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Name:Kona Kai
Type:restaurant
Street:Marriot t Hotel
City:Philadelphia
State:PA
Zip:
country:USA
Phone:
Status:unknown

Description:
Was surprised that there was not a thread started for the Kona Kai Restaurant at the Marriott Hotel in Philadelphia. One of the powerhouse Tiki places and the flagship of the Kona Kai restaurants that Marriott started to keep up with Trader Vic's at the Hilton Hotels and the Kon Tiki restaurants at the Sheraton Hotels.

I have several postcards:

Nice logo on the back.

A great black and white photo from the internet:

Here are some of the signature swizzles:

Some menus courtesy of Mimi's website and Tiki Room:

Bigbro has a lot of great stuff too, maybe can add?

DC

Fantastic DC. Got to love the classic Kona Kai.

Dusty, Here are a couple of shots from my collection. A matchbook and a shaker. I had these posted on the thread for the KC location as well but the items could have come from the Pa location as the bigger establishments used some of the same items to cross-polynate (just came up with that) their restaurants.

Trav,

That matchbook and salt shaker show the iconic Kona Kai Tiki figure. It was also used on the mugs, as shown here from Tatoo and Tiki Nomad on Ooga Mooga.

The Kona Kai also poly-nated (love your new word!) salt and pepper sets from other places like the Luau

And Skipper Kent's/Kahiki

(from Ooga Mooga collections).

DC

I am also surprised that a Tiki place of this stature and notoriety was not documented on Locating Tiki before. Great pics, good job Dusty!

The plethora of logo Tiki artifacts shown above is a good example of how much material can still be found out in the field. I wish I would have had one of those menus, the full figure mug, or this cup...

...when I chose the Kona Kai Tiki as an example for the logo Tiki in the BOT. I also had not fully realized how much of it was based on the Trader Vic logo Tiki:

http://www.tikicentral.com/viewtopic.php?mode=viewtopic&topic=24081&forum=1&start=0

The Kona Kai Tiki's most discernible difference to the TV Tiki is the squared-off, knobby chin. So who is responsible for that version? It was drawn by Irving Weisenberg:

http://www.tikicentral.com/viewtopic.php?topic=6&forum=1&vpost=13951

Unfortunately, not much was heard from Maui Matt since. ( It always KILLS me when I re-read his line:
"He used to have tons of artwork from things he did, but I believe they are no longer around. I think I have more stuff than his son...").

But there is a lot of documentation on the Philly Kona Kai around, actually:
First off, the amazing spec rendering Irving Weisenberg did for it when it was still called the Hale Tiki on Page 53 of the BOT, one of the most iconic images to fuel the Tiki revival. In the left lower corner we can clearly see his signature. And the proof that the Hale Tiki became the Kona Kai is found in Irving's rendering of the entrance Tiki, which clearly was the blueprint for the menu, matchbook, mug and S&P shaker Tiki.

I spread Kona Kai material throughout the BOT, beginning with an interior blueprint on page 19, a Tiki pole blueprint as background for pages 64/65, the specific Kona Kai pages 140-143, and another Tiki blueprint on pages 245. All this had been lent to me for the book by the architect, Eldon Davis, the surviving partner of Armet & Davis, known for their innovative Googie Coffee shop architecture (and Tiki temples like the Tahitian Village, the Tropicana Fresno, the Steve Crane Kon Tikis, and the Playa Del Rey Polynesian Village apartments). Here he is at his 90th birthday, with Googie author Alan Hess, at Pann's Coffeshop (around two years ago):

And here are some of the blueprints. All renderings were done by Irving Weisenberg. I do not know of any other Tiki restaurant that had the Tikis drawn up by a designer in such painstaking detail (interestingly, none resembled the logo Tiki in the Hale Tiki drawing):

Now we know who did the sculpting and fiberglass mold for the PNG gable figure: Jim Casey:

http://www.tikicentral.com/viewtopic.php?mode=viewtopic&topic=12142&forum=1&start=15

But what I do NOT know is who executed the other carvings, actually VERY close to the original specs. Compare:

Another enduring mystery is HOW did one of these guys end up in the Eugene Savage mural at Daimons in Glendale!!?:

Now a while back, Tiki Nomad posted pics of the artifacts when the place closed in the 1986:

http://www.tikicentral.com/viewtopic.php?topic=24802&forum=5&vpost=318008

Nomad knew where they were stored for a while on the East Coast:

