the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

More Finds in the Closet


Here is a photo of my parents on a date at the Luau 400, a famous New York Tiki-bar that is long closed.


The Luau 400 (Polynesian), at 400 E. 57th St., is another example of what we think the South Seas should be like. To enhance the atmosphere, owner Harry Bloomfield has employed all his theatrical skill to present tropical trees, waterfalls, and exotic birds as a background for the sloe-eyed waitresses, ukulele players, etc. A favorite with show people, especially for private parties, and one of the last ports of call for upper East Side theatregoers on the way home.


brochure photos from Critiki

My mother didn’t really remember much about the evening. Hopefully, it wasn’t as bad as my first date with Sophia.

When I searched for Luau 400, I discovered that there are Tiki bar collectors out there. A Luau 400 “mug” can fetch as much as $170! Unfortunately, my mother didn’t have any tiki mugs in the house.

But all is not lost! Look what I found in the back of my closet!


I apologize to my mother for saying that she gave all my baseball cards away. I apologize to my cousin for saying that he became a millionaire selling my baseball cards on E-bay. I am RICH. Hank Aaron! Pete Rose! Roberto Clemente! Ha Ha, you suckers have to go back to work after the holidays. I’m ready to rule the world with my millions! (well, actually the most valuable card, the Roberto Clemente (with added crayon-colored uniform), is only worth $45 dollars mint-condition, so I will only rule the world for a few days until I am poor again).


  1. V-Grrrl

    I’ve been avoiding saying this while you’re away from your therapist but I can’t hold it in any longer–your wife and your mother bear a remarkable resemblance.

    Sorry. I hope I didn’t just ruin your sex life for the rest of your life…

    My husband is a Boy Scout leader and every time I see him in a Scout uniform, it sets back my libido for days….

  2. cruisin-mom

    ummm, I didn’t want to be the one to say it…so thanks, v-grrrl. But I have to agree. So, as I inquired in the last post…what does your penis think of that?

  3. Tuck

    So, I get it. Luau 400 was the inspiration for King Yum’s Tiki bar…for all those upper eastsider theater goers who migrated out to Queens. Also, can’t recall the last time I met a Polynesian New Yorker. Hmmm.

  4. Geeky Tai-Tai

    I was thinking the same thing V-GRRRL and Cruisin-Mom were when I saw that photo!

  5. 180/360

    I have a really similar photo of my mom with her best friend and aunt at “the world famous Cocoanut Grove” at the former Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. I love old photos and the (hi)story behind them.

  6. LVGurl

    I’m staring at a box full of cards, just like that.

  7. Not Fainthearted

    1) Twins card: Yay!
    2) But Neil looks TOTALLY like his father…in fact are you sure that’s NOT you with different glasses???

    3) I really hope that everyone 40 years ago went to Tiki restaurants with the sense of kitschy irony that we do today. We do. Right?

  8. Neil

    Not Fainthearted — In fact, tonight I’m going to a Tiki-pseudo Polynesian restaurant in Queens called King Yum. I’ve always loved Trader Vics and the kitsch of the Tiki bar.

    (I also found a Pete Rose in the collection!)

  9. Sid Masuno

    Thank you for posting this story. I found this when researching Luau 400. My mother was a server at this restaurant in the 50s while she attended fashion school in NYC. She mentioned to me that she met a lot of people in show biz. She was born and raised in HI and could hula. I imagine she was a shoe in for the job. I also have a few pictures of her and other servers in their uniforms.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial