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  • West Coast Tour 2017

    Friday 23rd June 2017 - 4:24:41 AM
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    It’s happening again…

    I’ll be touring the west coast starting August 5th in Tacoma and ending August 13th in Palm Springs.

    Celebrating a year after the release of the Mai-Kai book, I and my editor Mrs. Swanky will be visiting the west coast.

    First stop will be Seattle and in particular Tacoma Cabana. I’ll be doing a presentation there along with the book signing Saturday August 5th starting at 4PM FB Event here, tickets for presentation online here and at the door.

    Next we head to San Francisco and a book signing at Smuggler’s Cove on Monday August 7th at 6PM. Rumor is we will visit Humuhumu’s Balhi H’ai as well.

    From there we jet on to LA and a signing with Bob & Leroy at Oceanic Arts on Wednesday Aug. 9th from 2 to 4. That’s leaves time to get over to the Tiki Ti for the toast to Ray.

    And on Friday at noon, I will give a presentation at Tiki Oasis, and then on Saturday at 11 I’ll be signing books at Tiki Oasis.

    From there we go to Palm Springs for a book signing at the Tonga Hut Saturday at 7PM.

    We are looking forward to exploring all these places with the ohana and signing lots of books. Come visit us when we are in your city!

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    Filed under: Events,Mai-Kai History,OG Tiki Central,Places,Polynesian Pop,Retro Goodies,Vintage Places | Comment

  • Hukilau Mai-Kai History Presentation

    Wednesday 19th April 2017 - 9:14:21 AM
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    June 9th, in support of my recently released book on the history of the greatest Tiki bar on earth, the Mai-Kai, I will once again be giving a presentation at the largest Tiki event outside of California, The Hukilau.

    This year I am holding a sort of Mai-Kai reunion and doing a live panel discussion with many of the people I interviewed for the book.  Their first hand stories were the driving force behind the work. I had thousands of fantastic images and I knew a few stories, but getting the history straight from the people who were actually there was a truly rare experience. These folks are now in their 70s, 80s and even 90s, and it is harder and harder to get them together. This will be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Come get your book signed by those featured in it!

    First click here get this amazing coffee table book, that is also an interesting read about Don the Beachcomber, Tiki and the birth of the greatest Tiki bar in existence:

    Book Jacket

    Then get your tickets for the event by clicking HERE.

    Here are some of those who will be in attendance:


    Angel followed her sister Dee down from Chicago. She was a Mystery Girl and married singer Pat Gallo.


    Dee came down from Chicago for Spring Break in 1959 and never went back!


    Carol was a Mystery Girl and Ford model who appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson twice in that role.


    Toti at center with the Mai-Kai Islanders review. He was the founder of the show.


    Randy on far right with his mother Pualani Mossman Avon on TV. He worked for Rums of Puerto Rico and his family are legends of Hawaiian culture.

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    Filed under: Events,Mai-Kai History,Places,Polynesian Pop,Retro Goodies,Vintage Places | Comment

  • Mai-Kai: History, Mystery and Adventure – The Book

    Saturday 6th December 2014 - 9:17:41 AM
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    Sample Cover I have been researching the Mai-Kai in one form or another for over 12 years. I have been seriously looking into its history and people for a long time to document the past. I had thought I would do a book that was just pretty pictures. Once I began to talk to the people around this landmark, I found their stories amazingly compelling. Now the book will also have a wonderful story too.

    I have worked on this book project in my spare time for years now. I have spent vacations in back rooms scanning images with my wife, and visiting old timers to hear their tales. I have tracked people down and interviewed people from Florida to California to Tahiti. I have a newfound respect for those who create books. It is a lot of work and time.

    I hope to get the book ready in 2015 and get it published. Please support my efforts by simply liking the Facebook page first, and if you happen to have something you think will help the book, please email me and share it.

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    Filed under: "Tiki" Collecting,Architecture,Ephemera,Events,Mai-Kai History,Places,Polynesian Pop,Retro Goodies,Retro Preservation,Vintage Places | Comments (2)

  • Hukilau 2003 Video

    Friday 11th April 2014 - 7:51:33 AM
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    This goes back to when the Tiki scene was young. At the request of the Florida Ohana who came to Hukilau 2002 in Atlanta, and with the huge efforts of our event partners Tristan and Bre-Elle Ishtar, we moved to the Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale Florida. So many friends in this video. So many people who have become true friends.

    This was also my first visit to the Mai-Kai and I had no idea it would become an obsession. Collecting the postcards and calendars at first, and now the stories for a book about this remarkable place.

    We have promoted the Mai-Kai via Hukilau now for over a decade. I have given lectures on its history around the country and written about it in magazines and talked about it on NPR. It continues to dominate my life and it all started on this magical weekend 11 years ago.

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    Filed under: Architecture,Architecture,Events,Mai-Kai History,Music,Places,Polynesian Pop,Retro Goodies,Retro Preservation,Vintage Places | Comment

  • PBS Documentary Plastic Paradise Airs nationwide

    Wednesday 18th September 2013 - 8:21:15 AM
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    I helped these guys quite a bit on this documentary. Sven Kirsten endorsed them heartily, so I threw my support their way as well.

