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Interview with Kern Mattei of the Mai Kai
Tiki Lion
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 05, 2007
Posts: 152
From: Marina del Rey
Posted: 2007-09-02 7:53 pm   Permalink

Chip & Andy, thank you for the clear posting.

You're right of course, both about Historic Mamoth status, and also about the better way to keep the rum flowing on a proper a tiki ship: show up and appreciate.

As with any kind of voting, early and often gets the job done best.

Count on us fanatical Tikifornians to get get ourselves into Mai Kai seats as often as our exchequers allow us.

As for the rest of you Tikiphiles sprinkled across the states: we've all got to do our part, there's some serious eatin' and drinkin' to be done at the Mai Kai!


 
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Loki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 04, 2005
Posts: 541
From: Boca Raton, FL
Posted: 2007-09-03 05:54 am   Permalink

Folks...remember that the Mai Kai is not a museum, it is a restaurant that entertains us with dance, music, art, and poly-pop kitch. Some of that art is really old and full of culture and some is poly-pop at its finest. Say a tiki was put in place 50 years ago with paint on it. It then became part of the landscape of the Mai Kai and part of its history as a painted tiki. You want to see original Oceanic art, go visit the Smithsonian...or ready your copy of Oceanic Art.

Realize that we tikiphiles represent an incredibly small percentage of patrons. Its full of birthday partys, anniversary gatherings, and tourists that vist the Ft. Lauderdale area. We are quick to judge change and love to argue about what tiki is and how it should look. To the masses that visit the Mai Kai everyday and fill the seats, the tikis are only a part of the experience. I truely believe most visitors enjoy the Mai Kai for what it is...differnt, fun, flashy, exotic, etc...I visit often and I watch the tourists faces when they walk through the gardens, and I listen to their comments. I have never heard someone bitch about the color of a tiki. I have never seen a family not take a photo of their kids next to a tiki because it had colors on it. When I see the tikis that have been painted, it only adds to what the original vision of the place was...sure, they may not be decked out in original livery, but they have been there longer than I've been around, and that makes them part of the original landscape.

To echo what Chip and Andy said...visit the place and/or promote the hell out of it. Believe me, I visit often and I will live with it no matter what direction it goes. I'm in for the long haul.


 
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pappythesailor
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 07, 2005
Posts: 1564
From: Mass.
Posted: 2007-09-03 06:24 am   Permalink

Just a thought from the Northeast: Can't support the Mai Kai because you can't GET to the Mai Kai? Call and order some t-shirts, mugs, mousepads, pens and a Mystery Bowl.

 
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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11156
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2007-09-03 08:01 am   Permalink

Sorry, but that "wisdom of the general public" argument does not stick with me. To use their ignorance as a parameter would mean the end of Western culture, reality TV everywhere, and the film "Idiocracy" becoming a reality.

I am not saying that from a high horse, using the term "ignorance" as a negative, but as in "not knowing better". The lowest common denominator is used as a standard too often nowadays, and the "but the people like it" excuse is the favorite front of purely money-oriented developers everywhere, and that is EXACTLY what the appreciation of Tiki culture rises up against.

If we go by the fact that the people don't know better, we might as well put our hands in our laps and watch the hole thing go down the hill.

[ This Message was edited by: bigbrotiki 2007-09-03 08:02 ]


 
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virani
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Joined: Sep 17, 2003
Posts: 1438
From: Volcanic area of France
Posted: 2007-09-03 08:42 am   Permalink

Great (but scary) thread. Thanks Pablus for having to drink all that amount of booze to make us learn things about the Mai Kai.

 
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Chip and Andy
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 13, 2004
Posts: 2203
From: Corner table, Molokai Lounge, Mai-Kai.
Posted: 2007-09-03 09:06 am   Permalink

Quote:

On 2007-09-03 08:01, bigbrotiki wrote:
Sorry, but that "wisdom of the general public" argument does not stick with me. ...



Yes, I agree. To aim for Lowest Common Denominator in any venture is like chasing yourself into failure. The public is fickle and will go to the next thing in a heartbeat.

And, No, I think you are completely wrong.

