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Tiki Central Forums General Tiki JOHN-O's Las Vegas (& Honolulu pg 8) Thread
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JOHN-O's Las Vegas (& Honolulu pg 8) Thread
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2720
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2010-04-23 7:12 pm   Permalink

Las Vegas Trip Report (Part 2)

Where to go for that stiff drink? I was hanging south of Sahara this trip so no Frankie's for me. I heard there was a new rum bar that opened last year at the Mirage so I had my friend drop me off there. Appropriately it was named the RHUMBAR.

This was an interesting place. With it's bright white decor and counter, it heavily vibed ice cream parlor. Cool, an ice cream parlor that serves rum !! I started out with the 1944 Mai Tai. Not bad but a tad on the sweet side for me. Also kind of pricey at $14 but that's status quo at a rip-off, um I mean high-end joint like the Mirage.

I asked the bartender if they did any Tropical drinks off the menu. She said sure, we can make whatever you want. I asked for a Navy Grog but she said she never heard of it. Looking it up in something titled "The Bartender's Black Book", she responded "Sorry we don't do blended drinks". (?? !!)

After hearing that I said "Never mind, I'll order off the menu". I selected something called a "Latin Manhattan". It was pretty tasty, one of the ingredients was Ginger beer so it reminded me of a "Dark and Stormy". Unlike that drink however, it also had falernum and bitters to give it some added complexity.

Later that night was the big Surf and Punk show at the Double Down Saloon featuring The Swank Bastards and the Hard Riders (with TC's Sperm Whale).

Go here for the show reviews and more pics...


Afterward I hit a hot craps roll at the Palms which paid for the weekend.

[ This Message was edited by: JOHN-O 2010-04-23 19:17 ]

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2720
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2010-04-29 4:57 pm   Permalink

Yet another Las Vegas "Rum" bar.

Nope, you won't find a 1944 Mai Tai but they will serve you a Bacardi and Coke.

There's no Tiki here but they do have shuffleboard !! Plus it's the last place on the list in order to qualify as a Las Vegas rum bar completist (i.e. Rum Jungle, Rhumbar, and Frankie's).

The Rum Runner Lounge is located at 1801 E Tropicana Ave.

[ This Message was edited by: JOHN-O 2010-04-29 19:01 ]

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2720
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2010-05-09 10:46 pm   Permalink

Las Vegas Trip Report....

Which has absolutely nothing to do with Tiki, but it does have a Bilge connection. Read this first:


So I'm ready to roll the dice at the El Cortez when these two guys take the rail right next to me.

Guy 1: "These Orientals are really good with the dice."

Guy 2: "You shouldn't use the term Oriental, Asian is the appropriate term."

I then proceed to make 5 straight points !!

Moral of the story: It's better to be a lucky Oriental than a (politically correct) Asian.

[ This Message was edited by: JOHN-O 2010-05-09 22:54 ]

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Trailerpark Tiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 27, 2010
Posts: 352
From: Las Vegas
Posted: 2010-05-09 11:15 pm   Permalink

LOL You crack me up. btw thee swank bastards are playing again at the DD in two weeks. Pardon the grammar, I had some Havana Club tonight.

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leisure master
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 24, 2007
Posts: 442
From: The exotic village, NYC
Posted: 2010-05-11 2:08 pm   Permalink

John-O, thanks for this awesome thread, what a trip guide.

Just got back from Vegas yesterday, sorry we could not meet up.

We managed to hit Frankie's, the Pinball Hall of Fame, the Charleston Antique Mall (thanks for the cool cocktail glasses Lee), the Attic (vintage store), several downtown bars since we were staying at the Golden Nugget (best of which were Sidebar and Downtown). On the strip we hit Rhumbar at the Mirage - very drinkable Mai Tai and other cocktails in a great outdoor setting. We wandered around City Center (wow), had the Sterling Brunch at Ballys (WOW) and saw Barry at the Paris (yeah, I know).