Some of the above carvings luckily found their way back here to a collector friend of mine:

But the big question remains: WHERE did all those gorgeous freestanding Tikis go? They are not in Tiki Nomad's pictures anymore, and there really are no good photos of them. Here we see the exterior entrance ones (see first blueprint on top), too small to really appreciate them:

And then there is ONE photo of which I am dying to find a good quality print of. It is the Kona Kai entrance lobby, and I only ever saw it as part of a collage in the Armet & Davis offices:

I zoomed into the collage and brought up the exposure, so we can appreciate what a glamourous Tiki Temple this must have been:

What I would give for that photo! Tiki at the peak of the style! Part of the proscenium made it back to LA, but the two Tikis? The one on the right clearly is the one in blueprint Nr. 2 on top of this post.

And then there are other aspects about the Kona Kai we would have loved to have seen. The back bar diorama which was painted on layered glass sheets so dimming certain lights allowed dawn to dusk effects:

And the gardens, in their Japanese-like modernity....

To cheer everybody up, here's one more early spec rendering by Irving Weisenberg, (obviously the name was not set yet):

All in all, Marriott's Philadelphia Kona Kai, as the flag ship of the chain, was certainly one of the great accomplishments of Tiki Style.
(Question: Does someone here remember which early 80s teenage movie comedy used it as location again?)

G

DC, thanks for starting this thread. Go figure that there wasn't one already. Sven, I haven't seen this much Tiki eye candy in quite a while! I was just about to post the interior photo Monkeyman found a few years ago (one of my absolute favorites) when you unloaded with all these wonderful images. As grainy as it is, that lobby photo is really something. And I had no idea someone ended up with so many of the surviving Kona Kai carvings. Actually, I really had no idea they survived at all. I dearly hope they are not sitting in a dusty dark corner of some storage room somewhere.

Bigbro,

I knew you had a treasure trove of Kona Kai goods, awesome stuff, thanks for that great post!

Here is another little postcard that shows a rendering of the entrance hut in front of the hotel.

DC

8T

Man, I wish we had this much info. and interior shots of the KC locations! Well, maybe some day. Now here's another item for the photo gallery of KK items:

One more blueprint shot.

That must be the ones that Zulu Magoo copied. I am glad he works in city planning, so had access to a good blueprint copier.

Here are two scans for completeness:

The original Hale Tiki/ Kona Kai A-frame rendering by Irving Weisenberg,

....and a close up of his logo Tiki drawing. I sure would love to find the original painting!

Oh, and I would also love to see a zoom-in scan of the entrance and gardens on this postcard from Sabu:

:)

Alas, that was another one that escaped me. All I salvaged was the eBay photo. :(

On 2009-11-18 09:22, bigbrotiki wrote:
That must be the ones that Zulu Magoo copied. I am glad he works in city planning, so had access to a good blueprint copier.

Yep. I took pictures of all of the Kona Kai blueprints that he had on display at the Mai Kai during Hukilau in 2008.

I am in awe of all the awesome pics and depictions,another fine post by DC.
Sven your contribution to this thread is much appreciated .
Do we know more about the rise and fall of the Kona Kai .
When it opened and when it closed , and what is there now ?

Well this now has to be one of the most well documented Tiki temples of all time, starting with its inception with the blueprints and artists renderings and finishing with the Tikis that came out of the restaurant when it closed! Thanks to everyone for the great posts.

Here is an ad I picked up for the Kona Kai, as seen in an old Architectural Record magazine.

The ad features the Medusa White concrete that was used to make the fantastic block wall in front of the Kona Kai, as well as the sides of the Marriott hotel building. I know Bamboo Ben is always eschewing the use of concrete as a medium for building Tiki, but this application looks way Tiki-Modern cool.

Other Tiki concrete applications that come to mind are the Hawaii Kai in New York (pics from TabooDan and Sabu)

And the Trader Vic's in Portland (pic from Tikidon)

DC

I drove from Detroit to Philly to visit a Army buddy in Aug 1971, we had just got out. The Tiki vibe at the Kona Kai was amazing! My Chin Tiki and Mauna Loa in Detroit were heaven on earth, as was Trader Vic's, but I have to confess, the fabulous Kona kai, and the Mai Kai tie as my favorites. Yet that Kona Kai just had something...

