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Tiki Central Forums Tiki Travel Which City is the Most Tiki?
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Which City is the Most Tiki?
christiki295
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 09, 2003
Posts: 3811
From: LA-2547 mls east Hawaii &5500 Easter Is
Posted: 2005-08-25 11:07 pm   Permalink

Would it be LA, home of the revered Tiki Ti, but with the granddaddy of them all, Trader Vic's, and with the addition of Purple Orchid, Lucky Tiki, and the 1950s orginial, the Tonga Hut - with Oceanic Arts and various A frame buildings scattered around?

Would it be SF, with the new Trader Vic's, the classic Tonga Room, and the Bamboo Hut and still more tiki just over the bridge in the East Bay, plus with water surrounding the environment?

Would it be South Florida, with the balmy weather, beautiful ocean and the very strong mana of the Mai Kai?

Chicago, too, has tiki, off the Lake.

Would it San Diego, also with both the Bali Hai and the tiki hotel, Humphrey's Half Moon Bay resort, on the Pacific, and Mr. Tiki's Mai Tai Lounge and Hanalei, with the poolside Moai?

My perception - Tiki was born in the tropics, the Mana stronger is stronger by the equator and off the Pacific - it has to be Honolulu, with the classic tiki at La Maranara, and the art gallery tiki bar & grill, Tiki's. Waikiki is graced by nightly tiki torch lightings, conch shell soundings and hula dancing. And then, the Polynesian Cultural Center on the North Shore. Tiki paradise!


 
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freddiefreelance
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Feb 15, 2003
Posts: 2990
From: San Diego, Ca.
Posted: 2005-08-26 06:33 am   Permalink

Alameda, Ca, 'cause why else would Jab move there from San Diego?

 
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Tiki Joe
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Feb 15, 2005
Posts: 155
From: Cincinnati, O-Hi-Yo
Posted: 2005-08-26 10:36 am   Permalink

It sure is not Cincinnati!

No tiki, nowhere!


 
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Satan's Sin
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jun 13, 2004
Posts: 729
From: Imperial Beach, CA
Posted: 2005-08-26 11:00 am   Permalink

San Francisco not only because of the Tonga Room and Trader Vic's, but also because it is so beautiful and funky and hard-core and sophisticated and sleazy, all at once.

 
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thejab
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 2986
From: Tradewinds Apartments, Alameda, CA
Posted: 2005-08-26 11:36 am   Permalink

Quote:

On 2005-08-26 11:00, Satan's Sin wrote:
San Francisco not only because of the Tonga Room and Trader Vic's, but also because it is so beautiful and funky and hard-core and sophisticated and sleazy, all at once.



Beautiful yes, but funky? I guess you could say it was funky in the late 60s in the Haight (at least it smelled funky).

Hard-core? Do you mean hard-core porn, or hard-core punk?

Sophisticated definitely.

Sleazy, I guess, but it used to be much more so. It has not yet been completely Disneyfied like New York (I have fond memories of walking 42nd. St. and Times Square and the East Village in the 70s as a teen - what happened to NY is a shame). The city is a lot tamer now. I sure isn't what it was in the 70s and 80s before the 90s dot-com destruction of the recent past (just one example: the Rainbow Room - a classic 30s bar becomes a remodeled hip yuppie environment).

I digress from the topic.

How about Barcelona for tiki town? 3 fine tiki bars.


 
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christiki295
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 09, 2003
Posts: 3811
From: LA-2547 mls east Hawaii &5500 Easter Is
Posted: 2005-08-26 12:04 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2005-08-26 11:36, thejab wrote:


How about Barcelona for tiki town? 3 fine tiki bars.



Excellent! - who knew?


 
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Sabu The Coconut Boy
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Aug 20, 2002
Posts: 2792
From: Carson, California
Posted: 2005-08-26 12:19 pm   Permalink

It's fun looking through my postcard and matchbook folders to get an idea of where the tiki hotspots were, as opposed to where they are now.

