A Small Collection

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Tiki mugs are addictive. At least, they are for me. It all started with a nice score on eBay, and since my first Tiki mug purchase, I’ve gone on to collect a few more. I’m now out of room in the shelf I built just 6 months ago, which means I should probably stop buying Tiki mugs. Or build another shelf in A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge. 😎

As I marvel at the small collection of Tiki mugs I’ve amassed in just a few short years, it dawned on me: these works of art are mileposts along my Tiki journey. I will now recreate that journey for you, with pictures to prove it. Here we go.


The Kahiki Polynesian Supper Club, Columbus OH. As mentioned before, I found this gem on eBay, at a pretty reasonable price. There were many Tiki mugs sold at The Kahiki, so it isn’t particularly rare, but I had just begun researching this now-extinct Tiki temple and had a trio of “worlds colliding” moments (see Whenceforth A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge) when I found this mug. It was the start of a new addiction.


The Mai-Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Show, Fort Lauderdale FL. As my research into Tiki temples continued, I learned of the granddaddy of them all, The Mai-Kai. Founded in 1956 by two brothers from Chicago, this is the oldest and best Polynesian supper club in the world. My wife Jessica and I took a long weekend trip to Fort Lauderdale a couple of years ago (see Aloha Spirit: The Mai-Kai) so I could see this Tiki Mecca for myself. We spent many hours in this beautiful place, walking through the gardens, checking out the amazing Polynesian dance show, and knocking back a few libations in The Molokai Lounge. The tall Tiki mug came with my first Mai-Tai, and the rum barrel came from the gift shop. Good times, and I would return later for The Hukilau.



Disneyland’s Enchanted Tiki Room and Trader Sam’s, Anaheim CA. In 2013, Jess and I hit the road again, this time to California for the 50th anniversary celebration of The Enchanted Tiki Room (see Aloha Spirit: Los Angeles). We spent a couple of sessions in the new Trader Sam’s, where my favorite drink was the Krakatoa. It came with a cool animated show in the bar and this spiffy, lava-dripping Tiki mug. I also picked up this amazing Pele mug by Kevin Kidney at the Enchanted Tiki Room festivities, where I also scored some cool SHAG swag from the man himself. It was a memorable trip that contributed a lot of pieces to the Tiki Lounge.


The Hukilau, Fort Lauderdale FL. In 2014, I left Jessica at home and met my buddy Bruce at The Hukilau, the East Coast’s biggest Tiki weekender event (see The Hukilau: Day 1). 4 days of hanging out with like-minded Tiki geeks led to many new friendships and 2 cool new Tiki mugs: an orange coconut mug and a Marquesian cannibal mug by Eekum Bookum. Tasty.

Tiki Pop, Paris France. Sven Kirsten is the godfather of the modern Tiki movement (see Tiki Ohana: Builders). His newest book, Tiki Pop, was the companion book to the expo he had in Paris in 2014, Tiki Pop : L’Amérique rêve son paradis polynésien, at the musée du quai Branly. I gladly scooped up this tome and the Tiki Bob mug that came with it. Both are displayed proudly in the Tiki Lounge.


Three Dots and a Dash, Chicago IL. Last year, for my 50th birthday, the family took a road trip to Chicago. We spent time visiting my buddy Bruce, who lives in Lincoln Park, and he surprised me with a gift of this cool Tiki mug from Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge in Minneapolis MN. After a wonderful dinner at David Burke’s Primehouse, Jess took the kids back to the hotel and Bruce and I headed to Three Dots and a Dash for some Tiki drinks. While there, I picked up this gorgeous seahorse bowl designed by Baï of Paris. This is the most beautiful piece of Tiki art I own! It would inspire me to get another Tiki mug from Baï later.


