Growing up in Milwaukee, my sole exposure to the Tiki Drink universe was an exotic club along Blue Mound Road in the suburb of Brookfield, called The Leilani Motel. By the time I remember passing it by while in the back seat of my parents' station wagon, in the early 70s, the place was horribly old-fashioned. Even to my young sensibilities, I knew it belonged to the past.
When it opened, however, it was supremely hip and romantic. I was told that Frank Sinatra would entertain there.
Jeff "Beachbum" Berry forwarded me the following article, which appeared in the Waukesha Freeman (Waukesha is a small city to the west of Milwaukee) in 1961. I feel an extra twinge in my heart reading it, because the Freeman was my first professional gig as a journalist.
Tiki' Taking Shape in Front of Motels; They're Made of Lava
By Tom Barber
BROOKFIELD - A German sculptor carved South Sea island stone idols for a Polynesian restaurant in Brookfield today.
It all happened at The Leilani motel, 18615 W. Blue Mound Road, whose owners are in the midst of a $750,000 expansion program.
The motel is being doubled in size. But of more interest to most passers-by is a steep roofed supper club under construction just east of the motel.
Sculptor Gerhard E. Kroll, Milwaukee, is at work on the lawn in front of the restaurant fashioning large Hawaiian "tiki"– stone images of a religious significance in primitive South Pacific cultures.
The tiki will be used to decorate five dining rooms and two cocktail lounges in the restaurant. A large one will be placed outdoors.
Kroll has resided in Milwaukee for about two years. He studied art at the University of Wisconsin there.
The lightweight rock he is using actually is lava. Its porosity makes it easy to work. Saws, axes and knives replace the traditional hammer and chisel. Kroll expects to work a large pile of the stones into figures in about two weeks.
Along with Krolls sculpture the restaurant will be docorated with fireproof thatch ceilings, tabletops of monkey pod wood, monkey pod and coconut carvings, Hawaiian lighting fixtures and tropical plants.
Outside there will be live palm trees (to be stored indoors during the winter), fountains, and a sign illuminated with jets of fire.
Owner Paul Fecher said waitresses in the restaurant and the Malahini and Homaka cocktail lounges will wear sarongs. He hopes to hire a Hawaiian-born chef and a group of Tahitian dancers and singers to perform at the restaurant's opening about Sept. 1.
The menu will be "about 60 percent Polynesian food and 40 percent American," Fechner predicted. Dining rooms will seat 275. Banquet rooms below will be large enough for 500 to 600 persons. An automobile manufacturer will have a display downstairs.
The sharply gabled roof over the new restaurant carries out the style of the nearby motel. Both were designed by Milwaukeean Alan Wiederman. The motel addition is a two story wing attached to the south of the existing building.
Fechner has elaborate plans for future additions at "Leilani Village." East of the restaurant, on land formerly occupied by a competing motel which the Leilani bought, a heliport will be built.
Nine acres of land south of the motel have been purchased for a nine hole pitch-and-put golf course. A pond on the tract will be enlarged. The purchase of 12 to 14 more acres, where an Olympic sized pool and cabana club will be constructed.
The golf course and pool are on the agenda for next year. Sometime later, Fechner said, he hopes to build several town houses along the south edge of the golf course. They would be rented for longer periods of time than the motel units.
The Leilani was torn down in 1996. The horror of its destruction is depicted below. Wonder what ever happened to those Tikis sculpted out of lava. Returned to the volcano?