Tiki Ohana – Authors

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So, as I review my blog series on the Tiki ohana from last year, and after I updated the Artists list with a Part Deux, I realize there’s a new category I need to acknowledge: Authors. I’ve touched on Tiki books in some of my past posts, e.g. Thor Heyerdahl’s landmark Kon-Tiki (Tiki 101and Sven Kirsten’s seminal work, The Book of Tiki (Tiki Ohana – Builders). I’ve also hinted at several other people who were working on new books. Well, over the past few years, we’ve seen some pretty amazing new books published by the Tiki ohana. Please consider the following books as must-haves to start or expand your collection of Tiki literature.

Jeff “Beachbum” Berry: Potions of the Caribbean. Beachbum Berry is the single most important figure in the revival of the Tiki cocktail (Tiki Ohana – Cocktails). His work in researching the origins of Tiki drinks led him to discover that most of them were actually recipes from bars throughout the Caribbean, borrowed and repackaged by Don The Beachcomber and Trader Vic in the 1930s-50s. Bum’s book traces the history of rum going back to 1492, and expertly intertwines world history with the rise and fall and rebirth of rum as the important spirit it is. Potions of the Caribbean also includes a boatload of recipes for rum drinks throughout history, many of which were resurrected by Beachbum Berry himself via interviews with the bartenders who would have otherwise taken these once-secret recipes to their graves. If you’re a fan of history and Tiki, you must read this book. I don’t say this often, but I couldn’t put it down. Mahalo, Bum, okole maluna!

Sven Kirsten: Tiki Pop. What else can I say about Sven Kirsten? He is the undisputed king of the Tiki revival. Sven has published multiple books to this point, but here is something new. Tiki Pop is the companion volume to an exhibition he curated in 2014 at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris: Tiki Pop, L’Amérique rêve son paradis polynésien. My first thought was that it would be tough to build upon The Book of Tiki. I was wrong. By tailoring his message to an international audience, Sven Kirsten was able to expand upon his original masterpiece with an entirely new perspective on what drove the rise of Tiki culture in America. It works. Merci, Sven.

Martin and Rebecca Cate: Smuggler’s Cove. I just finished reading this book, and all I can say is: wow! Martin Cate is the proprietor of a Tiki bar in the SF Bay Area by the same name (Tiki Ohana – Cocktails), but Smuggler’s Cove the book is more than just an homage to the bar. Martin and Rebecca Cate have given us a how-to instruction manual on immersing yourself in the world of Tiki. This book chronicles their journey, but it does so much more. Here we have a thorough history of rum, it’s production methods, and numerous recipes with tips on how to select the proper rums and mixers. Martin and Rebecca have also educated us on how to throw a Tiki party, what the most important Tiki drinks are and how to make them, where to find the best Tiki temples in America (including Smuggler’s Cove) and how they were created. This book has quickly become my indispensable reference for the Tiki lifestyle. Ho’omaika’i ‘ana and well done, Mr. and Mrs. Cate!

Tim “Swanky” Glazner: Mai-Kai – History & Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant. Here is the newest book to arrive in the Tiki Lounge, hot off the presses this Summer. Tim Glazner was the cofounder of The Hukilau and was instrumental in making The Mai-Kai the focal point of this annual celebration. His love of this greatest Tiki temple of them all is illustrated in his beautiful new book, which tells the early history of how two brothers from Chicago moved to Florida and brought their vast Tiki knowledge with them. Tim used his access to The Mai-Kai and its owners to paint a picture of an amazing place, including beautiful pictures, intriguing characters, and a reverence shared by the Tiki ohana around the world. If you’ve never been to The Mai-Kai, you must go. My first visit was a Tiki epiphany (Aloha Spirit: The Mai-Kai). If you can’t physically go, Tim Glazner’s book will take you there in spirit. Mahalo, Swanky!

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The Hukilau: Day 1

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Thursday 12Jun14

The day began early. Very early. 5am early. My iPhone alarm woke me up in my friend Stan’s guest bedroom. Stan lives 10 minutes away from the Philly airport, and he and his wife Diana were kind enough to give me shelter for the night, and a ride to the airport, so I wouldn’t have to sweat the 90-minute drive from Bethlehem. Stan dropped me off at 5:45, I checked my bag curbside with a skycap, made it through security in only 10 minutes, and had plenty of time to board my flight for a 6:45 takeoff. Southwest Airlines flight 1655 arrived in Fort Lauderdale without incident at 9:15.

