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Don the Beachcomber Biography

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If you didn't know, I am working on a biography of Donn Beach.

Website is here: Searching for Don the Beachcomber

I'm pretty far along with the manuscript. Tiki Tom D (Tom Duncan) was a great help as researcher.

Timelines are very hard to pin down due to the publisher's timeline, but I think it will be out next year.

I am looking for a bit of help now from the community. I have created a spreadsheet of the drink menus I have with the drinks on the menu and their prices. Those with dates are important. Otherwise I key off prices to get as close to chronological order as possible. I'm trying to figure out when each drink appeared on the menu.

So if you have a menu with a date, PLEASE share. That is, a hand written date, indicating when the person visited. Earlier menus are better. At some point it doesn't change much. Please message me/email me if you have something to share. I need images of the drink list with prices, and the menu itself to define it and try to get an order.

This project requires a village. I need quantity.

Sorry I can't help, Swanky, but just wanted to say Thanks for your efforts & I can't wait to read the book when it's complete.

There are some menu pix in this thread, but I'm sure you've seen them since you posted in it.


[ Edited by bamalamalu on 2022-07-31 15:04:19 ]


If you can find evidence of Don's recipe for the Navy Grog, I'd be very interested. The one in the Beachbum's books is apparently one he derived from watching a bartender at an old Chinese restaurant. At least, he has never provided an actual Don the Beachcomber source. So I've often wondered if it's missing an ingredient, specifically vanilla syrup/allspice dram.

I do have 2 recipes in the archive for the Navy Grog.

The first appearance on a menu that I have is about 1948, about the time of the Waikiki opening, as it first appears on the Waikiki DtB menu.


Here is a sample of stuff from the archives for TC only: GLW-H-photo What we'd call a Collins glass or Chimney from Bob Van Dorpe's archive. Image and nomenclature number for ordering. "H"

GLW-H-rear There would be a drink card image for the Zombie in the corner, along with this list of drinks and the nomenclature number for the glass they were served in. "H"

IMG_4987 This is one of the order sheets for one of the companies, showing a glass, which is #14 "Ringed Tumbler Dry Float." They named the glassware for the drinks often as you see. DtB had their own line practically!

GLW-N-photo And here is the card for a glass from Bob Van Dorpe's archive. "N"

Zombie---fixed And they would also be married to the drink recipe card...


[ Edited by Swanky on 2023-01-12 13:36:37 ]


I have "Scrounging the Islands with Legendary Don the Beachcomber" by Arnold Bitner. (1997) No doubt you too have read it. I have to say that Don never let the facts get in the way of a good story and although he was undoubtedly a great raconteur, so many of his stories and claims need to be taken with a HUGE pinch of salt. Now you either just go along with the fantasy or call it out. Of course it's far more romantic to "believe". Which road are you choosing?

I choose the middle road...

Often the tall tales have either a basis in truth, or some hints at the reality. I think he didn't generally invent things completely or usurp other stories not his own, but tweaked things to fit the purpose.

There is a very important story of the invention of the Zombie that is illustrative. I won't share it here, but it will likely be in the documentary, and of course in the book. In it you see how what was told to the press and repeated has a relationship to the true story, but is more palatable than the truth.


This is great, great stuff, Swanky. Looking forward to the Bio.

A wise move. Unlike John Ford, who is quoted as saying that when you had to choose between history and legend, print the legend. I am very much against legends supplanting actual history. We are seeing far too much of that nowadays in the modern media.

When the film of Donn's life comes out, we'll get the legend and then some!

Pity Errol Flynn isn't around to play the part!

Who do you see playing Donn?

I was thinking Collin Hanks with Tom Hanks playing the older Donn.

Not really sure. I have little faith in modern "actors" who seem chosen more for their looks than any dramatic abilities. They do however manage to play themselves....perfectly,....and everytime.

Perhaps it's just me but I think there was a great deal of Clark Gable in the older Don? smaller

Pages: 1 12 replies