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 – 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!

Tiki Ohana – Builders

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The Tiki craze was created by Don The Beachcomber in the 1930s, exploded with the return of American GIs from the Pacific Theatre of World War II in the 1940s, swept the nation in the 1950s and early 1960s, and vanished almost completely by the 1970s. Fortunately, Tiki was resurrected in the 1990s and is regaining its popularity today. Here are the current keepers of the Tiki torch who helped build and rebuild this wonderful lifestyle.

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LeRoy Schmaltz and Bob Van Oosting. 1956 was an important year for Tiki. This was the year The Mai-Kai opened its doors in Fort Lauderdale FL, and the same year that 2 guys in Southern California opened Oceanic Arts. I’ve written at length about LeRoy and Bob’s story (Keeping The Tiki Torch Lit, Nov 2013). It’s not an exaggeration to say that Oceanic Arts was the most important contributor to the Tiki lifestyle, both yesterday and today. They weathered the downturn of the 1970s and 1980s and are still going strong. Mahalo LeRoy Schmaltz and Bob Van Oosting. Please check out their website: www.oceanicarts.net.

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Sven Kirsten. Here, ladies and gentlemen, is the most important figure in the current Tiki revival. Sven Kirsten is a self-proclaimed urban archeologist, a foreigner to our shores, who took it upon himself to research, document, and chronicle the Tiki culture of Mid-Century Modern America in his comprehensive tome, The Book of Tiki (2000). By doing so, Sven Kirsten inspired an entire generation of Tiki-philes to come up above ground, publicize their findings, and connect with each other. Sven Kirsten’s popularity is at an all-time high, as evidenced by last year’s successful exhibition at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris: Tiki Pop, L’Amérique rêve son paradis polynésien. Please check out the companion book here: www.taschen.com.

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Otto Von Stroheim. The Tiki craze was born on the West Coast, and the revival started there as well. From his home base in Los Angeles, Otto Von Stroheim was an early pioneer bringing Tiki back. He began publishing his Tiki News magazine in 1995 and continues to publish it as an e-newsletter today. Otto and his wife Baby Doe also created Tiki Oasis, the original Tiki weekender event held every August in Southern California, typically in Palm Springs or San Diego. He is one of the experts on all things Tiki, from cocktails and mugs to entertainment. Okole maluna, Otto Von Stroheim. Please check out this wonderful interview at The Atomic Grog: www.slammie.com/atomicgrog.

image Christie Tiki Kiliki White. Meanwhile, on the East Coast, a young lady in Atlanta GA was dreaming of putting on a Tiki Weekender event of her own for the folks who couldn’t make it to California. Along with her friend Swanky, Christie Tiki Kiliki White created The Hukilau in 2002, hosted by Trader Vic’s in Atlanta. That first 3-day Tiki weekend was a resounding success, and The Hukilau was moved to The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale the following year, where it’s been held ever since. I attended last year’s event and blogged live all 4 days I was there (Aloha from The Hukilau, Jun 2014). Now considered the world’s most authentic Tiki event, The Hukilau celebrates it’s 14th anniversary in 2015, thanks to the tireless efforts of cofounder and organizer Christie White. Mahalo, Tiki Kiliki! Please check out The Hukilau’s website for information on this year’s event: www.thehukilau.com.

image Tim Swanky Glazner. As a cofounder of The Hukilau, Tim Swanky Glazner is the East Coast’s answer to Otto Von Stroheim. An expert on all things Tiki, Swanky has many interests including wood carving, Tiki mugs, and mixology. He is the head bartender at Hapa Haole Hideaway in Knoxville TN, and created The Swank Pad website years ago to keep track of his diverse collections. Swanky is currently researching a book on the history of The Mai-Kai, which given his expertise and collection of memorabilia, should be an amazing read. Please check out Swanky’s Facebook page devoted to his forthcoming book here: Mai-Kai: Mystery, History and Adventure.

Tiki Temples

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These are the houses that Tiki built. Part restaurant, part bar, part nightclub; all aloha spirit. This partial list of Tiki temples represents the Meccas for Tiki geeks, like me, to visit as often as possible. If possible. Some of these places are gone now, torn down or closed up in the name of … progress?

A proper Tiki temple is a place you can go (or could have gone) to escape the real world for a little while. Enjoy a strong, rum-based drink with many layers of flavor. Chow on some Pu-Pu, typically Asian fare with some Polynesian flair. Listen to some cool music, like Exotica, Lounge, Hawaiian, or Surf, preferably performed live. If you’re lucky, catch a performance by a Polynesian dance troupe, including the amazing Samoan Fire Knife dance.

