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J

This thread originally started as "JOHN-O's Guide to the SGV (when visiting the Bahooka or Oceanic Arts)".

It was my attempt to share the San Gabriel Valley's mid-century historic, kitschy, and divey with my fellow Tiki-philes. Along the way something really cool happened. Based on my inclusion of Embers Lounge, BigBro and Sabu were able to identify some new people and places in LA's Poly-Pop history.

This is a topic that deserves a thread of it's own. Plus I want to take my original topic and have a separate place where I can add to it. My SGV Guide will reappear as a new post.

So for now this is the place where you can post the following:

  1. Any background on the artist Frank Bowers.

  2. Any information on Joe Keawe's Hale Hawaii bar & restaurant in Wilmington.

[ Edited by: JOHN-O 2014-02-20 18:05 ]

On 2009-09-28 19:24, JOHN-O wrote:

  1. Embers Lounge (1963)

This is the dive bar from Hell (literally).

This place is famous for its murals and portraits of nubile devil girls tempting men into the service of Satan. The artist was Frank Bowers who in the 1930’s did murals for public spaces like the South Gate City Hall (I’ve included an image.) What a contrast !! This guy might have experienced his own personal descent into Hell as the Embers paintings were his last work before he died in 1964.

Ember Lounge is located only 2 miles from OA at 11332 Washington Blvd, Whittier. They open for drinks at 11am !!


Very nice post, John. I had heard about the Embers, but have not been. So far. Now I will for sure. It seems fairly likely that you have identified the muralist of the Leilani Hut and Zamboanga's here:

http://www.tikicentral.com/viewtopic.php?topic=32715&forum=2&8

J

Nice !! Here are the additional paintings at Embers that I took photos of.





[ Edited by: JOHN-O 2009-10-02 21:07 ]

T
TikiG posted on Tue, Sep 29, 2009 7:39 AM

This thread proves that there is so much goodness in Southern California, even in the 'no respect' wasteland of the San Gabriel Valley. I've lived in So. Cal all my life and I get turned onto crazy awesome things to check out on a weekly basis. I may have a reputation among some friends of knowing more than most regarding off-the-beaten-track things to do in LA but unless you're tipped by a like-minded soul, these things can be a hit or miss proposition and experience.

That's the beauty (or the nightmare!) of vast urban sprawl depending on your viewpoint or mood.

I respect people that have an infallible internal gauge for COOL - so I say Thanks! John-O for posting this information of tangible places we So. Cal locals can all indulge in today...and tonight.

Keep posting your interesting topicals, they are a joy to read.

The funny thing is, this fact is almost impossible to explain to folks outside of Los Angeles. When I try to describe to other Europeans why I prefer the urban sprawl of L.A. to more "beautiful" cities, I always have to come back to my concept of urban archeology. But it rarely gets fully understood.

J

On 2009-09-28 22:28, bigbrotiki wrote:

Very nice post, John. I had heard about the Embers, but have not been. So far. Now I will for sure. It seems fairly likely that you have identified the muralist of the Leilani Hut and Zamboanga's here:

http://www.tikicentral.com/viewtopic.php?topic=32715&forum=2&8

I see what you mean about the similarities. Frank Bowers covered quite a range of subject matter - 1930's square johns, tropical wahines, and horned devil girls.

Other than the Embers Lounge and the South Gate City Hall (8650 California Ave), it looks like his work also exists at the The Buccaneer Lounge in Sierra Madre (70 W Sierra Madre) and the Foc'sle Bar in Wilmington (400 N. Avalon Blvd). I'll have to check it out and post pictures. (Thank you http://www.latimemachines.com !!)

Some other comments I've seen suggest he did the Embers work in exchange for a bar tab. While "Bukowskian" last days seem like a romantic way to add to a legend, I can't find anything to actually substantiate this.

This was the only type of biography I was able to find...

http://www.edanhughes.com/biography.cfm?ArtistID=1060

Just Added - More nekkid ladies from Frank Bowers and it looks like they're for sale - http://www.1stdibs.com/furniture_item_detail.php?id=54198

[ Edited by: JOHN-O 2009-09-29 18:18 ]

Most excellent! It seems he was always called in to illustrate concept bars. Wonder what that Mecca painting goes for...

J

The dealer's asking $8500.

You might be better off walking into the Foc'sle Bar in Wilmington and offering $100 for the beat-up old painting on the wall.

Just be sure you can ask in Spanish :)

That Bowers really liked his cheesecake. Check out this edited G-rated image of the Foc'sle mural.

Update - I just Yelped the Buccaneer in Sierra Madre. Someone posted the Bowers painting images there (with no reference to his name.) Gotta love the internet. You can be an Urban Archaeologist and never have to leave home. This thread may have inadvertently become the most comprehensive overview of Bower's work on the web.

I just hijacked my own post !!

FYI, here's the Leilani Hut and Zamboanga images for a full comparison....

