Chase needed a good backdrop for photographing his cocktails, so he put up some bamboo in the back room to his rented house. That wasn’t enough, so he built a full-fledged tropical bar and called it the Cocoanut Canteen.
Trader Sampson – aka Chase – named his home bar as an homage to two famous World-War II era establishments in old Los Angeles, the Cocoanut Grove and the Hollywood Canteen. The Cocoanut Grove was a famous supper club for film stars, and the Hollywood Canteen was a place where those stars served soldiers on their way to the Pacific front. Chase keeps his home bar true to that period by using a pre-tiki, Don the Beachcomer look with vintage photographs and lots of collectible memorabilia including menus, napkins and postcards dated from the 1920s – 40s.
A prized item in Trader Sampson’s collection is an original Don the Beachcomber’s server shirt that he procured from the son of one of the servers that worked in the Palm Springs and Hollywood locations from the 40s to the 60s. Walt Disney, on a visit, once tipped free tickets to Disneyland after the server had told Walt how excited the family was to get to Anaheim when he had a weekend off.
Chase is also a musician and picked up the steel guitar after some time in Nashville in college. His neighbors and tiki friends are members of the Hilo Hi-Flyers. It’s a neighborhood affair. In fact, the Cocoanut Canteen was just featured in a video release for “Adventure!” – the Hilo Hi-Flyers recent release via Hi-Tide Records, the music label of many a good tiki tune. You can even catch a glimpse of Trader Sampson at the end of the music video showing off his “classical” rain stick training.
What started off as a background for his tiki drinks has now become a place to support good causes. Chase now uses the Cocoanut Canteen for the support of charity. He has raised more than $10,000 to support trans people and to address housing insecuity causes in the past year, and will start a new fundraiser this Sunday. Head to @tradersampson on Instagram to consider a donation.
It seems to me that the spirit of giving found in the long-gone Hollywood Canteen is alive and well here at Trader Sampson’s Cocoanut Canteen. Bette Davis and Donn Beach would both be proud.