    I appear in the documentary along with a lot of my friends. It is centered around the Mai-Kai, which I have sent years researching, and on the Hukilau event which I started. How could I not be involved?

    My biggest contribution to the project is hundreds of graphics and vintage video. Chances are, when you see a postcard, menu or mug splashed on the screen, it came from me.

    I hope it helps ignite more people to seek out the Mai-Kai. It really is a destination unlike any other. It is showing in South Florida, Colorado and Alaska this week. Call or email your local PBS station to get it shown in your area! See details on air dates and contact to get it shown here.

    Read Jim Heyward’s write up.

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    Filed under: Events,Mai-Kai History,Polynesian Pop,Retro Goodies,Retro Preservation | Comments (3)

  • Mai-Kai Black Velvet Rescue

    Saturday 14th September 2013 - 6:45:26 AM
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    From the early days after we moved Hukilau to the Mai-Kai, I had heard about a black velvet painting of Mireille Thornton. The painting had been vandalized and the description of the damage made it sound horrible.

    Mireille was current owner of the Mai-Kai, having taken control when her husband, original owner Robert Thornton, had passed away in 1989. Mireille was a performer in the Mai-Kai Islanders show and in 1963 she became its choreographer. She is still in that role today! I will always be proud that Mireille made me an honorary member of the family.


    Mireille Palmer in earlier times

    For years I kept hearing about this painting and that it was removed from the Mai-Kai after someone “defiled” it. It became my mission to restore it to the Mai-Kai.

    The black velvets at the Mai-Kai were painted by J. Craig Hille III. Though there may have been Leeteg paintings there at some time, he painted the big iconic pieces that are there today. He became known more widely for his portraits of celebrities.

    1957 image with Hille painting that still hangs in the Mai-Kai

    After nearly a decade of catching small hints about the painting, I finally heard that the damage was actually a moustache drawn on it. Accomplished painter James Owens had recently moved back to Tennessee and getting to know him, I knew he was the man who could fix whatever was wrong with the paining the right way. He had brought many vintage items back to life and his skill as a painter was unparalleled. He agreed to take it on.

    I got the measurement of the painting and set out to get it from Fort Lauderdale to Knoxville and back. It is two by four feet and had to be transported without damaging it. I constructed a box with just enough room to add padding. I added a place to put a handle and caster to make it easier to get this beast through the airport. It came just under the weight and length limits for the airline. I had to take it apart and rework it many times to get it under those limits. I mounted the casters with bolts and wing nuts so I could easily take them off and put them back on. It was a sturdy box to carry this precious cargo. But it was damned heavy and big!


    Just getting it from the curb to the check-in was tough. When I got to Fort Lauderdale, I discovered that the holes for the bolts had shifted and I could no longer mount the handle or the casters! I was sweating and cursing as I found a way to get it through the airport after my flight was hours late. It just barely went in the back seat of the rental car. That would have been a nightmare had it not fit!

    I got my little painting casket to the Mai-Kai and got to see the legendary painting for the first time. It was not nearly as damaged as I imagined. It looked like a smudge on her upper lip. My box worked well and it fit like a glove. I managed to get it back to Knoxville and to James intact.

    In the light of day, the first big issue was that it was filthy. Whether it got that way from years hanging in a restaurant or in storage was anyone’s guess. It had been hanging in the Tahiti Room since the 1970s. Mireille was born in Takaroa and it was in Tahiti that she caught the attention of the future Mai-Kai manager who hired her. That room was “hers” and after she and Bob were married in 1971, her portrait graced that room, newly added to the now sprawling eatery.

    Jim did a fantastic job cleaning and restoring the piece. It required a bit of paint touch-up where someone’s attempt to clean the moustache took off the paint. Cleaning it was tricky as it was not an oil paint and the paint came off with the dirt if you were not careful.

    My next trip to Fort Lauderdale was for Hukilau in a few weeks. In the interim, we would be in Mexico for 10 days. We took the painting to be framed and realized it would happen while we were gone. If anything went wrong, we would not know. And I departed for Hukilau just 3 days after returning from Mexico! No chance to fix it or reschedule! It also hit us how freaking expensive it is to frame a two by four painting! I was thankful the Mai-Kai picked up that tab. We left it in their hands and hoped the wood we picked would be in stock and the glass would arrive in one piece, etc., etc.

    It all worked out. But how was I going to get it to Florida now that it was bigger and heavier? It was over the length and weight limits for the airline now, and it was even more fragile. I sent out a call to Hukilau attendees driving down and passing through Knoxville. I got a big break when a local friend was going and had room in the cab of his truck. Transport locked it!

    I had hoped to have it hanging in the Mai-Kai that Saturday night at Hukilau, but no one was sure where it had hung before, and when we tried it in the spots we guessed, the new frame made it too big to fit. So we settled for just presenting it and figuring out how to hang it later.

