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Tiki Central Forums General Tiki In Search of Frank Bowers...
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In Search of Frank Bowers...
JOHN-O
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2693
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2009-09-28 7:24 pm   Permalink

This thread originally started as "JOHN-O's Guide to the SGV (when visiting the Bahooka or Oceanic Arts)".

It was my attempt to share the San Gabriel Valley's mid-century historic, kitschy, and divey with my fellow Tiki-philes. Along the way something really cool happened. Based on my inclusion of Embers Lounge, BigBro and Sabu were able to identify some new people and places in LA's Poly-Pop history.

This is a topic that deserves a thread of it's own. Plus I want to take my original topic and have a separate place where I can add to it. My SGV Guide will reappear as a new post.

So for now this is the place where you can post the following:

1. Any background on the artist Frank Bowers.

2. Any information on Joe Keawe's Hale Hawaii bar & restaurant in Wilmington.



[ This Message was edited by: JOHN-O 2014-02-20 18:05 ]


 
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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11171
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2009-09-28 10:28 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2009-09-28 19:24, JOHN-O wrote:

6. Embers Lounge (1963)

This is the dive bar from Hell (literally).

This place is famous for its murals and portraits of nubile devil girls tempting men into the service of Satan. The artist was Frank Bowers who in the 1930s did murals for public spaces like the South Gate City Hall (Ive included an image.) What a contrast !! This guy might have experienced his own personal descent into Hell as the Embers paintings were his last work before he died in 1964.

Ember Lounge is located only 2 miles from OA at 11332 Washington Blvd, Whittier. They open for drinks at 11am !!






Very nice post, John. I had heard about the Embers, but have not been. So far. Now I will for sure. It seems fairly likely that you have identified the muralist of the Leilani Hut and Zamboanga's here:

http://www.tikiroom.com/tikicentral/bb/viewtopic.php?topic=32715&forum=2&8


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JOHN-O
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2693
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2009-09-28 11:04 pm   Permalink

Nice !! Here are the additional paintings at Embers that I took photos of.







[ This Message was edited by: JOHN-O 2009-10-02 21:07 ]


 
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TikiG
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jun 17, 2008
Posts: 1544
From: Riverside, California
Posted: 2009-09-29 07:39 am   Permalink

This thread proves that there is so much goodness in Southern California, even in the 'no respect' wasteland of the San Gabriel Valley. I've lived in So. Cal all my life and I get turned onto crazy awesome things to check out on a weekly basis. I may have a reputation among some friends of knowing more than most regarding off-the-beaten-track things to do in LA but unless you're tipped by a like-minded soul, these things can be a hit or miss proposition and experience.

That's the beauty (or the nightmare!) of vast urban sprawl depending on your viewpoint or mood.

I respect people that have an infallible internal gauge for COOL - so I say Thanks! John-O for posting this information of tangible places we So. Cal locals can all indulge in today...and tonight.

Keep posting your interesting topicals, they are a joy to read.
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TikiG

tiki since '67!


 
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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11171
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2009-09-29 12:33 pm   Permalink

The funny thing is, this fact is almost impossible to explain to folks outside of Los Angeles. When I try to describe to other Europeans why I prefer the urban sprawl of L.A. to more "beautiful" cities, I always have to come back to my concept of urban archeology. But it rarely gets fully understood.

 
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JOHN-O
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2693
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2009-09-29 5:38 pm   Permalink

On 2009-09-28 22:28, bigbrotiki wrote:
Quote:


Very nice post, John. I had heard about the Embers, but have not been. So far. Now I will for sure. It seems fairly likely that you have identified the muralist of the Leilani Hut and Zamboanga's here:

http://www.tikiroom.com/tikicentral/bb/viewtopic.php?topic=32715&forum=2&8




I see what you mean about the similarities. Frank Bowers covered quite a range of subject matter - 1930's square johns, tropical wahines, and horned devil girls.

Other than the Embers Lounge and the South Gate City Hall (8650 California Ave), it looks like his work also exists at the The Buccaneer Lounge in Sierra Madre (70 W Sierra Madre) and the Foc'sle Bar in Wilmington (400 N. Avalon Blvd). I'll have to check it out and post pictures. (Thank you
http://www.latimemachines.com !!)

Some other comments I've seen suggest he did the Embers work in exchange for a bar tab. While "Bukowskian" last days seem like a romantic way to add to a legend, I can't find anything to actually substantiate this.

