Tiki culture

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Tiki culture refers to a 20th-century theme used in Polynesian-style restaurants and clubs originally in the United States and then, to a lesser degree, around the world. Although inspired in part by Tiki carvings and mythology, the connection is loose and stylistic.


Tiki culture in the United States

Tiki culture in the United States began in 1934 with the opening of Don the Beachcomber, a Polynesian-themed bar and restaurant in Hollywood.[1] The proprietor was Ernest Raymond Beaumont-Gantt, a young man from Louisiana who had sailed throughout the South Pacific; later he legally changed his name to Donn Beach. His restaurant featured Cantonese cuisine and exotic rum punches, with a decor of flaming torches, rattan furniture, flower leis, and brightly colored fabrics. Three years later, Victor Bergeron, better known as Trader Vic, adopted a Tiki theme for his restaurant in Oakland, which eventually grew to become a worldwide chain.[2]. The theme took on a life during the restaurant's growth in the Bay Area. The Trader Vic in Palo Alto not only spawned architectural choices, such as the architectural concept behind the odd looking Tiki Inn Motel [3], which still exists as the Stanford Terrace Inn [4]. There also currently exists a modern sculpture garden from Papua New Guinea [5] that was made to celebrate the modern form of art that was a large part of the original inspiration for tiki culture.[6]

Cuisine and cocktails

Tiki culture of mid-century America was primarily born in the restaurant industry. Don the Beachcomber's in Hollywood, California, is largely credited as being the first tiki restaurant from which all other eateries and bars "borrowed." Donn Beach, the founder of Don The Beachcomber, is also credited as having created the tropical drink genre singlehandedly. Donn was the first restaurateur to mix flavored syrups and fresh fruit juices with rum. These drinks were called Rhum Rhapsodies and made Don the Beachcomber's restaurant the hot spot for Hollywood elite and stars from the 1940s well into the 1960s. By the mid to late 1950s, many restaurateurs had begun to copy, and in some cases, steal Donn's theme, food and cocktails. Many eventually created their own cocktails and signature food dishes based on Asian themes. Donn Beach is credited for having created some of the most memorable exotic cocktails such as the Scorpion and the Zombie. Howard Hughes was a regular at the Hollywood Don the Beachcomber. A story persists that Hughes struck and killed a pedestrian one night while driving home from Don the Beachcombers, after consuming too many Zombies.

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