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Celebrating classic and modern Polynesian Pop

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Name:Don the Beachcomber (Hollywood)
Type:restaurant
Street:North McCadden Place
City:Hollywood
State:CA
Zip:
country:USA
Phone:
Status:defunct

Description:
(from the Van Nuys Valley News 16 October 1971)

Little Bit of Polynesia
Tropical Settings Mark Beachcombers

The first Don the Beachcomber restaurant opened in Hollywood in 1934 where a little bit of Polynesia was created to combine drinks of rum and the Cantonese food of ancient China.
Interesting lighting, walls of bamboo, coconut, tree posts, intricate carvings and thatched ceilings help to create a tropical atmosphere.
Don the Beachcomber has long been known for his Navy Grog, Zombie, Missionary's Downfall and Pi Yi, all drink concoctions for the exotic tastes. With these libations, the restaurant offers a variety of appetizers, including Tapa Tapa (tenderloin of beef, skewered in slender bamboo spears, marinated in Chinese spices and broiled), Chinese barbecued tenderloin of pork slices, barbecued baby loin ribs, fried shrimp, egg roll, rumaki and crab puffs.
Cantonese cooking is used to prepare such dishes of varied origins as lobster Hong Kong, pork Cantonese, king crab Chungking, chicken Manuu of beef osyter. (sic)
American entrees, Polynesian style are served.
Steak Bora Bora, Australian lobster tail, Pacific Mahi Mahi, broiled New York steak and barbecued chicken are among the most popular.
The second Don the Beachcomber opened in Palm Springs in 1953, followed by dineries in Las Vegas' Hotel Sahara in 1962, the St. Paul Hilton in 1966, Corona del Mar in 1969, Marina Del Rey in March 1970 and the latest addition in Harbor Island in June 1970.
King Y. Wong is president of Don the Beachcomber restaurants.
Don the Beachcomber in Palm Springs was completely refurbished with carpeting, new coral, leather booths, additional comfortable seating in the lounge area, completely repainted exterior and a new entrance complimented by exotic landscaping.

[ Edited by: pappythesailor 2007-08-13 19:35 ]

(from the Van Nuys News 30 March 1973)

Don the Beachcomber Marks 40th Year

It began as a virtual
hole in the wall — that
tiny bar Donn Beach
opened in Hollywood. The
year was 1933 and now
some four decades later
Don The Beachcomber remains
and flourishes as
one of America's premier
Polynesian restaurants, a
spokesman said.
Soft lights, tropical wat-
er falls, native waiters
and exotic Cantonese cuisine
caught the fancy of rom-
ance seeking diners.
When Beach and his early
associates invented such
mind-boggling rum concoctions
as the "Zombie"
and the "Navy Grog," Don
The Beachcomber became
the envy of the restaurant
world.
The royalty of Hollywood
merged in a common
bond with that of Washington
and the business
world for a night at Don
The Beachcomber was always
memorable. After
Beach decided to move to
Hawaii, Sunny Sund took
over the operation while
today the tradition continues
in the capable hands
of Horst Osterkamp.
Don The Beachcomber
in Hollywood has been
given a complete refurbishing
in keeping with its
senior position among the
nation's tropical elite.
In anticipation of its
40th anniversary, more
than $100,000 was expended
which included
construction of a new
cocktail bar area, expansion
of the central dining
room, and the addition
of new waterfalls and tropical
rain forests.
The spot serves luncheon
Monday through Friday
and dinner nightly
with Steve Aranas serving
as manager-host.
It all started in Holrywood
with a simple notion
and the idea will never
end as long as romance
and the South Seas' continue
to capture the imagination,
the spokesman
said.

A

When did the original Hollywood location actually close?

We need to post a picture from Sippin Safari of the parking lot sign. Or any other pictures. All I have is the empty parking lot now that the sign is gone.

D

Thought this would be interesting. The picture for this album cover was taken in 1958 at the Hollywood Don The Beachcomber. enjoy.

A

Does anyone know what year the Hollywood DTB closed?

T

Going through my hardrive looking at all my pictures and I found this one that I don't believe I've seen anywhere on TC yet. I'm pretty sure this is the Hollywood location. As I remember I found it on the UCLA archives site a few years ago.

and I believe this is the Chicago location. Does anyone know?

