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Celebrating classic and modern Polynesian Pop

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Name:The Luau in Beverly Hills, CA
Type:restaurant
Street:421 North Rodeo Drive
City:Beverly Hills
State:CA
Zip:90210
country:USA
Phone:
Status:defunct

Description:
Stephen Crane (a.k.a. Steve Crane, Steven Crane) started out as bit actor in Hollywood in the 30's and became better known for being one of Lana Turner's ex-husbands than for any of his roles. Realizing his limited acting skills, Steve Crane turned his charm and energies to the restaurant business and in 1953 bought out 'The Tropics' in Beverly Hills. Taking his cue from Trader Vic's and Don the Beachcomber, Steve created his own Polynesian themed restaurant 'The Luau'. The restaurant quickly became a hit and a 'must see' Hollywood celebrity hot spot. Soon Steve Crane was approached by Sheraton to create Polynesian theme restaurants for the hotel chain to compete with Hilton and their association with Trader Vic's. His company, 'Steve Crane and Associates' soon opened up the Kon-Tiki restaurants in Montreal, Portland, Cleveland, Boston, Waikiki, and 'Ports O' Call' in Dallas.

The Luau is considered by many to be one of the great original Tiki palaces from the height of the Polynesian Pop era. Featuring an exotic tropical interior and a menu to match with over 70 tropical drinks. Florian Gabriel in association with Architect George Nakashima designed the stunning interior filled with intricate Tikis, square grown bamboo, and even featured a small waterfall. Stephen Crane's own exotic contribution was high prized hookers at the bar. The Luau is also known for having one of the most stunning lines of Tiki mugs and bowls. Attributed to Florian Gabriel, they are known for their intricate design and construction.

As the Polynesian Pop fad faded, so did the success of the Luau. After 26 years, the restaurant closed it doors for good and the site was demolished in 1979.

For more info...

Here's a great thread dedicated to Steve Crane himself:
http://www.tikicentral.com/viewtopic.php?topic=25511&forum=1

An extensive thread with lots of great pictures on Steve Crane's Ports O' Call restaurant in Dallas:
http://www.tikicentral.com/viewtopic.php?topic=22867&forum=2

Some great images and information on the Montreal Kon-Tiki restaurant in this Canadian Tiki thread:
http://www.tikicentral.com/viewtopic.php?topic=29014&forum=5

Some information on one of Steve Crane's lesser restaurant, the Chaparral Club:
http://www.tikicentral.com/viewtopic.php?topic=13618&forum=2

[ Edited by: Tattoo 2009-03-31 11:22 ]

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From the Los Angeles Public Library photo database:

"Sharon Tate presenting Steve Crane, owner of a Beverly Hills restaurant, a special St. Patrick's polynesian lei in March 1963."

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

T
Tattoo posted on Wed, Apr 2, 2008 7:26 PM

Some great pictures from a 1959 Movie Star magazine of Hollywood Teens whooping it up at the Luau!

"The Luau Cafe"

I presume those are Virgin drinks!

Cool. Annette at the Luau...if just those pesky cheerful teens wouldn't block all the decor, what's wrong with that photographer, jeez...
PS.: Wonder if the Mouseketeers noticed any of the undercover prostitutes that Crane had hanging out at the place. :)

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki 2008-04-02 20:59 ]

TS

wonder if Annette was one of them! :lol:

Tattoo,

Thanks for the images. That underage tiki party must have been scandalous back in those days.

Here are a couple of nice early double postcards from the Luau.

Very nice, never seen Nr.2 ! What a low Tipsy factor, quite pre-Tiki. That must have been very early, directly taken over from The Tropics.

Bigbro,

You are right on that, the postcard is definitely from the first days of Steve Crane's Luau. Do you think that Crane added that big Tiki in the back of the dining room or could that have been a hold over from The Tropics?

From the 1962 Los Angeles Yellow pages ~

The Intrigue and Color of the Orient • The Warmth and Charm of the South Seas

It's an awesome ad.

I dig the little rooster and piggy on the bottom there Boris.

mmmmmmmmm Hammmmm

Jeff(bigtikidude)

T

Saw this very early matchbook from The Luau on Ebay and thought I would put it on here as it is one that I haven't seen before.

TabooDan

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Awesome matchbook TabooDan! Have never seen that one before. Here's the drink menu with the Florian Gabriel mugs in it.

