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Celebrating classic and modern Polynesian Pop

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I have always been fascinated by the name of PAGO PAGO (pronounced Pungo Pungo) for Pre-Tiki Polynesian bars and supper clubs in the 1940s. Pago Pago is the main port in American Samoa, and was featured early on in literature:

"...in 1916, W. Somerset Maugham departs on a voyage to Pago Pago. Characters he meets on the voyage, including a prostitute and a missionary, inspire the story "Miss Thompson," which is published in his 1923 story collection, The Trebling of a Leaf. The story becomes the play "Rain", which is filmed three times, once starring Gloria Swanson, once with Joan Crawford, and once with Rita Hayworth.
(In 1919, Maugham published The Moon and Sixpence, featuring an unconventional artist based on Paul Gauguin.)"

The above story obviously was the inspiration for this 1940 film:

In it, a prostitute (played by Frances Farmer) falls for native Hunk Jon Hall.
Here's another publicity still of beautiful and tragic Frances Farmer:

And here she is in bad company:

"IT'S PRIMITIVE! IT'S EXCITING! IT'S SOUTH OF PAGO PAGO!" I believe it was the film that lifted the name to a pop culture status so that several different (how many?) South Seas hideaways around the U.S. chose it for their calling card. This thread shall serve for the collecting of all Pago Pago material from all locations. I will start with the Pago Pago in Tuscon, here the famous match book:

...and my match-up of the match book rendering to a frame capture of the 1956 film "A Kiss Before Dying":

Now here is the place to post swizzle sticks, more matchbooks, postcards and other paper ephemera from all the various Pago Pagos in Chicago, Tuscon, Portland, Long Beach and so on.

Come on in pull up a stool and order up a cocktail. All under one roof. I like that.

Chicago Location. But which one?


"Anyone who has ever seen them is thereafter haunted as if by a feverish dream" Karl Woermann

[ Edited by: uncle trav 2009-04-17 16:48 ]

[ Edited by: uncle trav 2009-04-17 16:50 ]

Nice idea Bigbro.

I have this old postcard from the Portland Pago Pago.

DC

P

Pago Pago, Honolulu:

Pago Pago, Portland:

Pago Pago, Tucson:

Pago Pago, Long Beach:

Wow!!!

Great post on the Pago Pago, Puamana.

Nice to see you back.

DC

H

Hooray! Puamana! Yes! Please! Thank you!

Pago-Pago Restaurant, Milford, Mass.

Still operating! Cute little barely-tiki Chinese joint.

Here's a real humdinger:

Pago-Pago Lounge, Burbank, Calif.

We had a great time researching this place a few years ago! There's a summary at my blog link above. Here's a bit of info left in a comment on my blog:

Sheila Corrigan says:
August 30th, 2007 at 1:47 am

Hi I grew up not far from Disney Studios (age 63). I am writing a sort of Autobiography and one of my earliest memories is being taken to the PagoPago by my Mom and her sister when her sister got off the night nursing shift.
I was thrilled to find your site to know approx. when the PagoPago disappeared (Disney expansion). I absolutely loved it. It was dark and in my three year old mind totally exotic with comfortable leather booths. It was open all day, I know that.
I went again when I was 28 (that was in 1972). It seemed the same. It was even for a bar kept pretty dark. I can’t say for sure how polynesian- not overly so anyway, but then it was also very small- 3-4 booths at the most and a big red juke box.

Sheila COrrigan

Mimi! I heart you!

Humu, I forgot how far you had gotten on the Burbank Pago Pago research! Very cool...
I just met David Spafford the animator who has the sign, at Kevin and Jody's. He gave me a present he handmakes for his guests:

I am not sure if he knows your thread. Now I really gotta get a pic of that sign for this thread (AND for yours)!

This is a later menu from the Tucson, Arizona location.