[ Edited by: JOHN-O 2009-09-30 11:46 ]

John-O, I love this thread. It's great to finally know that Frank Bowers was responsible for all those great Polynesian bar murals. I'm definitely visiting The Embers soon.

At Bosko's slideshow at Tiki Oasis this year, Bosko had a photo of the interior of Dale Sizer's house in the 1990s. On the wall was another of these large Frank Bowers paintings depicting nude Polynesian maidens. A week later I met Dale Sizer at another Hollywood event and asked him about that painting. All the info he had was the name of the antique store he had bought it from, and the fact that he had sold it himself, years ago. Another dead-end. Now the mystery is solved.

The Foc'sle Bar is just about 15 blocks from my house (I live off Avalon in Carson). So I decided to make a quick archeological expedition at lunch today. I was dressed in my best corporate attire from the office, and debated whether to dress-down, as I would surely stick out like a sore thumb in Wilmington, but was in a bit of a hurry, so decided to go as I was.

The Foc'sle is around the block from another of my favorite haunts, Jack's Country Kitchen - a fantastic 50s restaurant with a covered wagon out front and tons of antiques inside, that, unfortunately was sold a few years ago and "remodeled tastefully" for the worse.

Entering the Foc'sle, the painting is clearly evident in all it's glory. I talked to the few locals having beers and they're very proud of their painting. They said someone came in recently and offered to buy it for $1000 but the owner turned him down. I told the guys there to tell the owner that the painting was by a famous Californian artist and worth a lot more than that and please dont' sell it. They said he'd never consider selling it, which is good. They wanted to know when it was painted and I told them 1940s or 50s, and that seemed to surprise them because they didn't suspect the bar was so old, but that only confirmed that they had something special there.

The girl tending bar was reluctant to let me photograph the painting without the owner there, but one of the older locals asked her if he wasn't acting manager while the owner was out? And she said yes, so he told me, "In that case, I override her - you can take your pictures".

Behind the bar is an even longer painting, but it's obscured by shelving and bottles, so that you can only catch small glimpses of it. The locals said the painting is the same scene as the other painting, but painted from the "opposite side" of the first painting. So in the portion below, you can see the same sailor, but viewed from "behind". The girls are viewed from behind as well.

Walking out of the bar, I surprised a 55-year-old longshoreman walking down the street.

"Brother," he said, "you are the last person I expected to see come out of the Foc'sle!"

He looked my attire up and down. "I don't think I've ever seen someone dressed like you in Wilmington, but hey, even suits got to have a beer at lunch like everybody else, right?".

I laughed and told him about me coming to see the Frank Bowers paintings in the bar. He seemed surprised that I knew about them and wondered how I heard about Frank Bowers. I told him about my interest in old Polynesian bars and how he had painted murals in quite a few of those bars.

"Then you would have loved Joe Keawe's just down the block." he said. "Joe Keawe was a famous singer back in Hawaii and every wall of his bar was covered with Polynesian Girl paintings, and every one of them was signed 'Frank Bowers'".

I of course was astonished, so I asked him more questions and we had a great conversation about the history of Wilmington and the longshoremen of the Local 13, of who Joe Keawe was a member. When I got back to my office, I did some research on Joe Keawe and this is what I discovered.

Joe Keawe was a famous Hawaiian Falsetto singer who's appeared on many albums. He moved to the mainland in the 1940s and opened Joe Keawe's Hale Hawaii bar & restaurant in Wilmington at 348 Avalon Blvd. He continued singing and was also a longshoreman. His Bar/Restaurant seems to have been renamed at some point to "Joe Keawe's Hawaiian Restaurant". When he died, his wife Doris continued to run the restaurant until 2005 or 2006 when it was sold and closed.

I'm going to have to make another trip to see if the building (and possible murals) is still there and maybe contact his family to see what happened to the Frank Bowers paintings.

I haven't had this much fun on an urban archeology expedition for years. I can't believe a treasure like this exists right in my own neighborhood and I never knew about it. But Wilmington is full of forgotten mid-century wonders.

And despite my normal rule of dressing like a local to fit in to the neighborhood, if I wasn't wearing inappropriate clothes, I never would have talked to that longshoreman, and I never would have found out about Joe Keawe's Hale Hawaiian. So I'm re-thinking my rule.

Sabu


[ Edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy 2009-09-30 16:51 ]

Outstanding! when I get home, I will make it my mission to attempt to professionally record the extant work of this artist with a tripod and some lights.
To hear that Joe Keawe's place closed only in 2005 or 6 makes me cringe with fear about its fate, it is maddening to maybe have missed such a site by a few years only --if it is gone. I am anxiously awaiting Sabu's next exploration results.

Would like to have seen a photo of Sabu in the Suit hanging out with the lunch-time beer crowd at the Foc'sle Bar in front of that mural.

Good luck on the expedition to Joe Keawe's Hawaiian Restaurant.

DC

Maddening is right, bigbro. To think that I lived here near 20 years while Joe Keawe's was open just a few miles away and I never knew about it. And now to discover it a few years after it closes - it kills me.

[ Edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy 2009-09-30 23:52 ]

V
virani posted on Thu, Oct 1, 2009 4:54 AM

very cool. More, more !!
thanks for the thread

OGR

Truly amazing work! Finding leads that begets more leads and info. Thanks for following the breadcrumbs and keep it coming!

J
JOHN-O posted on Thu, Oct 1, 2009 7:14 AM

Sabu,

Thanks for sharing your recent expedition, it was an amazing read. Also thanks for posting the uncensored images of the Foc'sle murals. I enjoyed them very much. :) I thought the hanging "Aloha" turned out to be very prophetic. It's interesting when I originally researched Bowers, it was my impression he was primarily a "square john" artist since most of his documented 1930's work was commissioned for public spaces. I figured the Embers paintings were the anomalies. I guess it was the other way around. So who was Frank Bowers really? Also is it just me but does anyone else see a similarity to the work of pulp comic book artist Wally Wood?

I'm glad that the Foc'sle felt very protective of their Bowers'. I got the same thing at Embers when I asked to take pictures. At first I thought I was just being polite, but the bartender actually paused and said that I needed to ask the owner's niece who was sitting nearby. The regulars there also felt proud about the paintings and eagerly shared "they were done by this famous guy". They also gave me their suggestions for old places (mid-century?) in the area that I'm going to check out.

One thing I want to add since this might inspire others to make the trip out to Embers, Foc'sle and the Buccaneer. These places are locals' joints (some more gritty than others) who may not be used to seeing strange people show up (especially those dressed for a Hawaiian vacation.) If you're feeling that vibe, then please treat the place with respect and ask before you pull that camera out. You don't want to piss off the wrong person who might think you're photographing them. Tiki-Ti and the Bahooka, it ain't.

OGR

JOHN-O, Great analogy to Wally Wood (who also did great work on EC comics and early Marvel Daredevil) especially in the Menu Cover artwork. Good Eye.

John - Good point about taking photos. I left my camera in the car and it wasn't till I had talked to the locals a bit that I asked if it would be ok to take pictures.

[ Edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy 2009-10-01 09:50 ]

1

Great thread !

Ouuuh, you're right, John. I sincerely hope that this find will not cause a slew Tiki tourists to flood these places and snap pictures like Japanese tour bus riders! Don't spoil it for me, kids. I really want to record these images for posterity, and will proceed with greatest caution, to not spook the natives: I am gonna get a drink (or two) first, assess the situation, and decide on a correct approach, than perhaps show my book and introduce myself, and then ask for permission to set up my tripod and lights. If I get to shoot the pics, great, if not, tough luck. I have had years of experience with old suspicious owners of Tiki habitats, and not all came across.

J
JOHN-O posted on Thu, Oct 1, 2009 4:13 PM

Bigbro, I don't think the locals will get upset. It'll probably be the opposite and let me tell you why. When I was chatting up the bartender, the owner's niece, and the rest of the regulars at Embers, I mentioned the bar was described in a recent book. Their eyes widened, and they said "Really! What book?". I had the new edition of "L.A. Bizarro" in my car which I brought in and showed to them. They were so jazzed that they made me read the entire 2-page description out loud to the whole bar. It begins.....

"Another sixties strip mall, another bar, and more surprises. Even Santa Fe Springs, one of the many why-would-anyone-choose-to-live-here suburbs of Los Angeles, is rife with treasure. And how wonderful that Embers Lounge offers an opportunity to tell someone, with a straight face, that you actually traveled east of Downey to go drink in a bar for the artwork.".......

I jokingly warned them that the "cat was out of the bag", and that they could expect an onslaught of Eastside hipsters looking to get their ironic experience on. They thought that was pretty funny, especially when a group of drunken Mexican day laborers staggered in to play pool and get even more drunk.

If anything they wanted to share more of their local treasures. "You like this place? You should check out Poor Denny's Saloon or the Steak Corral or....."

Honestly though, I think these bars are just too far out of the way or too scary looking to draw swarms of rubberneckers. At least for Embers, you can always emphasize the stabbing they had last year. One woman at the bar actually reenacted it for me via the security camera in the restroom hallway.

And as for the Foc'sle Bar, I think driving around Wilmington will give pause for some people to even get out of their car. :)

T
thejab posted on Thu, Oct 1, 2009 4:24 PM

Wow! Great thread here. Thanks Sabu and John-O for the archeology and photos. I've been to the Embers and the Buccaneer (I saw the late 70s punk band The Urinals there a few years ago), but never to the Foc'sle. I found the locals at both bars to be quite friendly, but I probably wouldn't go to the Embers alone at night.

J

Here's some more background on Frank Bowers that I was able to dig up.