[ Edited by: Tattoo 2008-09-26 15:12 ]

[ Edited by: Tattoo 2008-09-27 16:08 ]

Has anyone been to the NEW Luau? I would have thought there would be quite a buzz about it but I can't find any mention of same here. (?)

http://theguide.latimes.com/restaurants/luau-venue

CJ

My bad. I thought it would have been in 'Locating Tiki'.

T

About as good as it gets! From a June 1966 Playboy featuring an "Urban Luau" and some fine Steve Crane Ku mugs in action. I saw some other posts about this article but the pictures were missing so here it is again.

The cover of this lp by Don Tiare is credited on the back as having been photographed at the Luau in Beverly Hills.

On the table you can just make out one of the same Luau glasses that Jeff Berry used for the cover of his Grog Log:

D

According to Jerry Schilling (one of Elvis Presley's 'Memphis Mafia') in his book 'Me & A Guy Named Elvis', Lisa Marie Presley had her sixth birthday at the Luau, 'one of her favorite restaurants'.

Sabu nice find on that record, great interior shot. How the heck did you pick up that Luau glass in the photo?

Donhonyc, cool story on Lisa Marie Presley.

I scored a set of the diner and drink menus from the Luau.

Here is the larger diner menu.

Nice story and description on the inside of the menu.

Cool rendering of the exterior.

The smaller drink menu with great graphics.

DC

Here is the full postcard with the exterior photo of the entrance that is at the start of this thread.

Also two more album covers from the Surfers entitled Tahiti and The Islands Call that are credited with being shot at Steven Cranes Luau.

DC

Nice old coaster as seen on ebay.

Same graphics on the Tiki as the matchbook Taboo Dan posted.

DC

[ Edited by: Dustycajun 2010-01-25 23:12 ]

Found this ad in an old 1962 Los Angeles Dodgers souvenir yeerbook.

Love the nautical rope font! That should have been done more often. The "Tiki Tu" apartments in Santa Monica used it on their building, unfortunately it looked pretty frayed by the time I photographed it.

Beachbumz,

Looks like you found some cool ads in the old Dodgers yearbooks. I have seen sports team programs with Tiki ads from several different locations.

I came across this Luau drink menu on ebay a while back...... only thing is it is from the La Jolla Country Club! Another fine appropriation in the grand Tiki Transmission Tradition.

DC

Ha! They even copied the shape of the building! And the menu icons are from Trader Vic's. And Don's I think.

As soon as I can find my box with my old programs and newspapers I'm going to go through them and hopefully have some more luck..
I thought that rope font was pretty cool though..

A

On 2010-05-09 18:58, Dustycajun wrote:
Beachbumz,

Looks like you found some cool ads in the old Dodgers yearbooks. I have seen sports team programs with Tiki ads from several different locations.

I came across this Luau drink menu on ebay a while back...... only thing is it is from the La Jolla Country Club! Another fine appropriation in the grand Tiki Transmission Tradition.

DC

Wow, great find! But according to the address on the menu, this was not at the La Jolla Country Club. The location is now a Su Casa restaurant. And it has been Su Casa since at least the mid-1970s.

A

I spotted this bit about the Luau in Beverly Hills in the L.A. Times' obituary of Lena Horne yesterday:

Horne's long-suppressed anger over the treatment of blacks in white society erupted in 1960 when she overheard a drunk white man at the Luau restaurant in Beverly Hills use a racial epithet to refer to her.

Jumping up, she threw an ashtray, a table lamp and several glasses at him, cutting the man's forehead.

http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-horne-20100510,0,6377622.story

You go, Lena!


"I am Lono!" -- Hale Ka'a Tiki Lounge

[ Edited by: arriano 2010-05-12 10:14 ]

A pair of photos taken one night at the Luau, Beverly Hills in 1970 both came up on eBay together. I managed to grab the one with the girl and volcano drink because it was well-hidden, without any good keywords. The other, however, was a little more public and was snagged by a friend. Here are the auction photos. When mine arrives in the mail, I'll try to get some close-ups of the details.

Sabu,

Great score on the photo. First time I have ever seen those big yellow diner menus from the Luau. I have the smaller red drink menu that has the same PNG graphics. Look forward to some close ups when you get the pic.

DC

This is a great photo of Jack Lemmon and friends at the Luau that I grabbed from the web a while ago, just found it. Really good shot of the Tiki lamp.

I also spotted these Luau highball glasses on ebay, first time I have seen them. Anybody got one in their collection for a closer look?