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I met my buddy Bruce at the airport and we cabbed it to our Hukilau headquarters, the Bahia Mar hotel. Our room was ready early so we checked in, got settled, then headed over to our first event: the Jeff Beachbum Berry symposium at The Mai-Kai. After my first Mai-Tai and some tasty appetizers, Beachbum took the stage and gave a wonderful presentation on the dark days of tiki drinks, starting in the 1970s. He interspersed his talk with his own personal history of Tiki discovery, which made for a wonderful story. We also got a sample of a new drink he created in a collectible Beachbum Berry glass, along with a couple of other sample drinks. We were feeling pretty good about the start of The Hukilau, and I was happy to finally meet Mr. Berry in person!

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After returning to the Bahia Mar and a light dinner, we attended the opening event in the ballroom. What an eclectic mix of Tiki entertainment! King Kukulele as the emcee serenaded us with his brand of comedic Hawaiian music, followed by Kinky Waikiki’s steel guitar, burlesque performances by MeduSirena Marina’s Aquaticats and Angie Pontani, and some rocking surf music by The Intoxicators. All surrounded by a marketplace of Tiki vendors with stuff I’ve never dreamed of being able to buy. Good times!

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We ended the night with an after party back at The Mai-Kai, where I enjoyed one last Mai-Tai with my friends Beth Lennon (Mod Betty) and Cliff Hillis (Pop Star) and the sounds of Gold Dust Lounge on the main stage. A perfect ending to a great first day. Aloha from The Hukilau!

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Aloha Spirit: The Mai-Kai

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As I mentioned before, I believe karma introduced me to Tiki, and it continues to swim in my bloodstream. I’ve seen many signs in my travels that have confirmed this for me. Here is an example of what I’m talking about.

Fort Lauderdale FL, November 2012. So, 9 years into my Tiki journey, I came to realize that the Mai-Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Show was the Mecca of the Tiki universe. The Mai-Kai is the grandaddy of all Tiki bars/supper clubs in America, opened in 1956 and still going strong. This destination quickly rose to the top of my bucket list. But how to get there?

My original plan was to take a side trip to Fort Lauderdale during one of our Walt Disney World vacations in Orlando. This turned out to be easier said than done, as the 2 cities are not all that close to each other and dragging my wife Jess away from Disney property is like selling an anchor to a drowning man. Add to this the notion that she just wasn’t that into Tiki (yet) and it became apparent to me that this would have to be a solo trip over a long weekend.

A funny thing happened as I started planning my excursion to The Mai-Kai: Jess decided she wanted to come with me! It turns out she really loves to travel to new places, as evidenced by her willingness to accompany me on past business trips to Amelia Island and New Orleans, and although we now have kids at home, we’re lucky enough to have my mother-in-law and sister-in-law living 10 minutes away and willing to watch the kids for a long weekend, so this means Jess can go with me on these kinds of trips, so she came with me to Fort Lauderdale. Which was a good thing.

The focal point of this trip was dinner and the Polynesian show at The Mai-Kai on Saturday night, but since we were going to be there from Friday night until Sunday morning, we needed some other stuff to do. We stayed at a hotel right on the beach, but Jess isn’t much of a beach person and it was unseasonably cold that November weekend in Florida. Fortunately, Jess had planned ahead and scouted out Las Olas, the “Rodeo Drive” of Fort Lauderdale. My ladyfriend knows her shopping! We had a nice afternoon dining and (window) shopping at some pretty tawny joints, driving through some very ritzy neighborhoods, and gawking at some of the biggest yachts we’d ever seen. High-end living.

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Finally it was Saturday night, time to head over to the Mai-Kai. Jess agreed to drive so I could sample as many Tiki drinks as necessary. What a wonderful place! It was nondescript on the outside, right along US1, but inside the fence it was a sprawling Polynesian paradise. We spent a long time wandering through the gardens, where we discovered a whole world of Tiki statues, waterfalls, palm trees, and tropical flowers. Inside, we settled in for happy hour in the nautically-themed Molokai Bar, where the lovely maidens enchanted us with half-priced appetizers and drinks. Best Mai-Tai I’ve ever had! We were then seated for the 6pm dinner show, where the wonderful Polynesian/Asian food and Tiki drinks kept flowing as the singing and dancing began. Now I’ve never been to Hawai’i, and the closest I’d ever gotten to seeing a Polynesian show was at Luau Cove at WDW’s Polynesian Resort, but the show at the Mai-Kai blew me away! It was amazing watching the dancers and musicians take us on a journey through the Polynesian islands, including the mesmerizing Samoan Fire Knife Dance. This show is not to be missed!

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After the dinner show ended, Jess & I returned to the Molokai Bar for one more drink. She then insisted we take another walk through the gardens, and that’s when it hit me: Jess was having as great a time as I was! How did we get from her not even wanting to come on this trip to her being fully engaged in the Tiki spirit? Karma. Or maybe just her wanderlust for travel, who’s to say? In either case, mahalo Jessica Montero – my soulmate, best friend, and favorite travel companion. I love you!

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