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Rare color image the Mai-Kai “hut” sign designed and built by Dave Stevens. Chicagoans Dave and his brother made a wide variety of custom items for the Mai-Kai, from spotlight covers that looked like rocks for the exterior to fake turtle shells for the interior. The Moai stone carving was stolen one quiet night by crane from the front lawn.
A peak at the forthcoming book Mai-Kai: History, Mystery, and Adventure.
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.
Only the mastery of Crazy Al could recreate this amazing carving from the Mai-Kai.
The latest piece in the Mai-Kai Memories Series is the Molokai Maiden. An unreal smaller version of the iconic masthead in the Molokai Bar. It takes a 7 piece mold to get this beauty made!
To get on the list to own one of these for the future additions and show your support, email Al at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More images on Swank Pad Productions Site.
And on Facebook in the gallery.
And the video is HERE.
To get on the list to own one of these, email Al at email@example.com.
To make the cocktail for this excellent receptacle:
The Molokai Maiden
- 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
- 1 oz fresh orange juice
- 1 oz soda water
- 1/2 oz simple syrup
- 1 oz Brandy (She was a fine girl.)
- 1 oz Vodka
- 1 oz. Dark Puerto Rican Rum
- dash bitters and a drop of orgeat or almond extract.
Shake or blend with crushed ice and pour into your Molokai Maiden mug with more crushed ice to fill.
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.
Just added, thanks to a loan from a fan of the site, the 1968 Mai-Kai calendar!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
They are on sale now at the Swank Pad Productions website and next week in the Mai-Kai gift shop!
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.
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
In researching the Mai-Kai’s history, I come across a lot of things that I am not sure will ever make it into a book, or a lecture or anywhere besides me and my wife. This weekend, with spare time due to the holidays, I did some digging. I have an October/November 1965 “Happy Talk”, a news magazine published by the Mai-Kai, and it is full of great stuff. The cover announces that Mariterangi will begin performing in the Molokai soon. I had not heard that name come up before, so I searched for the story of her life. There is not much.
There is a ton of her music online. I found Dub DJs with her in their list of music to mix. She, like many of the performers at the Mai-Kai, was from Tahiti, born in 1926. The fast tempo of the Tahitian drums is a draw for creating a live show I am sure. Toti was the lead there. Mireille was the choreographer and dancer from Tahiti. They likely knew of Marie and when she landed on the mainland of the US, they worked to recruit her. Marie came to the US via Hawaii, like many of the island performers, and created her own troupe. She started at the Bora Bora in San Francisco in 1960. That location became a Skipper Kent’s in the late 60’s after the owner was shot by his wife. Few even knew it was ever anything else. It stayed a Skipper’s into the 80s.
There were local island natives who would come to the Mai-Kai and as the evening came around, they got out their guitars and began to play and sing the songs of their homelands. It was simply a natural thing and it was enjoyed by the snowbirds as well. The Mai-Kai recognized the beauty of it and made this a standard practice there. Marie may have been the first formal player in the Molokai.
Sadly, Marie passed away of cancer in 1971. She was honored in her homeland, along with her sister Emma with a stamp. Her music lives on forever. Her voice is so full of emotion. If you can find her “Tahiti Nui”, it is a classic.
And today, the tradition lives on. It may be Mua and his guitar or any number of other musicians playing in the Molokai. Singing the songs of the islands…
If you are interested in helping with this project, please email me. I do not have every calendar.
Check back for updates!
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!
This record has lots of great images. It is meant to be a sort of scrapbook of your Hawaiian Honeymoon. Places to add notes and it is generally a nice bit of eye candy. I expected the most watered down tripe from the vinyl inside.
Instead I found some good music. Even some great music! The track “He Aloha No O Honolulu” at first gave me a little chill and then it shot straight into breath taking.
THIS page says: It showcases the unique talents of Bunny Brown,
Kihei Brown. Arthur Kaua, Mona Kalima, and Buddy Brown at their best; Bunny Brown recalls, “The whole album was incredibly recorded in just one session.”
THIS is the stuff I play in the Hapa Haole Hideaway. It gives me the feeling that is my ideallic soundtrack.
Hilo Hawaiians – Honeymoon in Hawaii
I don’t know much about what is going on here, so I will leave off with comments. I will note that the track names are as they were printed on the LP.
This image is from the June 1959 issue of Esquire magazine. It says:
“The fabulous mixologist Mariano Licudine of the famed Mai-Kai Restaurant in Florida creates new ways with rum in his Derby Daiquiri. The secret: one ounce of fresh orange juice, one half ounce of fresh lime juice, one scant teaspoon of sugar, one andone half ounces of Puerto Rican white label rum, one cup of crushed ice; mix in a blender for 10 seconds or shake vigorously. The bee? Oh, he’s just buzzy. But this, designated the oficial drink of the Florida Derby, is the DERBY DAIQUIRI.”
This date seems to have confused people into thinking this was named the official drink of the Derby in 1959. The Derby Daiquiri has been on the Mai-Kai drink menu since the earliest printings. And it has always been pictured served in the special Jockey glass. So, I would assume it has been the drink of the Derby since 1957 at least, which is the copyright date on the oldest menus I have seen.
Here is Mai-Kai owner Bob Thornton holding the drink with the original coaster.
Here is my glass with the coaster.
UPDATE 8/10/2011: After extensive research, though the Derby Daiquiri was on the first Mai-Kai menu, it did not become the official drink of the Gulfstream Derby until probably 1959.
Yes, that’s right, it’s a bear with topless island girls, having a cocktail. Oh, and an old miner too. That’s from the drink menu for a very unique Tiki bar in Alaska. Right, Alaska. This great menu is obviously a perversion parody or the classic Trader Vic’s menu. In one image, that bear is doing something with an Alaskan native totem pole. For a moment I wondered if this wasn’t pre-Tiki, as the only Tiki cocktail on the menu was Don the Beachcomber’s Zombie. But then, duh! It’s the Trader’s menu! So, maybe it is mid to late 30’s. Very low prices and few classic cocktails as we knew them.
There is a great thread on Tiki Central that details the quest for this place and what might remain of it. Pictures unearthed by Unga Bunga and Taboo Dan:
James Teitelbaum was on his way to try to find what remained of the place, but, it turns out, most everything there was destroyed by an earthquake in 1964. Bummer.
More ripped live Hapa Haole vinyl. I had recorded this record in 2007, but just recorded it again. It appears to be from the 70s. Looks like the dying end of the Tiki Epoch. Everyone in the images is elderly. The show was recorded in the Malia Polynesian Room in Asbury Park, NJ. I find no internet record of this place existing.
Sad, as Sam Makia made one of my all time favorite records. Take it as you will.
I have narrowed my collecting over the years, mainly due to the fact that I could quickly run out of space. Now that the Hideaway is in operation, I limited it even more.
One of the few things I do collect now are items from the Hawaii Kai, NYC. In the last few months, my very favorite recordings have become the live recordings from various island and Tiki establishments. Nothing is better than the sound of forks on plates in the background!
So when I came across this LP I thought I had hit a home run. However, I was more than a little disappointed to find out that it was a studio recording.
Here it is for you to download. If some expert out there can tell me what is causing the high end distortionin my recordings I’d appreciate it. My guess is the needle on the turntable. It is not a problem with recording levels, etc. It is at the source.
Back in 2001, I made Swank Vinyl Exotica I to sell at the first Hukilau. It turns out that was the only money made on the first Hukilau! I made a second and sold them both on my website.
I just didn’t feel like putting in the time to make the CDs anymore and they ended.
I decided to resurrect them and share them now. I do not swear by the quality of these recordings, only their mood, which at those times, they reflected.
This is one of many, many records I picked up at thrift stores over the years. Back in 2004 I ripped it to the computer, at least the first side. Recently I was making new mixes for the Hideaway and included their “Hasegawa General Store” and every time it comes around, I crank it up. I just love it. Something about the sounds of forks hitting plates in the background just endears it to me.
George passed away in 2000. I am not sure when this was released. Some evidence on the web indicates 1992, but I am thinking earlier.
So, enjoy the piano bar in Hawaii, done as well as anyone. Live from the Maui Hilton Hotel on the beach at Kaanapali in the Lokelani Room.
Hula records Stereo HS-539
UPDATE: ” George Jr., entertains at The Royal Lahaina, Kaanapali every weekend.”
It’s been slow going. Leaks have kept us from going forward with much energy. Got a bit done this weekend and hope to get and keep some momentum.
Did some finishing under the thatch. Where I had painted the ceiling black had to be painted back to match the wall.
The new white door had to be fixed. Painted the inner edges the burnt orange from the walls.
Painted the brown around the edges and cut and glued some fijian tapa cloth on the high areas. Had a very whacky 70’s vibe at this point.
Added this tiki and it worked well. Took away that weird 70’s vibe.
Ms. Swanky found a bunch of this fabric on Ebay and covered all the stools and we put it up as curtains over the back window in the Tapa Room.
The whole process is seen HERE on Tiki Central.
In this economy, things are tough for a business that depends on tourists. And the new owner, Dave Levy has also invested a ton of money in renovating the Mai Kai in the last year.
So, spend a couple of minutes adding your glowing reviews to these online travel pages to counter the many stupid reviews of people who are clueless. Help keep the Mai Kai around for your kids and their kids to go and marvel. Hell, do it so you can go and marvel!
These are the top review sites when searching for the Mai Kai. And while there, be sure to look up your other favorites and give them good reviews too. They need more people who don’t complain about them being too dark or expensive to chime in!