Cheers and Mahalo,
Jeff

H

There are three of these neck-to-neck bottle floats at Forbidden Island, my understanding is that Bamboo Ben brought them in, and they came from Eli Hedley's decor shop, and were made for the Pago-Pago in Tucson. Dunno exactly what that means... Were made for the Pago-Pago, but never used? Were made for the Pago-Pago, and later came back to Hedley? Are identical to ones made for the Pago-Pago, but not the actual ones?

But anyway, there's supposedly some kinda Pago-Pago connection there, so there you go.

Matchbook from Pago Pago, Long Beach.

These jade tiles freakin rock!

I wonder if they were just a drawing or real?

Just used 6 of the square ones for DtB.

BB,

Check these ones from the Parasol.

DC

Drooool!

Pago Pago Tucson.
Dancing Hula Girl Flicker Key Chain and Ashtray:

P

found a few more...

Pago Pago, Portland:

Pago Pago, Tucson:

Wow, so the Tuscon Pago Pago swiped the menu art from The Tropics (previous page) AND from Trader Vic's ? No shame! :)
The O.A. boys know more about that place, they took over some of its lamps. Also, if I remember correctly, it not only changed owners but also South Sea monikers in later years....can't seem to recall it's newer name.

European Pago Pago (Burgos Spain)

On 2009-04-18 09:56, bigbrotiki wrote:
Wow, so the Tuscon Pago Pago swiped the menu art from The Tropics (previous page) AND from Trader Vic's ? No shame! :)

Yea Puamana.

Here is the Vic's menu.

The Leilani also did a little "borrowing"

No honor among purveyors of tiki back in the day!

I want to do a thread on Tiki copy cats someday.

Sven,

What is the Tropics menu you are referring to?

DC

Did you say "under one roof"??

Bongofury and the great Pago Pago float under a roof!

On 2008-11-18 18:40, bongofury wrote:

Temporarily holding up the light/float from the Pago Pago in Arizona for Mrs. Fury's approval.

Maybe Bongo can post another shot of the float in its final resting spot.

DC

This coaster is from another Spanish Pago Pago (this one still operational).

Matchbook from the Pago Pago Club in NYC.

DC

[ Edited by: Dustycajun 2010-04-04 09:36 ]

Club Pago Pago

Honolulu, Hawaii

DC

Here is some more Polynesian pop culture history supporting the Pre-Tiki theory of the use of the name Pago Pago.
Having established that the use of the name has to do with the 1940 film, which is based on a 1923 story by Somerset Maugham, there was another cultural event that made Samoa and thus Pago Pago synonymous with South Seas sirenhood.
Although this comic strip is from 1976...

It refers to a literary event that happened in 1928: Anthropologist Margaret Mead published her field study of Samoan sexuality:


(Does the original 1928 book cover remind us of a certain Poly pop menu cover?)

In 1926, Mead spent several months among Samoan woman to arrive at her results.

With its suggestion of pre-marital sex being healthy the book was nothing but scandalous to many Americans of 1928:

" Many American readers felt shocked by her observation that young Samoan women deferred marriage for many years while enjoying casual sex but eventually married, settled down, and successfully reared their own children."

Of course, such claims were gladly used to re-enforce the popular vision of the willing South Seas siren...

(Turn of the century Samoan nude)

While Polynesian pop posadas used the imagery...

the book itself enjoyed continuous interest, all the way through and past WWII, with its covers designed to tempt the Polynesian paradise seeker:
1955

1968
And it was of course used to support the sexual liberation of the late 60s and early 70s.

And even though many authors have since worked hard to refute its theories, as far as Polynesian pop was concerned, the case was clear :) :

RH

Wow - what a thread.

So much cool history captured from bits of scattered, oxidizing ephemera and revived by human will and memory.

Moments others lived in are gone and all that is left are pieces of paper, wood, ceramic... and shadowy echoes.

