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!




What’s New at The Polynesian

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Walt Disney World’s Polynesian Village Resort is my happy place. When we take family vacations to WDW, that’s where we stay. It’s non-negotiable. The last time we were there, back in November 2014 (see WDW Polynesian Village Day 1), The Poly was under construction, and a lot of the resort was unrecognizable. Last week I was in Orlando for a sales conference at the Marriott World Center, and we brought the family in a few days early for a mini vacation. We didn’t stay overnight at The Polynesian, but we did spend a few precious hours there last Saturday afternoon.

So what was the reason for a quick trip to my happy place? Like I need a reason?!? Actually, there were 4 good reasons:

  1. To see how the renovations turned out;
  2. To get some Dole Whip;
  3. To have dinner at the Kona Café;
  4. To meet my Tiki buddy from Jacksonville, George Borcherding.

Let’s start with George. He and I have become Facebook friends because we share a love of Tiki and WDW. George and I had never actually met, but when I told him I had a sales conference in Orlando in February and planned to stop by The Poly, George marked the date on his calendar and said he would meet me there. True Tiki friendship knows no bounds!

After a quick introduction in the Tambu Lounge, we headed down to the Pineapple Lanai for our first Dole Whip. It’s not a stretch to say George is addicted to Dole Whip. He obsesses over it on Facebook, and his travels in search of Dole Whip are epic. Once we scored our Dole Whip, we sat on the outdoor patio around the corner to be first in line for our next destination: Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto.

Here was the thing I was most excited to see on this trip: Trader Sam’s. My wife Jessica and I have been to the one at Disneyland, when we were there in 2013 for the 50th anniversary of the Enchanted Tiki Room (see Aloha Spirit: Los Angeles). When we found out they were opening one at The Polynesian, we were looking forward to checking it out. Unfortunately, it was just being built when we were last here. So this was our next chance, and we took it!

The thing that was most distinctive about the East Coast Trader Sam’s was Uh-Oa, a crazy, Voodoo like goddess who is a focal point of the corner of the bar where we sat. Uh-Oa is also one of the signature drinks that generates an elaborate light and sound show when you order it, and comes in a cool Tiki mug. Of course, we ordered it first, and I brought that mug home to pair with my Krakatoa mug from the West Coast Trader Sam’s.

After a couple of drinks at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, George and I went back into the Great Ceremonial House to pay tribute to Maui, the Polynesian Village Resort logo who has come to life as a large statue at the center of the first floor. I was sad when they decided to remove the iconic waterfall that rose 2 stories above the lobby, but I must admit Maui is a nice replacement. The ground floor is much brighter now, with plenty of seating and wonderful nautical decor hanging from the now-visible glass ceiling. Well done, Disney!

Mahalo, George, for making the trip to hang out with me at my happy place! After this photo, we said aloha to George and went upstairs to have dinner at the Kona Café. My family had never eaten dinner there before, as we’re partial to the feast at Ohana, but this was the trip for new things, so we gave it a shot. It was very nice! They have a new menu at Kona Café, and many of the appetizers are familiar from Ohana, but the entrees were different and quite good. I had the tuna, and it was one of the best pieces of tuna I’ve ever had! After dinner, my son Ryan and I had one more Dole Whip for the road, and we were on our way to our next destination.

All in all, our visit to the Polynesian Village Resort was short but sweet. The changes they’ve made were all for the better, in my opinion. We stayed in 3 different hotels in Orlando for the 4 nights of this trip, and my family agrees: when we come back to WDW for a full vacation, we will come back to The Polynesian. Like I said before: it’s non-negotiable.

Keeping The Tiki Torch Lit II

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Part 2: Oceanic Arts

Although the postwar Tiki craze faded in 1960s America, a few brave souls kept it alive and are still going strong today. The granddaddy of them all is Oceanic Arts.