I’ve always loved this mug. Such a nice sentiment to have “Goddess of Love” tattooed across the top of a skull mug. A wonderful image for a drink. The Hawaii Kai is a legendary tiki bar from New York, best known as the location of Joe Pesci’s famous “Do I amuse you” scene in Goodfellas. I was very pleased to add this one to my collection.
Just when you think you know what’s out there, something else comes along. Until about a month ago, I had never seen this menu. It is the “missing link” in a way. Oddly missing from the Mai Kai drink menu that we all have seen that is dated 1957, is the Mystery Drink. That led to wondering if the Mystery Drink was around in 1956 when they opened. This is perhaps the answer. On this menu, dated 1959, is the Mystery Drink. There was a seperate menu for the Molokai and that’s where the drink was ordered. It is dated 1959 and not 1957. We had this dated menu from 1958, so, this menu doesn’t get us closer to 1957 for the Mystery Drink, just firms up the evidence. One interesting thing from the mini menu is the image of the Mystery Drink. It is the kneeling girl bowl that was common among many bars.
That bowl is seen in this image from the Mai Kai which is surely Annie Campbell:
So, perhaps the Mystery Drink started in 1956 when the Mai Kai opened, and the Mai Kai Mystery Bowl appeared a little later…
I previously posted about the Okole Maluna Club at the Mai Kai. At Hukilau, Kern Mattei, GM of the Mai Kai blessed me with this bit of ephemera. The membership card for the Okole Maluna Society. Awesome! I just can’t decide if I should put my name on it and make myself a mixologist! I should have had Kern do it.
I built the Hideaway first in my rental house. Then I moved in with Ms Swanky and converted her dining room into the Hideaway. Now we are living the American Dream and I am living the Poly Pop dream and we are building a rather permanent Hideaway. This is a major undertaking. The sort of thing you’d only do if you own. We’ve hired contractors to rewire everything. That is, 4 outlets in the ceiling on a switch behind the bar. A wet bar. Just a serious bar build. We are now deep into the construction phase. We hope to get started on building the actual bar soon. And then we will get to the fun part where we start putting in decor. It has been a ton of work and there is a lot more to go. Been colecting specifically for th eproject now too. We are also doing a tropical lanai to go with the Tiki bar.
We 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.
More Mai Kai goodness pre-Hukilau
Just got this card to add to the Vintage Server Girls thread on Tiki Central.
I was talking to an old friend today about Hukilau and the Mai Kai and suggested that if he had the chance, he should visit Trader Vic’s Atlanta. His response surprised me. He told me he had been there, with me! We took a road trip to Atlanta in 1996 which I recall. We had a heckuva good time. I recall stumbling upon the Clairmont Lounge, etc. But he tells me our first stop was Trader Vic’s. I have no memory. First I recall being there was around 2001. Weird.
The one great thing I credit myself with in the whole Hukilau event, is being able to promote and in some ways really help make the Mai Kai more well known and popular. We all love the place, but I love the people that run it. They are the best. The staff as well. Mai Kai.
I noticed there was not a good set of images of this magazine article on the web, so I thought I’d scan it and put it out there for everyone.
Considering all the images of this Barrel of Rum mug, you’d think they would be around, but I have seen this mug on Ebay once in maybe 5 years.
Could be this guy, waiting and watching on the diving board.
Could be these mafia guys, planning something harsh.
Could be this gal, smiling, cocktail in hand with the awesome hairdo.
Could be this red hot mama. But…
Really it’s just the whole damn card!
I have been corresponding with former Mai Kai Mystery Lady Ann Campbell lately. Once again I cannot stress enough the importance of getting everything we can on the Internet so the generation who remembers can find it and share with us. It was thanks to my Mai Kai calendar posts that she found me.
Unfortunately, a lot of her photos and memorabilia from that time was destroyed by a varmit infestation while they were in storage. One piece she sent me really stood out to me. I had read and was told that Bob Thornton inspected the Mai Kai gals on a regular basis and even the future Mrs. Thornton was kicked off the squad for being a bit pudgy. Well, here is a bit of proof. A letter from 1965 from Bob congratulating her for being top gal, and reminding her to keep her weigh under 125…
Great aerial photos of the Stardust and Aku Aku posted here on Tiki Central. Really shows how remote the place was then. Nice to see that perspective.
It’s a steady refrain that Tiki Central is not what it used to be. This is true. But there are very regularly things there that still make an old Tiki dog wag their tail. I am going to start posting links to the threads on Tiki Central that interest me and that I think will interest the old school Tiki peeps.
If you consider yourself one of those OG Tiki Peeps and you’d like to help in this project, please drop me a line. The more, the merrier.
I didn’t start this blog as a Tiki blog. But, there is certainly a lot of Tiki on it. Maybe its time I concentrate on making this blog a repository for the type of Tiki information I think is important. I am an Old School Tiki lover. I only collect vintage mugs and ephemera. I love some of the new stuff too. But the old days is what gets me excited. So, I’ll try to share the excitement for those of you who may have become disenchanted with TC.
I have created a new category on this blog, so you can easily find the “OG Tiki Central” stuff.
The only calendar you would ever want to hang in your Tiki Bar is here. Get one for your office to take you away every time you look at it!
I went around the country photographing incredible collections of mugs and, well, all sorts of stuff. I took photographs at Oceanic Arts and the Mai Kai and my own Hapa Haole Hideaway. Then we turned the images over to some talented graphic designers and the result is Tiki Daze.
You must have it!
Something very modern looking about Kelli, Miss December 1974.
Mai Kai, Fort Lauderdale, FL
“When the gong sounds, the ritual begins. There’s a hush throughout the room. What follows is something very special. Between you, your soul and the Mystery Girl.”
Kainoa is Miss April 1974. We had the pleasure of Kainoa dancing in the opening ceremony for Hukilau 2004. An incredible lady. She dances with my good friend Talani’s Polynesian Proud Productions in South Florida.
Another drawing of the garden dining area.
I had come across this cover many years ago, and this week, I finally found the magazine. As best as I can tell, it is from 1966. Maybe a bit racier than Playboy at the time and just full of pictures of girls. The tiki and the bar are apparantly owned by the same photographer who did this spread for Nylon Jungle magazine. The rest of the images in the magazine are NSFW, so, you click on the below links as you wish.
Buff Treasure – on Pleasure Island – Rare, indeed, is the day that a ship calls at the island of Secluda, so this lovely native celebrates the event.
Page 3 – She’s asking the fire god who rules over the island to provide them with rainless weather so that the passengers and crew on board the ship can come ashore to sample the island’s hospitality. The native food is delicious, the dances are delights to behold and the people are friendly children. “Pleasure Island,” it’s been called, and with good reason. With luck, perhaps some day your ship will call at this pearl of the Pacific!
It’s probably a good idea that the outrigger isn’t there now. I can definitely see Crazy Al rowing out to the waterfall at Hukilau…
Linda is Miss March 1974.
A drawing of the dining area in the gardens.
Mai Kai, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Candi is Miss February. Now that’s sexy, I don’t care who you are.
A nice drawing of the show at the Mai Kai.
Mai Kai, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Gail brings up the rear as the last image for 1967.
Liva is Miss December 1967
Mai Kai, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Sandra is Miss November 1967
Mai Kai, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Ellen is Miss October 1967
Mai Kai, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Joan is Miss September 1967.
Mai Kai, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Betty is Miss August 1967.
Mai Kai, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Deanna is Miss July 1967.
Mai Kai, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Mireille is Miss June 1967
Mai Kai, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Leila is Miss May 1967.
Mai Kai, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Carol is Miss April 1967.
Mai Kai, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Andree is Miss March 1967.
Mai Kai, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Gigi is Miss February 1967
Mai Kai, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Patti is Miss January 1967
Mai Kai, Fort Lauderdale, FL
This starts the 1967 Mai Kai calendar. This is a front image:
Lorie is our front girl for 1967
Ellen is Miss November 1963.
Mai Kai, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Many years ago at the World’s Longest Yardsale, an empty bottle of Leilani Hawaiian Rum turned up. Sven Kirsten said he has a display that held the bottle and was looking for a one to put in it. That put me on a search.
At the Tiki Ti you may have seen this. It’s an “adapted” display. A few years ago I happened upon the display in mint condition. Now I was in the spot Sven was. Until last week…
Behold the Leilani Hawaiian Rum display, with a vintage, unopened bottle of Leilani Hawaiian Rum!
Yes, that state tax seal is intact. Beach Bum Berry ranks it as one of his favorite white rums. I have tasted it via a few airline sized bottles over the years. I think I will keep this seal unbroken for a long time. I love having this perfect display in the bar!
Jean is Miss October 1963.
Mai Kai, Fort Lauderdale, FL
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Diane is Miss August 1963.
Mai Kai, Fort Lauderdale, FL
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Hmmm, there’s just something about Jean, Miss July 1963 that I really love. Not sure what…
Mai Kai, Fort Lauderdale, FL
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Lita, the Oriental Mystery Girl is Miss June 1963.
Mai Kai, Fort Lauderdale, FL
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I meant to share these in chronological order, but somehow I messed up. So, now we start the 1963 Mai Kai calendar.
Donna is Miss January 1963. That Old Black Magic has had me in its spell many times…
A nice illustration of the Mai Kai in 1964
The legendary Mireille Thornton on the back cover.
This ends the 1964 calendar. These early 60s ones are very rare.