On 2009-11-15 15:27, bigbrotiki wrote:
(Question: Does someone here remember which early 80s teenage movie comedy used it as location again?)

yes, it was the 1988 movie "The In Crowd", about a suburban teenage boy getting on a 60's tv dance show in Philly. there's a scene towards the end of the movie where they have a dinner party for a girl at the Kona Kai, and there is also an outside shot at night. someone has recently uploaded to movie onto Youtube, you can see it in the 8th segment.

THANK YOU! I am so glad someone remembered the title of this soapy teen flic. I guess they re-titled it "Dance Party" to get a second life out of it.
MAN that is a shitty copy though, so dark...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2FBKUnjmrw&feature=related

BUT you get to see the amazing Kona Kai exterior with the entrance Tikis and blazing torches for a moment! To think that this grand Tiki temple existed in all its glory as late as 1988! It really must have been a sight. Sigh.

I wonder who the still photographer on that show was, and if any photos still exist...

T

Earlier in this thread Big Bro mentions the warehouse where most of the Kona Kai Artifacts were stored. I talked with the owner in the fall and as far as I know some pieces are still available. I'm not sure what is left but I'd like to share this contact with everyone here on Tiki Central. I hope that some of you are able to aquire something for your Tiki collection.
His name is Irv Teller and his phone number is (215) 891-8400 His ware house is located in eastern P.A. If you do contact him please feel free to use my actual name as a reference, Tim Steger.
I know Irv would love to sell the rest of these artifacts and I would just like to see these items find a good home. For God sake let's get these great pieces out of storage and into the hands of thise who love Tiki! Happy New Year! :)

Are you sure, Tim? A far as I know, my collector friend (the only one I knew that had that kind of money available) cleaned him out pretty much, because Irv wanted to sell the lot as a whole. My friend happened to be on the East Coast visiting family when Irv contacted me (while I was in Europe!) looking for a buyer, and so he rented a truck and made the long haul all the way back to L.A. with this hoard. But as I mentioned above, the freestanding Tikis seen in the blueprints, like the exterior ones, had been "collected" long before by unknowns.

Well, like I said I'm not sure what is left. I only talked with him on the phone but he mentioned that there was still a few things left over as of august/sept. of 2009. I'm just sharing this with the TC community as a geusture of kindness. If anyone is interested they should call him directly...

...and I never saw the freestanding Tikis that you show in the blueprints in Irv's warehouse. He did mention that he had sold some carvings previously before we found them so maybe that was them...

On 2010-01-05 11:41, bigbrotiki wrote:
THANK YOU! I am so glad someone remembered the title of this soapy teen flic. I guess they re-titled it "Dance Party" to get a second life out of it.
MAN that is a shitty copy though, so dark...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2FBKUnjmrw&feature=related

BUT you get to see the amazing Kona Kai exterior with the entrance Tikis and blazing torches for a moment! To think that this grand Tiki temple existed in all its glory as late as 1988! It really must have been a sight. Sigh.

I wonder who the still photographer on that show was, and if any photos still exist...

no problem! i actually found THIS website while researching what restaurant that was from the movie! and that is a bad quality copy; it's just too bad it's not on dvd so we could get a screengrab.

IMDB says that a "Roger G. Jans" was the still photographer. after a websearch of his name, i came across an email for a Roger Jans working at Ramapo College in NJ. i sent an email just for the hell of it, maybe it's him, and maybe he has something.

liz

BB

I took some screen grabs from the clip, they're not good at all but I can live with that.



I like how if you sit people in suits around a table in one of these classic locations it's an instant vintage postcard.



well i heard back from the "Roger Jans" I mailed; turns out it's not him. he was nice enough to mail back, at least.

:/

Thank you for giving it a shot.

TT

As I posted on the "Tiki Finds" thread, I was lucky enough to find two of the Kona Kai mugs that are just like the logo. However one is dark brown and has the statement "Made exclusively for Kona Kai by Otagiri Co." on the bottom, while the other one is light brown but has nothing on the bottom. I figure since these are patterned after the logo (or vice versa) and both say Kona Kai on the back, that the statement on the bottom isn't that important. Can someone please give me some more information about this? BTW - I am not asking just so I can turn around and sell these, because at this point in time neither one is leaving my house. Since I was able to get two, one will be for drinking and the other is for show.

Thanks,
TT

On 2009-11-18 10:32, 1961surf wrote:

When it opened and when it closed , and what is there now ?

I think there is a Target store in the location now. So sad.

OGR

This one is on Ebay (not mine) 99.99 BIN.


