A proper Tiki bar has few (if any) physical windows to the outside world. Since they are meant to be an escape, their windows should be more virtual. These can take many forms, via artwork, music, or audio-visual presentations.
A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge is my real and virtual escape to a Polynesian Paradise. The virtual component takes the form of my Facebook page, this blog, my podcast, and my 8tracks radio station, all of the same name. The real part is found in the basement of our house, which we built 15 years ago with this purpose in mind: my wife gets final say on all furnishings above ground, but the basement is mine!
Like many Tiki bars in northern climates, my basement set-up is a welcome respite from the cold winter outside. It’s warm, with plenty of tropical decor, and very few real windows. In fact, there are only two small windows plus an egress door in the back of the space, which minimize the amount of natural light down here. The windows flank my home-office workspace, which is good to keep me connected to the outside world while I work my day job, but are far from the front of the space, which is also good for reasons I’ll explain later.
Now let me show you the virtual windows in my Tiki Lounge. As mentioned before, these windows take the form of art, music, and A/V presentation. Each help me create a faux Polynesian paradise in their own way. Let’s start with three pieces of art that I find particularly evocative of my own Bali Hai.
This first piece of art by Disney master artist Kevin-John was his first foray into purely Tiki art. I love that he found a way to print his art on an actual piece of driftwood, then mounted it on a burlap background with a dark bamboo frame. More importantly, this view from a seaside table really transports me to a tropical world. It is a window to a fantasy life, ironically hanging just below one of my small physical windows. I like this view better!
This second piece of art is a print by Dawn Frasier, a talented artist who was one of the original leaders of the Tiki revival at the turn of the century. Her work has been featured in many important Tiki events and publications, and I adore her art. This panoramic piece features the moon at night over a tropical lagoon, with Dawn’s amazing color palette lending a dark, cool aura to her world. The moon has always been a window into my soul. I find myself attracted to artwork depicting the moon, which leads me to the next piece…
This third piece of art is an original painting by Mark Thompson, who is known for his Tiki, hot rod and pin-up work. I only recently discovered him, but I fell in love with this piece when I followed his progress posts on Facebook. The colors of the moon shadows on this tropical island are brilliant! Talk about a window into paradise. This piece, which I just received this weekend, has everything I love in an escape: the moon, palm trees, Tiki torches, and a panda perched on a Tiki by the water. Mahalo, Mark.
Next we move onto music. I have always taken my music very seriously, which I lampoon with the Derek Yaniger art I have hanging near my music collection. A. Panda’s Galaxy of Sound was a treatise I wrote on the five genres of Tiki music: Surf, Polynesian, Exotica, Lounge, and Space-Age Bachelor Pad. For a fun project, I created a physical model of this virtual concept and hung it above my Tiki music rack. This music is yet another window into the tropical escape that is Tiki.
Finally, we have our audio-video combo, the SHAG Tiki Room Theatre. This home theatre set-up in my Tiki Lounge is so named because it houses most of my art collection of Josh Agle a/k/a SHAG, the pre-eminent Tiki/Lowbrow artist of the last 25 years. This room also is in the front of the basement, far away from the actual windows, as I mentioned early on. This is important because natural light is the enemy of projection televisions.
My home theatre system includes a projection screen measuring 5-1/2’ by 8’, or 108” on the diagonal. Talk about your big window! This is much more than just a window into a Polynesian paradise. My family watches a lot of movies, shows, and sports down here. This has become extremely handy during a global pandemic, when going out to movie theaters, concerts and sporting events has been unavailable over the past year. No matter. We can come down into the basement, turn off the lights, fire up the projector and 7.1 channel surround-sound system, and go anywhere we want.
And that’s what an escape should be all about. You just need enough windows to make it happen.