[ Edited by: Tattoo 2008-02-28 08:33 ]

[ Edited by: Tattoo 2008-02-28 08:36 ]

I do believe that 2nd pic is from the Chicago location, yes. What is odd about it is that it looks like a snapshot, yet the sign seems to have been messed with professionally to increase clarity..(?). Here's a 1958 ad for it:

The Chicago location was the very first Beachcomber franchise, and it was Sunny's baby, all the way:

It was important because it inspired the creation of the Mai Kai:

"The inspiration for the Mai-Kai came from the (Thornton) brothers' favorite restaurant, Don the Beachcomber, an island-style eatery they visited with their father during their childhood in Chicago."

There are two rare interior postcards from it on e-bay right now, but kohalacharms is bidding, so I know that a.) I will be outbid, and b.) they will go into competent hands :D :

These photos further cement the fact that the 1940s, and the Don The Beachcomber look in general belong to the Pre-Tiki period.

Here is a nice interior of the Hollywood Beachcomber, shot in the 50s:

On 2007-08-14 11:42, TikiJosh wrote:
We need to post a picture from Sippin Safari of the parking lot sign. Or any other pictures. All I have is the empty parking lot now that the sign is gone.

How about a picture of the parking lot sign from the Book of Tiki? :D :

T

Here's a wider version of the Chicago Beachcomber shot. Not sure if the sign was messed with for clarity.

I remember this photo now, it was on e-bay. Maybe the seller photoshopped the sign to a crisper form to make the pic more appealing to folks like us.

Its funny, but the Hollywood Beachcomber looks so much like a little apartment complex and not a polynesian palace.

G

On 2007-11-08 14:59, Digitiki wrote:
Thought this would be interesting. The picture for this album cover was taken in 1958 at the Hollywood Don The Beachcomber. enjoy.

How do you know this? This album cover hangs over my bar. I see nothing on the back cover referring to Don the Beachcomber's. Looks more like a studio shot to me.

On 2008-02-29 16:29, GatorRob wrote:
I see nothing on the back cover referring to Don the Beachcomber's.

....cause you didn't use your magnifying glass :D :

Well, apparently, The Outriggers didn't like Don's, because they chose to shoot their next album cover at Vic's :wink: :


Meanwhile, THE SURFERS preferred THEIR covers to be shot with Stephen Crane's LUAU as the back drop:


...while THE OUTRIGGERS were studio musicians put together to supply more Hawaiian sounds to the Polynesia-mad masses, the Surfers were sort of "The Monkees" of Hawaiian music, for though they were native Hawaiians, they were found by their record company in L.A., at Glendale Junior College.

All in all, perfect examples Polynesian Pop: From the recording to the cover photography, not one foot was set on the Islands, the Illusion of the South Seas was completely fabricated on the mainland, in part thanks to the Tiki Troica of Don, Vic and Steve! :D

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki 2008-02-29 19:02 ]

On 2008-02-28 09:51, bigbrotiki wrote:

There are two rare interior postcards from it on e-bay right now, but kohalacharms is bidding, so I know that a.) I will be outbid, and b.) they will go into competent hands :D :

Rare indeed! This is the first time I have seen these cards. The common Don the Beachcomber cards are the interior shot of the Hollywood location, a few from the Waikiki location (luau shots), the UFO shot from Marina del Rey and then the common menu cards (2) the non PC drink menu card and the map of the South Pacific card.

I have no doubt that Kohalacharms will end up with the cards, but I expect that the bidding will go high at the close of the auction. That reminds me of the time Sabu brook the $100 barrier for a Tahiti Motel postcard from Wildwood Crest New Jersey several years ago (Tim, we rarely see you around here anymore?)

G

On 2008-02-29 17:12, bigbrotiki wrote:
....cause you didn't use your magnifying glass :D :

Well, there it is. Right under my nose and I never noticed it. Thanks for that!

So where are the current Don the Beachcomber locations? How many are left?

D

I think there's one in Kona and I've heard they have plans to open one in So. Cal., possibly Malibu area.

G

On 2008-03-07 14:31, Ratzaroony wrote:
So where are the current Don the Beachcomber locations? How many are left?

