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From the early days after we moved Hukilau to the Mai-Kai, I had heard about a black velvet painting of Mireille Thornton. The painting had been vandalized and the description of the damage made it sound horrible.
Mireille was current owner of the Mai-Kai, having taken control when her husband, original owner Robert Thornton, had passed away in 1989. Mireille was a performer in the Mai-Kai Islanders show and in 1963 she became its choreographer. She is still in that role today! I will always be proud that Mireille made me an honorary member of the family.
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.
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!
If you are interested in helping with this project, please email me. I do not have every calendar.
Check back for updates!
We recently sold our 1968 Serro Scotty “canned ham” 15 foot camper for something with more room and amenities. We got a 1964 Avion 24 foot Holiday. Great vintage style. We look forward to making our own and bringing it back to a classic, vintage modern look. Click the above image for the brochure featuring our camper and the whole Avion line.
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.”
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.