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Tiki History - The Tahitian Village in Downey, CA

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Don't feel bad for me that I wasn't able to join you all at the Hukilau in Ft. Lauderdale last weekend. I had hours of fun looking through my postcard collection instead (Yes I'm bitter). And I couldn't wait to show you another splendid image of tiki-architecture from days gone by (god, I wish I could see the Mai-Kai).

This week, puamana and I are posting items from the Tahitian Village restaurant in Downey, California (I bet Florida was nice). Unfortunately, this tiki-temple was just torn down in the summer of 2000. I missed seeing it in person, but I bet some of the rest of you have stories about this place. Here is a vintage postcard showing the interior: (I really wanted to order a Mystery Bowl).

The back of the postcard reads:]
Exotic Dancing In The Beautiful TAHITIAN VILLAGE Restaurant. Cocktails and Exotic Beverages of the islands, Banquet and Convention Facilities to accommodate four to four hundred persons. We cater to special parties and wedding receptions. 13535 Lakewood Blvd. at Rosecrans, Downey, Calif.

When I showed this postcard to Bob and LeRoy at Oceanic arts, they confirmed that they had done the decor for the Tahitian Village.

Here are links to another website that shows pictures of the exterior of the Tahitian Village, (including its destruction). It had a beautiful, soaring a-frame structure.

Really sad I missed this place (and Hukilau 2003, though I'd never complain). Can't wait to see puamana's menu.


[ Edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy on 2003-07-03 12:24 ]


Here's 2 menus from the Tahitian Village Restaurant & Motor Hotel. The first one is a souvenir dinner menu:

This was a mailable souvenir menu postmarked 1964, with a space on the address side for messages. The sender wrote, "They have a show every night with Tahitian dancers and fire batons. One of the men dancers does the limbo with a stick across two coke bottles."

The back of the menu advertises their hotel amenities, including luau grounds, nightly entertainment, and 30 minutes to Disneyland.

Next is a small souvenir menu :

There's a list of tropical drink offerings inside, with a few familiar looking tiki mugs:

The Tiki Bowl for two, Tabu Wahine, Tahitian Hurricane, Fog Cutter, Head Shrinker, Sufferin' Bastard, and Dietiki were all served in tiki mugs you could keep. The Fog Cutter & Dietiki mugs look like the same ones in the gift shop photo of Sabu's postcard of Sam's Seafood. Here's a closer comparison:


Nice job on that mug-comparison photo! Thanks for taking the time to put that together. I was wondering what that strange tree-trunk shaped mug in the Sam's Seafood giftshop might have been used for. Now I know. Has anyone out there got one of these mugs in your collection? Does anyone have any mug from the Tahitian Village?


There was a gas station (and still is, but it's seen better days) near my house growing up that had the exact same kind of roof. It's gorgeous.

Isn't it interesting how, when you're growing up, you just think that's how things are -- googie signs, swooping roofs, restaurants decorated like Polynesia, etc.? And then there comes a moment when you realize, no, things change. Personally, I can't understand why people wouldn't prefer to live in a world that looked like that. But then I also don't understand why Jennifer Lopez is famous, so what do I know...

thejab posted on Thu, Jul 3, 2003 2:36 PM

On 2003-07-03 12:54, Sabu The Coconut Boy wrote:

Nice job on that mug-comparison photo! Thanks for taking the time to put that together. I was wondering what that strange tree-trunk shaped mug in the Sam's Seafood giftshop might have been used for. Now I know. Has anyone out there got one of these mugs in your collection? Does anyone have any mug from the Tahitian Village?


I don't have the mug but it's interesting how they served a Fog Cutter in a tree mug because Redwoods thrive in foggy areas!

You can't fool me, Jabbo.

What really happened, is that the deaf mug designer heard he was supposed to create a new mug to go along with their "Log Cutter" drink.


Nice work Sabu, puamana... I've asked my parents about this one a bunch... I was born in 1970 in Long Beach at the Naval Hospital and for the first 2 years of my life lived in an apartment in Downey on Lakewood Blvd... after my Dad's service in the Navy he and my mom had frequented this spot... then they had to go and move us to Wisconsin!