Here are some of the places I’ve been fortunate enough to see for myself, either in-person or through some second-hand tales that inspired me.

 

imageThe Mai-Kai, Fort Lauderdale FL (1956-present). This is the granddaddy of them all, 58 years old and still going strong. The Mai-Kai is the perfect Tiki temple: great drinks, fine food, wonderful atmosphere, and the most authentic Polynesian entertainment outside of the South Pacific. I’ve been there a handful of times now and can’t wait to go back. You don’t have real Tiki cred until you’ve stamped your passport at The Mai-Kai.

 

imageThe Kahiki, Columbus OH (1961-2000). Full disclosure: I’ve never been to The Kahiki. A few years before I started my Tiki journey, this temple was torn down to make way for a Walgreens store. A fucking Walgreens! However, I do feel a connection to this historic place, as I described in one of the many “worlds colliding” segments of my Whenceforth A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge blog post last year (24Nov2013). Jeff Chenault just published a new book, Kahiki Supper Club: A Polynesian Paradise in Columbus, which chronicles the history of how a cold Midwestern town came to host one of the most elaborate Tiki temples ever built. I look forward to checking it out.

 

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Walt Disney World’s Polynesian Village Resort, Orlando FL (1971-present). This is my happy place. My family has vacationed at WDW four times, and we always stay at The Poly. We’re going back for our fifth trip next month! The Polynesian Village Resort takes the Tiki temple to another level: an escape for an extended stay. All of the elements are here, with the addition of authentic Polynesian architecture and amenities. This is a South Pacific paradise conveniently located in Central Florida.

 

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Painkiller, New York NY (2010-13). At the other end of the spectrum, we have this wonderful Tiki bar nestled into an unlikely neighborhood on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Sadly, PKNY closed their doors when they lost their lease last year, but not before I had the chance to visit. I joined my friends Jack Fetterman and Gina Haase of Primitiva in Hi-Fi for a night of merriment with fantastic Tiki drinks, great music, and surprisingly authentic Polynesian decor. Mahalo, Jack and Gina!

 

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Disneyland’s Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Room, Anaheim CA (2011-present). Disney strikes again, this time in Disneyland with the opening of their own Tiki bar with a Jungle Cruise twist. I wrote all about my visit to Trader Sam’s last year in my blog post Aloha Spirit: Los Angeles (02Jan14). This place has become so popular that Disney plans to open another version of it at…wait for it…The Polynesian Village Resort at WDW. Oh, happy day in my happy place! If only it was open in time for my trip next month. Oh, well.

 

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Three Dots and A Dash, Chicago IL (2013-present). Another great new Tiki temple in an urban setting, this gem opened just over a year ago. Owner Paul McGee has already won awards for his upscale Tiki bar Three Dots and A Dash in downtown Chicago, which looks like a speakeasy from the outside. Inside, down a flight of stairs, you’ll find a sprawling restaurant and bar with meticulously crafted Tiki drinks, great food, and lush Polynesian decor. And the waitresses are pretty cute 😉

 

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The Yachtsman, Philadelphia PA (2014-present). Somewhere between PKNY and Three Dots and A Dash lies the latest urban Tiki bar I’ve visited. The Yachtsman just opened last month in the Fishtown section of Philly, and it has the feel of a cool neighborhood bar. Don’t let that description fool you, though; this place is steeped in Tiki culture. The owners are veterans of the Philly restaurant scene, but they take their Tiki drinks very seriously, with fresh, homemade ingredients and expert craftsmanship. The decor is spot-on Tiki, and they plan to start serving food soon. The Yachtsman has all the makings of a proper Tiki temple, and should become a great one in time. I look forward to my next visit!

So these are the Tiki temples I know or have some experience with. There are many other great places I haven’t been to that are just as wonderful: Don The Beachcomber, Trader Vic’s, The Tiki Ti. I need another trip to California! There are also some brand new places I need to check out, like Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 in New Orleans and Suzanne Long’s Longitude in Oakland. I hope to do that soon, in my continuing Tiki journey. I hope you’ll join me there for a Mai-Tai, some Pu-Pu and a great escape. Mahalo!

The Hukilau: Epilogue

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Sunday 15Jun14 and Beyond

So Sunday was my fourth and final day at my first-ever Hukilau. Bruce flew out early Sunday morning, so I was on my own for the day until my own flight at 7:50pm. I had a nice big breakfast at the hotel restaurant, then hooked up with my friends Beth Lennon and Cliff Hillis for one last trip over to the Mai-Kai. The last event would be a screening of the final cut of a new Tiki documentary, Plastic Paradise. Before that, we settled in with some drinks in the Molokai Lounge and jammed one more time to the surf stylings of Skinny Jimmy and The Stingrays. A Tiki brunch, if you will.