In an earlier post, I noted there were 1930's-era Bowers murals at South Gate City Hall (8650 California Ave). I'm assuming they're still there, I'll need to pay a visit. I noticed that works of this era were done in conjunction with an Arthur Prunier.

http://www.grconnect.com/murals/html/p8291022.html

It looks like Bowers also has 1935 murals at the Sunkist Growers Corporate offices (14130 Riverside Drive, Sherman Oaks). It's stated they hang in the corporate boardroom and so probably aren't available for public access.

http://www.citrusroots.com/paper1a.html

Notice that even though this is one of his mainstream works, he managed to sneak in one pair of bare female breasts. :)

What a range of work !! You can find Bowers in city government offices and corporate boardrooms as well as the diviest of LA dive bars.

J

I got a chance to visit the Foc'sle Bar today.

The area in Wilmington where the Foc'sle is located isn't that bad (at least in the early afternoon.) I was expecting something along the lines of the scarier neighborhoods I've driven through in Long Beach but this vibed more blue-collar working-class than ghetto. When I entered, it felt like a Mexican joint as the small group of people at the bar were speaking Spanish with the Latina bartender and Spanish music was blaring from the jukebox. When two young longshoremen walked in (one white, one black), the bartender went to the jukebox and put on some country music. That really changed the mood of the place.

This is a pretty cool old-school dive bar with light touches of beachcomber decor (starfish, pufferfish lamp, wooden ship wheel) and of course the two Bowers murals. I won't post or describe the murals since Sabu already did a great job of that. I was really happy to see them up close in person.

I was however eyed suspiciously by the bartender and really didn't get a chance to chat anyone up as they were engaged in their own conversations. When the bartender eagerly offered another beer to the local sitting right next to me while ignoring my empty Gin & Tonic glass, I took that as my cue to leave. While not as friendly as the Embers, I would think it's safer since the longshoreman regulars would probably straighten out any riff-raff or non-locals that got out of line.

I really wanted to take a large scale interior photograph but given my chilly reception, I figured that was a bad idea. Here's some exterior shots though. I'm glad Sabu had a better experience than me (maybe I should have worn a suit. :))

I walked down the block to the location of the Hale Hawaii bar but that's Sabu's story to tell.

Also I corresponded today with Jonathon, the creator of http://www.latimemachines.com. He has a lead on the location of another Bowers which he shared with me. I'll check it out and post that experience if I'm successful. It may not be directly related to Tiki but mid-century dive bars + cheesecake paintings = interesting to me !!

I might to try to check out the Buccaneer in Sierra Madre tomorrow since I'll be visiting Rosemead.

Good work, John. Wonder what awaits ME there. It seems to be a matter of the right timing.
I would say that since Frank Bowers has done murals for at least two Polynesian places, and one of them, the Zamboanga one, is in Tiki Modern, ALL of his work is of interest here. The Foc'sle mural is certainly a fine piece of Exotica.

Can someone explain the meaning of the weird writing of the bar's name to this European? Fox Hole? Fox Isle?

Correction! - Just checked myself: It's a Navy thing

"Foc'sle Follies is a vaunted tradition in Naval aviation. At the end of each line period, the squadrons onboard the ship gather to recognize pilots that have performed the best, and to make fun of each other. One squadron is selected to perform a skit."

...apparently an old tradition:

"Shanties and foc'sle (forecastle) songs lightened the burden of work aboard ship and provided entertainment to off-duty sailors."

Here's what Wikipedia tells us:

The forward part of a ship with the sailors' living quarters is also called the forecastle. Related to the latter meaning is the phrase "before the mast" which denotes anything related to ordinary sailors (as opposed to a ship's officers).
The term "forecastle" relates to medieval shipbuilding, where ships of war were usually equipped with a tall, multi-deck castle-like structure in the bows of the ship which served as a platform for archers to shoot down on enemy ships and could also be used as a defensive stronghold if the ship was boarded.

So is this what I shall expect at the Foc'sle Bar :D :

"The forecastle was black and slimy with filth, very small and hot as an oven. It was filled with a compound of foul air, smoke, sea-chests, soap-kegs, greasy pans, tainted meat, sea-sick Americans and foreign ruffians. The ruffians were smoking, laughing, chattering and cursing the green hands who were sick. With groans on one side, and yells, oaths, laughter and smoke on the other, it altogether did not impress [me] as a very pleasant home for the next year or two. [I was] indeed, sick and sorry enough, and heartily wish [myself] home."

Tiki Central and urban archeology always broadens one's horizons! :)

J

Great nautical lesson, Bigbro !! That's a good lead in to our next Bowers destination - The Buccaneer. I visited there today.

Now for those of you intimidated by the working-class locations and dive bar natures of the Embers Lounge and Foc'sle Bar, this is a different option to experience the work of Bowers in the "safety" of an WASPish suburban neighborhood. Sierra Madre feels just like small town USA and is only 6 miles north of the Bahooka at 70 W. Sierra Madre Blvd.

The crowd I walked into definitely seemed to all know each other. It was almost like a private party as they were serving home made chili. Making conversation with some of the regulars, this is what I learned about the place:

  1. Originally the bar was located down the street, but moved to the current location maybe 20 years ago. The first location had to have dated back to the 1950's.