Yup. Or, like Ruttger said so fittingly:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTzA_xesrL8

Great thread. I have a few pieces from the Tucson location all manufactured by Carmax Ent: a moai volcano bowl and two scorpion bowls. I've also come across a mug from the location; will post later.

volcano bowl

scorpion bowl (a)

scorpion bowl (b)

T

On 2009-05-04 03:17, kohalacharms wrote:
scorpion bowl (a)

I really love this one. I think Carmax pieces are strange and interesting. Thanks for sharing these with us.

probably the same mug you outbid me on on ebay a couple weeks back.....

M

On 2009-04-17 20:01, Humuhumu wrote:

There are three of these neck-to-neck bottle floats at Forbidden Island, my understanding is that Bamboo Ben brought them in, and they came from Eli Hedley's decor shop, and were made for the Pago-Pago in Tucson. Dunno exactly what that means... Were made for the Pago-Pago, but never used? Were made for the Pago-Pago, and later came back to Hedley? Are identical to ones made for the Pago-Pago, but not the actual ones?

But anyway, there's supposedly some kinda Pago-Pago connection there, so there you go.

Howdy. I brought them to FI- I bought the Pago Pago bottles at Oceanic Arts. Bob & Leroy told me they were from the Pago Pago (they pronounced it Pango Pango) in Tuscon. They had been made by Eli's shop, and were originally much longer, but segments had broken over the years- they are old sake bottles with the bottoms removed. When the Pago Pago closed, for whatever reason, some of the decor ended up at OA. They were hidden under the shelves with the lauhala matting. Anyway, yes, they were a part of the Pago Pago, and Bob & Leroy made it clear that it was from Eli's shop originally.

Great thread!

The Pago Pago in Portland was a notorious Mob hangout. The second floor was a full on gambling establishment with a race wire called the Turf Club. Hot spot in the 1940s, closed in 1951.


Just got this postcard from the Pago Pago in Tuscon.

For such a swinging place, the owners Bob and Homer sure look frumpy.

Close up of the building

Close up of the interior.

DC

Wow, that must be the earliest one! Almost looks more 1930s than early 40s...anyone can tell?

T

Very timely topic.

There will be a short article about the beloved Chicago Pago Pago mural in next Thursday's Time Out Chicago (May 14).

The author of the article, John Greenfield, wrote to me that:

"...the mural is probably coming down during the demolition of the 421 S. Wabash building for a new Roosevelt University high-rise. They're saving the history facade (west wall.) Maybe you can use your tiki lobbying skills to convince them to salvage the north wall, where the mural is?"

OK, Tonga Room/Kahiki/Vic's Beverly Hills crew(s), here's another Sisyphean task for us!

I am surprised that no one has posted a pic of the Chicago Pago Pago mural yet, so I will!

C

&forum

On 2009-04-17 16:39, bigbrotiki wrote:
I have always been fascinated by the name of PAGO PAGO (pronounced Pungo Pungo) for Pre-Tiki Polynesian bars and supper clubs in the 1940s. Pago Pago is the main port in American Samoa, and was featured early on in literature:

I'll repost the link to my screen captures from the 1956 film CRIME AGAINST JOE with shots of the Tucson Pago Pago:
http://www.tikicentral.com/viewtopic.php?topic=302=1&vpost=409830&hilite=john%20bromfield

Every time John Bromfield says the name of the place in the film, he says "Pango Pango." That's just one of those American/English idiosyncrasies about pronouncing the names of places the way we want them pronounced (or spelled). i.e.: Hey Germany, you say "Munchen" but we think it should be spelled "Munich." Italy, cut a syllable out of "Roma" and call it "Rome," and why that unnecessary "o" at the end of "Torino"?--chop it off and make it "Turin." And Beijing and Mumbai? -- I'm gonna go eat some Beijing Duck and wash it down with Mumbai Gin.

Brent

Now here is the place to post swizzle sticks, more matchbooks, postcards and other paper ephemera from all the various Pago Pagos in Chicago, Tuscon, Portland, Long Beach and so on.