Would you rather see the Mai-Kai go completely authentic and close down because the modern customers would be affraid to go in thinking it was some sort of pagan palace (I have overheard that coment before so I am not exagerating).

Or, would you rather see lots of authenticity mixed in with lots of reasonably well painted tikis (no day-glo...).

And, no one in the area who is not already a member of this community is going there because they have tikis, painted or not. They are going to the Mai Kai because they provide excellent service, have amazing food and even more amazing drinks.

I know when I am there and I see someone stop and admire one of the many genuine artifacts, I offer a bit of story to go with it and see if they are 'interested' in more and then I direct them to the next little bit of authenticity and let them discover the next, and so on.

When I see someone taking thier picture in front of one of the less then genuine artifacts, I smile and offer to take thier picture for them. They have a great evening and will be back someday.

Both methods promote the Mai Kai and keep people coming back in. And, I occasionally get someone interested in finding out more, making for another tikiphile who will apppreciate how many genuine artifacts are already in the Mai-Kai hiding in and around the painted tikis that everyone seems to be so upset about.

And, we keep hijacking Pablus' thread here.....

Pablus, how was it last night? And, were you able to change your flight to make it one more time tonight?


 
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Loki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 04, 2005
Posts: 541
From: Boca Raton, FL
Posted: 2007-09-03 09:22 am   Permalink

Quote:

On 2007-09-03 08:01, bigbrotiki wrote:
Sorry, but that "wisdom of the general public" argument does not stick with me. To use their ignorance as a parameter would mean the end of Western culture, reality TV everywhere, and the film "Idiocracy" becoming a reality.

I am not saying that from a high horse, using the term "ignorance" as a negative, but as in "not knowing better". The lowest common denominator is used as a standard too often nowadays, and the "but the people like it" excuse is the favorite front of purely money-oriented developers everywhere, and that is EXACTLY what the appreciation of Tiki culture rises up against.

If we go by the fact that the people don't know better, we might as well put our hands in our laps and watch the hole thing go down the hill.

[ This Message was edited by: bigbrotiki 2007-09-03 08:02 ]



Sven, its the general public that keeps places like the Mai Kai in business, not a carving of a painted tiki or honest to goodness genuine tikis...The Mai Kai has been in business for 50 years...that is an accomplishment by any standards...again, they are not in the business of preserving tiki, they serve food, and showcase dancing and exotic plants and ambiance and great adult tiki drinks. God bless them for that.

You are in the business of preserving tiki....WE are in the business of preserving tiki and spreading the correct wisdom. Hopefully the ďignorantĒ visitor will be inspired to learn more and get The Book of Tiki or Oceanic Arts or find places like TC to explore and learn. We donít have a right to tell the Mai Kai how to their job. I donít see Kern on this site begging the TC ohana for business ideas. In fact I have witnessed many TCíers getting their pictures taken with the Barney West Tiki, full smiles and drinks raised to the tiki godsÖ.

You are correct about the ignorance of people. This is not a social study; itís a discussion about a painted tiki. Again, if the tiki was painted some 50 years ago, and itís all the public (us included) has know it to be, than the paint wasnít so bad. Trust me, I donít want to see any tiki looking like a hooker in the Red Light District either.

This is like the argument of the Sistine Chapel when it was recently restored. For 500 years the colors were dark and ominous, then we start to clean it and find out Michelangelo used bold, bright colors....we suddenly cant take that fact, because we've only seen it dark and musty looking.

I have seen the new concrete tikis and at first I didnít like them, but Will has done a great job preserving these things and I know in just a short time the hot Florida sun and humid weather will patina them and make them look great. I know Will personally and I believe he will do fine with them and he will adjust the colors to better represent original art.

By the way Pablus, its always great to see you and share a drink with ya and thanks for snooping around with questions about our beloved palace of tiki.


[ This Message was edited by: Loki 2007-09-03 09:23 ]


 
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tiki_kiliki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 01, 2002
Posts: 1000
From: Hamtown USA
Posted: 2007-09-03 09:27 am   Permalink



[ This Message was edited by: tiki_kiliki 2007-09-03 09:37 ]


 
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telescopes
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 06, 2007
Posts: 567
From: Palm Springs
Posted: 2007-09-03 10:06 am   Permalink

Sven:

Am I correctly hearing you state that their is a "correct version" of Poly Pop that should be respected when in fact Poly Pop was a fantasy corruption created by people who didn't really know better to begin with. Example, how the hell does a Japanese fish globe fit in with tiki culture?