Hawaii Kai, New York NY. When we returned from Chicago, my mother-in-law Phyllis surprised me with a gift of this cool bamboo Tiki mug. She got it on her honeymoon in NYC, at the now-defunct Hawaii Kai, Manhattan’s most famous Polynesian supper club. This is the rarest Tiki mug in my collection. Mahalo, Phyllis!


Tiki Lounge, Pittsburgh PA. Last year, we attended the first annual Wildwood Vintage Tiki Weekender in Wildwood NJ (see Wildwood Weekend), organized by my friend Beth Lennon of Retro Roadmap. I made a lot of new friends at the beach that weekend, including Paul Matarrese from Pittsburgh. During a room crawl / swap fest, I bartered one of my music compilations for this cool Tiki mug Paul brought along. The matchbook was a nice throw-in.

 Tiki Farm, San Clemente CA. Tiki Farm is one of the most popular purveyors of Polynesian pop culture around. They’ve created many Tiki mugs during the current Tiki revival, and just celebrated their 15th anniversary with this beautiful mug by Doug Horne. The mug comes with a cast-in spear holder in the back to hold a cool orange spear swizzle stick.


Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at The Polynesian Village, Orlando FL. On a quick trip to Orlando for a work sales conference last month, we made a quick stop in my happy place, The Polynesian. When we were there for our last family vacation, Trader Sam’s was still under construction. It’s now open for business! I met my newest Tiki friend, George Borcherding, for some Dole Whips and a couple of Tiki drinks. Our first drink was the Uh-Oa, which came in this cool bowl. I now have 2 Tiki mugs from Trader Sam’s, one from each coast.


Ku by Baï, Paris France. Ku is the Hawai’ian God of War. This is my 2nd Tiki mug designed by Baï, but this one I got directly from her. Whereas the Three Dots and a Dash seahorse bowl is my most beautiful Tiki mug, Ku is my most detailed and substantial Tiki mug. I really love Baï Tiki’s work – it’s stunning!

So there you have it. These are my prized possessions: Tiki mugs collected along many stops of my Tiki journey. But these aren’t the only Tiki mugs I own. My friends have a habit of thinking of me during their travels, and pick up little Tiki trinkets to bring home as gifts to me. Some of these gifts are Tiki mugs. Nondescript but cool, I haven’t been able to identify their origins, but I display them around A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge nonetheless. Here are a few final pictures of these beauties in action. If anybody recognizes any of these Tiki mugs, please let me know. Aloha!




Tiki Ohana – Performers

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All the world’s a stage, and Tiki is no exception. To wrap up this series on the Tiki ohana, I’m going off script a bit to highlight both groups and individuals who entertain us. Hell, one of the groups isn’t even human! No matter. All of these folks have created a legacy of keeping the Tiki torch alive through song, dance, fire, water, food, drink, and great service. Mahalo to you all!

 

 

MeduSirena Marina. Mermaids are real. This one not only beguiles the Tiki ohana with her underwater maneuvers; she also eats fire, dances as a space-alien slave girl, and is a budding photographer. Marina Anderson, a/k/a MeduSirena Marina, has been holding court at the Wreck Bar in Fort Lauderdale’s Yankee Clipper hotel since 1989. She and her pod of aquaticats have also taken their show on the road, performing internationally wherever a pool with a porthole view has called them. Marina has single-handedly revived this art form from the Mid-Century, and pays tribute to the mermaids who came before her with an amazing show. I was fortunate enough to catch her act last year during The Hukilau, and observed all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into her show. Okole maluna, Marina!

 

 

King Kukulele. Denny Moynahan plays the ukelele. But he does so much more! Under his stage name, King Kukelele, he has performed all over the world, entertaining audiences with his mix of music, comedy, and storytelling, all while wearing his Hawaiian straw hat and grass skirt. King Kukelele is a staple at Tiki events like Tiki Oasis and The Hukilau, where I caught his show in-person for the first time last year. I also enjoy his music on CD, which you can check out here: King Kukelele and the Friki Tikis. Mahalo, King Kukelele!