  2. It's said that Bowers did the paintings to pay off his bar tab.

  3. Some of the characters in the paintings were based on bar patrons at that time. Some of those people are still regular customers !!

  4. The portrait of Anne Bonney was stolen a few years ago but they managed to recover it.

  5. The police like to hide out on the side streets to catch speeding or DUI drivers. Watch out !

Enjoy the pictures !!

Great report, John. Man, I just dunno if I will be able to convince all those bartenders in these places to clean off all the bottles and glasses to get a clean shot of these masterworks...doesn't seem likely, unless I wave some serious moolah under their noses...which I cannot really afford. Another challenge is to photograph the extra wide format of the murals.

I noticed before, and now again in your photos of the Buccaneer, that the brush style on their paintings seems slightly different, the faces are not the same. I wonder if these got retouched when they were moved? Or can you John, having seen the art in the different locations in person, attest that they are all vintage and untouched?

In any case, the contrast of the great rendering of the interior of the pirate pub...

....being butted right up against ugly acoustic ceiling is quite ironic. Acoustic ceiling is really the bane of not only Tiki bars but vintage bars in general.

Although it was invented a bit earlier, it is a sure sign of 70s and 80s Orchids of Hawaii-style Chinese Tiki joints, which to me are examples of Tiki Devolution.

(I fully realize though that this stylistic observation does not matter one iota to the neighborhood folks who simply seek booze and companionship on their turf, and find it under any ceiling, which is a good thing :) )

Hold on: On second thought, even though it would be good to have these murals documented as pure paintings, not shooting them with the bottles and glasses would rob them of their Bar context, which is what really makes them cool. Just like with Tikis, where some folks portray them as art in its own right (which they are, yes), forgetting in the process that they came from the mundane environment of a bar or restaurant -which really is the essence of why Tiki culture is so cool.

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki 2009-10-06 05:58 ]

J

My hot lead for a 4th location of Bowers paintings proved a bust. There are NO Frank Bowers paintings at the Colorado Bar in Pasadena.

If you're in the neighborhood though, check the place out. It's a cool mid-century dive bar and they carry some high-end pours.

So what ever happened to Sabu's urban expedition? Did he find Joe Keawe's Hale Hawaii Bar?

Maybe he got eaten by angry natives (or angry longshoreman). Someone send out a Tiki search party. :)

[ Edited by: JOHN-O 2009-10-19 08:14 ]

J

This thread might be the most comprehensive overview of Frank Bowers on the web.

Based on an internet search hit on this thread, a person in Indiana created a TC account and PM'd me.

Their father has this huge Frank Bowers mural (4.5' x 10.5') sitting in his garage !! :o

Does anyone here want to buy it? I would think it's worth about $10K.

[ Edited by: JOHN-O 2010-10-08 23:23 ]

M

Awesome!! There is a great mural at an old bar (one of the few left) about a mile from here in Las Vegas. I will have to try to photo it. I am inspired.

On 2010-10-12 09:09, mrsmiley wrote:
Awesome!! There is a great mural at an old bar (one of the few left) about a mile from here in Las Vegas. I will have to try to photo it. I am inspired.

OH MY GOODNESS! The mural is also by Frank Bowers!!!! Here in Las Vegas. ZAZZ!!!
The place is called THE HARD HAT LOUNGE.
Here is my capsule review (John-O, add it to your Vegas thread -have you restored the name yet?)
The Hard Hat lounge is a typical, traditional bar. It still has a kitchen-but since the smoking law came into affect a few years ago, the oven is idle. On the border of a sketchy neighborhood (the once fantastic Naked City), I had never had an issue visiting this bar. At nights you have to get buzzed in, but once you are in the mood is sedate and comfortable. A pool table exists in case you need more exercise than lifting your beer or your jack and coke! BUT--- the real star here is the mural by Frank "Maverick" Bowers from 1963. The mural evokes more a feeling of 1956, than 63, but maybe The Maverick was stuck in his painting ways. The legend has it that he painted the mural to pay off a bar tab (google his name and you may find more mentions of his doing this in other areas like Los Angeles). An awesome mural and one the bar is proud of!

J

On 2010-11-22 22:03, mrsmiley wrote:

On 2010-10-12 09:09, mrsmiley wrote:
Awesome!! There is a great mural at an old bar (one of the few left) about a mile from here in Las Vegas. I will have to try to photo it. I am inspired.