Lastly, I had to include the photo of a young Stephen Crane being greeted by Don the Beachcomber at a party held at Don's house in 1946. An early influence for Stephen no doubt.

DC

Another one of those cool Polaroid photos of the Luau popped up on ebay, this one with the ladies getting their drinks.

Still waiting to see one of those yellow dinner menus up close.

Here is a story and photo from the 1962 LA brochure that was recently posted on TC showing the interior of the newly remodeled Luau Garden Room.

This was the era when the old bamboo style that looked like this...

Turned into the new Tiki style that looked like this.

DC

J

Who are the people in the Polaroids ?

Could that be Steve Crane (circa 1970) and some of his "girls" ?

T

Here's a story to go with all the great images of the Luau in this thread...

Beverly Hills Weekly July 6, 2000















-Tom

G

The original Luau was the best. Ate there many times. Loved the decor; it really felt like you were off in a tropical paradise. Never ate at the new one but heard it wasn't very good.

J
JonPez posted on Thu, Aug 4, 2011 1:56 PM

Here is the front of a matchbox I just came across (the other side was blank)...

Tiki Tom D, thank you for that great Steve Crane article. A well written piece (interesting that in July 2000, the word "Tiki" was nowhere mentioned in connection with Steve Crane).

I was especially glad to find out more about Lila Leeds, because I had been curious about it ever since DC had posted the photo of her with Steve Crane. I had known of her and her drug bust with Bob Mitchum for years, from a vintage men's mag.

She was a real hottie,

and I was fascinated by her good looks in the courtroom photos:

That Marihuana bust with Robert Mitchum was really milked by the media...

...and it ended up to be her most enduring role:

...while Bob continued to have fun with the ladies:

Here are some really nice old photos of the Luau from a historical photo website that sells them.

Great shot of the interior.

Exterior

I never noticed this Luau sign in any of the old photos before.

DC

T

Steve Crane enjoying a Scorpion Bowl. Dated 1967.

[ Edited by: Tattoo 2012-01-12 23:16 ]

Considering some people's penchant for cannibal tiki on here I was damned surprised no one had posted this matchbook. Well here it is.

interior

I picked up this old news-wire clipping showing Steve Crane and a nice Tiki at the Luau Restaurant in Beverly Hills.

The photo was from a 1958 story on his daughter's murder of gangster Johnny Stompanato.

DC

C
Chub posted on Tue, Aug 21, 2012 6:00 PM

Photo from Los Angeles Public Library Collection. January 14, 1960 reads, "Walter Reade Jr., left, president of Walter Reade Inc. and chairman of board of Continental Distributing, Inc., lights exotic incense candle as Charles ("Chuck") Weiss, creator of AromaRama, holds incense burner. Occasion was luncheon at Luau Restaurant in Beverly Hills where Reade announced Los Angeles premiere of first scented motion picture, "Behind The Great Wall," Friday at Four Star Theater."

OGR

Digging through some my old restaurant industry magazines I came across these few items.
A pic of the controller of the Luau on location, speaking out on the hassle of credit cards-1967

Then this article about Stephen Crane's new concept "The Californian"-1969


OGR

[ Edited by: Bora Boris - Did some straightening. - 2013-03-01 17:44 ]

On 2011-10-30 09:04, Dustycajun wrote:
Here are some really nice old photos of the Luau from a historical photo website that sells them.

Great shot of the interior.

S'cuse me, but I cannot concur on this being The Luau, it must be a Trader Vic's. Check out the Janus Tiki table lamps...long ago, these led me to identify the decor of "I am Cuba" as being of Vic origin. And I think I can make out some T.V.'s Salt & Pepper shakers on the table on the right. Furthermore that looks like Chines ovens in the background...and that big Tiki on the left reminds me of the phone pole Tikis outside of the Beverly Hills Trader :)

Excellent eye Bigbro! You are absolutely correct. Here is a close up the tables where you can see the Trader Vic's lamp and Salt and Pepper shakers.

You can also see the Trader Vic's coaster on the tables.

The website must have mistaken the photo because of the Tiki poles and railing that look like the ones at the Luau.

So, that leads us to ask "Which Trader Vic's was this?".

DC

Looks like these Maynard Parker photos Sabu posted in this thread confirm that shot is from Trader Vic's Beverly Hills.

Here's another angle:

...and the big Tiki Bigbro referenced:

I also recently bought a slide with this image, showing some folks in fancy dress:

-Trad'r Bill

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