Pago Pago

Bar & Restaurant
2201 Oracle Road
Tucson, Arizona, United States
This location is not open.
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Defunct tiki not included,
distances are as the crow flies.
The Hut, Tucson 1.7 mi
2.8 km
Kon Tiki Lounge, Tucson 5.3 mi
8.5 km
The Shady Dell, Bisbee 85.3 mi
137.3 km
Giligin's Kon Tiki Lounge, Scottsdale 102.5 mi
164.9 km
Bikini Lounge, Phoenix 105.8 mi
170.3 km
Postcard with picture of host and owner Phil Kessler from Pago Pago in Tucson
circa 1960, from the collection of squintanilla
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Humuhumu’s description:
Pago Pago (pronounced "pango pango") featured decor from Oceanic Arts and from Eli Hedley.

The site now houses Starbuck Design, a promotional products company.

There are 4 comments.
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November 24, 2008, 10:43 PM
Pago Pago opened in the 1940s, and the locals pronounced the name of the restaurant "Paygo Paygo". The name was changed to Ports O' Call sometime in the '60s, and much of the Pago Pago's decor was retained. In the '70s it became a restaurant called Bali Hai Indonesian & Cantonese Cuisine.

Here's a description of the Ports O' Call by an acquaintance of mine: "If you sat in the cocktail lounge there was a healthy atrium with live parrots and probably turtles. I was talking to my grandmother about it and she said when they bought Pago Pago it had all these mean nasty monkeys in the atrium, which they got rid of right away! The waitresses were sweet and beautiful polynesian girls. The decor was typical polynesian nautical theme with rope wrapped poles, blowfish lights, those giant, colored glass net bobbers hanging in nets etc. There was a giant ship steering wheel that stood 6 feet high at the hostess stand. Oh, and of course you got a plastic lei everytime too."

Scenes for the 1956 film "A Kiss Before Dying" were filmed at the Pago Pago.

My father worked at Pima Printing when they printed the first menus for Pago Pago. He was serving his apprenticeship at the time, so this was in 1946, early 1947. The menus were die-cut in the shape of the 3 "Speak/See/Hear No Evil" monkeys. (Pago Pago had matchbooks with this picture and the words "Our Motto" beneath it) The job turned out to be more trouble than the owner had anticipated so the shop lost money on it. His remark on it was "Well, I guess they made a monkey out of me."

May 15, 2011, 10:47 AM
I'd like to make a few corrections to my previous entry on Pago Pago. I learned from a friend who worked at the Pago Pago that it was renamed Aku Aku before it became Ports O' Call. There was a fire at some point in between the restaurant being the Pago Pago and Ports O' Call so my previous comment about the decor being retained is probably inaccurate.

The Ports O' Call later became the Bali Hai which served Polynesian, Cantonese and American cuisine according to to an ad from 1980.

May 15, 2011, 2:01 PM
A few comments from my friend Peter E.

"I worked at several Dean Short restaurants. My first was the Pago Pago, which became the Aku Aku, which became The Ports O Call. I worked at the El Corral the most, because I liked it the best. I also did time at the Ye Olde Lantern and a short short (no pun intended) stint at the Kon Tiki."

"It [the fire, circa 1964-65 ] happened when it was the Aku Aku. The walls were covered with what looked like palm fringe. The man who was vaccuuming the floors pulled on the extension cord to get it unplugged. A spark set off a fire which spread...like wildfire. Later, when the restaurant reopened it became the Ports O Call."

"The Pago Pago was my first restaurant job. My Dad knew the manager Hoyt something or other. I was a dishwasher and learned about cleaning pots and pans so they were really clean. I kept the chef happy in that regard and he made great food for me. There was a woman there named Evelyn who made the most amazing cherry cheesecakes. She would give me a slice from time to time."

"The cocktail hostess was this tall (6'1") statuesque blonde who wore a bikini top and a hula skirt as she perched on the highest high heels I had ever seen. The dessert was pineapple sherbet with champagne poured over it. The hostess sampled the champagne all through the evening and was rockin' and a rollin' on those high heels, but never fell."

"The bartender was named Ed "Shaky" and the last name escapes me. He had been a quarterback for the U of A back in the early 50's. I learned to grow tired of Hawaiian music...at least the music that played over and over and over and over...did I mention over? again. I like Hawaiian music just fine now."

"They had a glassed in cage with monkeys and some sort of palm trees in the bar. Eventually the monkeys did enough nasty stuff which caused them to be taken away."

May 15, 2011, 3:05 PM
The bartender's name came back to me. It was Ed Shaky Harris.

When I moved up from dishwasher to busboy (huge jump), on my first night I went out the in door in the kitchen and caused a full pot of HOT coffee to spill all over the chest of a waitress. She gasped and cried and said very nicely, "Always use the door on the right when you're going out and when you're coming in...like driving...get it?".
None of the servers were Polynesian. Maybe that was before my time. I do remember a woman from Ireland working as a waitress.
To tell the truth, I don't recall the monkeys at all...I think I saw the glass-covered enclosure and was told there used to be monkeys there that treated the patrons to nasty behavior that caused some patrons to be greatly upset.

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