We also stumbled across "First Friday" which I recommend as an addition to this thread. Several galleries open up and random artists turn out on the first Friday of each month for a big block party about half way between the Strip and Downtown - food for sale, vendors, bands, just a great local scene pretty much unknown to tourists.

EDIT - oh yeah...Harvey Wallbangers at the Peppermill, rum punches at sunset on the outdoor rooftop terrace at the Rio VooDoo lounge, old fashioneds at Napoleons, buckets of beer at the Cabo Wabo formerly known as TVLV...............must sleep.

I'm not an alcoholic, I'm an enthusiast.

[ This Message was edited by: leisure master 2010-05-11 14:24 ]

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Vince Martini
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 02, 2010
Posts: 277
From: Iki Pohaku, Arkansas
Posted: 2010-05-11 7:57 pm   Permalink

Great read, John-O! I have had the pleasure of haunting some of those places, but I have yet to experience Frankies -- I am more than ready!

I definitely love retro dives. But...I went to Peppermills for breakfast and I could not wash it off of my body quickly enough. Nonetheless, I'll give the place another go around next time I am in Sin City.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2720
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2010-05-23 4:38 pm   Permalink

Here's some interesting history that I recently uncovered on Tony Cornero, the West Coast mobster responsible for "financing" the Stardust Resort and Casino in the late 1950's.

In the late 1930's, Cornero ran 3 gambling ships off the coasts of Santa Monica and Long Beach. He argued that 3.1 miles off the U.S. coast constituted "international waters" and that he was exempt from California law. For 25 cents you could ride on a water taxi which would ferry you from the Santa Monica Pier to the S.S. Rex, the most palatial of his 3 ships. There guests could enjoy gambling, gourmet food, a full orchestra, and most likely other unadvertised vices. Raymond Chandler used the "Bay City" gambling ship as background in his 1940 novel "Farewell, My Lovely" and it was also portrayed in the 1975 Robert Mitchum film of the same name.

This link provides a pretty comprehensive background on what would be remembered as "The Battle of Santa Monica Bay" -

Now here's the part that was news to me. After the Coast Guard and local authorities eventually shut him down, Conero relocated to Las Vegas in 1945 where he leased the bottom floor of Downtown's Apache Hotel. There he opened up a casino and named it the S.S. Rex Club. That venture only lasted a year and the casino changed hands to become the more well remembered Eldorado Club. The Eldorado stayed in business for 4 years until it was acquired by Benny Binion in 1951 who opened up his iconic Horseshoe Club. (You can go to page 1 of this thread to read about the interesting background on that.) I love to shoot craps at Binion's (Harrah's stole the "Horseshoe") for its old-school flavor and so I was amazed to learn the physical space had a Noir connection to my home of Santa Monica.

Cornero later purchased a 40-acre piece of land on the Las Vegas Strip with plans to build a major casino resort. After borrowing major money from the Jewish Mob, he ran short and had to ask for more. Cornero never did get to see the Stardust open (or eat at the Aku Aku) as he had a fatal heart attack shooting craps at the Desert Inn several years prior to the Stardust opening. Rumor had it he was slipped a lethal mickey in his cocktail but that was never proven.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2720
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2010-05-26 7:02 pm   Permalink

Polynesians invented Tiki and LOUNGE !!......

Credit Bigbro's "The Sound of Tiki" CD for bringing this significant Las Vegas (and Poly-Pop) fact back to light.

Now when you think of a classic Las Vegas lounge act, who first comes to mind? Well most people would say the Rat Pack but actually they played the "Big Room" (i.e. the Sands' Copa Room). For fans of the mid-century Las Vegas Swing sound, Louis Prima and Keely Smith would be the obvious choice. They were a popular fixture in the Sahara's Casbar Lounge, but they weren't the first to play that kind of venue.

Enter the Mary Kaye Trio.

