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  • Crazy Al Creates New Mai-Kai Memories Series Molokai Maiden

    Wednesday 4th June 2014 - 1:59:45 PM
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    Molokai Maiden 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 buy one of the Artist Proofs, go HERE or HERE.

    To get on the list to own one of these for the future additions and show your support, email Al at maiden@tikimania.com.

    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 maiden@tikimania.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.

     

     

     

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    Filed under: "Tiki" Collecting,Cocktail Capers,Ephemera,Ephemera,Kapu - Forbidden,Mai-Kai History,Places,Polynesian Pop,Retro Goodies,Retro Preservation,Vintage Places | Comment

  • Hukilau 2003 Video

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

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

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

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

  • Help During the Lime Crisis of 2014

    Tuesday 1st April 2014 - 7:40:15 AM
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    Santa-Cruz-Organic-Pure-Lime-Juice-036192122169Due to the great Lime Crisis of 2014, we are forced to re-evaluate options. In the past I have endorsed Nellie’s Key Lime juice as a back-up when fresh lime juice runs out. You know how it is. It’s 1AM and you’ve made Rum Barrels and a Demerara Dry Float and a Navy Grog for your guests and they want more, MORE! So your limes are all spent and you need to make people happy. You could use Nellie’s and cut it to maybe 3/4 strength and make a decent cocktail. Once I discovered the Santa Cruz Organic Lime Juice at the grocery store in the natural food section, I never touched the Nellie’s again. It is a spot on sub for lime juice. Only thing missing is pulp!

    So, while limes have gone from robust and 25 cents each to puny and 90 cents each, or worse, disappeared, go to the healthy food section and grab a few bottles of this stuff while it is still reasonable.

    Look for it at your grocery store in the health/natural foods section. Here it can be found at Kroger, Food City, etc. It is also likely at your more healthy/organic food grocery stores like Whole Foods.

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    Filed under: Cocktail Capers | Comment

  • 1968 Mai-Kai Calendar

    Saturday 7th December 2013 - 11:47:56 AM
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    1968 Mai-Kai Calendar

    1968 Mai-Kai Calendar

    Just added, thanks to a loan from a fan of the site, the 1968 Mai-Kai calendar!

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    Filed under: "Tiki" Collecting,Ephemera,Mai-Kai History,Places,Polynesian Pop,Retro Preservation | Comment

  • PBS Documentary Plastic Paradise Airs nationwide

    Wednesday 18th September 2013 - 8:21:15 AM
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    Plastic-Paradise-page-design3

    I helped these guys quite a bit on this documentary. Sven Kirsten endorsed them heartily, so I threw my support their way as well.

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

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

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

    Read Jim Heyward’s write up.

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

  • Mai-Kai Black Velvet Rescue

    Saturday 14th September 2013 - 6:45:26 AM
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    Hukilau

    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.

    Mirielle

    Mireille Palmer in earlier times

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

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

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

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

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

    429621_10151386322234601_684176309_n

    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.

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

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    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.

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    Painting now hangs in Tahiti at the Mai-Kai

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

  • 1972 Mai-Kai Calendar

    Friday 19th April 2013 - 9:22:49 AM
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    1972 Mai-Kai CalendarThe 1972 Mai-Kai calendar is now online.

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    Filed under: "Tiki" Collecting,Ephemera,Ephemera,Mai-Kai History,Places,Polynesian Pop,Retro Goodies,Retro Preservation,Vintage Places | Comment

  • Mai-Kai Reunion 2013 and History Presentation

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

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

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

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

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

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

     It is time travel.

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

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

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

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

    Facebook event

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

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

  • Low Carb Tiki Drinks

    Monday 4th February 2013 - 10:14:28 AM
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    After a few weeks on a strict low carb diet, I wanted to celebrate with a classic cocktail by Don the Beachcomber. I wasn’t about to blow the diet, so I did some research. I opened The Grogalizer and removed some high sugar ingredients and came up with a starting list of favorites. We found sugar free honey online and it mixes like honey syrup. Davinci sugar free syrup is good. These tools allowed me to make my own cinnamon syrup, falernum and allspice dram all sugar free!

    I calculated some carb counts of favorites not using my home made syrups, just the SF honey and Davinci SF syrup:

    Jasper’s Jamaican using SF syrup – 3 carbs
    Navy Grog - 4 carbs
    2070 Swizzle made my way with SF honey syrup – 6 carbs
    Black Magic - 7 carbs
    Nui Nui - 7 carbs
    Outrigger – 8 carbs
    1934 Zombie Punch - 8 carbs
    Jet Pilot - 9 carbs
    Test Pilot - 9.5 carbs
    Rum Barrel - 11 carbs

    Putting my other home made syrups to use can lower the carb counts even more!

    You can’t go crazy, but you can certainly celebrate being good on your diet with a drink that won’t make you regret drinking it.

    NOTE: Recent studies show that sugar free mixers mean higher blood alcohol levels. The same person drinking a Rum and Coke vs. a Rum and Diet Coke can expect their blood alcohol level to be 60% higher! So if you make sugar free drinks, be very careful. You can get much drunker than you expect. Be VERY careful!

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    Filed under: Cocktail Capers | Comment

  • Mod Weekend in Fort Lauderdale March 15-17th

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

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

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

    I hope you can join us!

    Mod Weekend 2

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

  • NPR Does Hukilau and the Mai-Kai!

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Tickets at The Hukilau

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Hawaiian Village III – Myrtle Beach, NC

    Tuesday 10th May 2011 - 12:49:07 PM
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    I just got this postcard of the Myrtle Beach Hawaiian Village. Great to see the exterior and another interior shot. The front is classic A-frame with Witco onthe doors.

    Another view of the Witco Tiki in the center. Check out the funky round lights on the tables.

    Previously on the Swank Pad Blather: Post 1 and Post 2

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    Filed under: "Tiki" Collecting,Architecture,Architecture,Ephemera,Ephemera,Places,Polynesian Pop,Retro Goodies,Retro Preservation,Vintage Places | Comment (1)

  • Esquire November 1959 – Mai-Kai

    Thursday 17th March 2011 - 6:43:21 PM
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    Not much to add to this. Please click the article and read for the exact heaping praise this great magazine put upon the Mai-Kai. And try this very elusive recipe for the Moonkist Coconut. One of very few of Mariano’s recipes that have been made public.

    Long live Mai-Kai and the Mystery Girl!

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    Filed under: "Tiki" Collecting,Ephemera,Ephemera,Places,Polynesian Pop,Retro Goodies,Retro Preservation,Vintage Places | Comments (2)