This was the only type of biography I was able to find...

http://www.edanhughes.com/biography.cfm?ArtistID=1060


Just Added - More nekkid ladies from Frank Bowers and it looks like they're for sale - http://www.1stdibs.com/furniture_item_detail.php?id=54198



[ This Message was edited by: JOHN-O 2009-09-29 18:18 ]


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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11171
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2009-09-29 8:50 pm   Permalink

Most excellent! It seems he was always called in to illustrate concept bars. Wonder what that Mecca painting goes for...

 
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JOHN-O
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2693
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2009-09-29 9:49 pm   Permalink

The dealer's asking $8500.

You might be better off walking into the Foc'sle Bar in Wilmington and offering $100 for the beat-up old painting on the wall.

Just be sure you can ask in Spanish

That Bowers really liked his cheesecake. Check out this edited G-rated image of the Foc'sle mural.



Update - I just Yelped the Buccaneer in Sierra Madre. Someone posted the Bowers painting images there (with no reference to his name.) Gotta love the internet. You can be an Urban Archaeologist and never have to leave home. This thread may have inadvertently become the most comprehensive overview of Bower's work on the web.

I just hijacked my own post !!



FYI, here's the Leilani Hut and Zamboanga images for a full comparison....



[ This Message was edited by: JOHN-O 2009-09-30 11:46 ]


 
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Sabu The Coconut Boy
Tiki Central Poet Laureate

Joined: Aug 20, 2002
Posts: 2793
From: Carson, California
Posted: 2009-09-30 4:43 pm   Permalink

John-O, I love this thread. It's great to finally know that Frank Bowers was responsible for all those great Polynesian bar murals. I'm definitely visiting The Embers soon.

At Bosko's slideshow at Tiki Oasis this year, Bosko had a photo of the interior of Dale Sizer's house in the 1990s. On the wall was another of these large Frank Bowers paintings depicting nude Polynesian maidens. A week later I met Dale Sizer at another Hollywood event and asked him about that painting. All the info he had was the name of the antique store he had bought it from, and the fact that he had sold it himself, years ago. Another dead-end. Now the mystery is solved.

The Foc'sle Bar is just about 15 blocks from my house (I live off Avalon in Carson). So I decided to make a quick archeological expedition at lunch today. I was dressed in my best corporate attire from the office, and debated whether to dress-down, as I would surely stick out like a sore thumb in Wilmington, but was in a bit of a hurry, so decided to go as I was.

The Foc'sle is around the block from another of my favorite haunts, Jack's Country Kitchen - a fantastic 50s restaurant with a covered wagon out front and tons of antiques inside, that, unfortunately was sold a few years ago and "remodeled tastefully" for the worse.

Entering the Foc'sle, the painting is clearly evident in all it's glory. I talked to the few locals having beers and they're very proud of their painting. They said someone came in recently and offered to buy it for $1000 but the owner turned him down. I told the guys there to tell the owner that the painting was by a famous Californian artist and worth a lot more than that and please dont' sell it. They said he'd never consider selling it, which is good. They wanted to know when it was painted and I told them 1940s or 50s, and that seemed to surprise them because they didn't suspect the bar was so old, but that only confirmed that they had something special there.

The girl tending bar was reluctant to let me photograph the painting without the owner there, but one of the older locals asked her if he wasn't acting manager while the owner was out? And she said yes, so he told me, "In that case, I override her - you can take your pictures".









Behind the bar is an even longer painting, but it's obscured by shelving and bottles, so that you can only catch small glimpses of it. The locals said the painting is the same scene as the other painting, but painted from the "opposite side" of the first painting. So in the portion below, you can see the same sailor, but viewed from "behind". The girls are viewed from behind as well.



Walking out of the bar, I surprised a 55-year-old longshoreman walking down the street.

"Brother," he said, "you are the last person I expected to see come out of the Foc'sle!"

He looked my attire up and down. "I don't think I've ever seen someone dressed like you in Wilmington, but hey, even suits got to have a beer at lunch like everybody else, right?".

I laughed and told him about me coming to see the Frank Bowers paintings in the bar. He seemed surprised that I knew about them and wondered how I heard about Frank Bowers. I told him about my interest in old Polynesian bars and how he had painted murals in quite a few of those bars.

"Then you would have loved Joe Keawe's just down the block." he said. "Joe Keawe was a famous singer back in Hawaii and every wall of his bar was covered with Polynesian Girl paintings, and every one of them was signed 'Frank Bowers'".