 

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Mai-Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Show. There is no greater example of Polynesian culture, outside of the Pacific Ocean, than The Mai-Kai. Opened in Fort Lauderdale FL in 1956, The Mai-Kai is still going strong with their combination of tasty food, authentic Tiki drinks in their Molokai Lounge, ubiquitous Tiki decor (both inside and in their lush outdoor gardens), and the best Polynesian song and dance review I’ve ever seen. I first visited this Tiki Mecca 3 years ago, then returned last year during The Hukilau, which was quite the eventful trip for me! I would highly recommend a visit to The Mai-Kai for anybody who wants to learn what Tiki is all about. Aloha!

 

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Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room. This amazing attraction has been entertaining visitors to Disneyland in Anaheim CA since 1963. I first enjoyed this show at Walt Disney World in Orlando FL in 2008, but I was fortunate to see the original during its 50th anniversary celebration 2 years ago. The amazing animatronic display must have been a revelation to visitors fifty years ago! It still enchants the Tiki ohana to this day. I particularly like the courtyard area at the Disneyland Enchanted Tiki Room, where seven Tiki gods tell their stories and Dole Whips are available for purchase. Yum, Dole Whip 🙂 Mahalo, Walt Disney and your wonderful Imagineers!

 

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Walt Disney World’s Polynesian Village Resort. No place offers a more complete immersion into Tiki paradise than this, my happy place. The Polynesian Village Resort opened with the rest of the original Walt Disney World in Orlando FL in 1971. Disney calls their employees “Cast Memebers,” and at The Polynesian, that’s really appropriate! From the minute you pass the sign at the entrance, every person greets you with a warm “aloha” and smile. The buildings are all authentically Polynesian, the amenities are cozy, the food is fantastic, and the Tiki drinks are fist-rate. We’ve been to Walt Disney World for five family vacations (so far), and I would never dream of staying anywhere else. Until we meet again, Auntie Kaui and the rest of the cast members, aloha!

 

For more detailed reporting on these performers, please check out my previous blog posts:

DisneyKeeping The Tiki Torch Lit

The HukilauThe Hukilau: Day1

The PolynesianWDW Polynesian Village Day1

Tiki Ohana – Craftsmen

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One of the most important aspects of Tiki culture’s popularity is the physical image of Tiki and his tropical paradise. This image has been popularized through carved statues, mugs, bamboo decor, and many other manifestations of the Tiki lifestyle. Just about every Tiki temple, from the elaborate Polynesian supper club to the basement Tiki bar (like mine), owes its inspiration and/or physical construction to these members of the Tiki ohana. (I’ve already spoken about Oceanic Arts at length in other posts and in the Tiki Ohana – Builders post, though they certainly belong here as well.)

Bamboo Ben Bassham. The name says it all: Bamboo Ben is the king of all things bamboo. He has made just about everything out of this tropical grass: masks, lamps, purses, shelves, furniture, ceilings, bars, sheds, you name it, he’s done it, or will do it. Bamboo Ben just helped Suzanne Long outfit her new bar, Longitude, in Oakland. Although he’s based in Huntingdon CA, I hope to bring him out east to finish the ceiling here in the Tiki Lounge. Aloha, Bamboo Ben!

Crazy Al Tikimania Evans. A picture’s worth a thousand words: Al Evans is crazy – for Tiki. He seems to be everywhere there’s a Tiki event going on. Crazy Al is an expert Tiki carver, and he’s an accomplished designer of Tiki mugs as well. I met him at The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale last year, where he was testing out his latest creation: a Tiki mug modeled after the Molokai Maiden masthead found at The Mai-Kai. That is, when he wasn’t joining MeduSirena Marina’s pod of mermaids, as a merman, swimming at the Wreck Bar as part of the show. Crazy, Al!