No original ones left. The one in Kona on the Big Island is a newer establishment. I know some here like it, but I found it to be barely passable. The view of the ocean, however, is outstanding.

My daughter and me hamming it up on the back patio of Don the Beachcomber's last year:

[ Edited by: GatorRob 2008-03-07 20:36 ]

T

Browsing through Los Angeles Public Library Photo Database and found this crazy picture:

"Advertising on the outside wall of the Don the Beachcomber restaurant."

It's not so crazy. I was planning to use that as a perfect illustration for the beginning devolution of Tiki. That '69 Chevy or Olds puts it in and around 1970, and that's what Don The Beachcomber had become by then: A cheesy $4.95 buffet place that would scream "Mai Tais! Zombies!" and nobody cared.

I agree with you Bigbro but that time period also saw a change in that part of Hollywood Boulevard. The Hollywood sign was falling apart and things in that neighborhood were starting to get scary. Thanks Filthy Hippies!

I’m sure they were doing everything thing they could to compete with other tourist traps in the neighborhood just to hang on. (Which is what you were saying) Also this is just a guess but I’d think that the people who enjoyed Don’s were probably dining in Beverly Hills at the Luau or Vic’s.

When did the Marina Del Rey Don’s open?

[ Edited by: Bora Boris 2008-03-12 20:15 ]

Good points. Like all things, the reality of Tiki devolution was more complex, it was not a "Tiki Fever today- Tiki devolution the next day" situation, but a parallel shifting of tastes and generations, just like today there is a Tiki Revival, while Tiki places keep on shutting down at the same time. I checked, and the (by then Getty owned) Beachcomber chain made one more grand effort just around that time, with opening Corona Del Mar in 1969, Harbor Island San Diego and Marina Del Rey in 1970.
Like then and now, it is a question of different social strata. Like you said, Hollywood as a neighborhood had gotten dingy, and the Island Shack/Hideaway quality of the original Beachcomber locale had become dated, not cool and hip as it had been to the 30s/40s film crowd. But there still was the older generation, the yacht owners and the "Marina Swingers", that lived in places like Marina and Playa del Rey, who were fond of the fully decked out Polynesia Americana/Beachbum Burt style...while their kids laughed at them as "the establishment".

S

It is often the case that the inventor of an idea doesn't reap the rewards that the copiers do. Vic and Crane joined up with high end hotel chains and made it right. Don didn't get that gravy train.

I tell you, if I opened a place today, I would not even hint at those guys. My Zombie recipe would not say invented by anybody. I'd not bring up the past. People today want new. Even if it is repackaged old. Act like you thought of it yesterday and they'll dig it. Tell them it started 50 years ago and they'll sneer. The future of the Tiki bar is a cross between TGIFridays and Trader Vic's and Cozymel's. And it can Evolve rather than Devolve.

Jeez Tim, you're so depressing! T'is kinda true though. Look at the movies: STAR WARS is a vintage classic to most folks, anything before that doesn't really exist, and if so is only watched as a (often way inferior) contempo remake.

But we Tiki snobs follow our own drummer, don't we now! We are the proud fools on the hill (ancient pop music reference)

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki 2008-03-13 13:40 ]

S

On 2008-03-13 13:27, bigbrotiki wrote:
Jeez Tim, you're so depressing! T'is kinda true though. Look at the movies: STAR WARS is a vintage classic to most folks, anything before that doesn't really exist, and if so is only watched as a (often way inferior) contempo remake.

But we Tiki snobs follow our own master, don't we now!

Well, regrettably, there is a stigma to tiki as well all know here. Unfortunately, the word "tacky" is linked to the the word "tiki" now and it gets more and more so. I actually think that's what a lot of people want. But, at the exact same time, there is a strong tropical trend and we are seeing very nice and stylish furnishings and decor aimed at a sort of beach setting. Everyone loves the beach. So you have to sort of pull them in with their flip flops and pink flamingo hawaiian shirts and slip them a Navy Grog instead of a Corona and then lead them from the tropical lanai to the dark mysterious Tiki bar and they just go "cool! great drink!"

