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Tiki Central Forums Locating Tiki Tonga Lei, Malibu, CA (restaurant)
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Tonga Lei, Malibu, CA (restaurant)
bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11249
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2008-10-13 7:49 pm   Permalink

Don't worry, Spike, I was expecting that. Even if he'd worked inside the place, those drink containers were nothing special in the restaurant industry back then, just funny cups for fruity drinks.

 
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Tipsy McStagger
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 21, 2004
Posts: 3530
From: HELL
Posted: 2008-12-28 8:32 pm   Permalink


found this today at a local thrift.....the matching dinner menu to the already posted drink menu....








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kiara
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 06, 2005
Posts: 117
From: Wan Q
Posted: 2009-01-02 1:07 pm   Permalink

I've been wanting to post this napkin for awhile.
It's got it all , the architecture ,the sign ,the font
and the tiki.
Sorry about the quality, I droped my scanner.


 
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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11249
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2009-01-02 4:00 pm   Permalink

Note that the modern stylization of the Tonga Lei sign Tiki is very similar to the Wan-Q:




 
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kiara
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 06, 2005
Posts: 117
From: Wan Q
Posted: 2009-01-02 5:03 pm   Permalink

I've noticed the same thing.
Both places are pretty close in design all around.


 
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Tiki-Kate
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Sep 21, 2003
Posts: 1700
From: Yucaipa, CA
Posted: 2009-10-28 5:00 pm   Permalink

I've always loved the simple features of the Tonga Lei's logo tiki.

I think they took the notion of simplicity a bit too far with their swizzles though.


The matchbook and box are a bit more visually stimulating.



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Sabu The Coconut Boy
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 20, 2002
Posts: 2793
From: Carson, California
Posted: 2009-10-29 12:23 am   Permalink

Never seen those Tonga Lei swizzles before, Kate. Simple in design, but still very cool.

Here's an old photo I found of the Aloha Lounge entrance of the Tonga Lei:




The location was one of the great mysteries here on TC for awhile back in 2003, (although PiPhiRo had guessed it right away). Here's the original discussion:
http://www.tikiroom.com/tikicentral/bb/viewtopic.php?mode=viewtopic&topic=2344&forum=1&start=0

It wasn't until 2007, when bananabobs discovered the same tiki at a client's house and restored it:
http://www.tikiroom.com/tikicentral/bb/viewtopic.php?topic=24264&forum=1






.... That he confirmed that my photo was of the Tonga Lei.



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Sabu The Coconut Boy
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 20, 2002
Posts: 2793
From: Carson, California
Posted: 2010-01-15 7:05 pm   Permalink

Oh how I long to see the original photo from this newspaper and not this crappy microfiche-scanned-to-digital version.



This was from the Aug 18, 1961 issue of the Valley News in Van Nuys, CA, if any intrepid investigators wants to try to track down a better copy.


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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11249
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2010-01-15 8:52 pm   Permalink

Oh jeeez, that kills me! JAYNE and LANA and a TIKI --in 1961! And no amount of playing with the contrast and gamma and exposure will save this crappy pic!

 
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1961surf
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 03, 2007
Posts: 1932
From: Newport Beach, Ca .
Posted: 2010-01-17 7:44 pm   Permalink

[quote]
On 2005-01-25 23:05, Humuhumu wrote:
The 1983 movie "Losin' It" with Tom Cruise & Shelley Long is set in 1965 Los Angeles/Mexico, and has a role called "Tonga Lei doorman." I've never seen this movie... is it too much to hope that it may have at least some exterior shots of the real, actual Tonga Lei during its twilight years?

IMDB summary:

"Teen sex comedy set in 1965 which follows four Los Angeles school friends, Woody, Dave, Spider, Wendell and the series of misadventures they get into when they travel south of the border to Tijuana, Mexico for a night of cruisin', causing trouble, and to settle a pact to lose their virginity before the night is over, while a young woman, named Kathy, accompanies them for different reasons: to arrange a quick divorce from her husband."

/quote]

I am in the opening scene in " Losin It" I am filling up a rubber at the drinking
fountain.That was my first bit part in a feature film.Great B movie .


 
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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11249
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2010-01-17 8:09 pm   Permalink

We won't believe a word until you show us a still frame frame of that!

 
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1961surf
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 03, 2007
Posts: 1932
From: Newport Beach, Ca .
Posted: 2010-01-18 1:29 pm   Permalink

Sven how do you make a still frame pic from a DVD , and I will post it ?

 
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bongofury
Grand Member (6 years)  

Joined: Oct 15, 2002
Posts: 1548
From: Ventura County
Posted: 2010-10-28 8:23 pm   Permalink

I have a movie from the 60s that has the Tonga Lei in it. I will try to post some screen shots. Don't remember if it was in color or B & W.