But more to the point, stating that their is a "correct" version of Poly Pop is to suggest that Poly Pop is like Latin, a dead language with a beginning and an end. The thing is, if Poly Pop is a living culture, then it will continue to grow and and change as each succeeding generation experiences it and redefines it in its own image. If we were to travel 500 years back in time, the Sistine Chapel would look way different than it does today. More to the point, their could be no Tiki Modern to sell after the Book of Tiki. And if you wait ten years from now, you will be writing a book called Tiki Revival and thus secure yourself for your latter years as well as document "authentic" cultural phenomenon. I once read that you didn't care for "cartoon" tiki, yet 20-30 years from now, that style of art will be seen as genuine and respectful.

My own "tiki trek" began in 1986 at the "China Royal" restaurant on Lindbergh Blvd. in St. Louis, Missouri. It was about as untiki as you could get, and yet, the genuine essence of tiki was there and it caught my imagination. Some 21 years later, I've come to appreciate that essence in all of its manifestations.

At heart, I am a classical tikiphile. I went to New Zealand and Tahiti when neither was cool. But not for the reasons that brought the sailors in WW11, but more for the reasons that brought Gaugaun.

I long love to see our Tiki Palaces preserved, but whether they are or not, in the end, colored tikis are just that, colored tikis. Even the island trend of Margaritaville or Tex-Mex is as authentic as Poly Pop. It might be argued that they are relatives of each other. Ultimately, something even more fascinating might or will take its place.

Poly Pop was born a commercial enterprise. It lasted for a long time because others were willing to pay for it. If people are still willing to pay for it, it will continue. Long may it last!


 
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wplugger
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 09, 2006
Posts: 161
Posted: 2007-09-03 10:32 am   Permalink

On that note,
I have some pics to share.
Yesterday I went to the Mai- Kai & took the tiki in question outside to take a pic. They have 2 good ones left


The one on the left is the original wood master the mold was made from. On the right an original hydro-cal one they made & painted



Hard to tell what color they are

is this better?





 
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ikitnrev
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Jul 27, 2002
Posts: 1313
From: D.C. / Virginia
Posted: 2007-09-03 10:55 am   Permalink

The new ones have what I refer to as 'chia-pet' brown, with that evenly distributed 'right-out-of-the-box' tone. I look at them, and feel like they should be dirtified somehow, to get more of that aged look.

Hopefully this will happen as the figures age. I'm hoping that dirt will collect on the surface, and perhaps tropical moss, fungi, or whatever grows in Florida will be allowed to grow on its surface. Is this what will eventually happen with those surfaces? Hopefuly it won't take too much longer than it does for wooden surfaces. It is the patina that collects on the surface that will help eventually give the new tikis their true souls.






 
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GatorRob
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 20, 2004
Posts: 1770
From: 3 hrs 33 mins to paradise
Posted: 2007-09-03 11:35 am   Permalink

Quote:

On 2007-09-03 09:22, Loki wrote:
We donít have a right to tell the Mai Kai how to their job. I donít see Kern on this site begging the TC ohana for business ideas.


Chris, man, maybe you read something into these posts that I didn't, but I didn't hear anyone suggesting that we tell the Mai-Kai how to do their job. Or that they should somehow consult us before they do anything. They run a business. It is theirs. And we are patrons of said business and, other than Hukilau, we represent a tiny fraction of their revenue stream. (Although Pablus has obviously been skewing that statistic lately.) All that I hear Sven suggesting, and I am in agreement with him, is that we encourage those who are doing creative work for the Mai-Kai to do some research before doing that work. I'm not suggesting Will hasn't done some research. Obviously, he has. I think Sven is just suggesting that he, and anyone else who does creative work for them, to maybe dig a little deeper in that research. If you're painting a tiki, fine. Paint a tiki. But ask yourself "why am I painting this tiki?" or "what colors might Leroy Schmaltz or Barney West have originally used?". To answer those questions, you have to look into both the history of original Polynesian art and mid-century Poly pop art.