On 2010-02-07 13:04, Or Got Rum? wrote:

Wow, they really got into Tiki Temple construction materials in this menu! :lol:
The one I quote in the BOT on pages 154/157 was much more "Tiki-centric".

T

Here is an old Ad from Philadelphia, Pa. of the Marriott Hotel and Restaurant from 1972:

Nothing too great but it's got a cool exterior picture of the Kona Kai at the top left. I saved the image from Ebay and sorry, can't get any clearer than this. The night time shots of this place simply have to be one of the best!

TabooDan

I just got a Marriott Hotel coffee shop menu with that nice rendering of the hotel grounds and the Kona Kai entrance that was also featured on a postcard.

Here is a blow-up of the entrance area and gardens/pools. You can see some cool water features.

DC

This really cool photo of the opening day at the Kona Kai was on ebay recently.

Here is the story that went with the listing:

One 8 x 10 interior photo of the famous Kona Kai that was once at the Marriott hotel in Philidelphia, Pa.
This photo was originally taken in 3-d by Armet and Davis' personal photographer, Jack Laxer on opening day to document the decor.
A very rare long exposure taken in this dark environment with all of the lamps glowing. Most postcards and documentation of old tiki restaurants were photographed with flashes or with the lights on.
This is a rare glimpse into the true dark look of a tiki/Polynesian restaurant.

DC

I was so excited to find a link to the Kona Kai Restaurant in Philadelphia PA. On this date, at this time 45 years ago my husband and I celebrated our marriage with dinner there. He passed away last year so it was very comforting to find those marvelous pictures of a place that represents such positive memories for me. Thank you to whomever did all the work!

Here is another great photo from the ebay seller who has the originals from the opening day shoot at the Kona kai.

Really great shot of the Tikis and the grand entrance A frame.

DC

An interior photo of the Philadelphia Kona Kai from 1974:

On 2010-03-12 17:04, Dustycajun wrote:
Here is the story that went with the listing:
A very rare long exposure taken in this dark environment with all of the lamps glowing. Most postcards and documentation of old tiki restaurants were photographed with flashes or with the lights on.
This is a rare glimpse into the true dark look of a tiki/Polynesian restaurant.

:) Or not...as a photographer I of course appreciate moody as opposed to flash-photography interiors shots of Tiki temples.
As a photo archeologist though, I like to lighten them up so I can see the details:

Which in this case also reveal that the hanging lamps are throwing shadows against the rattan, making it unlikely that the shot was entirely lit by only the lamps themselves. :)
Signed, Mr. know-it-all

S
Swanky posted on Mon, Mar 7, 2011 8:34 AM

On 2011-03-06 00:30, bigbrotiki wrote:

On 2010-03-12 17:04, Dustycajun wrote:
Here is the story that went with the listing:
A very rare long exposure taken in this dark environment with all of the lamps glowing. Most postcards and documentation of old tiki restaurants were photographed with flashes or with the lights on.
This is a rare glimpse into the true dark look of a tiki/Polynesian restaurant.

:) Or not...as a photographer I of course appreciate moody as opposed to flash-photography interiors shots of Tiki temples.
As a photo archeologist though, I like to lighten them up so I can see the details:

Which in this case also reveal that the hanging lamps are throwing shadows against the rattan, making it unlikely that the shot was entirely lit by only the lamps themselves. :)
Signed, Mr. know-it-all

Or, it could be ther brightest light in the place is just off to the right there. No photographer's light, just the "natural" one off camera...

Does anybody ever look at Locating Tiki anymore? Or has it become crap from some old place blah blah blah blah blah lets get to the next Tiki party dude.

A beauty ashtray from the Kona Kai from ebay.

DC

It does seem that nowadays there are more people out there that are either into the party/event aspect or the "collector" only thing, and fewer folks that are fascinated by what led to all that: the original art and history of mid-century Tiki culture. Random, inconsequential mentions of Tiki in current media often seem to get more interest than important finds of rare photos from the the peak period of the culture.

As I said before: I am glad that I have succeeded in my goal to have Tiki become a pop culture again. But from what I see, it has become too much "pop", and not enough "culture" now. The esthetic and stylistic intricacies of the art form are lost on many. In disappointment, some of the original, true Tiki archeologists have withdrawn from the public eye, to splinter groups or their own personal blogs and Facebook. But then again, every now and then someone new joins the ranks of the seriously interested, and demonstrates that there is so much more to discover.

This is the way it has always been, and always will be. It would be wrong to commiserate and tuck in one's tail and withdraw into one's hut. On with the good fight for true Tiki!

