, History, and Photographs.
Available now from Bess Press Hawaii.

[ This Message was edited by: Phillip Roberts 2010-12-07 21:34 ]


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JOHN-O
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Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2689
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2010-12-12 12:29 pm   Permalink

"Honolulu Confidential" Part 10 of 10

Last night at the Tonga Hut...

Bora Boris: "So where's Part 10 ?"

John O: "Actually I ran out of stuff to write about. There is no Part 10."



And remember just because it's Hawaiiana-related, that don't make it Tiki !!

Tha.. tha.. tha.. that's all folks !!


 
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congawa
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Joined: Aug 11, 2008
Posts: 356
From: Long Beach, CA
Posted: 2010-12-13 12:24 pm   Permalink

Thanks for the great series John-O! Part 10 will hopefully be all the people who've been inspired by your work and add their own contributions.

Caltiki Brent


 
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JOHN-O
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Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2689
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2011-01-17 8:43 pm   Permalink

Back to Sin City...

I have some good news and bad news. First the bad news.

Atomic Liquor, one of Las Vegas's last remaining links to its Rat Pack Mondo Atomic past, has been closed since the beginning of the year !!



Stella Sobchick who ran the bar with her husband Joseph, passed away on Jan 15th at the age of 91. Joe passed away 3 months earlier also at 91 years. They had run the business for 55 years. I was glad to have met them one of the times they were both in the bar.

My understanding from talking to one of the bartenders at the El Cortez, is the Sobchick's son has no interest in running the place. Hopefully, he can lease out the bar to someone who understands its historic significance and will continue its legacy. In the meantime this is really really depressing news. I liked to think of the Atomic as the mid-century mirror image to Frankie's Tiki Room (much like the Aku Aku existed in primitive juxtaposition to the Stardust's original futuristic "cosmic ray" signage).

Now for the good news. I was finally able to pay a visit to the Hard Hat Lounge. A thousand mahalos to Mr Smiley for scouting out this mid-century dive bar and making a significant urban archeology discovery. They have a Frank Bowers mural !!

So for those of you asking "What does Frank Bowers have to do with Tiki?", please do your homework here…

In Search of Frank Bowers...

Now the Hard Hat meets several of my requirements for a great dive bar:

1. Opened in 1964 (maybe 1962), it has definite mid-century roots. (Although its concrete bunker appearance really doesn't vibe any particular decade).

2. It's an oasis of 24x7 alcoholic pleasure in an otherwise barren industrial neighborhood.

3. You have to be buzzed inside. This suggests an element of danger as it borders the notorious "Naked City".

4. The drinks are stiff and cheap. I was enjoying $5 Wild Turkey Sours.







And the Bowers mural puts the place in a class above. Here's some snaps of my own in addition to the ones that Mr Smiley posted…









Note the wood paneling where the TV is mounted. That actually covers part of the mural depicting a kitchen. This adds hope that the Bowers Zamboanga murals (now a VFW hall) might exist in the same state.



I also like how the Hard Hat sits in the shadow of the Stratosphere (much like the nearby "Golden Triangle" of Dino's Lounge, Olympic Garden, and White Cross Drugs).



Talking to the bartender, Shannon, they are really proud of their mural but had no idea of its background.

Now I hope they do.


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bigbrotiki
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Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11127
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2011-01-18 10:07 am   Permalink

Thanks John-O for furthering the exploration and publication of Frank Bowers' work
.
Pretty interesting, the concept: No exotic fairy tale lands, but the world of the actual customers: The after 9-5er blue and white collar workers, doing what they came here for.


 
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christiki295
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Joined: Apr 09, 2003
Posts: 3813
From: LA-2547 mls east Hawaii &5500 Easter Is
Posted: 2011-01-18 12:34 pm   Permalink

I have been to the Stratosphere and Olympic Garden, but now I more places to visit.

 
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