Hukilau Plans

It’s just a couple of weeks away. Last year was a crazy weekend. I hardly slept! It was the first year I have actually gotten to enjoy the weekend and talk to so many people. I think I talked more in a few days than the entire year. The hot tub made for memories we’ll all keep forever. Once again, thanks to Crazy Al. He has a way of inventing fun.

This year I am endeavoring to spend more time at the Mai Kai. It is my favorite place on Earth. I want to be there for Happy Hour a couple of times.

Beachbum Berry’s talk last year and then sipping with him at the Mai Kai was fantastic, and getting an all new book will be a huge plus. This book has more history rather than being just a recipe book. Lots of new recipes in it too though. Pre-Order it now and have it for him to sign at the event.

After years of anticipation, we are getting a little peak at The DVD of Tiki and a showing of footage from the Hukilau Hurricane of 2004. Many I talk to say that year was the best in many ways. For a lot of Floridians, it was the worst. Very much the worst for me. I never recovered really. But it is a powerful memory and I love to hear Pablus sing “Hukilau Hurricane.”

 I look forward to seeing the Crazed Mugs perform at the Mai Kai again. When they took the stage last year, it all just stopped and we were transfixed. Otto was standing next to me and he whispered, “he’s our Bruddah Iz.” So right.

Hukilau Mug

The Hukilau mug has some of my favorite imagery in Polynesian Pop this year, the cannibal trio. I have discussed them with Sven and Bob at Oceanic Arts. I think the concensus is that it started with Donn Beach, which is precisely why those tikis are so special.

The new version of Tiki Road Trip will be making its debut at Hukilau and we get to see all the places we never knew existed.

Robert Drasnin will perform his new work which was recorded earlier this year for a new release. Basement Kahuna says his record “Voodoo” is near perfection for the tiki bar soundtrack and now we’ll have a great follow up.

It’s always great to see my many friends I see only this one weekend a year in person. It’s great to be around so many people who are passionate about the same things I am. And this year my lovely fiance will join me, although she plans to spend more time tanning and exploring the area than doing the tiki-nerd stuff.

This event is central for us non-Californians. California may have an abundance of tiki locales, but we still have the best one of all by a mile down in Fort Lauderdale. We all come together to worship in a rum dazed fog for the weekend. We get to visit the Mother Ship of Tiki and be transported to that special place. That place that is slowly slipping away more and more. No other place holds that mystery better than the Mai Kai. And we right coasters are darned proud. Inside the Mai Kai, it is like stepping back in time. As close as any of us will get anyway…

Two weeks and I’ll be there, at the bar, soaking it all in for my yearly ration… It’s never enough…

Best Places to Eat

I participate in this for one real reason: to promote Dixson’s Barbeque. There are a lot of people perpetrating BBQ on American, Tennessee, and Knoxville, but there is none as fine as Dixson’s. A real Knoxville original that goes back at least 60 years to Brother Jack’s.

1. List out your top 5 favorite places to eat at your location.

Dixson’s Barbeque is a little place off Magnolia behind the Dixie Tavern near the KAT bus center. Worlds collide! They are only open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. An old tradition as they start cooking on Thursday and the first fruits are ready that afternoon. When they run out, it’s all over. They serve the greatest thing Knoxville ever created food-wise, the pigburger. A must. Generally you wanna get it to go as there is really no room to eat there. It’s good to call ahead too as you may find they are out of what you want. It’s the last of true Knoxville barbeque that goes back 60 years to Tip Jackson’s Dad. The cakes are great and their beans rock. The rib sandwich is the real deal if you want ribs. In true Knoxville barbeque tradition, it is several whole ribs with white bread. A sandwich in name only.

1201 Magnolia Avenue – Behind the Dixie Tavern
– Call ahead to make sure they hold some pigburgers for you. With onions!

Down the road a little is Mary’s Hot Tamales which is another Knoxville tradition. At the same time I started loving Brother Jack’s pigburgers, I met Mr. Green and had his hot tamales from his cart down off Western Avenue. Mary’s keeps the faith.

1931 E. Magnolia Ave.
King Tut’s is an experience. Their Greek and Egyptian food is awesome, Mo is a memorable host and it’s got all kinds of crazy charm. Go with a group for sure so you can ham it up with Mo all night. Truly authentic flavors like their Arabic coffee will impress. A real treat. Brown bagging booze is expected.

Harby’s Pizza off Broadway is a hidden treasure. Pizza? Yes, pizza! Get one of his cheese pizzas and you’ll know. It’s the best and damn cheap too! I have his number memorized, that’s how much I love it. Dining in there is a gas too. Friendly folks make you feel like family and odd eye candy scattered on the walls.

3718 Walker Blvd

A couple of great meat and three type diners must be mentioned. Long’s Drugstore on Kingston Pike in Bearden and Sam’s Restaurant on Broadway across from K-mart. A great old fashioned feel, staple foods and lively people watching. Just good stuff, especially for breakfast. Why pay twice as much for processed foods under a warmer when you can go here and meet your neighbors and eat fresh made?

I cheated and listed 6, but two are take-out only.

