Welcome to the Tiki Central 2.0 Beta. Read the announcement
Celebrating classic and modern Polynesian Pop

Pages: 1 2 61 replies

Name:Monte Proser's Beachcomber
Type:restaurant
Street:Broadway at 50th
City:New York
State:NY
Zip:
country:USA
Phone:
Status:defunct

Description:
I have collected several items over the years from the Monte Proser chain of Beachcomber bar/restaurants. From what I have read, the first Beachcomber bar was located in New York.

Here is an old handbill I have from New York with the classic sailor on the deserted island logo and Chavez on the stage.

The back of the handbill with media quotes and Monte on the island.

The whole Zombie theme to the Beachcomber started when Proser borrowed the Don the Beachcomber recipe to introduce the east coast to the Zombie at the 1939 World's Fair in New York. Mr. Bali Hai has a nice photo from the World's Fair, maybe he can post it.

This is a photo holder I have from the Miami Beach location. The sailor now has company on his island!

A matchbook from Proser with the classic Monte Proser image from Miami Beach.

Love the girls on the matchsticks!

A menu from Miami.

Here is another photo holder from the Maryland Beachcomber location with the Zombie Witch Doctor.

A matchbook from Maryland with the Zombie Witch Doctor

Finally, here is a photo holder I have from Ruby Foo's Beachcomber located in Providence that looks like one of the Monte Proser locations, don't know if there was a connection.

DC

[ Edited by: Dustycajun 2010-05-28 16:56 ]

Saw these cool Monte Proser Beachcomber Zombie glasses on ebay.

And, Sabu posted this Beachcomber glass and swizzle from a six piece Plunder set from vintage New York restaurants that also included the Hurricane.

DC

DC, you made a nice comprehensive threat, did not see it before!
Jeez, I sure wish that one day some publisher will go for my "Book of the Beachcomber" proposal, a joint venture of me and the Bum...I was close once, but then the recession hit.

Thanks Bigbro,

The Beachcomber book is still a great idea, there must have been hundreds and hundreds of beachcomber restaurants and bars back in the day. And the beachcomber lifestyle and the drinks, and Donn Beach, I can see it all now.

Here is the souvenir photo from Monte Proser's Zombie at the New York World's Fair from Mr. Bali Hai's awesome website.

DC

That Monte Prowser really had the East Coast in his pocket with his Beachcomber shtick for a while, "Home of the Zombie" claim and all...well actually, he didn't lie, the Beachcomber WAS the home of the Zombie -just not HIS Beachcomber. :) It's one thing to steal the name, but the drink claim on top of that!? The nerve! That must have really irked Donn. The Bum told me that Donn eventually won against Monte in court. But not before he sold A LOT of rum and limes.

Did not know about Donn suing Monte.

Found this tidbit on the web about Proser and the Zombie:

Beach had good reason to protect his secret formula. "Trader Vic" was just plain Victor Bergeron until he saw Donn's joint in Hollywood. He promptly remade his own Oakland restaurant -- a hunting lodge-themed place called Hinky Dink's -- into a South Seas idyll. Trader Vic served Zombies, and in 1940 Stetson offered a straw hat it named the Zombie, "with a bow to Trader Vic." But the most egregious usurper was a Broadway publicist, producer and nightclub impresario named Monte Proser, who promoted himself as "the father of the Zombie."

Proser is best remembered as the man behind New York's Copacabana nightspot, where he hired headliners such as Frank Sinatra and Martin & Lewis. But before opening the Copa, he got a taste for exotically themed boîtes with a 1940 World's Fair bar called Monte Proser's Zombie, and then a string of East Coast restaurants called "The Beachcomber." Naturally, he featured Zombies, and even hewed to the well-worn vow that no more than two would be sold to a customer. Even aside from his theft of the Beachcomber concept, there is no doubt that Proser was the greatest fraud in the history of the Tiki craze: He didn't even like rum -- he was a Scotch-and-water man.

Syndicated columnist Lucius Beebe seemed to think the New York Beachcomber was an extension of the original California club, which he described as "a gloomy grotto of strong waters specializing in rum toddies of paralyzing dimensions." In a 1940 article headlined "Rash of Tropical Saloons Spreads Across Nation," Beebe wrote that it would soon "be possible to cross the continent without ever emerging from a Zombie swoon."

He was not thrilled by the prospect, and predicted the Tiki fad would soon fizzle, He was only off by about 30 or 40 years, which was how long it took for the deluge of faux-Polynesia finally to dry up.

Good stuff!