    The presentation was a surprise for Mrs. T. We hid the painting in the office and when the time came during the dinner show, I found her with friends in the Molokai and asked her to come on stage.


    I made Mireille cry that night, and was happy to do it!


    It is a great honor to have the Mai-Kai trust me to do something like this and I was so happy to do something for Mireille. Her image is always there now as her guiding hand has been there for decades.


    Painting now hangs in Tahiti at the Mai-Kai

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    Filed under: Ephemera,Ephemera,Events,Existential Fodder,Mai-Kai History,Places,Polynesian Pop,Retro Goodies,Retro Preservation | Comment (1)

  • Mai-Kai Reunion 2013 and History Presentation

    Thursday 21st February 2013 - 8:53:33 AM
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    Mai_KaiMai-Kai: History, Mystery and Adventure

     In 1933, Don Beach’s place was one of many thousands of bars that opened the day after Prohibition ended. No one knew then that his bar would invent a whole new genre and be copied across the globe for the next 30+ years. “Don the Beachcombers” set the bar by which not just restaurants were judged, but cocktails especially. It was the dawn of the cocktail era, and Don Beach was the undisputed king of tropical mixology. In an era of cocktails of 2 or 3 ingredients, his secret recipes were mixed with 2 or 3 rums and 8 more ingredients to create drinks like the world had never seen before or since.

     In 1956, the brothers Bob and Jack Thornton of Chicago set out to open their own Polynesian restaurant. These brash young men were well versed in the ways and tastes of “Don the Beachcombers” as well as his imitators Trader Vic and Steve Crane’s “Kon Tiki” restaurants. Their ideas would far surpass those from whom they drew inspiration. When they teamed up with Robert Van Dorpe, the inside man at Don’s place in Chicago, they got an ally that went beyond their imagination. With his help, they not only hired away a top chef and bartender from Don’s, but also got the source for all the glassware, artwork, kitchen equipment and most importantly, secret ingredients to make those world famous cocktails. When the Mai-Kai opened in late 1956, at a cost $350,000, it was the most perfect copy of Don’s plan imaginable, but taken to new heights.

     The Mai-Kai quickly outshined its predecessor. The Mai-Kai earned all the prestigious awards like Don the Beachcomber, but also became the biggest seller of rum in the nation. It was the haunt of celebrities such as Johnny Carson and Jackie Gleason. The Mystery Girl – a Mai-Kai invention – made her way onto Johnny’s “Tonight Show,” twice!

     In 1989, both Don Beach and Robert Thornton, who bought his brother Jack’s portion in 1970, passed away. In Don’s case, the last of his restaurant empire closed soon afterward. The Polynesian Pop era was all but gone. In the next 2 decades, almost nothing survived except the Mai-Kai. By the year 2000, there were only two places on earth to get Don’s “Rum Rhapsodies” made the way he created them, and only the Mai-Kai still had the grandeur of Don’s golden days.

     Today, the craft cocktail is coming back. Those in search of great concoctions are returning to the master Don Beach and finding nothing to compare. They are in awe of his ability to make deep, balanced, incredible masterpieces of rum and flavorings. And they are returning to the cocktail Mecca that is Mai-Kai. There they can taste the drinks as they should be, and served in the specialty glasses with ice shells or fresh pineapples and seasonal coconuts. In the Mai-Kai, it is as if Don and the Thorntons never left. Carefully made, complex drinks are served with wonderful food and the utmost gracious service. All this is done in the most reverie inducing environment on earth.

     It is time travel.

     On Saturday March 16th, Mai-Kai historian Tim “Swanky” Glazner will give a presentation on the people and stories of this great place. The very people of the Mai-Kai who witnessed and made 55 years of its history will be on hand for a Mai-Kai Family Reunion.

      The Molokai will open at 2PM for the event with Happy Hour and my presentation will be at 3PM.

    It will also be a reunion of the Mai-Kai veterans, the living history of the greatest Tiki Temple on earth. Last year we had Molokai girls, perfomers, Maitre d’s and others who had worked there as long ago as the 50s.

    Please join us for a greater understanding of the Mai-Kai’s place in Polynesian Pop history and an appreciation of the 80 year legacy they represent. This is your chance to hear the stories first hand.

    Facebook event

    Also check out Mod Weekend occuring that weekend as well. I will be giving a guided tour of the Mai-Kai Sunday moring as part of that event.

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    Filed under: Architecture,Architecture,Events,Mai-Kai History,Places,Polynesian Pop,Retro Goodies,Retro Preservation | Comment (1)

  • Mod Weekend in Fort Lauderdale March 15-17th

    Saturday 2nd February 2013 - 8:30:46 AM
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    Mod Weekend 1

    The event will be March 15 – 17th and is centered around the Modern design of the Fort Lauderdale area. One of the architects celebrated will be Charles McKirahan. Besides designing several Modern buildings in the area of the event near A1A, he also worked with Bob and Jack Thornton to design the modern primitive Mai-Kai in 1956.