I'll repost the link to my screen captures from the 1956 film CRIME AGAINST JOE with shots of the Tucson Pago Pago:
http://www.tikicentral.com/viewtopic.php?topic=302&forum=1&vpost=409830&hilite=john%20bromfield

I had a long interview with Paul Soohoo who opened the Pago Pago in Milford, MA. If I ever break my leg or something and can't leave the house, I need to copy it out of my little notebook.

P.S. He used to work at Trader Vic's Boston.

[ Edited by: pappythesailor 2009-05-08 13:03 ]

In the Samoan language, the "G" is pronounced very guttural and soft, so it sounds more like "ng" than "g". Because the name was much more in use in the 40s and 50s, the majority of times it is heard in songs and movies from that time is used in its correct, Samoan pronunciation. When spoken correctly, the "N" in Pango Pango should not be fully pronounced, as in "BANG!", more like a soft "G" --but in American songs from that time it often is. :)

Is this the kind of Pago Pago you were looking for? Rev BooBen has the matching "man-skirt" but I don't know if it was made in Pago Pago Samoa or not :wink:

Matchbook listing the three Pago Pago locations in Illinois.

Sure hope they can save the old Pago Pago wall mural posted by Tikibars.

DC

The Pago (singular) in San Francisco - "House of Zombie"

Sabu,

Nice card, that's an oldie. Picked one up on ebay.

Another matchbook from the Pago Pago in Long Beach.

DC

P

Here's a matchcover from the Pago Pago in Long Beach, with mention of another location in Palm Springs:

[ Edited by: puamana 2009-07-05 18:14 ]

On 2009-07-05 18:10, puamana wrote:
Here's a matchcover from the Pago Pago in Long Beach, with mention of another location in Palm Springs:

A Palm Springs location, never heard of that before.

Nice find on the matchbook Puamana.

DC

as of this weekend , the pago pago mural is still there.

TM

On 2009-05-08 12:50, congawa wrote:
&forum

On 2009-04-17 16:39, bigbrotiki wrote:
I have always been fascinated by the name of PAGO PAGO (pronounced Pungo Pungo) for Pre-Tiki Polynesian bars and supper clubs in the 1940s. Pago Pago is the main port in American Samoa, and was featured early on in literature:

I'll repost the link to my screen captures from the 1956 film CRIME AGAINST JOE with shots of the Tucson Pago Pago:
http://www.tikicentral.com/viewtopic.php?topic=302=1&vpost=409830&hilite=john%20bromfield

Every time John Bromfield says the name of the place in the film, he says "Pango Pango." That's just one of those American/English idiosyncrasies about pronouncing the names of places the way we want them pronounced (or spelled). i.e.: Hey Germany, you say "Munchen" but we think it should be spelled "Munich." Italy, cut a syllable out of "Roma" and call it "Rome," and why that unnecessary "o" at the end of "Torino"?--chop it off and make it "Turin." And Beijing and Mumbai? -- I'm gonna go eat some Beijing Duck and wash it down with Mumbai Gin.

Brent

Now here is the place to post swizzle sticks, more matchbooks, postcards and other paper ephemera from all the various Pago Pagos in Chicago, Tuscon, Portland, Long Beach and so on.

I'll repost the link to my screen captures from the 1956 film CRIME AGAINST JOE with shots of the Tucson Pago Pago:
http://www.tikicentral.com/viewtopic.php?topic=302&forum=1&vpost=409830&hilite=john%20bromfield

Fantastic!!!!!!!

HT

CORBY'

S SIGN FOR CLUB PAGO PAGO FOR A HAWAIIAN STONE SOUR

KC

Here's a matchbook from the Bali Hai, which is what the Pago Pago became in later years. Note the same address:

Chris

The Then-and-Now shots are so painful to see...but interesting the old Pago Pago Tucson building still stands, even if covered in stucco now and surely devoid of anything tiki-like inside or out. Note the drum-like enclosure of the original entry - and the original stone base (now covered with stucco) of the sign beyond the modern street signs.

What year did it close?

GK

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