 
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bongofury
Grand Member (6 years)  

Joined: Oct 15, 2002
Posts: 1548
From: Ventura County
Posted: 2010-10-31 09:04 am   Permalink

Well I think we are going to keep looking for the Aloha Room entrance from your photo Sabu. The photo you have shows what appears to be a hotel behind the entrance. From the scenes in the 1965 movie (Beach Ball) the "Watusi-A-Go-Go" (Tonga Lei) sits by itself with the Ocean Behind it. Just the one entrance on the front with the menu Tiki in the parking lot.









 
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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11249
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2010-10-31 1:12 pm   Permalink

Great evidence of additional Tiki awesomeness, Bongo!

Quote:

On 2010-10-31 09:04, bongofury wrote:
Well I think we are going to keep looking for the Aloha Room entrance from your photo Sabu. The photo you have shows what appears to be a hotel behind the entrance. From the scenes in the 1965 movie (Beach Ball) the "Watusi-A-Go-Go" (Tonga Lei) sits by itself with the Ocean Behind it. Just the one entrance on the front with the menu Tiki in the parking lot.



I think when comparing all the photos and renderings, it can be said with fair certainty that the Sabu's B&W photo does not show THAT entrance -- but maybe it was ANOTHER side entrance, maybe off to the left, where the restaurant perhaps connected to the MOTEL?:



Cuz NONE of the photos or any of the many renderings of the Tonga Lei Restaurant posted so far show anything of a structure that could have been a Motel. Where was it in relation to the restaurant, and what did it look like? It even survived longer in name as the restaurant, which briefly became a Don The Beachcomber franchise:



Unfortunately, the photo to this article isn't much help:



Though its basic straight lines match the boxy building on top of Sabu's photo:



Still, that's no irrevocable proof.
While digging for images of the Motel, I found the other article about its destruction, which has some more interesting info in it:

MALIBU WILL LOOSE ITS LITTLE BIT OF POLYNESIA TO PROGRESS
November 19, 1987|KENNETH J. GARCIA | Times Staff Writer

The Tiki heads and mock teak beds that fill the Tonga Lei motel and its Polynesian partner, Don the Beachcomber restaurant, will soon be scrapped to make way for a modern beachside inn next to the Malibu pier.

A Malibu mainstay for nearly three decades, the Tonga Lei is an aging remnant of the coastal community that existed before urban sprawl spread to Los Angeles County's beach towns and before Pacific Coast Highway was choked with daily commuter traffic.

The restaurant with the thatched-trim roof and the dated Tahitian motif was scheduled to close last Sunday and the nine-room motel will be razed in early December, according to Vickie Cooper, who owns the property along with her husband, Martin, and their partners, Skip and Lee Miser. Construction of the new motel is slated to be completed by early summer.

"We wanted to build a motel that the community could be proud of," said Cooper. "The building is nearly 30 years old, it's run-down and there's really no way to remodel it because of the way it was built. The place is tired."

The Tonga Lei opened in 1961 on a lot that was purchased for about $20,000 seven years earlier. Previously, the building contained the Drift Inn, a seafood restaurant, but the owner was inspired by an eatery in San Diego called the Bali Ha'i and decided to expand the property with a South Pacific flavor.

Cooper said a contest was held to name a new hotel and that a woman came up with the Tonga Lei tag, not realizing that her winning entry carried with it a $500 prize. She was later tracked down and given her check.

As with so many places in Malibu, the beachside property has been a common celebrity-sighting spot. Jayne Mansfield, the platinum blonde '50s pinup, attended the opening of the Tonga Lei, and the restaurant bar was the favorite hangout of the late television star David Janssen. More recently, the restaurant has been a popular haunt for Pepperdine University students and faculty.

"We've always had a very loyal following," said Skip Miser. "When we took over, one of the most difficult things we had to learn was how to build Polynesian. It wasn't easy."

When they bought the motel and restaurant in 1977, Miser said, they searched greater Los Angeles trying to find decorations appropriate to the Polynesian atmosphere. They found what they were looking for at a business in Glendale.

"It was the only place we saw where you could buy Tiki gods," Miser said. "They had about 50 different kinds."

Miser said the property has survived fires and floods from the Pacific storms that occasionally batter the coast, but was unable to stand up to years of use. The partners also said the original construction severely limits their ability to remodel. They also stand to make more money with the greatly expanded motel.

"This property is a piece of paradise, but there's no place for a Polynesian restaurant and hotel anymore," Cooper said. "The place has outlived its usefulness.

"Even though this wasn't the place for the rich and famous, a lot of people are very sad to see it torn down. Some people always considered it a hideaway. But Polynesian is no longer in in Southern California."


----
YUP, by 1987 it wasn't. Man, if I just would have started photographing Tiki temples in the early 80s, there was so much more still around then. It looks like they came upon Sea & Jungle, "the only place you could buy Tiki gods" in 1977, and O.A. and Whittier was too far away. And the fact that they were inspired by one of the Tiki power places, the Bali Hai, is a cool little snippet of info.


 
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