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Don the Beachcomber

Don Beach, a.k.a. Don the Beachcomber, is the acknowledged founding father of tiki chic. Don was really Ernest Beaumont-Gantt, a former bootlegger, and a New Orleans native who moved to Hollywood in the 1930s to mix potent rum cocktails under fake palm trees. Ernest opened opened the Don the Beachcomber restaurant in 1934. He mixed potent Rum cocktails in his tropically decorated bar. This was such an escape from everyday life that it rose quickly in popularity. At Don the Beachcomber, many wonderfully exotic cuisines were served. The first pupu platter was probably served there, according to Jennifer Trainer Thompson, writing in "The Great Tiki Drink Book" (Ten Speed, 2002). His Zombie cocktail (a rum drink for which Thompson says Beaumont-Gantt never gave away the recipe) was served at the 1939 New York World's Fair. He also was known for creating the popular drink, 'Tahitian Rum Punch'.

Ernest left home in 1926 and traveled around the world on his own, scouring many of the islands of the Caribbean, the South Pacific, and the rest of the world. As the originator of Polynesian style restaurants, Don Beach served in the U.S. Army in World War II as an operator of officer rest-and-recreation centers. He was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star while setting up rest camps for combat weary airman of the 12th and 15th Air Forces in Capri, Nice, Cannes, the French Riviera, Venice, the Lido and Sorrento at the order of his longtime friend, Lieutenant General Jimmy Doolittle.

When World War II ended, Ernest returned to the states and settled in Waikiki where he opened his second Polynesian Village, the first being at his home in Encino, California where he often entertained many of his Hollywood pals, the stars and starlets of the silver screen.