DC

T

The Matchbook covers dep[icting the sailor on the island with women waiting on him hand and foot is classic male chauvinism of the era. It made me laugh out loud.

Good stuff !

I dug up this article on the Miami Beach Beachcomber from December, 1940. with a photo of the interior being constructed.

Interesting read. Again, they make it sound like Monte Proser invented the genre!



The interior sounds pretty cool with the affects on the ceiling.

I also found an article from the New Yorker that confirmed that Monte Proser opened the Beachcomber in Providence, RI.

Talk story about Monte Proser & his night clubs, including the Copacabana. He is now managerially involved in six night clubs; the Beachcombers, In N.Y., Providence, Boston & Miami; La Conga, in Hollywood; and the Copacabana. He also has an interest in a new place George White is about to open on Broadway. Proser had dozens of partners. He has been connected with fifty night clubs during the past six years, generally as press agent. Mr. P. has also been a publicity man in Hollywood. "I once wanted to have all the clubs in the world, but I kind'a cut down. As it is, I've got a thousand employees. When you achieve your ambitions they become commonplace," he said. "I got a lot of saloons So what?"

DC

Ha ha...: "two native Tahitians named JUAN and FRANK assembling SHARK nets"...."he caught Proser's enthusiasm and AT ONCE SAILED TO THE SOUTH SEAS"...! ...and "brought along three native boys from Pago Pago to help supervise with the decorations"...
Wait, I thought they were from Tahiti!? And Trader Vic's leg was bitten off by a shark, yeah! :lol:

What is also interesting is that Proser started franchising the concept on such a large scale before Donn, or even Sunny, ever did.
Proves again that Donn was not as much a business man but a people person and passionate host. Others took his concept and ran with it.

G

Really nice work compiling all of that DC. We can discuss the authenticity of the claims and the ethics of stealing others ideas all we want, but the description of the Miami Beachcomber sounds fantastic. All part of the history...

Well the art work looks fantastic, too! That feature matchbook is unbelievable! And the photos of the people having a ball: Shows that when an idea's time has come, and people WANT it, you better give it to them, or they're gonna git it wherever they can --coming from the originator or not.
That said, it still was a lousy thing to do to "our" Donn!

Thanks GatorRob. I agree, the Miami Beach place sounded really amazing for an early 40's joint.

Here are images from another menu from Miami Beach that was on ebay. This one is signed by Monte.

The menu shows the different images tied to the drinks. The girls from the matchbook are from the Virgin Delight drink.

The Missionary's Downfall is... well quite literal!

Some other interesting drink names on the list. Mexiconga? Rum. Gum and Lime?? Hot Rum Cow???

DC

The Rum, Gum and Lime is my current favorite at the Tiki Ti! It's that classic rum, sugar and lime mix that forms the base of tropical drink cuisine.

On 2010-05-28 19:21, bigbrotiki wrote:
The Rum, Gum and Lime is my current favorite at the Tiki Ti! It's that classic rum, sugar and lime mix that forms the base of tropical drink cuisine.

Well I should have done a little research on that one! Turns out to be a classic, will have to try it the next time I'm at Tiki Ti.

Here is another interesting twist on the Beachcomber chain. As I posted before, the Beachcomber in Providence, RI was called Ruby Foo's Beachcomber, which was located in the Crown Hotel. It was in fact one of Monte Proser's chain as seen on this matchbook.

He must have franchised the name to Ruby Foo who was a restaurateur based out of Boston.

This matchbook I found on the web looks like she started with the standard Beachcomber logo.

Then She decided to give the franchise an oriental twist as seen on this menu from Mimi Payne's website.

Here is the Ruby Foo story from a Boston historical website.

Born in San Francisco, Ruby Foo (1904-50) moved to Boston in 1923 where she began a single-room restaurant in Boston’s Chinatown. Its popularity quickly grew, and she opened Ruby Foo’s “Den” on Hudson Street in 1929—heralded as the first Chinese restaurant to successfully cater to non-Chinese clientele. Throughout World War II, the Den remained a legendary meeting place for theatrical and sports figures and other celebrities. She opened similar restaurants in New York, Miami, Washington and Providence, becoming a nationally-known restaurateur and mentor to dozens of aspiring chefs in her native Boston.

I have been to the Ruby Foo's in New York.

DC

I have been looking for info from the Boston Beachcomber location and found this photo on the web. It shows a group having drinks at a table.

Upon closer inspection, you can see a Zombie glass, a Beachcomber table lamp and a very cool looking goblet mug - another Crypto variety perhaps.

DC

[ Edited by: Dustycajun 2010-05-30 11:54 ]

I picked up a dinner and drink menu set from the Beachcomber in Miami Beach.