OH MY GOODNESS! The mural is also by Frank Bowers!!!! Here in Las Vegas. ZAZZ!!!
The place is called THE HARD HAT LOUNGE.
Here is my capsule review (John-O, add it to your Vegas thread -have you restored the name yet?)
The Hard Hat lounge is a typical, traditional bar. It still has a kitchen-but since the smoking law came into affect a few years ago, the oven is idle. On the border of a sketchy neighborhood (the once fantastic Naked City), I had never had an issue visiting this bar. At nights you have to get buzzed in, but once you are in the mood is sedate and comfortable. A pool table exists in case you need more exercise than lifting your beer or your jack and coke! BUT--- the real star here is the mural by Frank "Maverick" Bowers from 1963. The mural evokes more a feeling of 1956, than 63, but maybe The Maverick was stuck in his painting ways. The legend has it that he painted the mural to pay off a bar tab (google his name and you may find more mentions of his doing this in other areas like Los Angeles). An awesome mural and one the bar is proud of!

I'm floored !! Great job Bruce. I can't wait to get back out to Las Vegas and see it in person.

Does the bar realize what they have ??

[ Edited by: JOHN-O 2010-11-22 22:14 ]

No, I they don't know( I don't think they do). When the bartender told me the name, I wrote it down and I said the Pdrake. "Bowers is such a forgettable name, I think this might actually be the same guy mentioned in the TC thread". As soon as I got home, I hit TC and found out that he IS the same muralist! Wow. This guy drank everywhere!

Smiley - Excellent find. I think TC is now the leading internet source for Frank Bowers paintings. He must have been so prolific and it's disturbing to think that the vast majority of his murals are probably gone.

John-O - I was at TURCS (across the street from Don The Beachcomber's) on a non-crowded Monday and was able to explore and discover a few hidden treasures that I've never seen before on crowded nights.

Besides a few new tiki-related items, I found on the very back wall of the back room, a somewhat homoerotic mural of Spanish Conquistadors that I never knew existed there before. It was dark and partially obscured, and I thought I might have found another Frank Bowers masterpiece, but this one was signed "Wandell, 1945".

I'm going to bring my camera next Monday and get a few photos. I didn't know TURCS had quit that much age or history to it.

On 2009-10-06 05:46, bigbrotiki wrote:
Great report, John. Man, I just dunno if I will be able to convince all those bartenders in these places to clean off all the bottles and glasses to get a clean shot of these masterworks...

Hold on: On second thought, even though it would be good to have these murals documented as pure paintings, not shooting them with the bottles and glasses would rob them of their Bar context, which is what really makes them cool. Just like with Tikis, where some folks portray them as art in its own right (which they are, yes), forgetting in the process that they came from the mundane environment of a bar or restaurant -which really is the essence of why Tiki culture is so cool.

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki 2009-10-06 05:58 ]

I completely agree, I had the same thought as you and was relieved with your "second thought"
Albeit a clear shot of the paintings would be the best for posterity, I agree that under the acoustical tiles and behind the wares of a drinking establishment, it defines the context of why and where, (especially when we now know that he paid bar tabs with this work)

On 2009-10-06 05:46, bigbrotiki wrote:

I noticed before, and now again in your photos of the Buccaneer, that the brush style on their paintings seems slightly different, the faces are not the same. I wonder if these got retouched when they were moved? Or can you John, having seen the art in the different locations in person, attest that they are all vintage and untouched?

I noticed that the faces were different in two of them but there are enough other similarities that show it was the same artist, hands, shading and dimension, I wonder if this could be the reason for subtle differences; most artist evolve and devolve over time. Most keep their overall style but subtle changes can be observed over time. If he indeed paid for his tab with art, it may have been numerous tabs over a extended period of time. It also appears that he found this practice enjoyable as the work and size doesn't appear to be done begrudgingly or under duress. Paintings that large require large amount of expensive art materials and even a fast painter would still have many hours invested, leading me to believe that he enjoyed doing this, a broke artist or someone painting under obligation would not have continually created such grandiose pieces.

Great thread, thank you.

On 2009-10-04 01:40, bigbrotiki wrote:

"The forecastle was black and slimy with filth, very small and hot as an oven. It was filled with a compound of foul air, smoke, sea-chests, soap-kegs, greasy pans, tainted meat, sea-sick Americans and foreign ruffians. The ruffians were smoking, laughing, chattering and cursing the green hands who were sick. With groans on one side, and yells, oaths, laughter and smoke on the other, it altogether did not impress [me] as a very pleasant home for the next year or two. [I was] indeed, sick and sorry enough, and heartily wish [myself] home."

Sounds like any typical Tiki Bar on a good night!

Quote from;
John Ross Browne, "Etchings of a Whaling Cruise" 1846.
Browne was trying to do for whaling, What Richard Henry Dana, "Two years before the Mast" had done for merchant ships.


Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana

[ Edited by: bananabobs 2010-11-25 09:30 ]

J

Thanks Sabu (and bananabobs) !! What does TURCS stand for anyway?

You know the more I think about it, the more I'm astounded that MrSmiley's Las Vegas mural was a Frank Bowers piece. The probability of that has got to be off the charts. Maybe there's a greater force at work here.

Could it be that Frank Bowers' spirit is guiding Tiki Central to document his life's work? I like to believe that the Leilani Hut and Zamboanga murals (as well as the Hale Hawaii paintings) are sitting in someones garage waiting to be rediscovered. All you have to do is Google "Frank Bowers mural" and this thread is one of the top hits. That's how the cowboy mural in Indiana came to be included here.