Mary Kaye, her brother Norman, and (non-sibling) Frank Ross were Las Vegas' first official "lounge act". Mary Kaye ("Ka'aihue") and Norman grew up in St. Louis, Missouri but were both of Hawaiian descent. Mary's father was Hawaiian Hapa Haole performer Johnny Ukelele (who Mary and Norman toured with) and her grandfather was Prince Kuhio, brother of Queen Liliuokalani. That's two generations of Hawaiian "royalty" !!

In the "Sound of Tiki" liner notes, Bigbro writes:

"In 1950, her trio's engagement at the New Frontier Casino's main showroom in Las Vegas was coming to an end, but the owner wanted to keep them on. Mary suggested to add a small stage in the bar and call it a 'Lounge'."

The rest is history.

Here's some additional facts that I got in a fascinating book "Cult Vegas" by Mike Weatherford.

- "Norman remembers that chorus girls from neighboring hotels 'would bring the whole line in,' and with the girls came the boys. The trio employed a versatile arsenal to keep the regulars entertained. 'We never did the same act twice,' Mary says. 'We could put any song anywhere. They came back night after night, because they never knew what we were going to do, and we didn't either.'"

- "Mary's progressive guitar playing and their complex vocal harmonies - often compared to the Hi-Lo's - gave the trio the ability to tackle almost any song. But the secret weapon turned out to be Ross' comedy..."

- "Frank Ross was probably the inventor of what they call lounge comedy today... He's the guy who started the whole concept of tumult comedy, of not having routines and jokes... Even the gents who eventually became known as the Rat Pack took a cue from Ross. They used to sit and watch the lounge shows, and started to incorporate spontaneity in the main-room set..."

- "The Mary Kaye Trio soon had all the hotels rethinking their lounges, booking larger and louder outfits to play small stages that had been designed for organists or piano trios...The pump was primed..."

Here's my favorite YouTube clip of the trio. Not Vegas, but it's taken from the movie "Bop Girl Goes Calypso" they appeared in.


And you know the whole Tiki/Exotica/Latin connection that's been popular here as of late, here's Mary Kaye performing a Latin number.


This is a Nevada KNPR radio discussion that followed Mary Kaye's death in Feb 2007. It's pretty comprehensive.


It's too bad there's no recorded footage of them playing in a Vegas lounge, but that can probably be said for all the Vegas lounge acts. Oh, to have today's portable technology back then.

Bigbro summarizes it like this:

"Mary Kaye personifies the convergence of American mid-century modernism and Polynesian history... To be descended from Hawaiian royalty and originating from the Las Vegas Lounge tradition clearly makes Mary and her brother, Norman Kaye, inhabitants of the cosmos of Tiki Modern."

So the next time you're enjoying Rat Pack-era Frank, Dino, and/or Sammy, remember the children of "Tiki" were doing it first !!

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lucas vigor
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 12, 2004
Posts: 4090
Posted: 2010-05-26 7:17 pm   Permalink

You the man, John-O!!!!!! Great post!

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2720
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2010-05-29 08:00 am   Permalink

If you're into Exotica music, then you're probably also a big fan of Juan Garcia Esquivel, aka "The King of Space-age Pop".

Now I was aware that Esquivel sometimes opened for Frank Sinatra back in the day, but I never realized the true extent of his performances in Las Vegas. What I've recently learned is that he had a regular lounge act at the Stardust from 1963 to 1971 !!

Mike Weatherford quotes Esquivel in his fantastic book "Cult Vegas":

"I foresaw that the big bands were going to end, so I was preparing a small show", Esquivel said of his strategy that brought him to Vegas. "I presented the show (and) talked to the audience. I explained to them the reason why I was with a smaller group, because it was impossible to have such a large group as I had. Just imagine lodging and plane tickets for thirty people."

With smaller musical resources, Esquivel became even more inventive. He came up with devices like "boo-booms", his name for 24 bongos, chromatically tuned (??). He also added a visual aspect to the show with four female singers sporting tear-away dresses. Each singer was a different nationality - Japan, France, Switzerland, and Italy, and performed in the style of their country (The Swiss girl would yodel !!). In addition to the ladies, there was an elaborate light show which was timed to the musical chords.

