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Tiki and skull hawaiian shirt During a time when overseas civilian air travel was still uncommon, the Hawaiian Steamship Company’s Matson Line also continued its aggressive advertising campaigns promoting a both leisurely but still exotic island lifestyle, led by famous photographers such as Edward Steichen and Anton Bruehl and featuring actresses such as Jinx Falkenburg (later in Sweetheart of the Fleet and Tahiti Nights). Matson commissioned artists to design memorable keepsake menus for the voyages.
Between the Matson Line’s advertising, new restaurants and continual cinematic exposure, the theme began to take on a life of its own. California’s World’s Fair in 1939 – the Golden Gate International Exposition – celebrated for the first time Polynesian culture in the United States. The feature of the fair was “Pageant of the Pacific”, primarily showcasing the goods of nations bordering the Pacific Ocean. At its opening ceremonies President Franklin Roosevelt spoke of friendship and the co-mingled destinies between the United States and Pacific countries, a sentiment physically symbolized in part with the incorporation of a giant, 80-foot statue of Pacifica, goddess of the Pacific Ocean. World War II would greatly test those ambitions.
Tiki and skull hawaiian shirt In 1936, a restaurant owner from Oakland, California, Victor Bergeron, ate at the Don the Beachcomber restaurant. Bergeron said: “We went to a place called the South Seas…and even visited Don the Beachcomber in Hollywood. In fact, I even bought some stuff from Don the Beachcomber. When I got back to Oakland I told my wife what I had seen, we agreed to change the name of our restaurant and our décor.” The renamed restaurant, as well as his new nickname, became Trader Vic’s. Bergeron adopted the new persona in a manner to imitate Beach’s theatrics and further perpetuate the illusions of Hollywood, telling people that the wooden leg he had lost to tuberculosis had been the result of being attacked by a shark.
Early tiki restaurants, although not called that at the time, attempted to walk a fine line between the reality and myth of what they were creating, acknowledging that much of it was Hollywood hocus-pocus but also trying to create an atmosphere of authenticity. Crane’s later restaurant menus stated: “You have just passed the gangplank into another world – into a segment of Paradise – or such is the illusion we of THE LUAU hope to create. And truly it is more than an illusion for there is authenticity in the adventure you are about to experience… Both food and drink are prepared under the matchless guidance of the one and only Dr. Foo Fong… Our drink specialties, Island Symphonies of rare and distinguished rums, irresistibly claim your fullest respect which is best shown by drinking slowly and reverently”.
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