Located in a nondescript warehouse in Whittier, CA, Oceanic Arts has been supplying most of the world’s Tiki decor since 1956. Jess and I made this Mecca the first stop on our whirlwind LA Tiki trip last summer. Well, actually the second stop; first was In-N-Out Burger, ’cause we had to eat! We spent a nice afternoon chatting up Leroy Scmaltz and Bob Van Oosting, the founders of Oceanic Arts. Boy did they have some stories to tell!

It all started in the 1950s in LA, where Leroy and Bob were college students. They shared an interest in the new Modernism art movement, which was transforming architecture and design in America. Leroy had a particular interest in primitive art and began carving wood in that style. He convinced Bob they should take off for the South Pacific to learn more about primitive cultures, so they mortgaged Bob’s Corvette to pay for the trip.

While they traveled in Polynesia for almost 4 months, Leroy and Bob made many contacts and bought lots of stuff to import back home to California. It was an austere trip, spent mostly with the locals in their simple, tropical surroundings.They came home nearly broke but rich with ideas and resources for a new business. Oceanic Arts was born!

During our conversation, Leroy shared with me that not everything sold well at first. Although most of the imported art was snapped up by high-end Beverly Hills boutiques, some of their own creations were deemed not primitive enough by art collectors. When one such customer complained about paying $400 for a carving, Leroy sent him away. He then “weathered” the piece using mud and lime, and the same collector came back 2 months later and paid $4,000 for it!

Oceanic Arts has been at the forefront of the Tiki movement in America from the beginning. Many of the pieces Leroy and Bob brought back from their Polynesian adventure ended up at the Mai-Kai Restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, FL, America’s oldest and best Tiki supper club since 1956 (that year sounds familiar!). Other Tiki bars and attractions sprouted up across the country, and Oceanic Arts was there to provide the Polynesian decor. As the demand for their work grew, Leroy took over all of the wood carving while Bob handled the books.

Jess and I have been unwitting witnesses to Leroy Schmaltz’s work for years. Here are some of the Tiki attractions we’ve visited that were outfitted by Oceanic Arts (with the year they were born):

Mai-Kai Restaurant, Fort Lauderdale FL (1956)

Mai-Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Show, Fort Lauderdale FL (1956)

Enchanted Tiki Room, Anaheim CA (1963)

Enchanted Tiki Room, Anaheim CA (1963)

Polynesian Resort, Orlando FL (1971)

Polynesian Resort, Orlando FL (1971)

Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar, Anaheim CA (2011)

Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar, Anaheim CA (2011)

In addition to these Tiki treasures, Leroy and Bob kept busy during the down years by providing nautical decor and wood carvings to many seafood and Mexican restaurants. Disney also kept Oceanic Arts busy with the opening of the new EPCOT theme park at Walt Disney World in 1982. Leroy did the carving for the Canadian, German and Norwegian pavilions. They have also provided decor and props for the entertainment industry, including all of the popular Pirates of the Caribbean movies (yet another Disney connection!).

Not a bad living for a couple of college kids from LA! Leroy Schmaltz and Bob Van Oosting have built a business out of primitive Polynesian art, and they helped fuel the Tiki craze in the process, then and now. Oceanic Arts is ubiquitous in the Tiki universe. Make sure you visit their Whittier warehouse if you’re ever in the neighborhood. But plan to spend a few hours there – the allure of the Tiki decor and Leroy’s storytelling is hard to escape!

For a more in-depth look into Leroy Schmaltz’s art, I highly recommend reading Night of The Tiki: The Art of Shag, Schmaltz, and Selected Primitive Oceanic Carving. Mahalo!

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Keeping The Tiki Torch Lit

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Part 1: Disney

Although the postwar Tiki craze faded in 1960s America, a few brave souls kept it alive and are still going strong today. The most prominent was Walt Disney.

I love the Enchanted Tiki Room! Whenever my family goes to Walt Disney World, I drag them into the small Tiki hut theatre where Walt Disney’s animatronic magic comes to life. There’s something about those colorful birds singing “In the Tiki, Tiki,Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room!” that really makes me happy.