    As part of the activities there will be a double-decker bus tour of buildings and the first stop is the Mai-Kai. I will act as docent and lead a tour, highlighting the design elements and designers who left their imprint upon the place and the genre.

    I hope you can join us!

    Mod Weekend 2

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    Filed under: Architecture,Architecture,Events,Googie,Mai-Kai History,Places,Polynesian Pop,Retro Goodies,Retro Preservation,Vintage Places | Comment

  • 2013 is 1963 All Over Again…

    Wednesday 2nd January 2013 - 9:46:11 AM
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    1963 Mai-Kai Calendar 

    As a public service, let me bring to your attention the fact that the year 2013 is exactly the same as the year 1963. So you can re-use that 1963 calendar this year, and you can print out the 1963 Mai-Kai calendar for this purpose from my site!

    For this year I included the calendar pages.

    See it HERE.

    p.s. You can also use the 1974 calendar this year, but that actual calendar part is not on the site.

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    Filed under: "Tiki" Collecting,Ephemera,Ephemera,Events,Mai-Kai History,Polynesian Pop,Retro Goodies,Retro Preservation | Comment (1)

  • Swanky – Knoxville’s “Tiki King” in Metropulse

    Thursday 12th July 2012 - 6:12:39 AM
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     We were a bit shocked to find that Knoxville weekly indepenant paper Metropulse had made me the cover story this week. And I was very pleasantly surprised to find they did a really great job on the article that captures the past and present of Tiki well.


    Read it HERE.

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    Filed under: Architecture,Blather,Cocktail Capers,Ephemera,Ephemera,Events,Existential Fodder,Knoxville,Places,Polynesian Pop | Comment

  • NPR Does Hukilau and the Mai-Kai!

    Thursday 3rd May 2012 - 10:28:53 AM
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    I was proud to share some of my Mai-Kai research at the Mai-Kai during Hukilau this year. My presentation went over well and several said it brought tears to their eyes. A good sign. There were a dozen or so Mai-Kai veterans there who gave me lots of info to move forward with. And after my talk, I was interviewed for an NPR piece. If you have not heard it, then here it is: Mai-Kai and Hukilau on NPR.

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    Filed under: Blather,Events,Mai-Kai History,Places,Polynesian Pop,Retro Preservation | Comment

  • Mai-Kai History presentation at the Mai-Kai!

    Saturday 4th February 2012 - 6:42:20 AM
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    Leila, Mai-Kai Mystery Girl On April 20th, I will give a much updated version of my Mai-Kai history presentation as part of Hukilau. I have many more stories and images and long lost videos than when I was at Oasis, plus, I will have many of the people whose stories I am telling, right there in the room with me!

    I am really looking forward to this once in a lifetime event. I hope you will join me as I share the tales that will greatly deepen your appreciation of the Tiki Mecca.

    Come meet the man who invented the Mystery Drink, see the Mystery Girl on the Tonight Show, hear how the Mai-Kai was able to recreate Don the Beachcomber’s recipes so perfectly, and how so many incredible people are linked to this incredible place.

    Tickets at The Hukilau

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  • Swanky presents: “Mai-Kai – History, Mystery and Adventure” Symposium at Tiki Oasis

    Wednesday 29th June 2011 - 6:18:18 AM
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    Mai-Kai: Rum Soaked DisneyI have been a huge fan of the Mai-Kai since I saw it for the first time when organizing Hukilau 2003. Since then I have collected all the mugs, stories, postcards and memories I can.

    I have interviewed the founders of this legendary place, along with the varied people who have worked there as performers, servers, mixologists and owners. And I have heard the many tales of those who took their first drink there and patronized it for decades.

    For Tiki Oasis 2011, I am bringing the story of this great place to everyone. You’ll find out how the Mystery Drink was invented, and who was the first legendary girl auditioned for the job. Learn how the Thornton brothers used the best parts of Don the Beachcomber’s and added to it to make the grandest Tiki Palace in existence. See amazing images and never before seen vintage video and get the chance to receive the Mystery Ceremony done by former Mai-Kai performer Marina!

    Get your tickets via the Tiki Oasis website and join me for a fantastic trip through 60 years of Tiki history!

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    Filed under: Events,Polynesian Pop,Retro Goodies,Retro Preservation,Vintage Places | Comment (1)

  • Charles McKirahan – Fort Lauderdale Mid-Century Architect

    Saturday 4th June 2011 - 9:36:04 AM
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    If you are heading to Fort Lauderdale for Hukilau next week, you might want to take a little side trip as you drive to the Mai-Kai and see other places designed by Mid-Century master Charles McKirahan. McKirahan worked with the Thornton brothers to design the stunning A-frame of the the original Mai-Kai, and also has many surviving grand designs in the area. A couple of side turns as you go will give you the chance to see these great buildings.

    Jolly Roger on A1A

    As you can see (if you looked) if you turn in around Bayshore Drive before you get to Sunset, and just cruise around those streets, you’ll see lots of great mid-century places. This area was home to the first Hukilau in 2003, but we outgrew the Holiday Inn very quickly!