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Barbara is Miss December 1964
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Dee is Miss November 1964
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Sizou is Miss October 1964
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Joann is Miss September 1964
An illustration of the bar in 1964 with the portrait of Bob Thornton drawn in there.
I am proud that I was able to contribute images for the “Sexy Tiki” portion of Sven’s newest book, “Tiki Modern“. I just got a bit of new naughty hula stuff to share.
From the January 1963 we have a surprisingly long pictorial of a Hawaiian festival. We see the fantasy unfold. The images are NSFW: not safe for work.
Note the tan line on her that is 6 inches above her belly button.
Idola is Miss August 1964
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Sandi is Miss July 1964
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Kawana is Miss june 1964. This is one of the large tikis that used to be in front of the restaurant.
Here it is in a postcard. This tiki was stolen in the night long ago…
Sallye is Miss May 1964 – Shout out to Pablus and the Crazed Mugs who played the Molokai Lounge last night. I wish I could have been there. Can’t wait to see him in the round at the Aku Tiki Room in Kewaunee Illinois at next year’s Tiki Eyeball.
Yvonne is Miss April 1964
Ann is Miss March 1964
An illustration of the bar in 1964
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Jean is Miss February 1964, keeping the torches burning.
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This is a filler image used throughout this 1964 calendar. I believe the man in the drawn portrait is Bob Thornton. The Okole Maluna sign is not just an exhortation to “drink up”, but was a “club” that guests could join and work their way through the menu to get special stuff.
Pat is Miss Jauary.
As a proper build up to the new Tiki Daze calendar I am producing, I am going to be sharing my Mai Kai calendar collection over the next few months. The Mai Kai means a lot to me. It’s the greatest place on Earth as far as I am concerned. They are the anchor of Hukilau and it was the fantastic presence of the Mai Kai and the incredibly welcoming spirit of the owners and staff that keep Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale. I owe a lot to this place. It helped light and continually rekindles my tiki fire. The people who work there are great sources of information and are just the best.
Also, I spent a few hours at the Mai Kai, photographing the place for the calendar. It’s is far more dense with imagery than you realize.
So, it only seems fitting to share images of my Mai Kai calendars to celebrate the new Tiki Daze calendar. Over the coming months, you will see an mage a day. If you think the images should be bigger, let me know. When I can, I will add side information.
After a long year of working on this, we are nearly done! The fantastic graphic design artists have taken my thousands of photographs of vintage tiki bar ephemera and turned them into dynamic works of art. These things you have seen in the Book of Tiki, Tiki Quest, The Bum’s books and now the wonderful Tiki Modern. So, to simply photograph some very rare mugs and drop them on a background would be, well, already done and semi-boring. The real tiki geeks would dig it if I had the uber-rare items, but most people would not. So, I challenged my artists to do something fun, and creative with these images, and I think they have. Plus, all calendar images were approved by Ms. Swanky who, though she fully understands the tiki aesthetic, is not enthralled with it like I am. She understands a more broad perception that will make this calendar appeal to us tiki freaks, and the general freaks too.
If you look at the calendars in thte kiosk at the mall, you will find they all fall into a few categories:
- Images of things, i.e. Dogs, Cats, Babes, Hunks
- Art, i.e. Ansel Adams photos, Picasso paintings
- Cartoons, i.e. Dilbert, Farside
- Still Lifes, i.e. staged kitchen cooking scenes, islands, etc.
What we have done with this calendar is combine several of these styles. We have photographs of things, as in postcards, swizzles, mugs and menus of classic tiki bars. Mixed with images of thatch, tapa, etc., blended with custom artwork, and put together into a new image, which is a sort of “still life” of tiki that is more than a sum of its parts.
Quite simply, it is unlike any calendar I have ever seen, both for its subject matter, and especially for its design.
So, head over to the new website and get the only 2008 calendar that matters!
In a follow up to this popular post on the Hawaiian Village in Myrtle Beach, SC, I add this vintage postcard of the exterior.
Great sign, and what looks like a 15 foot tiki out front.
It is good to see more of this place….
Way too many of you are going to be pleased to know that the Chicago Antique Market boasts a “Retro Tiki” theme this weekend, and that it will showcase one-of-a-kind vintage items from Tiki collectors David and Amy Carter. The Carters have written a book, Tiki Quest: Collecting the Exotic Past which, if we weren’t trying so hard to be nicer, we would label as an idiotic exercise in how to waste time and money while making everyone else think you’re gay, if you’re straight; or, if you’re gay, making you look like an effete poseur. But you don’t care what people think, judging by how many of you have already headed for the door. Fine. I wash my hands of you. Yes, Tiki seekers, it’s retro time on Saturday and Sunday, June 30 and July 1, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the 1300 block of West Randolph (312/951-9939). You have to pay $8 to get in, unless you suspect that David and Amy Carter have brought particularly desirable gems of the Tiki oeuvre which you need to get your hands on before the hoi polloi arrives, which means you better bring $20 so you can get in at 8 instead of 9 a.m.
Man. Thanks for outting me! Much good commentary available on Tiki Central as well.
At least I think that’s where these were taken.
I have a lot of pictures like this.
And this. I assume you got a picture taken with a kane or wahine with your ticket.
This was Mr. and Mrs. James Barry
This is a place I have seen a lot of ephemera from over the year, but not the actual place until now. The lettering on the trash can is a clue. It’s the Queen’s Surf.
I love these old pictures. The guy to the left in the black suit and skinny tie and a lei. They are so well dressed. Below we see a little of the interior roof. Very nice.
I have always believed that the Mystery Drink was created at the Mai Kai and copied by the Kahiki. I had wondered why my early Mai Kai drink menu copyrighted 1957 did not have it in the list. I knew it came later. In fact, I was told this last weekend at Hukilau that it was first served in 1962.
The Kahiki opened in 1961. The oldest menu I have from there has the Mystery Drink on it. The bowl it shows on that menu is exceedingly rare. That bowl shows up in a few pictures of celebrities at the Kahiki from those early days. But for the Kahiki to copy the Mystery Drink, it would have to come at the very earliest, in 1962. More likely even later.
If there are images from their opening showing the Mystery Drink, dated 1961, then the invention of this classic height of Poly Pop is now in doubt. I will search out my own archives later for the photographic evidence. Post your pics if you have it already before you.
UPDATE: The Kahiki ran an insert in the newspaper on September 24th, 1961, with an image of the Msytery Bowl, and mentions the Mystery drink and where the Mystery Bowl was made. That stamps a clear date on the Kahiki Mystery Drink as 1961. If the Mai Kai served the first Msytery Drink in 1962, they were copying the Kahiki.
Does anyone have more proof on the Mai Kai doing a Msytery Drink before 1961?
UPDATE 7-23-07: Kern Mattei, GM of the Mai Kai says the Mystery Drink was announced in their “Happy Talk” newsletter. If you are in possession of a pre 1961 “Happy Talk,” please check it for mention of the drink and report the facts!
UPDATE 7-30-07: I asked Mimi Payne, who runs Arkiva Tropika to look through her collection for a Happy Talk to try to prove this mystery. No luck on the Happy Talk, but, she did find in her collection that the Okole Maluna Club menu had the Mystery Drink on it, and was dated 1958. Sure, that’s not 100% factual, but, nobody is going to make up a date on something like that. I consider this proven. The Mai Kai invented the Mystery Drink. Proof. And far earlier than was thought.
The 1966 issue of Nylon Jungle.
I have been looking for this for years. Nice tiki, nice, um, gal.
This carving must be in the photographer’s home. This is all we get to see. A random prop. If this was a recent picture, I’d be inclided to say those are too perfect. They must be fake. I know they had boob jobs in the 60s. Regardless, that’s a pleasing set.
The magazine is full of that odd fetish for shockings, feet and rather oddly, girls in dirty white sneakers and stockings.
Previously on Swank Blather:
I got this little menu on Ebay a while ago. I thought it was maybe just a mini ordering menu, perhaps for a luau or small event. This weekend at Hukilau, I found out what it was.
The “Big Bamboo” is of interest to this story.
Having the “Cobra’s Kiss” and “Deep Sea Diver” marked out I thought meant it was just not available at the time the menu was passed out. Not so.
The real answer came during Beachbum Berry’s talk. He had introduced Mai-Kai original mixologist, Mariano Licudine’s son to the crowd and had him come up to answer questions. He had been around the Mai-Kai since it was being built when he was a lad of twelve. His Dad had supervised every minute detail of the building of the bar.
He told about one of the recipes on the menu today which was a weakened version of the “Big Bamboo” recipe. The “Big Bamboo” was a drink you only got after you had worked your way through the “Okole Maluna Club”. This little menu was for that club. You got a drink marked off as you tried it and when you had tried all the drinks, you got a big bamboo mug of your own and got the “Big Bamboo” drink as a member of that club. That is why there is a “Cobra’s Kiss” marked off on this menu! That is what it is for and the drink is right there on the back! The only way to get the “Big Bamboo” was to try all these drinks.
So many great things come from Hukilau. I want to know more and more! He also said the origianl doors to the Mai-Kai looked like this and the original drink menu with the tikis on one door and “Mai Kai ” on the other, carved in Mohogany. Where are those doors now Kern?
I have not gotten Basement Kahuna to post here yet, but he has agreed to let me be the first to publish his cocktail recipes. Besides his great carving skills, he has a great pallette and has recreated some recipes from tasting them, like the Mai Kai’s “Black Magic,” as well as created new ones of his own.