Last summer, my wife Jess and I took a trip to Los Angeles, where we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the original Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland. Open since 1963, the attraction in LA is better than the newer version in Orlando. For starters, you can get Dole Whip soft serve and shakes right in the courtyard. More importantly, that courtyard has  a cool pre-show where 7 different Tiki gods come to life and tell you their stories (my favorite is Pele, the goddess of fire and volcanoes!). During the festivities, Jess and I saw some amazing artwork, bought lots of collectible souvenirs, and listened to a panel discussion by some of the original Disney imagineers (like Rolly Crump) who worked on the Enchanted Tiki Room over the years. We also learned that the original concept called for a larger space, including a restaurant and bar.

Although Walt Disney himself never lived to see it, the opening of Walt Disney World in Orlando in 1971 launched the original Enchanted Tiki Room concept on steroids: the Polynesian Village. This man-made tropical paradise sits right across the 7 Seas Lagoon from The Magic Kingdom, just a short monorail ride away, and was one of the two original on-site hotels at WDW. It was renamed the Polynesian Resort in 1985.

My family and I have been to the Polynesian Resort 4 times since our first visit in 2008. In fact, I proudly proclaim this is the only place we will ever stay when we vacation at Walt Disney World! Jess and I agreed to stay at the Polynesian when we first went to WDW, so I could trick myself into believing I was actually on a South Seas island. It worked! Disney spared no expense in making the Polynesian look, feel and sound like a tropical paradise. There is an abundance of palm trees, carved Tikis, Polynesian music, gas-fired Tiki torches and island decor at every turn. Ohana in The Great Ceremonial House is our favorite restaurant in all of WDW – we always eat dinner there twice in every trip! Our kids also enjoy Ohana’s character breakfast with Lilo & Stitch, who are featured prominently in the Polynesian’s cross-promotons. And the friendly and helpful staff (Disney calls them “cast members”) always greet you with an “aloha” or “mahalo” when they see you. Between the top-notch Disney service and the authentic Tiki atmosphere, the Polynesian Resort  is my “happy place” and home away from home!

Disney’s latest addition to the Tiki universe is Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel. Open since 2011, Trader Sam’s is what happens when Disney’s Jungle Cruise and Enchanted Tiki Room get together and spawn an alcoholic child. The name comes from the “head salesman” of the Jungle Cruise attraction, and so does much of the attitude and decor in this wonderful Tiki bar.

When Jess & I visited Los Angeles last summer, we stayed at the Disneyland Hotel for the first 2 nights. The main reasons we chose to stay there were to be on-property for a day at Disneyland and because the Enchanted Tiki Room 50th anniversary events took place in the hotel’s grand ballroom. As an added bonus, Trader Sam’s was right outside our hotel’s front entrance. We were fortunate enough to snag a table inside for a light dinner our first night there. What a treat! The Asian/fusion food was the perfect compliment to the serious Tiki drinks we sampled. The bartenders seemed to really enjoy themselves, entertaining their guests like the Jungle Cruise captains do. If you ordered a special drink, like the Krakatoa Punch I chose second, you were treated to an amazing volcanic eruption of light and sound behind the bar. It reminded me of the thunderstorm near the end of the Enchanted Tiki Room show. Of course, I had to bring home the volcanic Tiki Mug as a souvenir!

Leave it to Disney to create a Tiki bar that’s a theme park attraction in it’s own right. Trader Sam’s has become so popular, rumor has it they’re looking to open another one at Walt Disney World, in…can you guess?…the Polynesian Resort.

Disney has carried the Tiki torch for 50 years now. They’ve continued to expand their offerings through the downturn and upswing of Tiki culture in America. With their continued plans for growth, I’m hopeful Disney will keep the Tiki torch burning brightly for another 50 years. Mahalo!

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