Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Rain in San Francisco

Now don't get me wrong.  Just because I love old stuff, doesn't mean I resist change.  In fact, I love change!  A fresh coat of paint, turning over a new leaf, clean socks. When real improvements are made anywhere, I shout hooray!

But bad change - the pointless kind, where something good (or at least something with potential) loses out to something that is decidedly not better... well, that's not so good. 

You may have heard the news that the Tonga Room Restaurant at the historic Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco may soon be lost forever as the hotel is converted into - I can hardly bring myself to say it - condominiums!

I could see clouds gathering on the horizon a few years ago when the Tonga's Hurricane Bar introduced the plasma screen assault of basketball; the true sign of desperation for any themed bar.

The Tonga Room dates back to 1945 when Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's art director Mel Melvin transformed the Fairmont's indoor swimming pool into a magical nautical bar, complete with a thunder and lightning rainstorm that occurs every 20 minutes.  If you haven't seen it, there's just nothing like it.  Peering down at the rocks, sand and giant clam shells on the dark watery bottom of the lagoon's deep end while a mist of cool chlorinated rain falls from the ceiling above still makes the back of my head tingle.

I urge you to plan a visit to the Fairmont tout suite, request a water-side table, order a drink, and soak up the atmosphere while you may.  I'll be there for happy hour tonight! 

13 comments:

Susie said...

Oh no. The Tonga Room was one of my favorite haunts when I lived in SF.
Thanks for the heads-up. We'll have to stop by during our next SF trip in a few weeks.

Jennifer said...

We vintagers and vintagettes simply can't let this travesty happen! I blogged about it too, here: http://jbtaylor.typepad.com

P.S. I adore your work, and your blog!

Tiki Kisses,
~ J.B.T.

Kelly Light said...

I LOVE the Tonga room! Coolest place I have ever been! (kelbo's pretty good too)

junkhauler said...

its such sad news, so hard to believe, and at the same time not, the modern winds of change seem to do more devastation than reseeding. I hope we can make it up there one more time before it closes.

giddy girlie said...

I heard recently that the funding for the condo development fell through or was on indefinite hold? I'll have to track down the news source. In any case, it's still there now. Order an extra tiny umbrella in your drink for me! :)

DIsney On Parole said...

My High School prom was at the Fairmont! I 'm headed home to see my parents soon, I guess a trip to the city is in store!!! Thanks Kev

The Blue Parrot said...

I spent a very memorable summer (1976) as an intern across from the Tonga Room at KSFO in the basement of the Fairmont. Great place and fun times...

Chris Jepsen said...

In theory, change can be good. But these days it's seldom good in practice.

Quality products are replaced by Chinese crap. Retirement funds are replaced with nothing. Dumb and crooked congress members are replaced with even dumber and crookeder ones. (Yes, I know "crookeder" isn't a word.) And of course, snazzy tiki bars are replaced with condos.

Beavis and Butthead were right: "The more things change, the more they suck."

Wurlitzer Heart said...

Unfortunately, everything in this town is getting knocked down to make way for condominiums. Soon no one will be able to afford to live here and then we'll all miss places like this...

Rob Fendler said...

Wow, I hadn't heard of this. I remember my dad taking us when I was young to eat at the Squire Room. I don't think I've had a meal like it since. They even gave you matchbooks with your last name printed on them.

Debbee Thibault said...

Kevin,

You are the best! I truly enjoy your interesting topics. All of the vintage art you share with us is absolutely wonderful. It takes such passion and time to make your magic come to life. Keep it coming!!!

Big Fat Xs and Os,
Debbee Thibault

Skipper Jane said...

This makes me so sad. When I found out about the Tonga Room, I immediately made my friends go with me for happy hour.

Sadly, the Tonga Room seems like the kind of place that only needs decent food, reasonable happy hour prices, and some decent publicity to be filled with people who enjoy retro kitsch (like me!).

Sigh. At least Disney's done right by the Tiki Room in the last 5 years.

wavingpalms said...

...as for the recipes, what in the world is 'pinky?' And what's it DO in the Honolulu cocktail?