2. Tag 5 Others

Folks I know explore and should have good choices:

Mr Bali Hai

Johnny Dollar 

Humu Humu

Hot Lava


3. Add a direct link to your post below the name of the person who tagged you. Include the city/state and country you’re in.

Nicole (Sydney, Australia)
velverse (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
LB (San Giovanni in Marignano, Italy)
Selba (Jakarta, Indonesia)
Olivia (London, England)
ML (Utah, USA)
Lotus (Toronto, Canada)
tanabata (Saitama, Japan)
Andi (Dallas [ish], Texas, United States)
Todd (Louisville, Kentucky, United States)
miss kendra (los angeles, california, u.s.a)
Jiggs Casey (Berkeley, CA, USA! USA! USA!)
Tits McGee (New England, USA)
Joe (NE Tennessee, USA)
10K Monkeys (Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA)
Big Stupid Tommy (Athens, Tennessee, USA)
Newscoma (Weakley County, Tennessee, USA)
Russ McBee (Knoxville, Tennessee, USA)
Atomictumor Mrs Eaves (Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA)
Oh Really? LissaKay (Oak Ridge, TN, USA)
Mark Steel blogitude.com (Knoxville, TN, USA)
Swanky The Swank Pad (Knoxville, TN, USA)

Tiki Eyeball Trip Report

This year was the first annual Tiki Eyeball. It was an event by Wizzard Road Shows, which does a number of car events over the summer. I was contacted to put together a tiki carving demonstration and then helped get ideas together and promote the event.

For Basement Kahuna, it meant driving 4 hours up to Knoxville from Athens. We then set out on another 9+ hour drive to central Illinois. With a late start and lots of stopping to search antique malls, plus an hour where we put it in park and stood in the interstate, it turned into about a 14 hour drive.

Basement Kahuna and I are always on the prowl for rare liquors and this old sign we thought pointed the way. Screw gin and vodka! We sell Whiskey! Well, on opening the door, a few haggard locals swung around on their stools at 2PM on a Thursday. We were not finding anything there.

So we were a little loopy come Friday. Noa Noa’s in our room before the trip to the Aku Tiki Room. Lake Surfer and his wife, Tipsy McStagger, Kevin and Hadley Moore, and others came by. And then we found out the bus had broken down. In the middle of an intersection…

The sunken bar at the Aku Tiki Room. The design of the bar was fantastic. I wish there was a bar this cool around here, tiki or no tiki.

This painting once had no lei. It still has some nipple. Cool.

Great shell lamps. These are over 3 feet across.

Tipsy and others at dinner.

The Tiki Twins! These gals started serving there, along with their Mom, when they were 13. They continued to work there for decades. I spent most of the night talking to them and hearing their story. In fact, I spent so much time taking pictures and talking I forgot to eat dinner! Luckily I it also kept me drinking slowly.

Great Oceanic Arts rail posts and mask with shell sconces.

Next day was kar time with Kay Ohara signing prints.

Tonga Trader and his wife drove their 1961 Chyrsler 300 to the event. This is one of my favorite cars. You gotta love a cross ram V8 luxury car.

Kevin Moore shows a novel way to torch a tiki carving, using a 1959 Cadillac… Video is on its way…

BK and I went back to the Aku Tiki Room that night and stopped by the Kewaunee Moose Lodge.

This is the Church of the Future! On the road to the ATR.


BK enjoys a lobster tail dinner. The drinks here are fantastic. Demerara Dry Float, Beachcomber Punch and Rum Barrels I recommend. El Dorado 12 Year. The bartender Tom works hard to keep the ingredients in stock.

On the return trip, we stopped at our Papua New Guinea collector’s house to see the new shipment. Here are a few shields.

Left side…

Right side.

We’ll have a few pieces for sale at Hukilau.

The event was poorly attended for reasons we don’t know, but we’ll correct some problems and do it again next year. I already have a verbal agreement from Pablus to perform in the round in the ATR. Basement Kahuna puts the ATR right behind the Atlanta Trader Vic’s. He now has one of his carvings there and is designing their signature mug we hope will be available when we return next year.

Vintage Hawaii Slide of the Week #2 – The Waikikian

Classic Poly Pop architecture. What’s the place to the right? Tahitian what?

Update: Of course Mimi has cool pics of the Waikikian and the Tahitian Lania on her site. Thanks to Dusty Cajun for this image and the tip.


Vintage Hawaii Slide of the Week #1 – For the Mixologists

Slide Big
Just your typical scene of Hawai in 1964. Men in suits and skinny ties and ladies in dresses. Waiting for dinner outside the Hilton Hawaiian Village Luau. Maybe Alfred Apaka tonight. But…

Are We There Yet?!

Basement Kahuna arrives here today and we depart for Tiki Eyeball in the morning.


I am in my office today, listening to my Exotica and islands music playlist and I am excited. It’s like when I was a kid and we were going to Disneyworld in the morning. I hear the music and I’m there, at the Aku Tiki Room, Navy Grog in hand. Dim lights, fish floats, Orchids of Hawaii and Witco decor… I just can’t wait! Giddy. Even though its a 9 hour drive for me. I am excited to get to go to that magic place again.