But here is the catch. You don’t just get to see the recipes. They are now integrated into the Grogalizer. So, when you use the Grogalizer to find recipes to make, you will find a few extras that come from BK’s private recipe book…
The Grogalizer is here. Enjoy.
UPDATE: I have also included the top three recipes from the Tiki Central Drink Contest in the Grogalizer.
A rather dull slide, but for the tiki freaks, I pulled out a couple of details.
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:
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…
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:
New tiki collectors are hosed. I am torn. Do we want to try to educate people, or do we let them learn their lessons the hard way? This example ends in 11 hours:
A) These are Dollar Tree tikis. $3 here
B) They suck
C) They really suck because I bought a set myself and they are all broken in pieces now. If they so much as fall over, they break.
D) They are not from the Mai Kai.
E) They are plastic
Right now there are 7 bids and they are up to $20. Man. I have actual vinatge items that would probably not get this kind of action!
UPDATE: The $1 each tikis went for $35! This vintage Mai Kai rum barrel only fetched $40. WTF!
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…
To rev up to Hukilau coming in less than two weeks, I am sharing some Mai Kai schwag…
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…
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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…
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!
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…
Hmmm. Now I want to go to Trinidad and Haiti!
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.
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:
Via the PCL
Part one in a series that may or may not continue:
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.
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.
A postcard of dinner at the Kahiki. Are you sure it’s the Kahiki? Why, yes, it says so right on the pig!
But to a collector, this is a laundry list of things to strive for.
Penang #1 Drink mug – Paul Marshal “Peanut” mug. Unmarked, these are very common.
Starboard Light glass by Imperial Glass Company, used by many Polynesian places.
Native Nectar – Coconut mug – Marked on the bottom
Salt and Pepper shakers – there were at least 5 types used at the Kahiki – usually marked and not too hard to find
Necklace? Often hard to find, they are being seen more often. Marked.
Silverware, marked Kahiki
Mystery Blossom drink glass – The “Martiki” in saucer form by Morgantown – unmarked
Malayan Mist drink glass – unmarked
Chairs -generally found in Columbus, but likely all long gone
Tables – many in use at the Tropical Bistro
Ashtrays – sometimes marked
Sauce jar, lidded and marked
Menus – there are at least 3 types of drink menus out there. This looks like the 1961 version in the postcard. Later version above.
Idol’s Cast bowl by Hoffman Pottery – two varieties (or more)
Lamps – by HiTiki? – several types
Zombie glass holder – extremely rare
What do you collect? Me, I have a postcard or two, and a menu or two, and a mug or two…
Every piece brings more clues.
These images come from Tahiti. They are from the grounds of the Beachcomber Hotel, which is apparently still there, but is now the Beachcomber Intercontinental.
Yeah, that’s some tikis.
Check this out. I just picked up a Kahiki skull mug.
Believe it or not, this is the only skull mug I own.
Dig this very crisp mold. A very nice mug. And, how much was it?
25 cents! In yer face sukahs!
I had the good pleasure to meet Beachbum Berry at Hukilau. Heard his discussion on drinks and drink making. Talked drinks with him and even talked drinks at the Mai Kai. I also found out he was relocating just over the mountain from here in Asheville, NC. I was pleased to learn he knew of my efforts with the Grogalizer, and now I am very pleased that he has added the handy online tool to his website. I hear I get some sort of mention in his new book. I can’t wait to get my copy from him at Hukilau this year!
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.
I visited the Omni Hut doing a shoot with Turner South for a “Tiki Blue Ribbon” show. I was very much looking forward to it so I could talk with Jim Walls, the man who created the Omni Hut. I wanted to see what he knew of the other places in Nashville, the Surf Rider in the Andrew Jackson Hotel, the Mahi Mahi of which I have seen a postcard and a mug, and the Blue Hawaii from which I have a matchbook and a mug. I knew where the Blue Hawaii was from the matchbook. I also wanted to know all about his inspirations, etc.
He told me he was a pilot in the Air Force and was stationed in Honolulu around 1938-1940ish. He only worked 4 hours a day, so in his spare time, he was interested in food. He found things he liked and would go back again and again until he could find out the recipes and secrets of the dishes. He worked at one of the luaus on Waikiki Beach until the airplanes put the steam ships out of business and this luau. He worked at some Asian restaurant that was famous. Joe Young’s? I am not sure. All these places he was gathering recipes as well as all over the world. He was in Panama and all over. He just liked it and had no plans of opening a restaurant.
He decided to retire and his choices were in Savannah and Smyrna which was home of Ft. Stuart. For technical reasons he chose Smyrna. So, he started his restaurant of “Chinese Cuisine.” He showed me the first sign there for that. But with the decor, everyone said “you can’t fool us, this is the best Polynesian food we ever ate!” So, 6 months later he renamed it the Omni Hut, because it was a nice short name. Open since 1960, he was the first Asian restauant in the area and is the oldest in the state now.
He brought a box of stuff with him. There were clippings and menus. They had nothing from the old days. The clippings were all from 2000, after they re-opened from the fire. The menus were all there from the beginning. They have not changed except the prices and colors occasionally. There was a red one he didn’t bring:
Then I saw something black at the bottom of the box that looked older. I dug it out quick and nearly lost my breath:
A Mahi Mahi menu! With the tiki from the mug on it!
I opened the menu and inside was the postcard:
I’d seen this in BK’s collection. Awesome! Wait!
Next I see 5 X 7 black and white photos!
The interior of the Mahi Mahi!
The architectural drawing of it! Looks exactly like the postcard image!
So I had to ask him what he knew about the Mahi Mahi. “I owned it!” Wow! And I looked at the postcard again:
95 White Bridge Rd. Same as the Blue Hawaii!
It turns out, he did not build the Mahi Mahi. He bought it either in the late 60’s or early 70’s (his sons gave different years) and got a lot of debt when he did. He hoped his good food would make it profitable. It did not. A year later is was foreclosed on and the bank took all property and auctioned it off for pennies on the dollar! All they had was this stuff in the menu. Sort of…
After that it was bought again and it became the Blue Hawaii and had new big tikis erected out front. Last anyone knew it was the Golden Dragon Chinese restaurant.
The things they did manage to sneak out the back door before the bank came in were these two Maori panels that hang in the entry of the Omni Hut today:
I realized 95 White Bridge Road was 2 miles from my sisters house in Nashville, so we went there. I was so excited. I wanted to scour the grounds for tiki stumps or whatever. Here is what I found:
Too late! It was demolished months ago. My sister says I had asked her about the building before. I must have passed it dozens of times over the years. CRAP! CRAP! CRAP!
Part of the puzzle is solved. I am sending pictures of my Milan Guanko carved tiki for the family to look at and see if it jogs their memory.
Here is Jim.
I hate that my picture is blurry. I met most of the family and they inspired me. I am going to let you all know what that means later. I wanna help these guys make Omni Hut all it can be!
Here are more images of the menu:
Just a few drinks
I was under the impression that the Mahi Mahi was all done by Oceanic Arts. Bamboo Ben told me it was actually by his grandfather Eli Hedley.
“Eli did the Mahi Mahi. It was an unlimited budget, dream job.”
More on that in May…
The “Blue Ribbon” shows seems to be defunct now. I have a good digital DVD of the show which featured the Mai Kai, The Omni Hut, Trader Vic’s Atlanta and the now gone Hale Tiki in Augusta. If anyone is interested in a copy, drop me an email.
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.
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.
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!
This is why I encourage everyone to start an entry on Tiki Central for every known Polynesian Paradise that ever existed. In August, back in 2004, Kono posted about the Volcano in Winter Haven Florida and a few people added to it. Recently, the daughter of the owner of the Volcano started looking around for information and came across the post. She began finding out more and sharing the family stories, articles and pictures. A wonderful wealth of tiki goodness came out that would likely have dissappeared otherwise.
Enjoy the thread here and add to the Tiki Central database so more kids and grand kids share their findings with us!
On Thursday, the father of Tiki, Donn Beach would have been 100. He created many of the great drink recipes that we all know now as “Tropical Drinks” or “Tiki Drinks.” He created what we call the tiki bar. Victor Bergeron copied him. They all copied him.
The motto for “Don the Beachcombers” is a good one: “Where good rum is immortalized and drinking is an art.”
Special night at Forbidden Island of course. Special drinks on the menu for one night only so you can toast Dad with a few of his inventions.
Thanks for the tiki! Thanks for the drinks!
UPDATE: I have been so freakin busy I didn’t get around to it unitl today, Saturday. My honey syrup was bad, so it limited my choices. I went for a Pablus favorite and made the Test Pilot. YUM! Two batches. Yes! Donnn will forgive the Trader Vic’s glass I hope…
That, and a gift card to the liquor store…
It was a goal to make every tiki drink recipe in that book. So I had long been going through and marking a grade in the corner of each page as I made it. The Grogalizer simplified all that. You just select the ingredients you have in your bar and it tells you which tropical drinks you can make. Then you can grade them and add your comments. You can see the average vote for the drink given by everyone and see their suggestions as well. A new feature allows you to see your graded recipes from best to worst.
I use the site all the time and as I find a need, I create a solution there.
I assumed everyone already knew about this site, but, just to be sure, I am sending out this post. If you are making the recipes in these book, you need to use the site. Or, one day when you catch the mixology bug, you’ll need it then.
This is the brain-child of Ms Swanky. I have been working on the idea for some time and teamed up with Tiki Farm to produce a Calendar of Tiki, inspired by classic tiki bars and “The Book of Tiki” of course.
