NY Review of Books: California Kitsch Made Concrete

https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2018/08/26/california-kitsch-made-concrete/

Jim Heimann Collection/Taschen
Big Donut Drive-In, Inglewood, circa 1955
excerpt:


But as the book’s illustrations make clear, novelty architecture is not always so innocuous and wholesome. Take Clifton’s, the cafeteria-style restaurant founded in 1931 and reopened in 2015 after a fourteen-year hiatus. Walk into Clifton’s and be transported to a paragon of prewar kitsch: each of the building’s five floors is painstakingly decorated with taxidermized animals and extravagant foliage, like a miniature golf course come to life. It’s a wonderful place to pair a martini with a ramekin of Jell-O. Historian David Gebhard discusses the enduring popularity of the restaurant and its imaginative facade, but the Pacific Seas bar on the restaurant’s fourth floor is arguably Clifton’s most beloved feature. It is an approximation of the Tiki bar, a familiar vestige of novelty twentieth-century architecture. And its recent resurgence suggests that the programmatic style is making a comeback. In many ways, California Crazy makes this comeback feel natural. Who wouldn’t want to be served lemonade from a giant plaster lemon? Why shouldn’t all drive-thrus be built to resemble fifteen-foot tall tamales?

Jim Heimann Collection/Taschen
Clifton’s Cafeteria, Los Angeles, circa 1935

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Big Donuts! I lived in a travel trailer my freshman year — parked w/in sight of Big Donuts! And next to Der Weinerschnitzel.

On another thread, some of us old Angelenos were trying to remember if it had always been called Big Donuts. You just provided historical proof!

In school we were taught that a great wave of people fled the Dust Bowl and the Depression for California. I wonder what they made of Cliftons?!

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