Here is a n exterior shot from a 1971 archetechture book......apparantly they did not approve too much of the style.....

Are You A Turtle Tuesdays (?) and The Ink Spots!

I think I saw this place before they bulldozed it? That sign is cool and inspired some of the bar signs I do. Coolio!


Do you have a name and author for that book? I'd like to hunt down a copy for myself. Thanks for posting those photos.



Are You A Turtle Tuesdays (?)

"you bet your sweet ass I am!!! "
for more info

Thanks mrsmiley for that link.....very funny. Here you are sabu (would love to see your postcard collection).......

Los Angeles
The Archetecture Of Four Ecologies
by Reyner Banham

Lots of mid-century homes and cool L.A. and OC (Disneyland) photos. That text came out pretty small but the author (from London) was calling the Polynesian restaurants "stylistic pretensions that must owe more to Saarinen's Hockey Rink than anything in the South Seas".

Thanks for the info, Bongofury!

I'll bring my postcard collection to the next event we both attend. Shouldn't be too hard as we live fairly close. Also/Or please let me know next time you're in town and we can try to meet somewhere. Unfortunately, Tikibelle and I are going to be in the Amazon jungles of Peru on June 20th, and so will not be around for the opening of the Rincon Room party. Very sorry to miss it.

Mr Smiley - thanks for bringing up the Turtle thread again.


[ Edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy on 2004-05-27 10:38 ]

On 2004-05-26 22:32, bongofury wrote:
...and OC (Disneyland) photos.

Uh..... can you tell me what the Disneyland pix are of? If this is a 60s era book, there might be some good stuff...Or better yet... post 'em!



On 2004-05-27 10:32, Sabu The Coconut Boy wrote:
Thanks for the info, Bongofury!

Mr Smiley - thanks for bringing up the Turtle thread again.


---you bet your sweet a** you're welcome!! :)

[ Edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy on 2004-05-27 10:38 ]

Sabu......go to http://www.bookfinder.com several copies there. Your trip sounds pretty exotic. We spent 3 weeks in Brazil in 98. Beautiful country. Would like to see more of South America.

Here you are Tangaroa.....

Thanks for the scan! A common shot - but oh well....

Aloha everyone,

I recently came across some Tahitian Village demolition photos and thought I’d post them here so all could see the final stages of a mid-century Tiki temple. These where shot during an Urban Archeology mission there to see if anything could be salvaged from the wrecking ball. We’d been keeping an eye on the place and had contacted the owners with no luck, when word came it was finally being torn down I immediately drove down to see what if anything could be rescued.

The first photo shows a shot from the center of the courtyard looking out towards Lakewood Blvd, the building on the left is the back of the old shops and off in the distance the old sign. The second photo is the pool area (foreground) as you can see it’s now filled with dirt to prevent skaters and lower maintenance, looks like some of the palm trees had been thru a fire or two over the years when the place a was crack hotel hang out.

Although material from some of the buildings was being salvaged and sent down south, they had started knocking down sections of it with the heavy equipment, so areas were under two stories of rubble. A homeless guy (who was living there) became my native guide, he led me through the piles to where “giant” Tikis were, but alas they were hopelessly buried under tons of garbage. He had no clue; the guy was lining his nest with huge file cabinets and a lot of useless office junk, ironically just a few feet away from his home I found four vintage Herman Miller chairs?
Just about all that was left of its Polynesian Pop glory days was the Tiki lined bridge leading to a long gone restaurant, I liberated its doomed idols with my chainsaw.
A few weeks later all that was left were the original palm trees, thankfully they aren’t ripped out of the ground but get a second chance at life in front of some mall store where no one will ever appreciate their pedigree.

My very best Alohas,


Ah, the curse of TIKI. Nothing lasts forever in our tropical dream. Cool that you got something out of there though, Bosko.


Man - that's just tragic...

I was looking through all the stuff under my bar this evening and found this ashtray which was one of my first tiki finds.

Ah, Tweakin' Village.