I hope to have sample images ready by Hukilau and the actual calendar printed and ready to go in time for 2008 buying. We think it will be a very unique and interesting calendar. Much more than just eye candy, since we will update the website each month so you can get more information about the images you see.
Kick off the summer right with Kustom Kars and Tiki Bars!
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!
“An authentic Polynesian setting houses seven different dining areas surrounded by magnificent gardens, Orchids and exotic foods are flown in daily from the South Pacific. Bob and Jack Thornton are your hosts…” They shared their recipe for Chicken Coriander for this magazine put out by the Ford Motor Company. This painting shows the show we know and love, with the Mystery Drink Lady we know and love…
This is also a mailer menu. My first thought looking at this menu cover is, it’s kinda creepy. But then I think, “Zombie Village”, hello! Creepy indeed!
A little watercolor of the joint is nice on the back. From the Critiki entry it appears this either was or became a Skipper Kent’s place. Once again, there is almost nothing on Tiki central about the place. Makes me wonder. If Zombie Village had been in Tennessee, I would have searched out everything I could about the place and posted it on TC. Just goes to show how jaded Californians are about tiki.
I would almost say this isn’t quite a tiki bar, but just tropical, but there are all of Don the Beachcomber’s recipes on the menu, so it must be part of the “family”. This site says it opened on November 27th 1935.
This is a pretty impressive menu. More of an advertizing mailer really. Sugie really seemed to have a way with the celebrities. Beachbum Berry talks a little about this place in his discussion of Ray Buhen, the famed bartender of the Tiki Ti. Ray worked at the Tropics and probably brought those recipes with him.
I was surprised to find nothing on Tiki Central about the place. Tiki Road Trip says that it later became The Luau, Steven Crane’s first tiki bar.
The menu is impressive when fully folded out. It has “quotes” from various celebrities about the drinks, including: Bob Hope, Lana Turner, Rita Hayworth, Mickey Rooney, Lucille Ball and Bette Davis, among others.
Apparently many people blatantly ripped off Sugie’s Tropics. There are at least three places who use his images and phrases, in Denver, Dayton and Hollywood.
3D breasts on this matchbook too, a Sugie “signature” idea.
Also has raised boobs on the match cover
Dayton Ohio Tropics
United Airlines has a great history with their flights to Hawaii. Not too long ago the flight staff wore aloha shirts and muu muus. Today, they serve Trader Vic’s Mai Tais on the flights. They still get it. This card I found today extolls the Hawaii that is not just a vacation, but “fullfillment of long-held expectations.”
Basement Kahuna is a top big game hunter in the tiki world. The collection of artifacts he uncovered in just a few months was astounding. He has sold off his mugs and many other things and these days is only keeping postcards. While he was visiting last weekend, I asked to scan his most rare items, and here they are:
The tikis at Busch Gardens
Witco Fountain in situ at the B-Hive in Sanibel Island, FL.
Akua Motor Hotel, Anaheim.
Bahia Motel Anaheim
Hawaiian Cottage – NJ
Mon Tiki – Quebec Canada
Mon Tiki – Quebec
Palmer House Trader Vic’s – Chicago with a nice big Barney West carving in back on the right.
Tan Tar A Ski Lodge – Osage Beach, MO?
Yes! Tan Tar A!
Quality Inn Bahia Beach – Ruskin, FL with Witco
A great carving at the Sheraton Gibson Hotel – Cinncinati, OH
Tiki Gardens at night.
For those who have ventured very deep into Beachbum Berry’s books, you know there are some pretty scarce ingredients in there. You can spend a lot of time and money tracking them down. Some are easy enough to find, but it is often hard to afford $40 for a bottle of liqueur that you will use to make one cocktail you may not even like. Over time, you gather everything you need to make every drink in those books. Even Pimento Liqueur! But, there is one elusive ingredient: okolehau. It’s elusive for one simple reason, it has not been made in about 30 years.
The Bum offers some substitutes in his books, so you can still make the recipes. But it has always nagged at me. I wanted to know just how this stuff tasted.
I came across a tiny airline bottle of the vintage brew a couple of months ago and set it aside for a special occasion. When Basement Kahuna came to town, that was the time. BK is a supreme mixologist and has a fine collection of vintage intoxicants. He had never tasted oke either.
I poured us all a sip. Man! I was shocked! There is nothing in my bar like it! It has an incredible flavor. Woody, spicey, but not overpowering, warm. I love it! And I have no idea what would really replace it in a drink. Maybe some Licor 43… I just don’t know. But I really want them to get to making it again. I will order a lot and keep it in my bar all the time as an aperitif!
When Basement Kahuna was in town recently, we hit a bunch of antique stores. I expected to be left in the dust and find nothing in his wake. I was very shocked when I looked across the aisle from where he stood to see the Tiki Hibachi sitting there. I think he looks more Aztec or something, but he is in the Book of Tiki on page 184 with the original packaging. Ms. Swanky loves it, so, he found a home. I think it’s the earrings.
This looks like a common Otagari mug. I have one already. But Ms. Swanky found this one in a thrift store and snatched it up. On the back is an unusual mark. It’s from some frat at Penn State University.
Most of his work is large and very complex. He has recently started making a small mask that, at a price of $45, finally makes owning a BK carving possible for many more people.
If you would like to order one or three of these, simply email hotcoffeestore at charter dot net. Tell him Swanky sent ya.
Did I say week? I meant that figuratively.
This is one of several images I have from the Ilikai. I have a lot of what appears to be a sort of evening torch lighting ceremony out front, and then a few precious images like this one, of the rooms. One even of the famous clam shell bathroom sink!
After a long day on the islands, you just gotta flop down in purple velvet luxury! Those lamps are over the top! I want one!
I should have known that Basement Kahuna would have in his possession, a Mai Kai postcard I had never seen. Well, that’s half true. I had not seen this postcard, but I owned it’s doppleganger.
You see, this postcard in his collection:
Is a mirror image of this postcard in my collection:
So that’s one more card I need to find…
UPDATE 10-19-07: Thanks to Ms Swanky and the Knoxville postcards show, I would this card!
Previously: Mai Kai: The Postcards
When Basement Kahuna visited last weekend, he handed me a postcard for Dobb’s House Luau, with locations in Memphis and Atlanta. I had known there was a Dobb’s House in Memphis at 3135 Poplar (Is the building still there?) and am always on the lookout for items from that long lost tiki place. What was interesting about the card was that it was a Dinkler property. This ties it in with the Dinkler Andrew Jackson Hotel in Nashville, which had in it the “Surf Rider.” I had this card which appears to date from the 1960s.
The Dinkler in Nashville was a noted flop house for country music stars. It was demolished some time ago.
Which came first, the Memphis Dobb’s House or the Surf Rider? I don’t know. If anyone in either city has any knowledge to share, please do. A visit to the library to peek at phone book listings would likely get us further towards the answers. There is a Dobb’s Management Group in Memphis which is owner of the restaurant chain such as it is. I am inquiring to find out more from them.
Also, anyone with knowledge of the Islander which was in the 5th floor of the Uptain Building in Chattanooga, TN, please speak up! Here are better images of the Mahi Mahi postcard from his collection:
My research into the Mahi Mahi and Blue Hawaii in Nashville is here on Tiki Central.
withdrawing my support of Hukilau. Editing all the links to point to hukilau.org insteadPablus and The Crazed Mugs
One of the things I most look forward to at Hukilau and other East Coast Tiki Revival gatherings is the sounds of Pablus and his uke. He’s a good friend and drops by the Hideaway semi-regularly with his uke, and his company and playing are always a great pleasure.
There are a variety of people and groups out there playing Hapa Haole and island music, but when it comes to writing new songs, there are not that many doing that. And when you narrow the field to those folks who are into Polynesian Pop, it gets smaller. And then you think about who is active in the community and actually writing about the community of tiki lovers, it gets down to just Pablus.
Being the only one doing a particular thing isn’t really enough though. But, with Pablus you have all you could want. First, he is an excellent musician and surrounds himself with excellent musicians. Second, he owns one the best recording studios in Florida. Third, he really writes great songs, and forth, he really gets it.
What you end up with it an incredible sounding, well performed CD with a few standards done with feeling and some new songs that will bring a smile to the mug collectors and Beachbum Berry mixologists out there like nothing else.
A recent find by Ms. Swanky. Well, let’s say this is your living room. You decided to carpet the place with a thick thirsty yellow towel, and you need to plan a party. And the monster that inhabits the yellow pillow on the couch isn’t helping.
Ah, here you are in your humble abode.
You know how to serve up a traditional meal.
Complete with shotglass full of smokes.
If that’s not ol’ Trader Vic, they sure got a good likeness…
Note on the Polynesian party: “…the exotic decorations are easily obtained and emulated…”
The Tiki Kai in Albuquerque from Modern Man magazine July 1966. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to get the customers into your joint.
Uh, yeah, where is his attention… Not on that great tiki lamp!
The middle image is the gals “keeping the owner happy.”
Hey, is that a Barney West tiki? It’s definitely an OMC Surfer Girl mug!
UPDATE: I loaned these magazines to Sven Kirsten, author of the Book of Tiki a while back and he has informed me that images from the magazines (another one I have not blogged) will account for two pages in his new book coming out early next year. So, consider this a tantilizing sneak preview! When can I pre-order this new book?
