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Sunday: Charles Phoenix Gives His Last Tour of Downtown as Disneyland

By Eric Richardson
Published: Thursday, April 03, 2008, at 11:03AM
Clifton's Slide Eric Richardson [Flickr]

An old postcard from the Clifton's Pacific Seas. Provided by Charles Phoenix.

Charles Phoenix is no ordinary historian. It stands to reason, then, that his tour of Downtown L.A. is no ordinary tour.

This Sunday, Phoenix is giving what is advertised as the last of his fabled "Disneyland" tours of Downtown. It's a six-hour bus and walking tour that takes you to attractions like 'Main Street USA', 'Adventureland', 'Fantasyland', 'Frontierland' and 'Tomorrowland,' without leaving Downtown.

I asked Phoenix for a favorite bit of old Downtown that most people today aren't familiar with. He sent back the above postcard from Clifton's Pacific Seas, and this write-up.

A turquoise-neon-backlit waterfall is the centerpiece and crowning touch of what has to be the most exotic and over the top restaurant fa├žade ever. The craggily cafeteria front has 'lil caves of multi-colored light and a jungle of tropical plantings. This was Adventureland before Adventureland - the Tiki Room before the Tiki Room. Clifford Clinton, the king of cafeterias, dreamed this up in 1939. It must've been shocking then. It still is today. His son, Don, took this slide in 1950. Thank you Don!

In the realm of Polynesian themed eateries Clifton's "Pacific Seas" is, without a question, one of the most spectacular ever! It is the younger and shorter-lived "sister" of Clifton's "Brookdale" Cafeteria. The "Brookdale," delightfully done in a most charming redwood forest theme, serves up steam table savories and delicious desserts at the corner of Seventh and Broadway in downtown Los Angeles just as it has since it opened 1935. Clifton's "Pacific Seas" was just blocks away on Olive just below Sixth. After just twenty-one years the Polynesian palace closed in 1960. For what reason I don't know. The parking lot that replaced it is still there.

Themed interiors and environments were not invented in Southern California, but they certainly were perfected here. Clifford Clinton was a master right up there with Walt Disney, Walter Knott and Alex Madonna (Madonna Inn.)

Even without our dearly departed Clifton's "Pacific Seas" Cafeteria, downtown Los Angeles is still a hotbed of unique, unusual, bizarre and breathtaking vintage places to experience. In fact, it reminds me of Disneyland! I will show you all of the reasons why this sunday April 6th, on my DISNEYLAND TOUR OF DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES. Of course, we'll be eating lunch at "Frontierland" (with a little bit of California Adventure and Bear,) Country Clifton's "Brookdale" Cafeteria!!!

Sunday's final tour runs from 12pm to 6pm. Tickets are $75 and can be purchased through his website.


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