My attitude is a little different these days. I go there as a fan, but also as a researcher and a documenter too. I take my photography equipment to get the best pictures possible and plan to talk to anyone I can about the history and write it down. I want to share it as well as experience it.

I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting some new people. I am really looking forward to the rare treat of having someone else mix my tropical concoction, and it be really good. I’ll savor it.

This is the lot of most of us tikiphiles. The only tiki bar near us is our own. We get to visit the real deal just a few times a year, if at all. I ache for it.

I may not be able to sleep tonight!

Hilo Hattie in LA Times

UCLA has made a library of LA photos from 1920-1990 available and searchable online. I tried the names of some Polynesian Pop locales to see if I got a hit on the Luau or Tropic’s or Latitude or Tiki or Trader, etc. Nothing. This was the only teaser. A 1946 picture of Hilo Hattie (center) hamming it up at a Polynesian Society luau.


And who wouldn’t love to go to this 1949 Swimming Club Luau? I just noticed the lady second to left has a flower that appears to be taped to her chest. No straps on that dress…


Via BoingBoing

Girls of the Islands via Hawaii Kai Menu

Via vintage Hawaii Kai Menu:
Virgin Islands

Hmmm. Now I want to go to Trinidad and Haiti!

Mug Shot #2 – Aku Aku Surfer Girl Bowl

I bought mine a long time ago, before the prices went crazy. The one that just sold on Ebay has much better paint than mine. They were lazy and left off her lei and flower and the black outline on the fish. But mine is made better in terms of the seam.


Retro Views

No, I am not talking about Dick Cheney’s philosophy, but a great website. Retro Views has many original photographs of motels used for postcards back in the day. You can buy pristine copies from them for outrageous prices! This is some serious eye candy, but the Flash site sucks. Some samples:

Aztec Kona Kai Bathing Suits

Via the PCL

Mug Shot #1 – Ren Clark Severed Head Tribute

Part one in a series that may or may not continue:

Severed head by NOTCH

This is the Ren Clark’s Severed Head tribute mug by NOTCH. There are not many mugs out there cold painted like this. The vast majority are a single color due to cost. This is a fantastic mug, and an experiment in my photographic endeavors.

Trader Vic’s Beverly Hills closing and the end of the classic tiki bar

Humu Humu has posted her feelings about the closing of Trader Vic’s Beverly Hills. I commented on that and wanted to bring it here and share my thoughts.

There is a thread on Tiki Central to send messages to try to save Trader Vic’s. You’ll notice I never posted. It was never going to get anywhere towards saving the place, and, it probably led to what happened, a very quick, quiet closing that did not allow a bunch of weirdos to make a scene.

What seems to be lost on everyone is that these places are businesses. When your business is losing money, you close it, no matter if that is painful or very painful. And often, before they close the business, they try a lot of things to fix it. Tiki bars are not an exception.

The forces at work that have closed 90+% of the vintage tiki places in the last 30 years, are still closing them today.

Getting conservancy groups involved is also a sure way to piss off the owners and get them to close a place sooner. They want to avoid government regulators from preventing them from doing as they please with their property. 

Writing letters and even going there yourself on a regular basis is not the answer, though your business helps. What can you do that will help your local or even, not so local tiki bar survive? Promote it.

You may be the most vocal and inspired advocate they have. I think the third Thursday get together at the new Hula Hula in Seattle is great. And their great reviews of the place and obviously their enthusiasm for it locally, are contagious. Such gatherings are happening all over. We need to spread a very positive message about tiki in general, and we need to put out positive things about locations specifically.

We in the Tiki community are, unfortunately, perhaps helping destroy a lot of places. If we venture to a classic bar, and then come to Tiki Central or our blogs and complain about the drinks and the beer signs, that may be the only description on the web for that place. And the young folks just discovering it search the Net first and see your negative comments. Though you may wrap it up with how great it is to go there, even though the drinks weren’t in tiki mugs, you leave an impression that no outsider is going to bother with, and is less likely to enjoy.

What we can’t do is make a bad place good, bad drinks good, or bad food good. You can’t save a sinking ship with good wishes. And when we are honest with ourselves, we will likely find we are only sad to see the facade go, and not the place where we complained about quality and quantity through our teeth.

Sucks doesn’t it?

The best tiki bars in the country are still A) Tiki Central member’s home bars, B) Trader Vic’s, C) a few old guard like the Mai Kai and Hala Kahiki, and D) the new generation like Forbidden Island. The ghosts are still growing in number as they have for the last 30 years. We are just painfully aware of them now and imagine that times have changed. All that has changed is the number of mourners and the depth of their sorrow.

p.s. To help out, go to this page, the second link when you search Google for the Mai Kai, and add a good review.

Playboy Islands Cartoon

NSFW vintage 60s cartoon from Playboy. There were a lot of really crude girlie mag cartoons at the time with the beachcomber/tropical island theme. I wanted to share this one because it’s not crude.

You can see much more here via PCL