Populuxe Lives!

Populuxe by Thomas HineHow gratifying it is to see that 28 years after Thomas Hines coined the word “populuxe” it is now commonplace to find multiple listings on Google Search under it.  Upon reading his marvelous book Populuxe in 1987 immediately began using the term, I remember the blank look on my friends faces back then when I would describe an object as having been manufactured during the Populuxe period.  Happily it seems that term has since spread across the globe!  In the late eighties anything produced before 1965 was said by many to have, “that ‘Art Deco’ look.”  I shudder just remembering that label on clocks, blenders, etc.  The film “Back To The Future” and the Johnny Rockets restaurant chain were all the rage, and both were clearly patterned after a fondness for the Populuxe era: approx.1954-1964, not the Art Deco era: approx.1925-1945.  Thomas Hines writes,”The decade from 1954-1964 was one of history’s great shopping sprees, as many Americans went on a baroque bender and adorned their mass-produced houses, furniture and machines with accouterments of the space age and of the American frontier.”  If you’re a follower of this blog, you know I have a great fondness for both the Populuxe and Art Deco eras, and all the pop culture that accompanies them!


Bob’s Big Boy Broiler, Downey, California. Opened 2009. Restoration Architect: Chattel Architecture, Original Architect: Paul B. Clayton 1958

Much has been written of the miraculous resurrection of architect Paul B. Clayton’s 1958 original Harvey’s, then Johnie’s, and now Chattel Architecture’s 2009 restoration Bob’s Big Boy Broiler.  One has only to look through the pages of the marvelous book Googie Redux at the laundry list of buildings that have been bulldozed into history during the past few decades, to recognize what an amazing feat has been accomplished.

Thanks to the tireless efforts of the Friends of Johnie’s, the Coalition to Save Harvey’s Broiler, the City of Downey, Bob’s Big Boy proprietor Jim Louder, Adriene Biondo, and the Los Angeles Conservancy, the reborn Broiler is once again serving malts for all!  For detailed accounts of the history, illegal demolition and rebirth of the Broiler, as well as plenty of wonderful photographs be sure to check out these sites:

Roadside Peek  Los Angeles Conservancy  Coalition to Save Harvey’s Broiler

I was lucky enough to be the first to dance inside the vacant restaurant during its reconstruction, and then during the first car show in the parking lot.  These photos were taken during that car show in October 2009.

Pann’s, Los Angeles. Opened 1958. Architects: Armet & Davis 1956

Another Armet & Davis architectural masterpiece that must be experienced first hand, and happily still can!  The details on the interior and exterior are amazing.  Thanks to Pann’s owners, The Panagopoulos family, and loyal patrons, this Googie coffee shop icon remains intact for future generations to enjoy.  Visit their site here for more information.