    Some images by Agilitynut

    History and preservation site to browse: HERE

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    Filed under: Architecture,Architecture,Events,Googie,Retro Goodies,Retro Preservation,Vintage Places | Comments (2)

  • Follynesia – Bosko, The Bum, Basement Kahuna, Pablus, Surf, …

    Sunday 6th July 2008 - 8:43:43 PM
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    FollynesiaWe started Coon Tiki a few years ago to teach and learn about carving tikis. Now we are moving the class to the beach and expanding it into an event for more people to enjoy.

    So, for $49 a night per person or less, you get, a beachfront house for the week, carving class with Bosko and Basement Kahuna, A cocktail “Show and Taste” with Beachbum Berry, live surf band on the beach at our private “Beach Blanket Bingo“, Hapa Haole tunes new and old with Pablus of the Crazed Mugs, a Low Country boil of fresh seafood… Well, that’s just getting started! You can’t stay on Folly Beach for that price, let alone enjoy all those extras!

    Ms Swanky and I love Folly. Vacation there yearly. A sleepy surf community. In September, the tourists have gone and the water is still warm and the weather fantastic. Charleston is just 10 miutes away. WIth your reservation you have the place from September 8-15th. Arrive when you like. Brad Howland is a local and he is putting this together with me. The Thursday Meet and Greet will be at his Jungalero Lounge which is amazing.

    Click here and book now while you can!

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  • A Little Swank Pad Christmas

    Sunday 23rd December 2007 - 6:54:46 PM
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    A few images from our house:


    Bell Elf1

    Bell Elf 2

    Bowling Pig

    Light Elf

    Other tree

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    Filed under: Events,Existential Fodder,Retro Goodies | Comments (2)

  • Knoxville Postcard Show next Weekend

    Saturday 13th October 2007 - 6:23:13 PM
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    Sharp’s Motel

    I picked up this new card of the Sharp’s Motel at the Clinton Antiques Fair today. For the complete story on this Motel, click here. A big postcard dealer. She will be at the postcard show with her complete collection. It was great to see a stack of just Knoxville cards. Other than my own stack, I’d never seen that before. I’ve had this circled on my calendar for months. I can’t wait to flip through all the cards and see what gems I can find!

    OCTOBER 19-20, 2007- East Tennessee Postcard Show, Days Inn Convention Center, Central Ave. Pike at Merchants Dr. Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Milt Hinshilwood, 865-247-5767

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    Filed under: Ephemera,Events,Googie,Knoxville,Retro Goodies,Retro Preservation | Comment (1)

  • “Land of the Smokies” author visits Knoxville

    Monday 18th June 2007 - 8:02:18 PM


    Tim Hollis has created several great books of vintage Americana, concentrating on the South. His latest offering is about the good old Smokie Mountains and the many vacation destinations in the time of automobile travel on highways. It should jog many memories.

    He will be here in town at Carpe Librum book store on Wednesday, June 27th. I have added his books to my store here on Swank Pad.

    Also appearing at:

    MONDAY EVENING, JUNE 25 – Joseph Beth book store, Charlotte, NC
    THURSDAY EVENING, JUNE 28 – Joseph Beth store, Lexington, KY
    SATURDAY AFTERNOON, JUNE 30 – Joseph Beth store, Cincinnati, OH

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  • Cybertiki Revisited

    Friday 8th June 2007 - 8:43:53 AM
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    As I gear up for the annual trek to Fort Liquordale and Hukilau, I start thinking about old friends I will see. One of them is Cybertiki. Dave and his wife are great folks and incredibly generous. His wife makes the lucious costumes the bar gals wear in the Molokai Lounge. She’ll make one for you too if you want. Look for them in the vendor area. He has a great collection of Mai Kai ephemera. He had started sharing some things a long time ago and I know most people who have not been around as lone as I have don’t know about it. So, I searched his site out and wanted to shine a spotlight on it. Especailly this 1966 Mai Kai calendar. Here is an image from it:

    1966 Calendar Girl

    They had the remaining fabric that was used to make the aloha shirt Elvis wore in Blue Hawaii. Some lucky soul is wearing the last dress made of that fabric…

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    Filed under: "Tiki" Collecting,Ephemera,Events,Polynesian Pop,Retro Goodies,Retro Preservation,Vintage Places | Comment

  • Tiki Event Calendar

    Thursday 7th June 2007 - 11:11:47 AM
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    A few people have asked for it, so I am going to try to make it happen. I like the Google calendar and use it for my personal planning. It prints out real nice. I have started a public calendar of Tiki Events. Please email me if your event is not there or if you want more info to be added. This is just a short bit to get started so far:

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  • Tiki Eyeball Caddy Torch Video

    Sunday 3rd June 2007 - 6:24:12 PM
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    This was a spectacular moment at Tiki Eyeball as Tiki Culture meets Kustom Car Culture. Torching a tiki after it is carved is normal. Adds a patina and burns off some splinters. No one ever did it like Kevin Moore before…