The a la carte drink menu.

Some of the drink descriptions.

The dinner menu cover.

Some fun little write-ups from the menu.


This one is really funny in the broken English.

DC

Here is a cool comparison of the matchbook from the Ruby Foo's Beachcomber in Boston and the original Monte Proser's Beachcomber in New York.

DC

[ Edited by: Dustycajun 2010-08-09 15:39 ]

Some folks entering the New York location on a rainy night:

This photo is a wonderful example of a quality that these pre-tiki South Seas bars have that I love - A juxtaposition of two contrasting styles that go really good together. You've got this building facade with all the charm of a driftwood shack on the islands... with some GREAT NEON signage thrown on top!


[ Edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy 2010-11-14 21:33 ]

H

From the 1944 Billboard rankings of nightclub promoters (Monte Proser came in at #4):

According to this, Monte Proser's Beachcomber had closed by 1944, and become Zanzibar.

Looks like this place in its NY location would have competed with the Hawaii kai? - or maybe it became the Hawaii Kai as the address and winter garden are same block same street side etc? The Hawaii Kai had a bigger entrance but looking at
the photo above the doors could have been close to each other. I'm uncertain of the years of each place maybe someone can help shed some light... ?

Sneakyjack - I researched the newspapers and found that the Hawaii Kai did take over the old space of the Zanzibar. However, didn't find any dates or timeline. In fact, this was a trivia question for New Yorkers back in the early 70s - "In what current club on Broadway have their been at least 8 previous clubs?" The answer was the Hawaii Kai.

The Hawaii Kai in its previous incarnations had been: the Zanzibar, Singapore, Lanai, Midnight Sun, Plantation, Beachcomber, Copper Door, Mardi Gras, Palais de Dance, and others.


[ Edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy 2010-11-16 16:24 ]

Sabu,

That is a great old photo, nice score.

Here is a another pic from the Beachcomber at Miami Beach from Life Magazine.


There is some more info on the Beachcomber connection to the Hawaii Kai in the Hawaii Kai thread. Monte Proser was actually involved in opening the Lanai Restaurant which went into the space before the Hawaii Kai.

http://www.tikicentral.com/viewtopic.php?mode=viewtopic&topic=33090&forum=2&start=30&hilite=hawaii kai

DC

I just got an early 1940 advertising mailer from the New York Beachcomber choked full of info.

Here is the cover art showing a suitcase with exotic luggage labels.

Inside fold out with the Island of Manhattan surrounded by other tropical locations.

The entrance with the exotically dressed doorman.

Also seen in Sabu's great photo

The honorable Ching, master of the kitchen.

The food

The new Rum drinks for 1940

The band

No cover, no minimums.

Old Monte Proser really knew how to sell it!

Lots of great info in this mailer.

DC

Wow! Congrats on that score! What a fantastic find, that paper piece has it all, a treasure trove of Pre-Tiki Poly pop imagery and concepts. :) :) :)
Man if I only could find a publisher to do my Beachcomber Book...

DC - Thanks for posting that great mailer. I had been hoping that the man in the fez on my photo was another cool example of the races mixing in New York in the 30s/40s the way they were at the Jazz clubs in Harlem. But alas, it seems he was only the doorman - another feature of exotic novelty for the club.

I thought he might have been a hold-over from the club's days as the Zanzibar, but from what I can find in the newspaper archives, the Zanzibar came after the Beachcomber and not before.

The Zanzibar had its own unique doorman - Four-foot-nine Peewee Marquette, who worked through several incarnations of the club, up to and including the Hawaii Kai.

Interesting. And he continued the turban/fez costume tradition:

"The last time I saw Pee Wee Marquette was probably in the 60's - after the original Birdland had closed. He was acting as the doorman for a Hawaiian Restaurant called "Hawaii Kai" on Broadway within a few blocks of Birdland. I believe that he was wearing some kind of uniform with a turban, which made him look taller. He was still strutting around and "barkering' in his high-pitched voice to try to get people to come inside.
I photographed him many times after I joined the staff of METRONOME in 1955. Since I got in free, I went at least once a week to shoot the various performers. I'm now sorry that I never tried to interview him, as I have so many musicians from that era, but having heard so many stories about him from other musicians, I'm sure that he would have wanted to charge me to listen to his stories!"

He is best known for having been the M.C. at Birdland:

Above in middle row, below on the right:

DC, that mailer has got every angle covered, and is absolutely a classic. It makes it sound like this is the greatest place on earth to enjoy an evening out. If someone where to get this in the mail it would be impossible for them to stay away. That picture of the Honorable Ching is over the top.

Found another souvenir photo holder from the Beachcomber in Miami Beach. This one has some fun graphics on the outside selling the photos.

The inside has a nod to the Zombie

Here is the photo, a great shot of the guests and the interior of the Beachcomber.

Close up of the table and the lamps, surprised one of these has never surfaced on TC.

Man that looks like a good time!

DC

SCORE! An inside-out, back to front, all around eye candy ticket to the past!

H

Beachcomber Miami.

I am not sure if there is another picture somewhere here. I tried to look for it and couldn't find it.

S

Maybe post-DtB legal action:

Monte opens a place in Penn called the Playhouse Inn

With all the same food and drink of thr Beachcomber... except there is no Zombie on the menu, at least by name...

Swank man, who invented the "Vie en Rose" cocktail? That also was the name of one of Monte's many clubs:

T

For another TC thread that delves into Monte Proser, see http://www.tikicentral.com/viewtopic.php?topic=41646&forum=1.

I ran across this web site that has images of memorabilia from the 1939 New York Worlds Fair:

http://cartoonsof1939.blogspot.com/2010/05/new-york-worlds-fair-1939.html

Among them was this souvenir of "Monte Proser's Zombie, The Meeting Place on the Midway"...

Another finding was this 1940s postcard image advertising the Copacabana:

This 1940s video collage has some wonderful vignettes of the Copacabana at the beginning and end, including images of Monte Proser and Jane Ball:

http://3a.17.1243.static.theplanet.com/video/copa-characters-1206578060

-Tom

A 2006 book, The Copacabana by Kristin Baggelaar, states how the Copacabana logo came about...

A 2010 book, Helluva Town: The Story of New York City During World War II by Richard Goldstein, gives some additional details...

-Tom

An ad from a St. Patty's day party at the Miami Beachcomber.

Zombie, Zombie, Zombie, Zombie, Zombie, Zombie, Zombie! I wonder what drink they were selling, maybe a green Zombie?

DC

Here is an old glass Beachcomber swizzle from Miami Beach that I grabbed images of.

DC

OGR

Some Post Monte Proser action from the Bay...

with the Zombie....love the Bali Hi/Bali Lo thing

Great thread DC!
OGR

OGR

I picked up an interesting matchcover for the Beachcomber in Miami. It is a slightly different version (not as cartoon like) for the Beachcomber and the 5 O'Clock Club owned both by Sam and Joe Barken...not Monte Proser. It has the same phone as Monte's did though.

In further web research a 1942 article states ...Barken (who then owns just The 5 O'Clock Club) and Ben Gaines, Sam Gaines, and Lou Walters (who together own The Beachcomber, Vanderbilt Hotel, Latin Quarter, and the Casanova) are all buying Government Defense Bonds and are encouraging other business owners to do the same.

In a 1944 article the Barken's now own the Beachcomber and are "going to New York to book Sophie Tucker, Danny Thomas, Joe E Lewis, and Bette Baker for the upcoming season."

In a 1959 article, the Barken's had the Beachcomber sold, but the buyer dropped off the face of the earth and they were now trying to rent it.

I believe this was the time period for it's Swan Song. A few pics from it's glory days gleaned from "Florida Memory" web site.

OGR

Good to see a full frame exterior of this location, what a great streamline moderne building!

Tiki Tom D,

Nice find on that paper from the Worlds Fair, have not seen that before.

OGR,

Great photos, really nice to see the exterior of these old places.

Here is another souvenir photo holder from The Beachcomber.

DC

W

I don't understand the Frida Kahlo connection with your last picture DC. Care to elaborate?

Chris
WestADad

Wha...? Does the table cloth match?

W

On 2012-07-19 13:37, bigbrotiki wrote:
Wha...? Does the table cloth match?

The moment I saw the picture, I said, "That's Frida Kahlo". Does it not to you Sven?

Chris
WestADad

That is the actual picture from the photo holder! I thought the same thing about the table cloth.

It could be Frida!

Frida Kahlo was Tiki!

DC

F'course it's her!...

...and the tablecloths match. Note the three seated natives.

Her photo is kinda grainy though....who got the folder?

W

Sorry to derail this thread. Was shocked to see that picture.

Chris
WestADad

Not a derail at all, one has to be able to get into single aspects of a thread

I got a few new menus from the Boston location. Not much paper out there from this one.

The service policy.

Drink menu.

This location was operated by Tommy Maren. I am assuming Monty Proser franchised these locations.

DC

Pages: 1 2 61 replies