I remember that place well. Back in the 70's it was a popular hangout among the singles and swinger crowds in the area. More or less a shitty dive bar that served Polynesian drinks that was populated by people coming home from discos or hooking up with their mistresses, paramours etc. The hotel itself was full of character and Don Ho-style chintzy tiki torches and the like.

The place was definitely full of character. Had it been situated near Disneyland, it owuld have been a prime tourist attraction for the Tiki set, but out near Downey, Lakewood and Norwalk? Shit, they were just asking for trouble there with all the aerospace workers.

By the midd-80's the place had gone even further downill. No longer just a respite for one night stands for suburbanites, it became more and more a den for drug dealing and using. Increasingly it became a haven for crack dealers and speed freaks who needed a place to load up and disappear for a while.

During the early 90's it was at its worst. Dealers wandered around the courtyard openly using and selling. Low end hookers were everywhere.

One night some of us decided to drop acid and rent a room there to check out the weirdness up close.

The pool was green, people were lighting fires in the trashcans and low end pimps were everywhere. Even the low grade hallucinations could not take away the fact that you were hanging out in the epicenter of the southeast Los Angeles crack community.

[ Edited by: fullflava 2007-04-18 01:13 ]

Sounds like the history of Tiki Devolution in a nut shell. :)

Here's a matchbook from the Tahitian Village. I like how the street map for the location is made to look like Bamboo.

That bamboo kinda reminds me of the graphic use of bamboo in the opening pages of "Kon Tiki".

It is too bad that no color photo of that amazing sign has surfaced so far, I would love to see it lit up!

I am using the Tahitian Village complex as an an example for the devolution of Tiki in TIKI MODERN:

The restaurant at the end became "La Zona Rosa", a hispanic disco.


Hey Sven didn't I show you this postcard when you came by?
It's not the greatest but a night shot none the less.


No, that's great! The Tiki is clearly visible, the torches going!
Only thing better would be a shot at dusk, when it just came on, but the sky would still have some rendition, and that would also show the impressive scale of this sucker, like the B&W one does. Didn't the sign companies ever record their work? They're all gone now, of course...

I grew up just a few blocks from this place, and was always entranced by the Tiki's glowing eyes. I've been hooked ever since! I've got a quick drive-by I shot on video around here somewhere...
Anyway, here's a close-up scan of a matchbook I have from there

My Mom & Dad always used to go dancing there on Friday nights back in the 60's, and they never took me! Waaaah!

I found a postcard from the Tahitian Village Motel showing the interior courtyard and pool area. You've got to love the young ladies at the pool. Nothing like high heels and bikinis!

Check out the Tiki lurking in the back

I would sure want to stay there if I was a Business Man of the era.

It's a shame to see another on bite the dust.

Mahalo again, DC. This is a good example of a postcard that is cool, but didn't make it into my books because of a lack of concentrated Tiki visuals. Yet it also demonstrates how Tiki Central can show more and carve out the qualities of more hidden material: The ability to zoom into details, and showing the back captions of the postcard ads the necessary dimension to the photo. The limited space in books often does not allow for such things, because one trades in a chance for another, stronger visual.

Here is another thread that I could ad in situ photos to if I would have the time...eventually I will.

I recently tried to win this really cool menu mailer on ebay.


Time for a little brochure archeology (courtesy of nichols). Now, we all know the tall Tahitian Village sign from the "Book of Tiki", and the great Tahitian Village Armet and Davis rendering from "Tiki Modern":

An impressive development, with Motel, restaurant, bar and coffee shop:

Zooming in shows a great swooping Googie roof:

...which did not quite turn out that way. Here is the shot from Tiki Modern of the restaurant's A-frame in the 90s, by then a Mexican night club:

...and here the original entrance on the cover of the brochure:

It featured the typical bridge with Tiki posts and anchor chain railing, a waterfall on the right...

