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Tabu Bar, Hamburg, Germany (bar)

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Name: Tabu Bar
Type: bar
Street: Grosse Freiheit/ St Pauli
City: Hamburg
country: Germany
Status: defunct

This was a wholly handmade hideaway in the red light district of the port town of Hamburg, Northern Germany. Though Polynesian by name, the decor theme was more oriental Exotica than Tiki. The layered and cluttered nooks and wall decor had a lovingly self-decorated rumpus room quality.

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki 2009-01-02 10:22 ]

Above is a view of the Grosse Freiheit (Great Freedom) street in Hamburg St.Pauli, the neighborhood infamous for the amusement mile called the Reeperbahn, which is lined with strip clubs and gambling halls. This shot really shows the exterior neon of the TABU Bar well (while unfortunately the "Sa..." of the Safari Club is burned out).

As a port town, my hometown of Hamburg does not only sport a classic Anthropology Museum that inspired me,

...but also the harbor district of St Pauli, with its sailors bars, of which today only few remain:

The TABU was a classic "Cabaret" Bar, with scantily clad hostesses and strippers encouraging tourists and sailors on leave to spend their money on high-priced liquor, while outside barkers and photo cases with burlesque queens vied for the attentions of the passers-by.

Though the word "Taboo" stems from Polynesian culture, the decor of the place was more reminiscent of the forbidden chambers of a harem, probably the exotic environs that the designer, Erwin Ross, was associating with a "taboo" hideaway.

Ross designed and executed all the jigsaw filigree work and paintings in the span of a year and the TABU opened in 1955. The back bar featured a backlit skyline of New York, representing the dream of the "big wide world":

and was the masterpiece of Erwin Ross. Though he designed other bars and the occasional rumpus room, he really excelled in the art of burlesque painting:

Erwin's first career as a sign painter in the newly formed GDR was cut short when, after having painted countless banners with Marx and Lenin portraits, his other sign subjects were deemed to risque and he was allowed to leave to West-Germany. Here he became the "Rubens of the Reeperbahn".

By the 1970s, his nudes graced almost every strip joint in St.Pauli, (just like Leetegs nudes could be found in every Polynesian club). His naive style has been appreciated since, though most of his mural queens have since disappeared from the streets of St. Pauli.

While the original TABU interior only lasted for ten years, and the expanded, modernized version disappeared in the 80s, the guardian statue over the entrance hung around long enough for me to photograph it:

It is partially visible from the side in this photo from above:

The classic neon in this shot has long since disappeared, of course.

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki 2009-01-02 10:24 ]

I was thrilled recently to find a vintage exterior shot of the Tabu Bar on e-bay:

The latin inscription above the door says:
"People of the world meet at our house of Tabu"

Here's the inscription on the back of the photo:

And a zoom in of the photo show case on the right:

I mentioned in an earlier post that I had always felt that if someone would dig up the old photo studio owners in the Reeperbahn/St.Pauli district, they should find thousands of negatives of burlesque performer photos, there were so many strip clubs in that red light district.

Great photo, bigbro!

I love the guardian genii or whatever he is, in all his original gilt glory. The lettering style on the TABU is pretty wonderful too.

Interesting thread!

The place has a little "Oasis" feel to it.

Here is a photo from 1975 with the full Safari sign.

Erwin Ross was an awesome artist. Here he is in 1982 at 55 years old.

This Dino on the bar, next to what looks like a tiki head...

kind of reminds me of Ed Roth's famous Rat fink.

I love the internet: Someone from Lodi, CA can now go and find images from some esoteric little dive in Hamburg!

David, your post inspired me to go and look what else is on there in regards to vintage Reeperbahn imagery these days. Well, as I found out, disappointingly little. So I had to go and scan most of the below. The stuff I found was either to small...

...or too obscured:

There is a website with very promising images, put they are all meshed up in these "artsy" collages, and printed on canvas for outrageously high prices!:

The site has a nice introductory text though:

Follow us on a journey back to the past of Hamburg St.Pauli - The Anchorplace of Joy. Walking down the Reeperbahn of the Sixties - one of the most famous streets in the world, crossing the Grosse Freiheit, where the Beatles started their carreer in the legendary Star-Club. A place where amusement was written in big letters on every house and where millions of people still come along every year to take a breath of the air from the River Elbe and the Port of Hamburg.

On 2010-11-14 21:03, bigbrotiki wrote:
Surprisingly so, this concept is mirrored in a South Seas tradition in the Palau Islands:

and again in medieval Europe..

"He said, 'Sheela Na Gig... You exhibitionist.'"

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