Jeff Chouinard. Another guy I met at the Hukilau last year was Jeff Chouinard. We were both at happy hour at the Mai-Kai’s Molokai Lounge and were talking to the same Tiki enthusiasts, throwing back a few drinks. I had no idea who Jeff was, but we exchanged stickers and went on our merry way. I then got to know him through Facebook and discovered what an amazing Tiki carver he is! In addition to giving one of his Tikis to the Mai-Kai, Jeff has also made a mark in his native Tampa FL, terrorizing the place by turning dead palm trees into beautiful Tikis all over town. Read all about it in CL Tampa. I hope to own on of his Tikis someday. Surf Soul Tiki, Jeff Chouinard.

Daniel Gallardo. Perhaps nobody is as ubiquitous in the Tiki ohana as Daniel Gallardo, a/k/a Tiki Diablo. An expert carver, he’s really made a name for himself creating Tiki mugs for special events and places. The Hukilau, The Tonga Hut, The Mai-Kai, Tiki Ti, and Latitude 29 are just a few of the Tiki mugs supplied by Tiki Diablo. Mahalo, Daniel!

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Baï Tiki. Craftsmen is a misnomer in the case of this lovely lady from Paris France. Baï Tiki is an accomplished crafter of Tiki mugs, including an amazing seahorse Tiki bowl for Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago. Who says the French don’t know Tiki? Who do you think discovered most of Polynesia, anyway? Merci, Baï!

The Hukilau: Day 3

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Saturday 14Jun14

Flag day. I was up surprisingly early for the 3rd day of The Hukilau, considering how late I got to bed yesterday. Well, actually, earlier today. Another breakfast, another swim in the pool, and we were ready to roll for what promised to be the most intense day of this wonderful Tiki event.

On this 3rd day, music was the main focus. Not just any music, but some really theatrical productions. It started at noon with the U.S. premier of The Left Arm of Buddha, an exotica band from Belgium. Eight musicians, three dancing girls, and one wacky emcee made for an amazingly fun show! I would go out of my way to see these guys again. Merci, Left Arm of Buddha!

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The main event was at The Mai-Kai tonight, home of the wonderful Polynesian dance show. We got there early, around 4:30, for happy hour in the Molokai Lounge. Half-price appetizers and drinks (including my favorite Mai-Tai on Earth!) went down easy, along with some cool Hapa Haole (Hawaiian-American fusion) tunes provided by the Smokin’ Menehunes, a nice 3-piece combo from Huntingdon Beach, CA.

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The main stage show began at about 6 with some more musical comedy by emcee King Kukulele, followed by a bunch of announcements and tributes by and to Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White, the founder of The Hukilau. What a great job she’s done to keep this event going for 13 years! After a tasty dinner, the Polynesian show began in earnest. I honestly believe you would have to travel to an actual South Pacific island to see a display more authentic than the Polynesian show at The Mai-Kai. I literally choked back tears as I watched this beautiful, moving show. Mahalo, Mai-Kai!

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After the Polynesian show ended, we retreated to the Samoa Room at The Mai-Kai to catch some more music by Grinder Nova, a great band from Atlanta GA who also played at the Friday night event. When that got too crowded, it was back to the Molokai Lounge for another Mai-Tai and more tunes, this time by another rocking surf band, Skinny Jimmy and The Stingrays, from South FL. These guys may have been the best band I heard all weekend! Even the lead guitarist from The Intoxicators was hanging out in the Molokai checking out Skinny Jimmy before heading back to Samoa to play the last set of the night. Good times.

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Another late night at The Hukilau, and I’ll be happy to get home and rest, but I’m so glad I finally got to attend this amazing event. I’ve seen and learned so much, but the best part was meeting so many kindred Tiki souls. It was cool to meet the titans of the Tiki world, but it was even nicer to make new friends who share a common bond. Cudra Clover. Carrie White. Anna Sanchez. And that barefoot Belgian bongo-banging crazy man from The Left Arm of Buddha. I hope to see you all again someday soon. Mahalo!

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