    And here is video of Kevin showing his skills at torching his tires…

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  • 1967 Mai Kai Calendar

    Saturday 2nd June 2007 - 11:23:03 PM
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    To rev up to Hukilau coming in less than two weeks, I am sharing some Mai Kai schwag…
    Mrs. Thornton
    Mrs. Thornton, the choreographer for the Mai Kai dinner show and owner of the Mai Kai. She is the spirit of the place and an incredible lady.
    Day-am! LOVE THE HAIR! and the other stuff is nice. Like a little dish laid out on the leaves. Is this her on this postcard?
    What a drum! And the hair is rockin too!
    Can’t wait to see the sites in the Molokai again…

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    Filed under: "Tiki" Collecting,Ephemera,Events,Places,Polynesian Pop,Retro Goodies,Retro Preservation,Vintage Places | Comment

  • Hukilau Plans

    Thursday 31st May 2007 - 3:16:23 PM
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    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…

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  • Tiki Eyeball Trip Report

    Tuesday 22nd May 2007 - 8:51:14 PM
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    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.

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  • Are We There Yet?!

    Wednesday 16th May 2007 - 11:42:42 AM
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    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!

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  • Coon Tiki 2007

    Wednesday 28th March 2007 - 10:16:32 AM
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    Coon Tiki carving by Crazy Al

    We have set the date for the next Coon Tiki carving class here in the mountains of East Tennessee. Last time, everyone had a fantastic time. It was great to get away to a secluded, peaceful cabin (minus Basement Kahuna’s heavy metal acoustic jam sessions, and the occasional Crazy Al bobsledding incident), and spend time with like minded people. We all got to know each other better and really share aloha in a way you don’t get very often. The one on one teaching from Benzart is unparalleled.

    This is an incredible opportunity in many ways and we hope to see you here in July.

    Make your reservations at the Coon Tiki site. Class is limited to 12 people.

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  • Summer Travel in the Land of Tiki

    Thursday 15th March 2007 - 10:18:16 AM
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    Spring is in the air here at the Swank Pad. I saw the first robin two weeks ago. I may be getting old when this season brings on a certain dread as I think of all the yard work… But, I look forward to the work as well…

    Ms Swanky and I take off next weekend to visit Nashville and drop down to Smyrna to see Polly at the Omni Hut. I have asked her many times about the possibility of putting together a little tiki gathering there, and she has balked. I think I may have the answer this time that will get her to say yes. We’ll see.

    In May I’ll be heading to the first annual Tiki Eyeball in central Illinois where I’ll help Basement Kahuna and Lakesurfer vending and demonstrating their carving skills. Looking forward to seeing the Aku Tiki.

    The week after that I make my first trip further west than Iowa to visit LA. I’ll be doing photography for the Tiki Calendar there and will squeeze in a trip to the legendary Oceanic Arts.

    With a little breather after that, we’re off to Hukilau for a long weekend, and more photography at the Mai Kai. We’ll have some preliminary images for the calendar then and may be vending for the first time. We came into possession of a large collection of Hawaiian shirts we need to sell.

    In July, the Haole Kats will be around and I am working on some shows for them here and maybe Coon Tiki’s second seminar with Benzart and the annual luau here at our house.

    August means Tiki Oasis. I don’t know if I can make that event, but I am helping the Haole Kats and Pablus put together a west coast tour from Seattle to Tiki Oasis that week and I hope to be right there with them. Then there is the Hot Rod Hula Hop in Columbus with all my Fraternal Order of Moai sisters and brothers.

    In September, the calendar should be ready and then we work hard at sending it throughout the land as another embassador of Tiki…

    I have some hopes of HGTV doing a show on renovating part of our new house into the new Hapa Haole Hideaway this year too.

    I’m tired just thinking about all that, but it should be invigorating!

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  • Tiki Eyeball – Aku Tiki Inn – Peru, IL – May 18th-20th

    Thursday 25th January 2007 - 10:29:19 AM
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    Kick off the summer right with Kustom Kars and Tiki Bars!

    Tiki Eyeball
    This is the first event of the season for  Wizzard Road Shows and the first Tiki Eyeball event. It promises to be a great weekender in the heartland of America. Great bands, vendors, rods and fun. I am bringing a motley crew of carvers together to show their skilz and spread the gospel of tiki to the masses. Expect a great room party with me and Basement Kahuna mixing up the cocktails. Lake Surfer is haulin his big and lovely sculptures in and throwin it down artic north style.
    More details to come. I can’t wait to explore this very out of the way, vintage tiki establishment, AND the Tiki Truck Stop!

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  • Vaudeville Lives

    Sunday 7th January 2007 - 4:13:35 PM
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    Ms Swanky and I went out for an absolutely fantastic evening of entertainment last night. Costumed comedy, and just great live performance. It was at Club XYZ and the show was their drag show with RAZ and Angel Collins taking the lead roles. It was so campy and fun. It just had me looking at the drag show completely differently. Maybe it was the smaller stage that made it more intimate and allowed more interaction with the crowd. It certainly had to do withour entertainers. It was really a great show and I am ready to go back. You just don’t see that kind of entertainment anymore and I mean that in a good way.