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After watching the movie, we went back to the hotel, where I parted ways with Beth and Cliff for the last time. I had already checked out of my room, so there was nothing left to do but walk around Fort Lauderdale and grab an early dinner before heading back to the airport for my flight home. I didn’t spend much time at the beach on this trip, so it was nice to just chill out, chow on some pizza, and enjoy the ocean before heading home.

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I made it home late Sunday night after an uneventful flight. I was happy to be back with my family, but I’ve really been going through Hukilau withdrawal this week. Work has kept me busy, but I can’t help reminiscing about the good times I had in Fort Lauderdale. I can’t believe it’s been over a week since I first arrived at the Bahia Mar hotel!

imageFortunately, I’ve got a bunch of new Tiki friends on Facebook to help me fill in the gaps. Folks like Gary Evans, the lead guitarist for The Intoxicators! (and The Disasternauts) who I kept running into in the elevator. Jeff Chouinard, a Tiki carver I exchanged stickers with at The Mai-Kai on Saturday night (Surf, Soul, Tiki). Robert Brauchler, the dude in the banana costume onstage with the Disasternauts at the Jetsetter Glo-Glo afterparty Friday night, who took some great pictures from the stage I happened to be in (with his handy-dandy banana cam). Michaël Bridoux, the bandleader of the wonderful Left Arm of Buddha from Belgium, whose album I downloaded from their website and have already worn out listening to it all week. These are new friends I’m hoping will help me keep the Tiki spirit alive and well in Bethlehem PA. They’ve already left their mark. Mahalo!

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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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A. Panda’s Bucket List

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Next year, 2015, I will turn 50 years old. God willing. I’m not a big milestone guy, and I certainly don’t want any birthday party so everybody can celebrate how old I’ve become, as if just making it to half a century is some remarkable achievement. No, I’d rather look at some of the things I haven’t achieved yet and start knocking them out. Hence my bucket list.

I have been working on this for a few years, so I’ve accomplished some of the easier things:

Drank at a Swim-Up Bar, Montego Bay Jamaica, 2003

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Met SHAG, NYC, 2007

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Visited The Mai-Kai, Ft. Lauderdale FL, 2012

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Met Bob and Leroy at Oceanic Arts, Whittier CA, 2013

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So what’s next? Well, I’ve always wanted to attend The Hukilau, the world’s biggest Tiki geek event, so I put that on the calendar for this year. In fact, I’ll be there in a little over a month, and I plan to blog live from The Hukilau, so stay tuned for that. I hope to meet some of my other Tiki heroes in-person there, like Sven Kirsten, King Kukulele, Bamboo Ben, MeduSirena Marina, and Beachbum Berry.

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Speaking of Beachbum Berry, he just announced that he’s finally opening his own Tiki bar in New Orleans this fall. This brings me to my next big item: Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Sounds like a good way to kick off 2015! Look for Jess and me at the Bienville House Hotel in the French Quarter next February, anchoring Bum’s new bar, Latitude 29.

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For a big finish, I really want to see Hawaii. Not just one island, but all of them! Well, at least the big ones, so I can look for Pele in Hawaii, do the touristy stuff on Oahu, try surfing in Maui, and see the unspoiled beauty of Kauai. Jess and I have talked about doing this trip in June 2015, over my actual birthday. As long as we are physically, emotionally, and financially able to pull this off, you will see me posting from Hawaii next year. Book it, Dan-O!

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I will close with a shout-out to Lesley Carter and her blog, Bucket List Publications. Lesley’s blog was the first one I started following after I started writing my own. I was so inspired by her mantra: “Some people make bucket lists to see places before they die; I make them so that I might truly live.” Wise words! Please take the time to check out this amazing blog. Mahalo, Lesley – perhaps our paths will actually cross some day!

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Aloha Spirit: Los Angeles

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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.

Los Angeles CA, June 2013. For my 48th birthday, I decided I wanted to travel out to Disneyland to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Enchanted Tiki Room. Once again, my wife Jess balked at going with me, at first. I had resigned myself to making this trip as cheap as possible, staying at Comfort Inns to use up my Choice Hotels points, eating a lot of tacos and burgers, since the flight would not be inexpensive. This all changed when I suggested to Jess that we could spend a day in Disneyland and another touring Hollywood. She was in!

Of course, now this would no longer be a trip done on the cheap. My ladyfriend likes to travel in style! Actually, the only major change was in hotels: we would now be staying at the Disneyland Hotel, which all though it was a little salty, had its advantages. We would be within walking distance of the Disneyland park, which gave us some flexibility on Saturday. The Enchanted Tiki Room celebration was taking place in the Disneyland Hotel’s grand ballroom on Friday night and Saturday, and since this was the focal point of the trip for me, staying there was another bonus. SHAG was signing his prints at the show on Saturday afternoon, so we could sneak away from the park, check him out, take our signed loot back to our room, and head back to the park for the evening. Good planning.