From Rogue Magazine, November 1959 we have these images of a great idea in Tiki History, the lunch hour lingerie show! This was at the San Francisco Tiki Bob’s. This place is now closed, but the Tiki Bob support pole is still there, waiting. And you thought the Mai Kai bar gals were a little risque!
Man, dig those skull mugs!
I have been selling these on Ebay for a while, and I have now decided to start offering them directly through my website. The first one is a big one. I will add more and more of them as I have time. Click here to buy!
Did I mention I am a Mai Kai geek? Forget about it being the current best tiki palace, maybe best ever. The owner(s) certainly have been and are mai kai (the best).
When it opened, it was out on its own on Highway 1. They quickly transformed the area around them to match their tropical interior. Very early on they had a few large tikis installed at the road side. Those tiki stand as sentinels to this day, except one.
Here is an image of the area in question.
To the left you see the classic Barney West tiki that was the inspiration for the Hukilau 2006 mug. But what is that one in the center? Artist’s imagination?
Here it is again in one of the more common long postcrads with a man in a suit and a woman in a red dress, lovingly caressing the mystery tiki.
And here we have a group of folks huddled around the spot where he once was, wondering just what happened. Did he ever exist? The answer is yes.
That tiki was part of the decor out front. As they widened US 1 over the years, the Mai Kai had to squeeze itself back a bit to make room for the road. I am told the big tikis were moved a few times. But the tiki in question was stone and huge. It was moved permanently some time in the night in the sixties. Someone came in with a crane and grabbed it and it was never seen again. Here is a photo for identification.
If you have seen this tiki, please call LOgan 6-1513 with any and all leads. Or email me.
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!
I have wanted to do a site archiving tiki ephemera for a while. I worked with kohalacharms to plan a site to archive his collection and others. Humuhumu said she was working on a similar plan herself. Better to support her than split our resources.
Her latest creation is Arkiva Tropika, and it is the collection of Mimi Payne, and it is exquisite! One look at the front page and I fall in love with Poly Pop all over again!
Thanks Mimi for sharing and thanks Humuhumu for making it a joy!
Via Humu Kon Tiki
If there is a bigger fan of the Kahiki than tiki skip, I don’t know them. There are a couple of collectors I see spending money on Ebay, but skip has a huge advantage because he is in Columbus and has had a good relationship with the owners of the Kahiki and all those surrounding it since forever. His home is absolutely the bees knees of tiki and mid-century collectables and Kahiki stuff beyond everything else. The lamps alone would fill any 5 home tiki bars! So it is perfect and amazing that he got hold of this ultimate Kahiki item. There is no better place for it than skip’s home where so many other Kahiki items now are celebrated. Behold!
And skip will have it restored and it’s flame will once again burn for those who love the Kahiki and all that it stood for!
We will never forget!
The Tiki Central thread on ads for Polynesian Restaurants had me diggin this out to scan the ad for the Mai Kai. I am also preparing to take a lot of my collection to Hukilau. So, I decided to scan some of the images for this guide. 1957 is really a peak year for vintage style and there are some great views of the time here.
I had to start with this killer restaurant. Somebody tell me Doumar’s is still there and looks just the same! Click the image for the mega view.
A color postcard of Doumar’s Drive Inn. Man I want to see this place at night!
The Bahia Mar, host to Hukilau 2004 and 2005 and where the action will be on Friday night this year.
Yes, you can bank from your car looking just awful like this woman!
Enjoy deep sea fishing!
Mid-winter ice shows!
Causing a Hush when you enter the room!
Here you are arriving by plane!
And maybe stay or dine, etc. at the Yankee Clipper, which is the host hotel for this year’s Hukilau. They had a Polynesian review on the top floor back then.
Enjoy yourself Two Fathoms Down
And of course, visit the newly opened Mai Kai!
The Fern Grotto – Of all the pictures I have of people’s visits to Hawaii, this is one that shows up in almost all of them. This band. Often the picture is taken from above as the people come down the path behind them and hear the music. It must be a magical place, if it wasn’t for all the damn tourists!
This is a nice LP that takes the Hawaiian music and peps it up a bit. Not the moody Exotica or the slow Hapa Haole. It does indeed swing!
Hawaiian Village Restaurant and Hotel
When I came across this card I had to get it because of its proximity to me. I have not been to Myrtle Beach. It is considered to be a very tacky and redneck place, but more and more I want to go to see what remnants are left there from the mid-century. It’s counterpart is near me in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, and there is a lot of vintage still there. So I have some hope this place stands in some form.
Being that it was “new” in 1965, this card is post-1965.
This set of carvings is intriguing. Is it Witco? The times are right, but these don’t look quite right. It is at least Witco inspired.
If anyone knows of the fate of this place, let me know. If anyone wants to sell me this giant carving that is junking up their garage, let me know.
UPDATE: A postcard view of the exterior.
This little EP was produced by Enogh Light. I had hopes… The first thing that should have dashed those hopes was the name of the orchestra leader: Whiteman. The second was the “Accent on Strings.” Yawn fest. Yet I hoped. Hopes dashed. I recorded it anyway. If you need some soft strings with a Hawaiian bent, download it. Forgive the dirt as this EP had no sleeve and the record just got dirty in all those unprotected years… Nice cover though.
The Mai Kai in Fort Lauderdale is my favorite place on Earth. It’s far beyond words. Knowing the owners only makes me love it more. If you don’t know about the Mai Kai, look at my page HERE for a little information.
As part of my love for the place I started work on a Mai Kai fan site a while back. If I had more time, it would be done by now, but, you know how that goes. I have managed to get images of every vintage postcard the Mai Kai produced (as far as anyone can tell me.) So, here is that sampling of the Mai Kai ephemera catalog.
Early card showing the cannibal trio of tikis on the sign.
Perhaps the earliest photo card. The coverig for the valet area is not there yet. Look how few trees are around. It really was out in the middle of nowhere.
A slightly later image, now showing the covered valet area. These two are some of the most common pastcards.
Another early photo card.
Early interior shot.
This was the bar before the renovation in the 1970s that created the Molokai Lounge. I am told it was really an incredible room and this single image does it no justice. There was some sort of mural that I am told was incredible.
I assume this is an early card just because it is linen. Linen postcards went out of style a long time ago in favor of chrome. I think this is likely where the garden area is now.
This is perhaps the oldest card. It seems to be an architectural drawing of the Mai Kai, done perhaps before they opened in 1956.
The famous iconic Mystery Drink Lady. This piece of Polynesian Pop was invented by the Mai Kai.
A classic luau scene at the Mai Kai.
The friendly wait staff of the Mai Kai.
The pouring of the Flaming Coffee Grog.
This is a little later than the second card above. The covered valet area is there now.
This is also perhaps a very early card from before they opened showing an architectural rendering of the Mai Kai.
The coasters on the bar and the style of the Rum Barrel tell that this is a very early image. Likely 1950s, maybe early 1960s.
Here is his counterpart. I think this card is dated 1963. I know that’s got to be a wig, but, wow, what hair! The picture is taken in exactly the same spot as the one above. It could be the same photo shoot which would make the above image not 1950s.
An exterior shot from the road. This tiki is still there in front of Bora Bora. My guess is that this is from the mid 1970s, but I am not sure.
A wider shot of the with the same tiki. You can see the city now coming to meet the Mai Kai. The car is early 70s. I think this is an image after the remodel that added to the Mai Kai in the 1970s.
The first of a trio of paintings of the Mai Kai that were made into postcards.
A long picture card.
A linen card of the Molokai Lounge. That means it came out in the 1970s, but the style is old. Maybe this is also an architectural image of an uncompleted lounge, before it was opened.
The performers of the Mai Kai. I think this is from the 1970s as well.
I think these are interior images from before the renovations.
I think this is a later shot. Maybe 1970s.
This shows the room that would become the gift shop after the remodel. I think it is from the early 1970s.
A recent postcard.
I think it is all of them. If you have any not here, please send me images of them.
If you have not been to the Mai Kai, you need to put it on the top of your to-do list and think about coming down in a month to Hukilau when it will be filled with enthusiasts from around the world. It is truly greater than any description can give.
UPDATE: Another new one found.
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…
Ah, calling me back to old Hawaii, 1969. How old do you think she is? The style of the times means she may be 16 or 30, it’s just hard to tell.
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.
The 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.
Always 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.
Here is our ecstatic vacationing couple having the time of their lives. He is letting his hair down and wearing that crazy shirt neatly tucked in his pants. I’ve seen a lot of these types of pictures and they never cease to amuse me. This is part of a set of maybe 75 slides. Lots of scenery and a good number of old people having fun like this one above. But, there in the middle of the set is a slide that is completely out of place. It just caught me off guard. This image below was likely Grandpa’s highlight of the 1974 trip to Hawaii…
Go Grandpa! Love the tan lines! Makes me wonder. Did he dare to snap this and deal with it when they got home and she saw it? That pose! Just what are the circumstances that led to this single picture of the hot young gal???
Thanks to Traitor Vic bringing me a bottle of Maraschino Liqueur, I have a new batch of drinks to try from Beachbun Berry’s books. I checked the Grogalizer and the big favorite of the bunch was the Demerara Dry Float. That was my first choice.
2.5 ounces of lime juice. Wow. That’s a lot. I squeezed my limes and looked at the recipe again. Wow. No freakin way I am making this by the book. I was making two of them for me and the missus to sample, so I put in just 3 ounces of lime juice, along with the Lemon Hart rums and other ingredients.