The show was called "The Sights and Sounds of Esquivel", which interestingly is the name of an available compilation that has nothing to do with his Vegas days ( ).

There is however a bootleg CD that covers this period:

It all came to an end when the Stardust decided to replace the lounge with a new gaming innovation at the time, the Sports Book.

Anway can you imagine visiting the Stardust in 1963 or 1964? You could start out the evening with dinner at the Aku Aku, and then see Esquivel performing in the lounge for the price of a cocktail.

It boggles the mind !! I wish someone would invent a time machine.

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tyger jymmy
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 14, 2003
Posts: 554
From: califorina
Posted: 2010-05-30 1:05 pm   Permalink

Dude this is so rad Love your info post , man killer .

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2720
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2010-07-11 7:50 pm   Permalink

Las Vegas Trip Report

After making 4 straight points shooting craps at the El Cortez (my 2010 hot streak remains unbroken), I stumbled upon a Tiki slot machine !!

Just locate the nearest Men's Room closest to the craps tables and you'll find it in that corridor.

Here's the real highlight of the weekend, the grand opening of Mr. Smiley's and InkyLouises's home Tiki bar - Hubert's Huli Huli Haus. I can just see the place being dubbed the "4H Club" for short.

I don't want to steal Mr. Smiley's thunder and post the detailed images myself (
Click here for that) but it's an amazing Tiki bar in an super-cool Mid-century home in great Mid-century neighborhood. I met a lot of interesting kindred souls and had a fun time. Thanks Mr. Smiley and InkyLouise !! Forget the Strip, true Las Vegas soul starts north of Sahara Ave.

You're probably asking the same question I did. So who's Hubert ?? I was told he's a Sog Mongy (?? !!) which I'm assuming is some kind of Polynesian deity that I'm not familiar with.

[ This Message was edited by: JOHN-O 2010-07-11 20:59 ]

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Sep 19, 2009
Posts: 466
Posted: 2010-07-19 10:03 pm   Permalink


On 2009-12-21 17:33, JOHN-O wrote:

So what else does this have to do with Tiki? Well classic Tiki-style did originate during the 1950's Atomic Age. I might also argue that the mid-century popularity of Tiki was an escapist cultural response to the growing threat of Cold War nuclear annihilation. Could it be that Nikita Khrushchev was as much an influence on Tiki culture as Don Beach or Trader Vic?

Also did you ever notice that while the beginning of the Cold War gave birth to classic Tiki-style, it was just after the collapse of that threat when the current Tiki Revival began. The Soviet Union fell in 1991 and the following year, BigBro gave his first public lecture on Tiki-style. Is this just a coincidence or is there some strange relationship between Communist world domination and Tiki? I'll leave that philosophic discussion for another thread.

There needs to be a book written, from a strict cultural materialism perspective, that ties the communists, capitalists, cargo cults, and the caloric value of rum drinks served in pagan god statues all into one coherent explanation of the twentieth century. Alas Marvin Harris is dead! That said..."Communists, Capitalists, Cargo Cults, and the Caloric Value of Rum Drinks" is nearly as good a title for a book as "Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches" is.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2720
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2010-07-24 10:49 am   Permalink

In case anyone is following up on my recommendations and visiting these places, don't bother with the diner inside the Huntridge Drug Store. It closed down a couple of weeks ago due to lack of business. The adjoining bar however is still serving up cheap drinks 24x7.

Go can still visit White Cross Drugs if you want to eat a hamburger inside a mid-century Las Vegas drug store.

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The Sperm Whale
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 23, 2004
Posts: 1553
From: Lakewood California
Posted: 2010-07-24 12:04 pm   Permalink

Hey John-O I just wanted to thank you for this thread!! I really love your pic's and LV history lesson!!! Rock On Bro!!!

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