Bigbro,

Thanks for the pep talk, sorry for the pouting (a little late night Mai Tai infused rant).

DC

H

I also agree with both of you in this matter.

J

On 2011-06-24 23:12, Dustycajun wrote:
Does anybody ever look at Locating Tiki anymore? Or has it become crap from some old place blah blah blah blah blah lets get to the next Tiki party dude.

To me "Locating Tiki" IS Tiki Central !!

Without historical context, the Tiki Revival would have no heart and soul. Any vintage content is a "time machine" back to places that exist either as shadowy memories or which have been completely forgotten.

The "Locating Tiki" forum is our invaluable Encyclopedia Britannica of Polynesian Pop, and I find myself returning to it regularly to enjoy content which was posted over the last several days as well as almost a decade ago. It is a timeless resource.

I can't imagine Tiki Central without the continuing contributions of several key people, and DustyCajun is certainly one of those MVP's.

Thanks Scott, I ALWAYS read everything you post, the quantity and quality of which if I replied "great post" to, would become repetitious on my part. I'm sure that is the sentiment of hundreds of active participants here as well as lurkers.

But you can always bet I'm thinking that appreciation. :)

[ Edited by: JOHN-O 2011-06-25 09:05 ]

DC, this is a favorite Tiki Central forum for me, and I’m in awe of your contributions, as well as those of Bigbrotiki, Sabu, Uncle Trav and the many others here. While so much of classic tiki is no longer part of the physical present, here I can use my imagination to recreate it as I scroll through the incredible array of photos, postcards, menus, matchbook covers and other images posted here. I’m a big fan of history, and I love to know the story of these tiki palaces, gladly contributing as I have time and ability. You can be assured that with each post, there will be quite a number of us who will find it both enriching and inspiring...

Having said that, here’s my small contribution to the topic of this thread...

From an article in the Los Angeles Times dated April 16, 1961...

“Nine tons of Polynesian art and construction materials, believed to be the largest single shipment of its kind received at the Port of Los Angeles, arrived this week for Armet & Davis, AIA, to be used in the building and decorating of Polynesian restaurants designed by the firm.

The shipment has been collected during the past year from private collections in Hawaii, from natives of the Gilbert, Marshall and Caroline Islands, Marquesas, Pago Pago, Tuamoto Archipeligo, Raratonga, and Fiji...

A major portion of the new shipment of art and building supplies will be used in the construction of the Kona Kai restaurant in Philadelphia. Armet will leave this week for Philadelphia to supervise construction.”

Chicago Tribune July 11, 1961

It’s clear from these archival materials that the Philadelphia Kona Kai opened circa July 1961.

-Tom

S

I read. I often wish there was a "Like" button here on TC so that when I go to that very obscure location that just got a tiny bump I can say "I was here. I care." I started to re-post these things on my own blog a while ago to be a sort of TC filter for the Tiki-nerds. It just takes too much time to keep doing that. I don't want to post all the time, but you know, maybe we should! Maybe if those of us who read these parts of TC keep bumpng them up, it'll get more attention. What do you think?

I
Iscah posted on Mon, Jun 27, 2011 8:22 AM

As a recent transplant to the east coast, I'm wondering what locations even exist out here anymore. I'm just outside DC, and about two to three hours from Philly-- and I actually go up that way about once a month. Mind, I'm not talking about extant tiki temples, it seems there's plenty of info to be had about those, but about the ones that are closed down and whose A-frames still exist.

I used to do a bit of urban archaeology back in So Cal when I lived there and loved little things like "there's the DtB sign in the parking lot across from the Hollywood/Highland monstrosity"! Driving through the cities of Orange and Anaheim was great fun- all the Googie architecture and tiki apartment complexes. =)

So, is there anything left of the Kona Kai at this point? I saw someone mention earlier that it's now a Target. Oh god, tell me that's not true.

Besides falling into the obvious "collector" descriptive and since most of my posts are now regulated to Tiki Finds, I find the Locating Tiki thread a very close second to my top two threads on this forum.

I have learned more about the pre and post history of tiki; primarily to the few aforementioned contributors to the subject matter found in these postings. What I see and read makes it extremely helpful to know what to be on the lookout for and for that I thank all who post here.

Dusty, does it make more sense to post finds from the subject matter in these threads or in the Tiki Finds thread, or both?

Nothing wrong with a party, but I remember what brought me here to begin with!

Later,

PTD

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