Hey, we're living in Margaritaville baby, gotta swim with the current! You just don't have to go where it leads...

G

I hate to continue to derail this thread, but what the hell. I threw a picture of myself in here. :)

I pretty much agree with Swanky. Find the hook that brings them in and then give them something they weren't expecting, but hopefully will like. But I'll tell you... the only reason I think the Mai-Kai survives to this day is tourism. If it was in Chicago or Seattle or Dallas, it would have been gone long ago. Tourists stream into the Mai-Kai mostly to gawk at the "tacky tiki stuff" and see the show. They don't know or care about the history of the place. The Mai-Kai tried the Gauguin Room as a "hip" and upscale dining room and it failed. Why? Because the tourists just wanted to see the show. There aren't enough people like you and me to make that sort of thing successful. At least not on a grand scale like the Mai-Kai or any of the other long-gone tiki palaces. So the Mai-Kai is pretty much an anomaly.

So (back on topic), could a Don the Beachcomber's survive today? My conclusion is yes, if it is in an area where that sort of decor, drinks, music, etc was acceptable to the public (i.e., tourist areas mostly). But if it's going to survive in a typical non-tourist city, it has got to present itself in a different way that draws in the locals.

G

You're right, Sven. This is depressing.

Don't tell me...I just got back from a demonstration of the RedCam, a new hot digital movie camera that is supposed to be as good as Motion Picture FILM cameras...and I couldn't help but think how all that "It's just like Film!" mantra is B.S. (it STILL does not look as good as film) but nobody wants to say it, because everybody knows " the rise of the machines" is inevitable, and eventually digital will replace film, NOT because it was better, but because it was cheaper and more convenient, and soon thereafter nobody will care to remember the difference...I was trying to give my friend Ueli Steiger, D.P. on 10 000 BC, the analogy of the top mixer versus blender: Nobody remembers why the mixer was phased out of mixology and that there WAS a difference, the blender was just more convenient and so that is that. Just look at how excited the kids get at the discovery of a just recently built, cheaply done re-enactment of a Don The Beachcomber, a shadow of what once was....god bless'em, but ALL that is depressing to me.

S

The really huge thing that has changed is that everyone wants to be "comfortable" all the time now. That means, shorts and flip flops or "warm-ups" which is another word for sweats. Dressing up or even dressing decently for dinner is way out. So, the glory days of all the major Tiki places is long gone. They were all high end places back then. Coat and tie required.

Last casual Friday here at work, I wore a tie in protest...

You're such a rebel, Tim! :D
Here again, Polynesian pop history is more complex, and both is true. On one hand Swanky is right, the swank "evening dress" was more the rule of the day still, on the other hand the Aloha shirt for the first time allowed the males to dress "casual" but yet appropriate for the occasion: No tie, collar unbuttoned and NOT TUCKED IN! Plus eating at a Luau with your hands while sitting on the floor was daringly informal, sort of a pre-hippy rebellion activity!

And another thing… I think it’s possible that in the late sixties / early seventies a lot of the Celebrity crowd preferred the drive down Wilshire to Santa Monica’s newly opened Madame Wu’s Garden rather then having to leave the Westside and drive to Hollywood.

Heck, me and the Bum drove there all the way from Silverlake on a regular basis to enjoy Tony Ramos's Fogcutters...but that was in the 90s.

Actually, come to think of it...Madame Wu's was one of Ground Zeros for the Tiki Revival, because it was here that Jeff Berry found proof that he knew his stuff. He initially liked it for its unaltered James Bond Chinese Modern interior, but when he sampled a couple of Tony's drinks, he recognized by taste that Tony was in the know, and so he found out that Tony came from the Marina Del Rey Beachcomber. This was Jeff's first live connection to that great mixology tradition.

A year or so later, in April of '96, Otto organized the second Tiki Mug party (the first was in his backyard in Venice) at Madame Woo's.

At the time, he was cataloging vintage Tiki mugs for his Tiki Mug Book project (which never materialized). Bosko's mugs were the ONLY newly made mugs then, and Jeff started selling his first self-published version of the Grog Log.

I had just returned from my expedition to the Kahiki, and showed my slides I had taken.