I've heard some here argue that it doesn't really matter. The general public doesn't know or appreciate the difference. I've also heard the argument that the original tiki is blue, so I'm going to paint this one blue too. But if we dig a little deeper, we may find that the original wasn't blue at all and that it was painted blue 20 years after it was installed. Some still might say "So what?". And since the Mai-Kai is a business and not a museum, as was correctly pointed out, that is a valid response. The Mai-Kai could decide to paint all the tikis pink if they wanted to and they would have that right because they own them. We have no right to tell them what to do. I just feel that as a person who wants to see the Mai-Kai as a whole and the individual works of art preserved as they were originally conceived, I feel an obligation to at least make an attempt to persuade them in that direction. That's an obligation I put on myself. No one else has to feel that obligation if they don't want to.

Since I don't consider myself an expert in this, I wouldn't tell the Mai-Kai that this or that should be this or that color. I would look to those who have spent years studying such things. Sven is one of those people. And I also heard him say that he would be happy to volunteer his time to providing materials to back up any creative decisions that must be made, such as painting tikis.

I've learned a few things from this thread:

1. I'm glad that we all have a place such as the Mai-Kai that we can all be passionate about. It draws us together even if we don't agree on details.
2. I'm glad that there are people like Will who are willing to put their time and money where their mouth is, even if we all don't agree on this or that detail.
3. I'm saddened, but not surprised, that Mirielle Thornton has moved away from active involvement in the running of the Mai-Kai and I'm concerned that certain quality aspects might slip, but hopeful that that won't happen.
4. I will continue to visit the Mai-Kai regularly even if the garden tikis are glow-in-the-dark orange. (But I'll have a bigger smile on my face if they're not.)
5. I will never support historic status for the Mai-Kai. I've said that before and I'll stick to that. This is a business, not Abe Lincoln's log cabin. The same family has kept the doors open for over 50 years and I won't support anything that hampers them and their ability to maintain their business in a way that they see fit.
6. Tiki Kiliki posted something that she obviously regreted about 10 minutes later. Speak up girl! You are an authority on all things Mai-Kai!

Peace.


 
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tiki_kiliki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 01, 2002
Posts: 1000
From: Hamtown USA
Posted: 2007-09-03 11:41 am   Permalink

GatorRob,

I didn't regret my posting....I'm just following what the family has asked of me - once their press release is prepared they would like for me to share it with the Tiki community. They really wanted to wait until THEY were ready to talk of all the changes being made.

But I will say one thing with an official voice...The Mai Kai is going nowhere.
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The Hukilau

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tiki_kiliki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 01, 2002
Posts: 1000
From: Hamtown USA
Posted: 2007-09-03 11:53 am   Permalink

And Will, I'll say this about the new tikis in the garden. While I'm not a fan of the "painted" tiki, I am a fan of new life happening at the Mai Kai...obviously, it fits the theme of late.

You're a fine carver and a great addition to the Florida ohana - and a refreshing one. I'm sorry that I haven't made it over to your pad lately..there's been alot going on in my camp, some good, some bad.

Keep carving and pouring me friend - we like what we see!
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The Hukilau

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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11156
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2007-09-03 12:08 pm   Permalink

Will, that left version looks much better, in my opinion. It's a little scarier because it looks more like a dried Maori ancestor head. If you want to compare, look at that rack of heads on page 178 of the BOT: The exposed row of teeth in those heads is what was portrayed in these ancestor carvings.
The eyes are a little more difficult, because they are so big and bulging, which makes the all-white too overbearing. I would run a thick line of black around their edge, even if it is not suggested by the sculpturing, to make the eyes more focused.
And then the aging, that would probably ask for too much additional work. Maybe just rubbing some dirt or dust over it would already help.

I know that it seems like a continuous contradiction that I ask for authenticity in something that is basically in-authentic. I can only point to the fact that a lot of people liked what they saw in the Book of Tiki,and that it inspired a lot of things. I carefully chose what I thought represented Polynesian Pop well, and it sure wasn't overpainted Tikis that looked like bikers in drag. No museum aspirations here, just basic common design sense.


 
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