As these 2 archive articles from October 2008 illustrate, the headline writers at the LA Times at the time figured it was all about carrying a torch. Both articles are worth reading; I was simply surprised that they pretty much recycled the headline on articles published 2 days apart. Maybe it was a theme week since this was about the time the revived and short-lived Luau in Beverly Hills opened.
The golden age of tiki had a long life, finally succumbing to the '80s fern-bar, wine-spritzer culture. As the first wave receded, it deposited a glacial moraine of tiki mugs, Martin Denny exotica albums, carved figures and decorations at swap meets and thrift stores. It was here, says Jeff "Beachbum" Berry, author of several books on Polynesian drinks and a lifelong tikiphile, that "urban archaeologists" discovered tiki anew in the mid '90s.
Yep, the revival has been in effect for more than 20 years now.
Opened by brothers Ace and Ed Libby, the Tonga Hut was once a swanky neighborhood bar that fell into decline as the Polynesian pop aesthetic went out of style. By the time Jeremy Fleener and Ana Reyes bought the bar in November 2005, the fountains were broken, the Polynesian masks were covered with beer signs and the running soundtrack was provided by battered TVs from the '80s and an ancient jukebox.
The Tonga Hut has come a long way since Jeremy bought the place.