We can only hope. :)

[ Edited by: JOHN-O 2010-11-28 20:48 ]

As Boris was pointing out to me recently: Has anyone been INSIDE the Zamboanga building? It is still the same structure, perhaps the murals are still there - behind the wall paper or paint.

C

This is yet another thread that my haphazard Tiki Central browsing led me to miss the first time around! Great details on the Bowers paintings. The story I got a couple of years ago at the Buccaneer was that most of the Bowers bar paintings were done to square portions of his considerable bar tabs at said establishments (John-O said Square John... but better make it Square John Barleycorn).

I didn't have the guts to go into the Foc'sle a few years ago when I was in the area taking "now" pictures (for my friend John Bengtson's book on Chaplin locations) from a 1914 Charlie Chaplin film (A BUSY DAY) that was shot on the same street (then Canal, now Avalon) during the dedication of LA Harbor's new wharf (Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt was among the honored guests). On that day (a Sunday afternoon), there was just enough street activity that vibed a little suspicious and unfriendly when I was taking pictures of the buildings up and down the street (people coming and going from the couple of pseudo flophouses, as well as the Foc'sle) that I didn't go in.

By the way--and Sabu probably knows this well: if you go down just a little bit east to the Leeward Bay Marina, there's a place called the Chowder Barge which is quite literally as described--a barge serving chowder in the middle of a marina that's the yang to tony yacht marina yings such as Alamitos Bay in east Long Beach (where the Gilligan's Island opening was filmed), Marina del Rey, Newport Beach etc. This is a place where sketchy people live on sketchy boats, and the water is not something you'd want to swim in (I loved an article I read a while ago on the Chowder Barge that described observing one of the waitresses on her smoke break, running out of fluid in her lighter and loudly saying "it's fish food now" while chucking it into the bay). Since Terminal Island's Fish Harbor is no longer as it once was, this is one of the places that now mostly closely passes for "seedy waterfront dive" in the harbor.

Caltiki Brent

[ Edited by: congawa 2010-11-30 10:41 ]

[ Edited by: congawa 2010-11-30 10:42 ]

As for the Zamboanga, I'm thinking / hoping that since it's currently a VFW Hall there might be some nightclub elements of it left, even when it became the Ginza they may have kept some of the original tropical interior.

Little Lost Tiki is a veteran so I will inform Col. Ruzic that his country needs him yet again to volunteer for this mission.

J

I'm up for the following:

  1. Based on CalTiki's comments, I'm willing to be designated driver for a small group of TC'ers who would like to visit both Embers Lounge and the Foc'sle Bar some Saturday afternoon. We can meet at Oceanic Arts. We can also visit Poor Denny's Saloon and maybe the Tamarack Inn to add some variety. You're on your own for the Buccaneer (unless upper-middle class white people intimidate you). Please PM me if you'd be interested in such an excursion.

  2. I'm also willing to try to infiltrate the former Zamoanga and take pictures. Can someone provide an address?

  3. On an added note, Bora Boris has tasked me with some urban archeology in the "hood". I've been to enough punk rock clubs in sketchy areas to be brave enough (or stupid enough) to accept that mission. I'm always looking for some Tiki back-up to accompany me who won't back down in case I run into "angry natives". If you're brave enough (or stupid enough) to want to join me, please send a PM.

M

Artist Biography

Frank BOWERS
1905 - 1964

Frank Howard Bowers was born in California on November 20, 1905. He was active in Los Angeles from the 1930s when he painted murals for the Federal Art Project in the Ruth Home School and the Fruit Growers Exchange (Orange Harvest). He died in Long Beach, California on December 11, 1964.

I also found this on the web about a modern restaurant in Richmond, Virginia named Balliceaux ;

"There are many, from the porthole-style windows along some of the booths that feature resin-printed photos he took in Haiti, the Bahamas, Cuba and Hong Kong to the racy Frank Bowers mural in the back room that originally hung in a West Hollywood bar. Gratz found it at an antiques shop in San Francisco".
..................

Images of his Sunkist murals (done with Arthur Prunier) here; http://citrusroots.com/paper1a.html
More about the Sunlist murals ;"ConservArt Associates, headed by Duane Chartier, have been conserving the 1935 mural paintings in the Sunkist Corporate Headquarters in Sherman Oaks, CA, since December , 1994. The paintings represent allegorical California scenes amid orange groves and were painted by Frank Bowers and Arthur Prunier. They are oil on canvas improperly mounted with contact cement on 3/4" plywood. The marouflage was done in the early 70's when the paintings were moved from the original downtown building to the present site. To add insult to injury, two out of four have a double polyurethane varnish which has become so discolored that the color scheme is indiscernible. Treatment included contact cement removal from the face, varnish removal using novel mechanical methods, injections of hot BEVA 371 into large detachments using a specially designed heatable syringe and remounting of the paintings in the company boardroom."
More info: Restoration information from Susanne of conservartassoc.com ---Friend Sunkist Growers, Inc. -- WPA Mural Conservation - Sherman Oaks, CA - August 1994 - March 1995
Conservation of the four murals by Frank Bowers and Arthur Prunier, 1935, presently in the main boardroom. The murals had been exhibited externally for many years before being deinstalled from the old Los Angeles downtown headquarters and marouflaged onto plywood in the early 70's. Two of the panels have a polyurethane coating and are differentially discolored. All the paintings were damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Work includes a new mounting system, cleaning and reinstallation.

