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Tiki Central Forums General Tiki New Luau in Beverly Hills?

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New Luau in Beverly Hills?
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11594
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2008-10-28 12:00 pm   Permalink


On 2008-10-27 19:06, gonegoannas wrote:
Not to ruffle any ones tail feathers, but perhaps one should visit the place before giving their opinion on it. Just a thought.

For the average person, perhaps, but after spending over 16 years of looking and photographing authentic Tiki environments, writing two books on Tiki style, and getting to see the blueprints and hearing the interior designer did jewelry for rock stars before she got this job, I thought I had a pretty good grasp of where this one was going. And apart from a few nice surprise details, I don't think I have been proven wrong.

OK, one LAST time, let me spell out where I am coming from: My main interest are the VISUALS, the ART, this is what inspired me about Tiki, and made me want to write a book about it. And people LIKED what they saw in the book, so much that it inspired a resurgence of the style. (And this was NOT because it was a book on Polynesian bamboo bars of the 30s and 40s). I don't care that much about the food, or the society clientele, that is the restaurateurs job. The drinks are what counts, and they did good here, I acknowledged that.

Stephen Crane's Luau was originally called Sugie's Tropics, which used to be a very successful PRE-Tiki style tropical bar, meaning it had LOTS of Bamboo, rattan, and Lahaula matted walls. Sugie's used classic pre-Tiki icons like monkeys and Hula girls as logos for his business.

When Crane re-opened it as the Luau 1n 1953, in its early years it retained that pre-Tiki Bamboo bar look:

This is NOT a Tiki bar, as defined in my books.

But Steve was in competition with Trader Vic and Don The Beachcomber, and needed to differentiate himself from them. So to up the ante, and because he was a show man/actor, he decided to get more theatrical, by adding more Oceanic artifacts, like the lamps, weapons, shields and TIKIS. Plus he added interior waterfalls and landscaping. He also used a Tiki as the logo for the restaurants on its menu, matchbooks, coasters, postcards, and replicated it as Salt and Pepper shakers, table lamps and as entrance doorway Tikis. Here again, is the introduction to his menu, where he specifically talks about his Tikis:

So Steve Crane was the first entrepreneur to employ Tikis as a theme (together with Tiki Bob's in San Francisco). Thus the Luau became one of the BIRTHPLACES OF TIKI STYLE. His all-out "sophisticated savage" concept was so successful that he franchised it out with his Kon-Tiki chain to several American (and Canadian) cities in 1958.
Here is an excerpt from a 1959 article "War of Exotic Restaurant Chains Comes to a Head in Portland" about Steve Crane opening a Kon Tiki restaurant where there is already a Trader Vic's (note that the writer does not mention Tikis specifically: Nobody singled them out as the figureheads back then, I had to do it in my book):

So this is what the Luau became, and what the Luau stood for:

To me, choosing the name of The Luau (and claiming to have fond childhood memories of it) carries a responsibility to its stature in Polynesian pop history that was not fulfilled, by not going all the way with what made the first Luau special. This is all that I am claiming here.

I don't have to sit there to see that. Because Tiki has nothing to do with common sense, but all with Tiki sense.

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