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Ed Lawrence

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Question: Does anyone other than Bigbrotiki know who Ed Lawrence was (is?) and why he is important in the history of polynesian pop culture?

No, who IS Ed Lawrence?

According to a 1966 menu for Frances Langford's Outrigger restaurant, Ed Lawrence designed the original Don the Beachcomber's in Hollywood as well as other polynesian restaraunts in the United States and around the world. That's why -- she says -- she asked him to design and manage her restaraunt in Jensen Beach, Fla. I don't know if this means he was an architect, interior designer,mixologist or chef. Maybe all of the above. Also, I hope this doesn't start another Don Beach/Trader Vic Mai-Tai controversy.

Ohhh, THAT Ed Lawrence....
Never heard of the guy. But it might be that he really had to do with the decor (an early Frances Langford matchbook uses Don's menu icons), the 30s and 40s Beachcomber years are such a mystery. My main source is his girlfriend from th 50s to the early 70s in Waikiki (she off course totally discredits his wife, the drinkbook author, who only spent the last few years with him).
There is always the question WHO originated WHAT, like the family that claims their dad really designed the Kahiki, not Coburn Morgan...
What I am really curious about is have you been INSIDE the Outrigger? Is it a timewarp? Any Tikis?

Sorry to say I have not been to the Outrigger yet. This is mainly because Kentiki in Miami kind of discovered it and planned to go a few weeks ago but couldn't. So I didn't want to wreck my karma and beat him over there. On the otherhand, the weather is pretty nice and it would make a great motorcycling destination....
The source for the Ed Lawrence info. is a menu I bought from E-bay. Inside is a montage of news clips and photos about Frances and/or the restaurant, including one from the Miami Herald. The artcile is covered over with photos, but I can make out that the reporter interviewed the mysterious Mr. Lawerence, so that's a lead that can be followed. I'll report more once I get over there.

I sent a half dozen different Miami Herald articles on the Outrigger, including an obituary for Ed Lawrence, to your BoT e-mail.

Ed Lawrence was the designer for Seattle's long gone Kalua Room in the Hotel Windsor (which used a mascott tiki holding a drink in his hand on their menus, napkins, and ads). According to a November 15 1953 Seattle Times article Ed Lawrence "conceived the idea for the famous Don the Beachcomber Restaurants." Yeah, well, that's how the story was told in these parts.

Thought some of you might be interested in this article from last Feb. on Francis Langford.

News-Journal wire services

JENSEN BEACH -- It was Hollywood's golden age and Frances Langford's career was skyrocketing with every sweet note she sang. The charming Florida gal was a featured guest on Bob Hope's radio show and had appeared in nine films.

Then, World War II broke out and Langford, a recording artist, radio and movie star, put her success on hold to join Hope on his overseas USO tours.

With Americans doing their part to support the war effort, Langford wanted to help. She couldn't work in an airplane factory. But she could sing.

"You forget about show business," says Langford, now 87. "We were there just to do our job, to help make them laugh and be happy if they could."

Last year, the United Service Organizations kicked into gear to bring American patriotism to a new generation of forces in Afghanistan. But this time, Langford, who was known as "Sweetheart of the Fighting Fronts," wasn't packing her bags.

Out of the limelight for decades, Langford lives quietly on her 57-acre spread overlooking the Indian River in this southeast Florida town 100 miles north of Miami.

Her memory may have robbed her of the ability to remember names, but she can still recall in vivid detail the visits to troops in England, North Africa, the South Pacific and later to Korea and Vietnam.

She finds it hard to talk about the wounded soldiers she visited in military hospitals, but recounts air raid stories with a laugh, even the time flak narrowly missed her face as she cowered in a stable.

Or the evening when she, Hope and guitarist Tony Romano were on the road to Tunis, Tunisia.

They had left a camp as night approached and suddenly were fired on.