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  • Hukilau 2006 Report

    Thursday 12th October 2006 - 9:40:04 PM
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    Thank you dear for the drinks! Our lovely server who danced in the dinner show later.


    This Hukilau was very different to me. I took a friend with me, and what that meant was that I had no obligations and was able to spend lots of time talking to and getting to know the many wonderful people that come to Hukilau. It is these very people that made the event worth doing year after year though I lost money (sometimes lots of it!) on what was essentially a year long job. The stress and work was worth having these great people come together and have such a wonderful time. I met more people by Thursday afternoon than I think I had in the previous 4 years.

    It is always a great day when you can spend time in the Mai Kai, but exploring it with Otto Von Stroheim and playing around with Bamboo Ben and Holden Westland and King Kukulele in the Mai Kai is way better. Sharing it with people who love it the way I do is fantastic.


    Bre-Elle as the Mermaid was a treasure.


    Pablus on stage at the Mai Kai stopping everything with the power of his song and his sweet voice was amazing. I am lucky to have him come around and sing in my Hapa Haole Hideaway regularly, so I know his magic. Everybody tasted it then.


    Tiki Diablo and Basement Kahuna carving

    Basement Kahuna and I already have plans to make next year even better!

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  • Vintage Island Slide Show at Hukilau

    Tuesday 29th August 2006 - 1:47:30 PM
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    I have been sharing a few of the images from my slide collection here on the Blather for a bit. I am going to take the set of the best slides with me to Hukilau and have a showing of them over the weekend. It will probably occur late at night, in the room in which everyone is congregating. So just look for Pablus or the giant batch of rum cocktail mixed by Basement Kahuna after the main event somewhere in the Bahia Cabana. I’ll be there with the vacation slides of a few dozen trips to the islands taken 40 years ago…

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  • Hot Rod Hula Hop 2 – Columbus, OH

    Thursday 24th August 2006 - 11:08:04 AM
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    FezHot Rod Hula Hop 2 – Men in Fezes

    Second year for this event was funner and more hectic than last year. We Honui brothers of the Fraternal Order of Moai recieved our fezes. Something about that is like being in gang colors, but without the danger. Belonging. All weekend I saw people in their fezes and I didn’t know them really, but I knew they were brothers. Nice.

    JimThe Friday night “Feast of the Tiki Gods” was a real treat. The moment I walked in I was transported to that special tiki place I have visited many times. Great food, great friends and great drinks made by Kahiki barmaster Jim, seen here. Plus live music that was great. It’s a special thing to walk up to the musician and drop a buck in the tip jar and ask for “Henehene Kou Aka” and he tears right into it. That’s rare.

    BistorThe feast was a sell out and the food really was good. As good a buffet as I have had.

    HoffaAlways good to see Hoffa. He drove up from Fort Lauderdale. The man has a passion. He used to live near the Kahiki and moved to Lauderdale under condition that he be in walking distance to the Mai Kai.

    hood carThis was a stand out for the car show to me. Great details and a great theme on this car.

    dancerlightsLargo’s had a nice decor for the show. Fishermen and the Barnyard Burlesque were standouts for me. When are these guys coming to Hukilau?

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  • World’s Longest Yardsale

    Sunday 6th August 2006 - 9:21:14 PM
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    Yard Sale

    This is perhaps the third time I have checked out the World’s Longest Yardsale, also known as the Highway 127 yardsale. I am about 45 minutes form highway 127 as it goes through Crossville, TN. The last few times I tried, it was rainy. This weekend, they got plenty of rain, but it was okay today. We checked out a few stops along the way and there was quite a bit there. But, after a bunch of tents, we found very little of interest and the thought of driving far into the hinterland in the heat and humidity was unappealing. So, we hit some antique stores instead. I found a nice Juice-O-Mat for $6 at 75% off and two postcards for $1 each.

    Tiki GardensI have seen a lot of Tiki Gardens postcards. I think they must have made more than anybody. But I have never seen this one. Maybe for good reason as it is pretty boring, featuring the plain backside of a large tiki and a fully covered old lady.

    BeachcomberThe second is for”South Sea Island Pacific Ocean Park” in Santa Monica, CA. The card is a bit interesting with a couple of “tiki” poles and such, but the description on the back was worth the whole long drive today: “Cross a beautiful waterfall, then board a gay banana train run by a carefree beachcomber…” Hmmm.

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  • Hukilau 2002 video

    Thursday 20th July 2006 - 2:02:07 PM
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    Hukilau logoI recorded very little video at Hukilau 2002. I was way too busy working my ass off and sweating! But, I put this little slice together and posted it on a site a long time ago that I had forgotten about. I have uploaded it to a new location that I hope will be more permanent.

    Download here.

    Can you spot Sven Kirsten? Love the 14 foot tall tikis by Mai Tiki!

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  • Hukilau 2006 – Fort Lauderdale – Mai Kai

    Tuesday 18th July 2006 - 12:21:46 PM
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    In 2003, 2004 and 2005, we rented about 35 rooms at the Bahia Cabana to Hukilau guests. This year it’s filled with Hukilau guests for the first time. That should make for a very great weekend.