I went by 1727 N. McCadden Place yesterday and having heard that the parking lot sign was gone I wanted to see if the address was maybe still painted on the curb, well not only was the parking lot sign gone but the parking lot was gone and the Burger King on Highland and everything! So if there was even the tiniest drop of ancient rum sealed in some forgotten underground plumbing it is now gone.

I know it’s been gone forever but the huge hole was a surprise.

But I did find this in a Los Angeles phone directory from 1942 ~

Also this from the 1970 Yellow Pages ~

I love the Don Jose ad above it “Lunch with Don Jose on the banks of the L.A. River.” Hilarious.:lol:

H

1941 postcard:

H


Don the Beachcomber circa 1934.

A

This web site has a lot of old Hollywood photos, includes several of Don the Beachcomber. Interesting to see how the facade changed from the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1970s

http://www.hollywoodphotographs.com/search/beachcomber/

snapshot of Don the Beachcombers 1940's
"A good show man, as well as a fine restaurant and bar man. Don supervises personally the arrangement and decoration of his elaborate cafe. Like a good stage director he demands perfection in every setting detail. As a result of his care he has created a plesant and delightfully exotic tropical retreat.
one has only to enter the bamboo-gated door to feel he is in a different world, remote from the busy traffic outside.

From the entrance lined with rows and rows of bottles of rum, casks of rum and cases of rum which comes from Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico , Barbados martinique, dutch west Indies, Trinidad and other far away ports.
One enters the Lanai, or main dinning room.

in the center of the Lanai is a tall four sided glassed in rack for bamboo chop stick cases with the names of writers, motion picture stars, generals, diplomatic fiqures, amd many other persons of renown. all frequent visitors to the place. But not every man no matter what his fame, gets a set of chopsticks. Don issues them only to those who know how to eat wth these tricky implements.

A number of small rooms join the Lanai. There is the Cannibal Room the High Chieftain's Room, The Beachcombers Alley. and the long interesting decorated Bar. at the end of the main bar is a little room called the Black Hole of Calcutta, a spot reserved for those who have drunk well but not wisely....
One of the few fresh lei shops in the country also ajoins the Lanai room they have exotic flowers and where hawaiian and native california flower leis are offered for sale.
The Lei Lani Lei shop

The Kitchen at Don the beachcomber's is a model for cleanliness, efficiency and the kind of busy activity which indicates a rushing trade.
Chefs, waiters and busboys are Chinese and Filipinos, with a sprinkling of Americans. Between his two places Don has 144 employees.

postcard

Limes Pineapples and Lemons stored at Don's

A mug marked from don the beachcomber Hollywood i have only ever seen a picture of it in the book "hawaii tropical rum Drinks & Cuisine by Don the Beachcomber"
from the book

found this a few years back

Is there anybody out there who is the lucky owner (or knows someone who is) of one or more of the bamboo celebrity chopstick holders originally from the Hollywood location that were auctioned off at the big Marina del Rey Beachcomber auction 20 years ago?

Oh, how freakin' cool are those!?

P

don also had them at his location at the Sahara in Las Vegas

p.s. Marty Heim was a frequent entertainer at Don the Beachcomber

[ Edited by: pa'akiki 2012-04-16 04:49 ]

I had no idea! Those weren't there anymore when I went there. Probably got tossed. Sigh. IF any of them are still around, they belong to an earlier collectors generation than us - whoever they may be.

Pa'akiki,

Thanks so much for posting those great photos and that rare mug. Here is another old postcard from the Hollywood location extolling the virtues of Rum.

DC

J

From our collection...a small advertising ticket envelope that still contains a parking ticket:

Another vintage picture of Don's. The chopstick display is to the left.

...also to be found in "TIKI MODERN" in the chapter about murals and dioramas :)

On 2013-09-25 10:22, bigbrotiki wrote:
...also to be found in "TIKI MODERN" in the chapter about murals and dioramas :)

I got that picture from a 2010 article on chow.com. :)
I need to look through my "Tiki Modern" again.

This site has more old pics of Don's and other old Hollywood hot spots, but you have to pay in order to use the images. I like the growth progression of the plants in front of Don's from 1937 to 1971.
http://www.hollywoodphotographs.com/search/don%20the%20beachcomber/

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