As I have said before, Ms. Swanky is a tart liker. She gave the drink a solid 8 out of 10 vote. Me, I am a sour hater, so I gave the drink a solid 2. Neither of us would have added in the extra ounce of lime per drink however.
I am surprised to see this on several Tiki Central Top 10 Drink Lists. Maybe when Pablus comes over again, he and Ms. Swanky can tweak the recipe into something great for them. I’ll just watch thanks.
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.
I 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.
The 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.
I think the Mai Kai stopped making these calendars in the early 1990s. I have never asked why. Maybe because times changed and people didn’t buy them any more. Maybe they were mostly given to members and they just decided to cut costs. Maybe it just didn’t seem politically correct. I doubt the last one. The Mai Kai has always done things their way and made it work and not bowed to a few people’s opinions. These calendars are certainly not racy.
I came across this article about the Mai Kai today that’s a very interesting read for fans.
This first sampling is Kainoa. She retired from the difficult schedule of dancing for the Mai Kai a while ago due to a knee injury. She dances with Polynesian Proud now, at least sometimes. She danced for the opening of Hukilau 2004 and it was a highlight for me. She is an un-aging island beauty like Mrs. Thornton, who is as beautiful today as ever. And I had the pleasure to meet Kainoa’s mother and, well, they could be sisters, and they could be 20!
A man I would like to meet (have met?) The head mixologist at the Mai Kai, Mariano Licudine. HERE is a nice article on him. He started out at Don the Beachcomber’s before coming to the Mai Kai. He is best known as the inventor of the “Derby Daiquiri,” one of my favorite drinks. I was given the back rooms tour of the Mai Kai by General Manager Kern Mattie and this area is what you don’t see in the Molokai Lounge.
What this picture says is still true today. There are many people at the Mai Kai who have been there for decades. The owners treat their staff well because they know that a good staff is important to making the Mai Kai great.
For a perfect way to experience the Mai Kai and it’s magic, (okay I am a bit biased about the event I started and brought there in 2003) come to Hukilau in October when the Mai Kai will be filled to capacity with fans.
Trader Vic’s has come out with a new concept called the Mai Tai bar. This is a very low cost start up compared to a Trader Vic’s restaurant, and it concentrates on the high margin stuff and keeping staffing small, along with the floor plan.
Hans Richter (President of Trader Vic’s International) personally helped make Hukilau 2002 happen. We had been in touch with Sven Koch (V.P. of Trader Vic’s) all along thanks in part to Sven Kirsten, and so, when Trader Vic’s Atlanta decided at the last minute to charge us $2,000 to hold Hukilau there, Hans, who was on vaction at the time, called the manager and said he would cover it and to make it happen. Trader Vic’s has been a sponsor of Hukilau ever since.
I don’t know if that had anything to do with it, but, when I emailed Hans yesterday, Sven called me right away to talk about the franchise. Hans was unavailable until the 19th. It sounded very promising. I was further surprised when Hans called me about an hour later.
I started on the plans to open a tiki bar here in Knoxville in 2005. I spent time talking to James about his experience with the Kahiki Moon. I talked to Brad about Hale Tiki. I talked to tikiskip about the restaurant he owned and ran in Columbus. I learned all I could about the restaurant business and researched the Polynesian restaurant business.
We had started out thinking we wanted to do something very small like the Tiki Ti. That turned out to be impossible by the laws of Tennessee. What we ended up with was a very streamlined place, geared towards the drink menu. The menu would be such that a small kitchen staff could manage it and a small kitchen could prepare and cook it. The food would be there to compliment the drinks. The main thrust is the drink menu. Live music, fun events, special happy hours and regular all out luaus were in the plan. The general idea is to concentrate on the high margin stuff and lower operating costs while maintaining great quality and ambience.
So when I saw the Trader Vic’s Mai Tai bar concept, I saw what I had been working on for a year made better. Since the Mai Kai does not do franchises, the other option is Trader Vic’s. And this is perfect. The Trader Vic’s brand, their quality menu, thier great staff, their barware, etc. scaled into a lean, high margin bar with emphasis on fun and entertainment. It was all I had in mind to do, plus Trader Vic’s name.
I learned from Hans that the cost of the franchise and opening the bar was more than I was planning, but not out of line. I beleive there are costs to be cut here and there. Most people opening a place like this are not that worried about saving $20,000 on kitchen equipment, but I am. There are ways to do this cheaper. I can envision these opening up in smaller cities all over the US. It’s a great concept.
The first one to open will likely be the Hawaii location. The Spain location is set to open this summer. The image on the Spain site is actually the Hawaii location and it looks beautiful.
I don’t know that I can open a Mai Tai bar here, but I am looking into it. I really think this concept will work all over and I am excited to see it. There are even no restrictions on opening the Mai Tai bar in markets where the restaurant already exists.
A huge part of my luau preparations and planning has revolved around the cocktails to be served. I feel a calling to correct the decades of evil perpetrated by slack bartenders who serve tropical drinks, even being so ridiculous as to call them “Mai Tai,” that are nothing more than sickly sweet fruit juice slop.
I was wandering around the Internet and came across this local Augusta message board with a post about the closing of Hale Tiki.
After the middle of the second page it gets more into what needs to be done to develop their downtown. The talk about Hale Tiki was interesting though. It helps shed light on why the place didn’t work well there.
Here are a few quotes:
“Yeah! What ever…..good rid! People been saying drinks were a complete rip off! ”
A nice sentiment. Good rid? Typical rock throwing by neanderthals.
The Aku Aku in Las Vegas has always been a sort of high point to me. Vegas and tiki. And knowing Bamboo Ben’s grandfather Eli Hedley put it all together makes it even better. Aku Aku ephemera is one of the few tiki things I collect.
The first page has some of the branded glassware and there is a tiki bowl. I am a fan of the ice shell drinks. To make an ice shell (Kern Matie, GM of the Mai Kai taught me this) you first need a pretty round glass, like a wine glass. You put crushed ice in the glass and using a spoon, press it around the glass so that it makes a shell around the interior maybe 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Put the glass in the freezer and let it set up. Then take the glass out and gently push the ice down on one side so that it comes up to make the shell and then press more crushed ice in the glass to line it again and refreeze.
I 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.
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.
This image is from 1963 in the Polynesian Cultural Center. Here we see the guide for the Tongan gardens. I have never seen tapa cloth worn as a skirt, and certainly not by a man.
And here is our first sighting of tiki.
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I blame it on tiki newbies. About a week ago, one of the Trader Vic’s menus from the Havana location came up on Ebay. These were printed with a note inside, supposedly “hand written” by Vic himself, saying something about that stinker Fidel. I am guessing the buyer thought it was really written in Vic’s hand. The auction went for over $75.
This menu is similar to the Don the Beachcomber menu that is so common because it was printed as a souvenir, and not actually used. They made them in large quantities.
My suspicion is there is a lot more to the Trader Vic menu. Was he trying to make a case for ousting Fidel? Did he want that rum back in his restaurants? There must have been an agenda in that message on that menu. I’d love to know what he had in mind.
And I’d love to unload one of these menus for $75!
UPDATE: The trend is continuing to go up! $121! Clearly people are not reading my blather… This one I can understand. It is not the reprinted menu with the Vic anti-Castro slogan. It’s a real, 1958 menu from the Habana Trader Vic’s. Given that the official date of the end of the Castro overthrow was January 1st, 1959, that makes this an interesting piece of history.
I bought this menu for obvious reasons. The drink prices tell me it’s pretty old. I love the graphics and I love the imagery of the Tonga Room.
When the menu arrived I was in for a surprise. I looked at the little description next to the drink, and it was the recipe. They were all the recipes! Indeed, as I actually looked at what was in my hands it does say “Tonga Room Tropical Drink Recipes.”
Straight from the Grog Log, these were the recipes I had made before, handed to me by Beachbum Berry. Here is the “Tonga Room Zombie” I had made not too long ago. I recall it’s stiff punch. I had 3 or 4 and was well lit.
The Tonga Room is still in San Fransico and everyone says it is worth seeing, but not so well worth staying, even for a drink.
Give it a visit when in the area.
And what’s “Pinky” in the Honolulu Cocktail?
UPDATE 7-12: I just noticed in the illustrations they use the cherry as a sort of anchor for the garnish. They are wedging the the rim of the glass between the cherry and orange slice to keep it in place. The cherry also seems to be speared a little off-center to give more meat to hold it in place. I’ll have to remember that.
We’ve been preparing for our luau for weeks now and with just 3 weeks to go, I am getting in the mood. Something about this weekend has me melancholy. I yearn for the islands I have never been to, and likely will never see. Never see? Yes. My Hawaii existed either 200 years ago when Captain Cook was unknown, or, 50 years ago, just after statehood. A fantasy I suppose. I changed the way I do this, as I figure it is easier to do one single downlaod than a bunch. I also included a playlist so you can hear the tunes as I would like to have you play them.
Starting with “Luau at the Hilton Hawaiian Village” or some such long title to a classic Webley Edwards LP. I love this record more than you will ever know. And Ray Kinney is the best. I think I like him more than Alfred Apaka.
Next, from Elvis TV show, “Aloha from Hawaii” is a little tune that plays as we tour the island and see E land in his helicopter, etc. Elvis loved Hawaii and the Hawaiians love Elvis.
More Webley Edwards, talking to Haunani about “Beyond the Reef.”
This is “Beyond the Reef” by Elvis, sort of. It actually features Charlie Hodge on the lead. Charlie was Elvis closest friend and he used to live here in East Tennessee and perform with Lou Vuto at Memories Theater. A really sweet, wonderful man.