    The Bahia Caban sits on the spot of the hanging of a pirate in Fort Lauderdale.

    The Mai Kai is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary this year, and is still run and owned by the same family. It remains the number one “must see in my lifetime” destination for many. This is the best time to see it too. Filled with several hundred people who all walk in the place and never want to leave. People who relish the mood that takes them so very far away from normal life, to an oasis.

    Knowing that nearly every person you pass at the Bahia Cabana is a Hukilau attendee should insure meeting lots of new and old friends and a great time. Someone once said you could hold Tiki Oasis at a Motel 6 and it would still be an incredible time because of the people. This will be one of the best times, with some of the best people.

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  • Tropical drink home brewing

    Friday 7th July 2006 - 3:13:24 PM
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    Dr. Cocktail exorts those who make their own versions of cocktail elixirs this month. In October, Hukilau will have a mixology seminar headed by Beachbum Berry. At his side will be a few friends of mine whose drinks I have imbibed with pleasure: Pablus, Kuku Ahu and Basement Kahuna. Thes guys have the drive for perfection that has caused them to make their own liqueurs when the original stock has dried up.

    Basement Kahuna is a drink detective. Months after being at the Mai Kai last, he hands me a drink at Coon Tiki and asks how it compared to their “Black Magic.” He had been deducing the formula in his lab and thought he found the correct concoction. I think he is right. He’s reproduced a few of their recipes and made some great ones of his own.

    Pablus tends to make his drinks in gallons. Crates of fresh fruit from the groves and it all comes together. He is a great soldier in the quest for perfect Falernum, and has indeed made his own! It was he who put together the great Falernum tasting of Hukilau 2004. He even sings songs he has written about Falernum and cocktails with his band The Crazed Mugs.

    In my bar I have a bottle of Pimento Liqueur made by JTD and have sampled that made by Ahu. He has made his own Passionfruit Syrup, Grenadine, Pimento Liqueur, and tried his hand at Falernum and any number of mixers. Ahu has a background as a chef and brings that huge knowledge to bare on the drink making.

    These guys have a great wealth of mixing knowledge, talent and taste. There are only a handfull of us who spend the hours and dollars to make our way through all the recipes in Berry’s books. These guys are some of the best.

    And besides the seminar, you can check out their work in my room at Hukilau on Thursday night as the Fraternal Order of Moai host their bar there. Look for the guys in the blue Fezes.

    In the mean time you can catch me and Ahu enjoying the Kahiki’s head bartender’s drinks at the Hot Rod Hula Hop 2 this August in Columbus. If you live near me in Tennessee, you can maybe get invited to my luau this month where I and Basement Kahuna will make a lot of classic and new tiki cocktails for my guests. And as always, visit your local tiki bar and encourage the classics!

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  • Dusk til Dawn!

    Thursday 29th June 2006 - 11:27:49 AM

    Drive In No, not the Quinten Tarantino movie, the all nighter at the Drive-In movie! A real treat from the past that is much as I recall it from my own childhood. We in East Tennessee are fortunate to have a few active Drive Ins.

    ParkwayThe Parkway is where we are headed this weekend for chilli dogs and watching on lawn chairs under blankets and maybe sneaking in a little rum to mix with the coke to knock off any chill in the air. More about this after the fact.

    Update: This was not as fun as it was before. It seems that a number of people decided that the times between flicks were when you crank up your own tunes for everyone to enjoy. Loud metal and hip-hop are A) not what I want to hear and 2) not fun played loudly simultaneously.

    The highlight of the adventure was the guys in the car to our left. They had fired up a little wacky weed at some point and they cranked up some Metalica too. It’s funny how the loud music makes you talk really loud to hear each other, but those nearby hear every word you say very clearly. So, we’re in the middle of the movie and the guy says “that’s straight out of the book!” And, “if they show the part where he gets arrested, that’s from the book.” “That’s in the book!” Not an uncommon thing to hear in movies based on books. But, this was “Curious George.” 

    And I was really looking forward to the chilli dogs, but what I got was a big fat hot dog with meaty chilli that had beans in it. I wanted the little skinny dog and the chilli “sauce” I had come to expect from a concession stand. I didn’t want quality!

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  • Coon Tiki for 2007

    Wednesday 28th June 2006 - 11:02:57 AM
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    Tiki Lee maskMy tiki carving seminar this year was a bigger success than I hoped, judging by the response from the participants. “Tiki Lee’s” posted his finished project recently. It turned out great.

    Aaron's MaskSo did Aaron’s version.

    This summer has been a busy one for me, so I have not planned on doing another class this year, though that may change. But I did start planning for next year. I asked Bob and Leroy at Oceanic Arts to teach a class. I was very excited when they didn’t say ‘no’ right away. But, today they said they just felt it wasn’t something they would be able to make the time for.

    I’ll start looking around for another carver or two to head up the future Coon Tiki classes. Benzart is always a first choice.

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