In Vegas...



: : The thing about Vegas is that it keeps rebuilding itself. I realize this isn’t any great insight but it bears consideration if you’re into Polynesian bars and you happen to be in that city. Vegas is all about being RIGHT NOW and it doesn’t apologize for not having a past. Why should it? It’s fantasyland for adults and, as such, it ought to be a place that doesn’t remind you of anything else, not even if that something you’re looking for is Old Vegas. : :

: : Anything that can be considered “heritage” in Las Vegas is strictly an accident. And most of those accidents date back maybe 30 years. There is nothing, I repeat, nothing from the Rat Pack era to be found anymore. Trust me, we’ve looked. My wife and I spent a considerable part of our honeymoon in Palm Springs and Las Vegas looking at and looking for mid-century modern architecture, so we can say this with good authority. : :

: : The closest my wife and I came – on The Strip anyway – was a restaurant called The Peppermill (beside a really cool motel called La Concha, which was designed by architect Paul R. Williams, who also designed the 1961 “Theme Building” at LAX; you know, the one that looks like a UFO held up by four giant spider legs. As a side note, the motel behind the poured concrete conch-shaped office of La Concha has recently been demolished and it’s not sure, at least as of this writing, what will happen to this early 60s Vegas landmark). The Peppermill is an early 70s mansard-roofed Matt Helm kind of place that still has a good deal of the original decor intact. Smoked mirrors, red vinyl booths, fake trees, textured stucco, and a neat freestanding fireplace (where the fire comes out of a pool of water) are just some of the reasons to recommend this joint. They also have this koo-koo sugar that looks like cake sprinkles in the dispensers (it leaves a rather disgusting colourful, oily deposit in your coffee). We also found a forgotten slice of wall at our hotel – the Sahara – that gave us clues as to what the place might have looked like in the early 60s: a nice vertical panel of travertine butt up against an abstract concrete block wall, sheltered by some palms. Pure Miesian understatement… : :

: : But I digress. These things were not Tiki, and we had come to the desert to imbibe a Mai Tai or two in addition to consummating the marriage. We’d heard about a swanky new club – in The Venetian, of all places – called "Venus," with a $20 U.S. cover charge but also, supposedly, some Tiki elements. Some quick research on the web told us that these Tiki elements were actually in a separate bar called “Taboo Cove” that featured all the usual drink suspects on the menu. I’d heard that Bosko, the modern-day Tiki carver, had provided the place with all of its decor. This was going to be good. : :

: : Because we were a little annoyed about paying $40 U.S. just to get into the place, we called ahead. The nice lady on the phone told us the cover charge was only for Venus, since it’s more of a nightclub, and that we’d be able to get into Taboo Cove for free. We told her we’d be there in a few hours… she said fine. : :

: : My wife and I put on our finest threads. She in a full-length, vintage 60s Oriental dress and me in a 40s tie and jacket. We took a cab down to the place rather than our rental car because we were pretty sure we’d try every drink on the menu. It was with great anticipation that we walked over to the Venetian’s elevator, went up to the second floor and quickly walked over to the bar’s entrance… : :

: : …only to come face-to-face with a bouncer telling us the whole place was closed for a private function. And, furthermore, that Taboo Cove, the Tiki Bar, wasn’t ever open on Mondays anyhow. [The Venetian’s web-site claims the bar is open seven days a week but further reports to the contrary can be found by reliable posters at – Ed.] : :

: : We couldn’t believe it. “But we were told on the phone…” : :

: : After standing there in disbelief for what seemed like five minutes, we turned around to walk away, then  decided  to cup our  hands  and  peer  into the windows of the darkened Taboo Cove to see if we could make out a few details. Looked good. Seemed to be some cool masks over there… a framed print of… what was that exactly? : :

: : “Hey... you two,” we heard from behind, “you wanna go in and have a look? I mean, you did come all this way.” : :

: : Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh. : :

: : So we got in. Thanks to the bouncer with the heart of gold. Didn’t have any drinks though, since there was nobody there to make ‘em for us (well, we could have made them ourselves but that probably would have pissed off our new bouncer-friend). However, we did snap a few pics and agreed it would have been a swell place to pitch back a few Scorpions in honour of our new union. Long bar, thatched roof, great mug collection, great Bosko carvings. Framed album covers and the obligatory Tretchikoff print. Even had a giant, original Shag on one wall that was done just for the place, as well as a vintage TWA ad on the other wall. : :

: : So where did we go to have a few? Across the street, at the Mirage. Paid $44 U.S. to have 4 inferior “tropical” melon-flavoured martinis while listening to an inferior lounge cover-band. We sure would have preferred the new, made-to-look-old Taboo Cove over the aging, lobby-made-to-look-new-back-in-the-early-90s of the Mirage. But I wonder which would be the more authentic Vegas experience? : :

Dave “Kalhaki-Aku” LeBlanc ©2004

(with reminders by his wife Shauntelle, since this was written 9 months after the actual event)


“When I was originally brought into the project in late 2000, there was a finished, ready-to-open Santa Fe style restaurant/bar in the two spaces (Taboo Cove and Venus). Management saw that this was not going to fly in 2001 and they brought in a NY designer – Marc Campbell – who had recently got hold of a copy of the Book of Tiki. He wanted a real Tiki bar in the Taboo Cove space and a retro Vegas lounge-style room where Venus is. He contacted me to design and furnish the bar, direct the project, find the materials, and so on. My concept for Taboo Cove was not only to create a new version of a Tiki Bar but also to make a sort of museum of Tiki or homage to Polynesian Pop. If you knew nothing about Tiki culture, you could get an education by looking at the vintage menus, album art, postcards, book covers, etc. When they started training bar staff, I had Tony Ramos come in to show them how authentic drinks were made and to inspire them to carry on the mixology tradition.

“My wife and I have been back a couple of times since the room first opened. As public spaces go, it still holds up. I understand that the place is doing well and it has been there for over three years... In Vegas years, that is quite a while...”

CLICK TO ENLARGE PHOTOS (by Scott Lindgren, courtesy of

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