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From Honolulu to L.A.: The other Hubba-Hubba sign

An antique neon clock from Club Hubba Hubba has popped up in L.A. But is it real?


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Photo: erika brown

When Club Hubba Hubba finally closed in 1997 after 50-plus years of strip-club action, somebody walked out with its clock and it ended up in Los Angeles. Supposedly.

A few months ago, two Los Angeles art dealers posted an Ebay listing for a large neon clock, at the BuyItNow! price of $25,000—a 3-and-a-half-foot-wide, 4-foot-tall block of a timepiece, speckled with cracked paint and frayed edges. Judging by the photographs on the listing, the pink neon tubes bordering the clock’s face light up, but it’s unknown if the clock still ticks (the dealers don’t want to risk damaging it). Typography screams “CLUB HUBBA HUBBA” around the outer edges of the box, and the words “Chinatown, Hotel St., Since 1940” are written on its face.

Is it legit? Well, the sign’s provenance is a bit hazy. The sellers, Bill and Melinda (not their real names, they wanted anonymity for fear of thieves) say they bought it at a Long Beach flea market a year ago, but don’t know the name of the guy who sold it to them. He’d had it for 10 years, but couldn’t remember how he got it, they say.

Frustratingly, they won’t open up the back of the clock. A mid-century machine such as this would most likely have predated quartz clocks, and might be traced to a local clockmaker.

With only the auction photos to go on, we asked Jensen Lipton, a local estate appraiser, for his take on it. “The wood case shows evidence of wear associated to weather elements,” he says, adding, “The clock itself does not show the same wear characteristics. The clock looks new in comparison. It is also highly unusual for a clock to contain so much attribution to the club, such as the name and time period. I am highly suspect.” Lipton doesn’t rule out that the clock was ever part of the club, just not at the time the listing boasts.

How did the Los Angeles dealers come up with the 25-grand price tag? “We appraised it,” Melinda says. “It’s pretty reasonable, if you look at what neon clocks go for. They’re in the thousands of dollars. You’ve got historical elements; you’ve got World War II, which is really, really hot. This is part of history.”

Well, yes and no. There was a cafe at Hubba’s location in 1940, but it wasn’t known as Club Hubba Hubba until 1953, which makes the writing on the clock an anachronism. It’s also not “wartime history,” as the listing says.

Is it worth the asking price? When it comes to things like this, it’s always worth however much somebody’s willing to pay for it. In case you’re wondering, the current co-owner of the Club Hubba Hubba building, Allen Stack, says he has no interest in buying it. As we went to press, it was still up for grabs on Ebay.

We wrote about the last days of Club Hubba Hubba in our November 2011 issue. Read it online at honolulumagazine.com/clubhubbahubba.

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