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We actually flew into LAX on Friday morning. Our flight got in around 10:30, we picked up our rental car at about 11 (travel tip: Enterprise at LAX rocks!), and headed for Whittier CA first, arriving just in time for lunch. Our first order of business was to try In-N-Out Burger for the first time – it didn’t disappoint! Jess stumbled upon their secret menu, so we had our burgers and fries “animal style,” and I really enjoyed the Neopolitan shake: vanilla/chocolate/strawberry all mixed together. Yum.

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The real reason for starting in Whittier was to find a Tiki Mecca: Oceanic Arts. I’ve written at length about our visit with Leroy Schmaltz and Bob Van Oosting (see Keeping The Tiki Torch Lit II, published 20Nov13). Let’s just say we had a great time visiting with these Tiki pioneers for a few hours, and they even gave us directions for the back roads to get from Whittier to Anaheim, so we could avoid the freeway traffic on a Friday afternoon. More importantly, I really believe seeing Oceanic Arts was the turning point in my wife’s apathy towards my Tiki obsession. Jess had a great time chatting up Bob and Leroy, took lots of pictures, and even insisted we buy Leroy’s book, Night of the Tiki. Between visiting this place and The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale, Jess is starting to get my love of Tiki. The trip was off to a great start!

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Once we finally escaped the gravitational pull of Oceanic Arts, we hit the back roads and headed for our next destination: Anaheim CA and the Disneyland Hotel. We made it there just in time to check in and have a little happy hour before meeting some old friends for dinner. That’s when we found the biggest advantage of staying here: Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar. This gem happened to be right in front of our hotel building, a very short walk from our room. And what a place! I’ve also written at length about Trader Sam’s (see Keeping The Tiki Torch Lit, published 11Nov13). We liked it so much, we had happy hour and dinner there on Friday night and stopped back again for another round on Saturday afternoon before heading back to Disneyland. Good times.

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The Enchanted Tiki Room 50th anniversary celebration on Saturday afternoon was a nice event. We had pre-ordered lots of collectible merchandise and picked it up there. We saw lots of cool artwork and met some of the artists, including SHAG, who we were seeing for the 2nd time in 2013! He very patiently chatted with us and signed our stuff – what a nice guy! As an added bonus, we decided to sit in on a symposium featuring some of the original and more recent Disney Imagineers who have worked on The Enchanted Tiki Room over the years. They told some wonderful stories! The star of the panel discussion was Rollie Crump, an original Imagineer and one of Walt Disney’s contemporaries. Jess was really excited to see and hear Rollie Crump, as she had read all about him and his close relationship with Walt. What a nice treat.

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The rest of our trip was all about Jess. We spent Saturday morning and evening in Disneyland, which is something she had always wanted to do, comparing and contrasting the rides here with their counterparts at Walt Disney World, and although Disneyland is a lot smaller, there were some wonderful differences, in particular the whole New Orleans Square area, where we had a great lunch. Since we were only there for 1 day, Jess made sure we were first in line for rope drop. We knocked out the whole park by lunch time, and returned later in the afternoon to revisit the better rides and catch the Phantasmic show. That was amazing! The show was capped off by a live Peter Pan vs. Captain Hook battle aboard a pirate ship, followed by the Mark Twain steamboat piloted by Steamboat Willie Mickey Mouse. Don’t miss this show when you come to Disneyland!

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Our last day, Sunday, was a whirlwind tour of some other SoCal hotspots. After breakfast, we headed for Hollywood to see the iconic sign and check out the famous Chinese Theatre. Our next stop was Paramount Studios, where the tour was wonderful. Finally, we headed for Santa Monica so we could put our feet in the Pacific Ocean, Jess for the first time ever, and had dinner in town. We ended the night at a hotel near LAX, and flew home early Monday morning.

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So, where does Tiki karma fit in to these 3 days in LA? Plenty of places. Starting with the thought that I convinced Jess to come with me on this trip by incorporating the touristy LA things I knew she would like to see, and in the end, I believe she enjoyed the Tiki stops almost as much. Then add the change of hotel venue to the Disneyland Hotel, which was her suggestion, and the advantages that came from that decision were many. Finally, something as small as getting better directions from Leroy Schmaltz at Oceanic Arts after listening to his cool stories for a few hours. All in all, it was a wonderful Tiki trip through La-La land. Mahalo, Los Angeles. We will be back.

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