I of course was astonished, so I asked him more questions and we had a great conversation about the history of Wilmington and the longshoremen of the Local 13, of who Joe Keawe was a member. When I got back to my office, I did some research on Joe Keawe and this is what I discovered.

Joe Keawe was a famous Hawaiian Falsetto singer who's appeared on many albums. He moved to the mainland in the 1940s and opened Joe Keawe's Hale Hawaii bar & restaurant in Wilmington at 348 Avalon Blvd. He continued singing and was also a longshoreman. His Bar/Restaurant seems to have been renamed at some point to "Joe Keawe's Hawaiian Restaurant". When he died, his wife Doris continued to run the restaurant until 2005 or 2006 when it was sold and closed.

I'm going to have to make another trip to see if the building (and possible murals) is still there and maybe contact his family to see what happened to the Frank Bowers paintings.

I haven't had this much fun on an urban archeology expedition for years. I can't believe a treasure like this exists right in my own neighborhood and I never knew about it. But Wilmington is full of forgotten mid-century wonders.

And despite my normal rule of dressing like a local to fit in to the neighborhood, if I wasn't wearing inappropriate clothes, I never would have talked to that longshoreman, and I never would have found out about Joe Keawe's Hale Hawaiian. So I'm re-thinking my rule.

Sabu

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[ This Message was edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy 2009-09-30 16:51 ]


 
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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11171
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2009-09-30 10:04 pm   Permalink

Outstanding! when I get home, I will make it my mission to attempt to professionally record the extant work of this artist with a tripod and some lights.
To hear that Joe Keawe's place closed only in 2005 or 6 makes me cringe with fear about its fate, it is maddening to maybe have missed such a site by a few years only --if it is gone. I am anxiously awaiting Sabu's next exploration results.


 
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Dustycajun
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 16, 2007
Posts: 4320
From: Santa Barbara, CA
Posted: 2009-09-30 10:19 pm   Permalink

Would like to have seen a photo of Sabu in the Suit hanging out with the lunch-time beer crowd at the Foc'sle Bar in front of that mural.

Good luck on the expedition to Joe Keawe's Hawaiian Restaurant.

DC


 
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Sabu The Coconut Boy
Tiki Central Poet Laureate

Joined: Aug 20, 2002
Posts: 2793
From: Carson, California
Posted: 2009-09-30 11:52 pm   Permalink

Maddening is right, bigbro. To think that I lived here near 20 years while Joe Keawe's was open just a few miles away and I never knew about it. And now to discover it a few years after it closes - it kills me.


[ This Message was edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy 2009-09-30 23:52 ]


 
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virani
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Sep 17, 2003
Posts: 1438
From: Volcanic area of France
Posted: 2009-10-01 04:54 am   Permalink

very cool. More, more !!
thanks for the thread


 
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Or Got Rum?
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 29, 2009
Posts: 336
From: Wisconsin
Posted: 2009-10-01 05:19 am   Permalink

Truly amazing work! Finding leads that begets more leads and info. Thanks for following the breadcrumbs and keep it coming!

 
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JOHN-O
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2693
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2009-10-01 07:14 am   Permalink

Sabu,

Thanks for sharing your recent expedition, it was an amazing read. Also thanks for posting the uncensored images of the Foc'sle murals. I enjoyed them very much. I thought the hanging "Aloha" turned out to be very prophetic. It's interesting when I originally researched Bowers, it was my impression he was primarily a "square john" artist since most of his documented 1930's work was commissioned for public spaces. I figured the Embers paintings were the anomalies. I guess it was the other way around. So who was Frank Bowers really? Also is it just me but does anyone else see a similarity to the work of pulp comic book artist Wally Wood?

I'm glad that the Foc'sle felt very protective of their Bowers'. I got the same thing at Embers when I asked to take pictures. At first I thought I was just being polite, but the bartender actually paused and said that I needed to ask the owner's niece who was sitting nearby. The regulars there also felt proud about the paintings and eagerly shared "they were done by this famous guy". They also gave me their suggestions for old places (mid-century?) in the area that I'm going to check out.

One thing I want to add since this might inspire others to make the trip out to Embers, Foc'sle and the Buccaneer. These places are locals' joints (some more gritty than others) who may not be used to seeing strange people show up (especially those dressed for a Hawaiian vacation.) If you're feeling that vibe, then please treat the place with respect and ask before you pull that camera out. You don't want to piss off the wrong person who might think you're photographing them. Tiki-Ti and the Bahooka, it ain't.



 
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