Both LA Observed and LAist are reporting that the current owners of the Beverly Hilton hotel are making plans to remodel and expand the property to incorporate three high-priced high-rise condo towers. One victim of the project: the Beverly Hills outpost of that fons et origo of Tiki culture, Trader Vic's. LA Observed's Kevin Roderick writes:
The existing hotel, recently remodeled, would remain. The Beverly Hilton's 1950s modern styling, with lanais on the rooms overlooking the pool, has its fans. The hotel was for a time the L.A. flagship of the Hilton chain and served as the Western White House for President John Kennedy. But Trader Vic's— that place would be missed by lots of people.
The Beverly Hills restaurant is not the original: that would be up north in Oakland, as the official history would have it:
In 1932, with a nest egg of $700 and carpentry help from his wife's brothers - plus his mother's pot-bellied stove and oven - the ebullient Victor [Bergeron] built a cozy pub across the street from the store and called it Hinky Dink's. His pungent vocabulary and ribald air made him a popular host, as did his potent tropical cocktail concoctions and delicious Americanized adaptations of Polynesian food.
Soon one of the most popular watering holes in Northern California's Bay Area, the place attracted sophisticated urbanites like writers Herb Caen and Lucius Beebe. By 1936, when Caen wittily wrote that the 'best restaurant in San Francisco is in Oakland,' Vic had become 'The Trader' and Hinky Dink's had become 'Trader Vic's,' complete with a showpiece Chinese oven. Its South Pacific theme 'intrigues everyone. You think of beaches and moonlight and pretty girls. It is complete escape,' Vic said at the time. Among Trader Vic's more tantalizing legacies is the original Mai Tai, the bracingly refreshing rum cocktail he created at the restaurant in 1944 and introduced to the Hawaiian islands in the 1950s. Tahitian for 'the very best,' Mai Tai became the slogan for his entire operation.
I have been unable to find any online confirmation of my favorite Trader Vic's detail: in the mid-1970's founder Vic Bergeron was caught up in the "Pyramid Power" craze then sweeping the nation. Convinced of their efficacy in improving the aging of wines, he had pyramids installed in the wine cellars of many of the restaurants. It is uncertain whether a belief in such stuff can be traced to one (or more) too many of those famous Mai-Tais.
And yes, I realize that the werewolves, and their bespoke tailors, are most likely still hanging out at this branch.