...and, if you can look past the babes, check out the weird Tiki-painted door:

That was not there anymore when I photographed it in the early 90s, but the Tiki posts were:

Now for some more pure Polynesian pop poetry from the brochure:

And next, lets blow up every photo of the brochure, even if the different rooms were not quite as elaborate in Tipsy factor as one might have fantasized:

The Bamboo Room

The Aloha Room

The Underseas Bar

The Coffeshop was even more basic:

We can make out the logo on the place mats. Tiki place mats must be the rarest paper ephemera out there, but we have a napkin:

And now let's go outside to the Motel courtyard:

When I stumbled on this lost paradise, the waterfalls had dried up,

...and the lush foliage had been reduced to a few hardy survivors:

Only one Tiki had survived, and he was horribly defaced by rot:

I am pretty sure it was the very Milan Guanko Tiki pictured on this menu cover:

May he rest in peace, and with him the Tahitian Village.

One more thing: Most Polynesian Hotel/Motels had very sparsely themed rooms, here is the one from the Tahitian Village brochure, more modern Asian in decor (I do like that drinks are already waiting!):

Obviously, the Motel interior decorator industry had nothing to do with the restaurant designer business, and favored less costly modernism to all-out Tiki decor. The Ocean House down in San Diego had a bit more Polynesian feel to their rooms, I dig their A-frame beds:


On 2009-01-05 16:25, bigbrotiki wrote:
One more thing: Most Polynesian Hotel/Motels had very sparsely themed rooms, here is the one from the Tahitian Village brochure, more modern Asian in decor (I do like that drinks are already waiting!):

Obviously, the Motel interior decorator industry had nothing to do with the restaurant designer business, and favored less costly modernism to all-out Tiki decor. The Ocean House down in San Diego had a bit more Polynesian feel to their rooms, I dig their A-frame beds:

Isn't that what you'd call "Tiki Modern" ?

I've always said this, but I love the fusion of Tiki Aesthetic and Modernism/Asian Minimalism.

"If it says Tiki on it, it should have Tiki in it." Without primitive art, these interiors are somewhat generic, I would call them Tropical Modern or Exotic Modern. I like that, too, but it's not Tiki Modern.


The Lamp in the second interior (with the bamboo A Frame headboards)...is that a TIKI lamp ?

Nope. There were some Hawaiian hotels that had Tiki-shaped bases, notably The Waikikian, never seen them used in American hotels.


Those old brochures a so great for their wealth of material. I finally scored one of the postcards of the interior restaurant dance floor area that Sabu had started this post with (now a Red X).

Also found some more Tahitian Village ads on the internet.

This is a cool matchbook photo with each match stick advertising something from the hotel. An on-site drug and liquor store, no wonder it was so popular!


[ Edited by: Dustycajun 2009-06-13 10:27 ]

A nother coool ashtray from one of my favorite Tiki places in the So Cal hot bed of Tiki.

Missed it buy that much.


Picked up an oversized postcard from the Tahitian Village that has some shots from the brochure and a nice view of the tiki in the pool area.


Dig that A-frame sectional lay-out, a smart idea that more Tiki temples could have used.

Ad from a local Long Beach paper:

Nice collage, using that Milan Guanko Tiki three times!
What year is that newspaper?: Calcutta Room? Attitude Adjustment hour? Sounds kinda late 70s to me.

This is a great old thread!

I picked up another matchbook advertising the "New Tahitian Village".


An illustrated drink menu from the Tahitian Village.


Ah, the classic Dr. Funk keeps appearing to me over the past week or so. I gotta give that a try soon...

I will confess to noticing spelling on restaurant menus. It's amusing that they spelled "Kahlua" correctly and blew "Chartreuse" and "Marnier."

A very nice menu!


some photos of tahitian village 1960 i lived next door at the wai kakian apts with my new wife i just graduated from high school in detroit got married and set out to sunny ca. setteled in downey by my friends from my old neighborhood,never saw a tiki befor or knew what they were,the village was the most magical place i ever saw and went there every chance i got, i got a job on the assembly line at bop plant, short for buick, olds, pontiac.,idrove back to live in detroit via route 66 in a 54 merc. pulling a small trailer with our belongings in tow. including a tiki from the village, im sure its an origal oceanic piece. i did buy it though ther is a story behind it


Thanks for posting those photos and your story. Any chance you could scan the last two for a better look? Would like to here more about you Tiki. Do you still have it?


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