.....................

Craiglist Indiana ad from Mid Novemeber 2010 (John-o's earlier post);
http://indianapolis.craigslist.org/clt/2066798069.html
"This is a Big Mural, By Frank Howard Bowers, 1905-1964
Measure 55 inches tall by 128 inches long
Would look great behind a Bar or in a game room

I found that he was from California and did do some paintings for the Federal Art Project in the Ruth Home School and for the Fruit Growers Exchange, Plus a few other murals to pay off bar tabs.

Make me an offer. Please put Frank in subject line.
Sorry for the garage door track in the middle of the pics. "


I'm the most thirstiesterest of all!
TRADER VIC'S stuff for sale on EBAY 1957SPUTNIK
http://shop.ebay.com/1957sputnik/m.html
If you like it, it is ZAZZ! If you don't it is RAZZ!

[ Edited by: mrsmiley 2010-12-05 23:18 ]

[ Edited by: mrsmiley 2013-03-12 01:39 ]

M

Here are some images I grabbed off the internet of a closed VFW hall in Sierra Madre, CA;

......

P

interesting

we'll have to go back to the hard hat. cindy would probably let you take more photos.

J

Wow, this really is getting interesting.

Frank Bowers does a Polynesian mural for a pre-Tiki nighclub which is now a VFW hall. Who knows if the mural is still even there? (Probably not, but I'm working on getting in there).

He also does a mural specifically FOR a VFW hall. Is it just me or does anyone see a "Pulpish" influence in his work?

One of our Northeastern TC agents needs to visit that Balliceaux restaurant and get better photos of the Bowers there. It appears to have a kinky Middle Eastern theme.

Great internet detective work Bruce !!

That is indeed some juicy looking posing there in that back bar painting. Did we not have paintings from some place called MECCA in this thread here?

John-O, after several attempts I finally came away from the Embers with satisfying photographic results. On one visit I talked to a local bar fly who claimed that the dive bar across the street, the STEIN, once had Bowers paintings too -- all done in Bavarian style! One theme that we have not seen by Bowers yet, but I can fully imagine it: Zaftig dirndl-clad St.Pauli-type girls and their yodeling manfolk! Mr. Smiley would have been in heaven!

Would have, because I perused the Stein's interior with X-Ray eyes, and not one shred of the existence of such folly was visible. Either the interior was fully remodeled, or the story was an urban myth. Though as I said, I can vividly picture a Bavarian Bowers scene in my mind's eye, it just fits!

And I am still in denial of the fact that all the Joe Keawe Polynesian Bowers are a loss, SOMEONE must have kept SOMETHING!?

On 2010-11-30 13:16, JOHN-O wrote:
I'm up for the following:

  1. Based on CalTiki's comments, I'm willing to be designated driver for a small group of TC'ers who would like to visit both Embers Lounge and the Foc'sle Bar some Saturday afternoon. We can meet at Oceanic Arts. We can also visit Poor Denny's Saloon and maybe the Tamarack Inn to add some variety. You're on your own for the Buccaneer (unless upper-middle class white people intimidate you). Please PM me if you'd be interested in such an excursion.

I must caution you to visit The Embers this month, you will be in for a dissappointment. I dropped in yesterday again and was baffled by this view:

as opposed to this:

I first thought that they were planing to paint the walls, and protecting the art, but Claudia the bartender cheerfully informed me that they do this every Christmas as part of their holiday deco: No DEVILS and PARTYING in HELL for the Yuletide brethren!

Personally I would think this art to be the ideal escape from the X-mas hulabaloo outside, when you're lonely and feel like Scrooge and wanna wish it all to hell....but I guess if you see these paintings all year...

And I was bummed out at finding the art-obstructing Christmas decorations at the Focsle?:

In comparison, that wrapping paper takes the fruit cake. Well I guess I got my photos of these done just in the nick of time!:

What would Vincent Price say to this!

I am neither Christian nor pro-Anti-Christ, but this is dive bar art censorship! :)

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki 2010-12-08 10:41 ]

C

Big Bro--that is some vile dive bar censorship!

Msmiley-- thanks for those great VFM hall Bowers shots!

John-O--if by pulp you mean 50's men's magazines, I definitely vibe that look. All it misses is the scantily clad woman being tied up and manhandled by the sinister-looking foreign villain.

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