"We all jumped and ran into this culvert," Langford says. "You could hear them coming. They sprayed the ditches and you could smell the bullets. It was frightening because you don't realize how you feel. You're just sort of frozen."

She also recalls the time Hope amused her, Romano and Hope's sidekick Jerry Colonna as they survived a night of bombing in the basement of their Algiers, Algeria, hotel with others nearby.

"Bob would start telling little jokes, only to us," she says. "It was so funny that we wanted to laugh so bad and they were so scared."

The troops loved Hope's humor, Langford says.

"He's just naturally fun and just a great man. He's done so much for our military."

Langford brought troops "a vision of home, and hope that it would be over sometime soon," says former manager Charles Wick.

"She had a very charming and glamorous personality, which along with her deep sexy voice certainly combined to give her the kind of image that the GIs used to really cheer," he says, "in addition to being moved by her lovely voice."

Langford is also known for playing the insufferable wife opposite Don Ameche in the 1940s radio comedy "The Bickersons."

Born in Lakeland in 1914, she was discovered at age 16 by bandleader Rudy Vallee. He invited her backstage to sing after a Miami performance.

"I sang maybe 16 bars and he said, 'That's enough,'" she says. "I thought, oh, that's the end of my career."

Instead, he asked her to sing on his radio program and invited her to New York. There she sang at Cole Porter's birthday party and met Hollywood producers.

She moved to California and sang on Louella Parson's radio show "Hollywood Hotel." She appeared in 30 movies including "Broadway Melody," "Yankee Doodle Dandee" and "The Hit Parade."

In 1941, she was singing on Hope's show when he held his first military program at March Field near Pasadena, Calif. The response was so positive Hope asked her if she wanted to bring the show to a training base every week. She quickly agreed.

"I really wanted to do something worthwhile for my country," she says.

Her trademark song, "I'm in the Mood for Love," which was written for her for the 1935 movie, "Every Night at Eight," was a huge hit with the servicemen.

"Everywhere I went, it was the same thing. I got up and sang about eight bars and way in the back some GI would stand up. He'd say, You've come to the right place sister.' They responded to everything, they were such a wonderful audience."

Patty Thomas, a dancer on the South Pacific tours, says the energy of a military audience can't be matched, and their experience island hopping won't ever be repeated.

"It's a push-button war now," Thomas says.

A boater and angler, Langford spends much of her time aboard her 110-foot yacht with husband Harold Stuart, assistant secretary of the Air Force under President Harry S. Truman.

The Chanticleer is docked next to a restaurant she built in the 1960s with late husband Ralph Evinrude, heir to Evinrude outboard motor. She entertained famous friends and locals at the Polynesian-themed Outrigger Resort until Evinrude died in 1986 and she sold the place.

The new owner, whose father met Langford in Africa, dedicated a room to her with head shots, a blown up cover of Radio Mirror magazine that she graced and letters from Ronald Reagan.

Her boat is adorned with autographed pictures of Hope, former president Dwight D. Eisenhower, Reagan, Winston Churchill and Richard Nixon.

There's just one photo from her Hollywood career, a publicity shot of a young Langford leaning stylishly against a piano in a sheer gown.

Much of the glamour has left the gray-haired woman with failing eyesight. What remains is the humility that allowed her to sweep her hair up in a bandanna and overcome dust, dirt and danger to boost wartime morale.

The former star of the battlefield jokes she wouldn't be popular with today's military.

"I'm too old. They don't want to see an old gal get up and sing," she says. "I've done my share."

[ Edited by: Kailuageoff on 2003-01-28 15:11 ]

What a gal! Somebody better ask her about Ed Lawrence soon...somebody?


Geoff, wait, you mean she's still around? No way!

That place is still beautiful. Only 2 or 3 tikis, but a beautiful place. Love the HUGE banyan tree out front. Makes you feel like you're in Lahaina.

If only I could buy that place and return it to its former glory. The Fla. lottery is my only hope.

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