Here is a tune by Haunani, “Tomi Tomi”. She has that deep voice that has been a Hawaiian standard.
Now Arthur Godfrey talks about the islands and their wahines.
My favorite singer, Ray Kinney with his version of “Little Brown Gal”
And a closing from another Webley Edwards LP.
Hope you enjoy this short venture to the islands that exist in my heart.
This is a picture of the sign at the Sands on the day Dean Martin opened for the first time on the main stage. I had a little fun with it and added myself. I love that Martin Denny is in the second room that night. Classic crooner and the king of exotica on the same bill. Awesome! I make note of this for one simple reason. The Sands is destined for the wrecking ball. This home of the Rat Pack and of course the Aku Aku restaurant, which Bamboo Ben’s grandfather helped create, is being torn down so that it can be made ginormous. Go visit while you can.
Here I am in the Hapa Haole Hideaway, enjoying a “Sven Tiki,” page 83 of Intoxica. That’s hot webcam action! I finally have the all important orange juice to complete this recipe. My first thought looking at the recipe is, an ounce of grenadine can’t be good. But, I trust the Bum, so I pushed onward. I eased up on the lime a bit. Maybe 3/4 ounce. It was fine and would have been fine with a full ounce of lime juice. I ended up giving it a 7. I liked it. I’d drink it again. I liked the club soda tingle in it. But, it didn’t have a certain depth and rich rum aroma that I need to give it a higher score.
Personally, I’d take a tip from Sven’s German roots and find a recipe with the appropriate sounding Van der Hum in it. Cheers to Big Bro and the world of tiki he has fostered! I can’t wait to give him a big ol’ hug at Hukilau in October. Can’t wait for the new book on Witco either! Get it while it’s “cheap.”
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!
Target has a line of outdoor and garden stuff this year called “Mai Tiki.” I’m sure Wayne Coombs is furious! Thay sell a couple of styles of 3 foot plastic tikis for your yard.
It seems the people who design the new items are not looking to Polynesian cultures for their inspiration as much as they are looking at old tiki mugs and vintage bastardized Polynesian Pop culture.
There is plenty of room to complain about true Polynesian culture being usurped by Americanized Polynesian culture. But I am glad to see vintage Poly Pop being promoted and 1950’s and 1960’s Hawaiian icons coming back in style, rather than the very bland American culture that washed away the traces of uniqueness that used to define Hawaii. At least bastardized Polyneisan culture has some roots in the original.
Now if they will just get the Coco Palms back open as it was when Elvis was filming there…
This is the first installment of a new feature here on the Swank Pad. To sign-up and receive the slide of the week in your email, click here.
This week’s image is on the Beach at Waikiki at The Reef, 1963:
Check out that hat! Is that a flying fish coming over her head?
One of the great tiki temples of the era was the Kahiki in Columbus Ohio. I keep an eye out for ephemera from the place on Ebay all the time. The Moai mug is very common, but the clothing sold by bad spellers just drives me crazy!
Not to be confused with Tiki Gardens, the theme park in Florida. It’s a natural extension of the tiki lounge in your home, to add tiki gardens in your yard. If you live in Florida or south Georgia or the Carolinas, etc., this may be fairly easy. If you live north, it gets tougher, but it’s all the more rewarding. I also say it’s in the true spirit of tiki to create a tropical oasis far from the tropics.
I suggest starting your search at Hardy Tropicals. They specialize in a variety of plants that can thrive way up into Canada! I have bought a lot from them this year and I am very happy with the plants and the info they send with them.
This year Home Depot and Lowes have both brought in a much greater variety of tropicals including carrying hardy Gardenias past the Spring, which I have not seen before. With these sources I now have six types of palms in the yard, and 3 types of banana trees. Some will have to winter in the basement, but many are hardy and I plan to get more hardy stuff in the future.
The extra cool thing is that these big stores are getting in a lot of tropicals and then marking them down. I got this banana tree for $23. They only got it in the store a week ago and now it is 1/2 price. It’s huge!
My 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.
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.
Monday, our avid junkin’ friend brought us two vintage mugs from thrift stores. They are both green mugs from the “Luau Hut” in Silver Spring
The first is a Ku, OMC mug, which is the same design used by the “Hawaiian Inn” in Daytona and others.
This is the second and third mug found in Knoxville thrift stores from Maryland tiki bars. The other was from the Emerson Hotel’s “Hawaiian Room.” Makes me wonder if they all came from the same person.
If you have ever enjoyed a Mystery Bowl at the Mai Kai, or Volcano Bowl at other tiki establishments, you know that you must have a really long straw to both participate and not catch your hair on fire. In preparing for the luau at the Swank Pad next month, I began searching for extra long straws online. I found some at Dynasty Wholesale, but their website left me wondering if I could order or not. I searched around and found other places, but they had minimum order amounts and everything else they sold was crap. Then I thought “Ebay!” Yes, the source of everything had a seller of 500 20 inch straws for $9.99! Good deal!
Now my guests won’t have to worry about catching on fire and we can drink of a communal bowl. The lushes can even steal sips of their neighbor’s cocktails.
This menu came up on Ebay and it is a glimpse at why tiki collecting is so intriguing for me. The restaurant is simply named “The Polynesian” in Torrance. Here is why serious collectors collect drink menus. Inside this menu are images of the bowls and mugs used to serve their rum soaked cocktails. Note the Gardenia floating in the left hand bowl. Classic. With the menu you can match a mug to its original locale and maybe pour the correct mixture into it if you dare.
The images on this menu are phenomenal! These mugs kick major tiki butt. If you have one of these treasures in your collection, please share. The menu auction ends Sunday.
This is an image of the new bamboo blinds we got for our porch. As you can see, though they look nice, they don’t block a lot of sun and people’s eyes. We decided to keep them anyway and attach some fabric to the inside to make them more opaque. But what fabric? I thought we’d just pick some curtain material up at the fabric shop.
Last weekend we were wandering Target to see what was on sale and they had various tropical items on clearance. Ms. Swanky picks up a shower curtain and the light came on. The curtain was exactly the size of the blinds! So we grabbed two curtains on sale for $14 each.
She got a can of indoor/outdoor spray adhesive at a craft store and we went to work. First I took the blinds down and cut some wire which we used to attach the shower curtain to the bamboo rod at the top of the blinds. After re-hanging the blinds on the porch, Ms. Swanky began carefully spraying and flattening the material to the blinds.
We have one done now and it looks fantastic! It blocks the sun and eyes and from the outside you can’t even see it. From the inside it fills the space with color and looks incredible. And it rolls up just fine. Can’t wait to start coordinating with these colors.
I sometimes hesitate to give out my “secrets.” I am working on a luau in our newly planted tropical garden and coming up with “extra special touches” to make it memorable. In an effort to make every luau better, I will share one of my ideas.
I love real flower leis and I hate those itchy plastic things you get put on you at most luau type parties. So I started looking into getting flower leis for the guests. I found I could order fresh orchids from Hawaii and make my own. At a cost of $8 each, it was reasonable for the 10 I could make with the kit, but when you have 30 guests… I just wasn’t ready to spend $240 on leis when I could spend $240 on rum instead.
I have a vintage luau party book that tells how to make leis and it lists good flowers to use besides Plumeria and Orchids. Flowers you can get most anywhere. Flowers that won’t bleed into your clothes and last longer than those tropical varieties. The list is: carnations, stocks, jasmine, pinks, chrysanthemums, asters, pom pom dahlias, daisies, cornflowers and marguerites. I don’t know all these, but a florist does. Hmmm. Next problem. How do I get a lot of flowers cheap without being a florist?
The answer is Quality Wholesale Florists on Central near the Old City. I have not been down there yet, but I am assured I can get piles of flowers cheap.
Then just get some string and a long needle and 50-60 flowers per lei. I was told dental floss works well sue to it’s slippery texture.
When finished, put the lei in a zip lock bag with a spritz of water and blow up the bag and seal. Put it in the fridge and it’ll last nearly a week.
So spruce up your next tropical party with a little effort and expense and do it right. See more advice on Tiki Central
Last night I went to the Grogalizer to fetch a new cocktail to concoct. I like concocting. Sounds like something dirty and fun. I started with the “Sven Tiki” and then found someone in the house drank all the orange juice! Kids. So, I switched gears and went for the “Tonga Planter’s”, page 86 of Intoxica.
Planter’s Punchs have never been a favorite. Always too sour for me. But, I got out the crank juicer and limes and lemons and went at it. Pushing every bit of juice out of those little balls of citrus. An ounce of lime and an ounce of lemon juice per drink. Did not look promising.
I served it up to Ms. Swanky and I drank mine. As I expected. Sour. I scored it a 1 because all I tasted was sour juices. But, Ms Swanky gave it a 6. A 6! She referred to it as “tart.” She likes “tart.”
Now I know. I am living with a “tart” liker. That’s how you know. I say “sour”, she says “tart.” Should I open a tiki bar, I will describe drinks as “tart,” not “sour.”
I let her have the remaining 6 ounces of the batch.
A few years ago, Ms. Floratina traded me a bunch of music for this incredible bottle of Trader Vic’s Flaming Rum. She found it as old stock on a shelf in a California liquor store. Brand new … er old. Has the old style tax label across the top.
Don’t tell her I broke the seal and have actually used it to fire up some volcano bowls…
I assume any rum specifically made for burning is specifically not much for drinking. I have not dared taste it.