California was the clear leader in poly-pop tiki culture by volume alone. But Florida wasn't far behind at all. I have literally hundreds of postcards and matchbooks from each of these states.

In California you had the two progenitors of the movement - Don The Beachcomber in Hollywood and Trader Vic in Oakland. It's nice to see that despite these original locations being lost, Los Angeles and the Bay Area are both still tiki power centers. I don't think I can choose one over the other - The SF bay is dense with its larger establishments in a way that only Chicago could top (in Chicago's heyday). Los Angeles has its locations much more spread out, but there is literally tiki to be found everywhere in L.A. (apartments help to make this true). Still, Los Angeles has lost so much. You used to have Hollywood Celebrity Tiki (Don The Beachomber, Trader Vic's, The Luau in Beverly Hills, The Tahitian), then you had Working-class Tiki like Clifton's, plus you had Surf-Tiki, like the Tonga Lei and Beachbum Burt's. I miss it all.

Florida was also spread out - with at least one large tiki restaurant in every major city. I would have loved to have driven through Florida in the 1960s, leapfrogging from tiki locale to tiki locale. These places were often large - almost like mini theme parks. The Mai Kai, Tiki Gardens, The South Pacific, The Luau - These are/were all large, sprawling places.

I don't know quite how to classify Hawaii. In the 1960s, carved tikis existed absolutely everywhere. But frankly, that was because it was Hawaii. Based on my postcards and brochures, every modern hotel, office building, bank, theme park or giftshop seemed to have tikis. If you want to look strictly at Polynesian Pop-themed restaurants and bars that resemble the ones on the mainland (A-frames, tikis, puffer lamps, net floats, bamboo, rum drinks) then I'd say that Hawaii ranked just below California and Florida. But I could be wrong. Hawaii had the Authentic tiki culture first and foremost, which the mainland took and converted to Poly Pop, but it also seemed to embrace the fake culture right back in the 1960s and mix it with the authentic and the tourist. After all, Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman were based there and had their regular gigs there. I would definitely class their Exotica music as "Tiki", although Don Ho and Al Harrington - I would probably class them more as "Tourist".

Next in line was definitely Chicago. To quote James Teitelbaum:
Quote:
Imagine walking around downtown Chicago back in the Tiki Heyday, and having three Pago Pagos, a Kon Tiki Ports, Don the Beachcomber, the Shangri-La, Tommy Wong's, and Trader Vics all within a few blocks. You'd be hard pressed to go for a stroll without stumbling across (or into) a Tiki Bar or four!


I can't imagine what that must have been like! Walking around Shelter Island in San Diego must have been the only experience to compare at the time.

After Chicago, it's hard to pin down the next largest Tiki "Power Places". New York definitely leads the remaining pack. Then I would offer Las Vegas, Seattle, San Diego, Boston, & Wildwood New Jersey as contenders. Even places like Salt Lake City had 4 or more tiki bars and restaurants. Columbus Ohio ranks just for the Kahiki alone. It was a glorious time, my friends!

I think James Teitelbaum, Sven, Humuhumu, and TheJab might be best qualified to tell us where the "Most Tiki" city lies today, since they've done the most travelling to current tiki spots. I eagerly wait to hear their insights.

Sabu

_________________


[ This Message was edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy 2005-08-26 12:36 ]


 
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Satan's Sin
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jun 13, 2004
Posts: 729
From: Imperial Beach, CA
Posted: 2005-08-26 1:10 pm   Permalink

By "funky" I guess I meant that San Fran is a town that doesn't take itself too seriously and in fact you can still catch a faint vibe of gold-rush boominess in the air. By "hard core" yes I meant sex, it seems to be open with its sexual services industry but forefront in mind is that diagonally across the street from City Lights (one of the most famous bookstores in the world) is the Condor Club (one of the most legendary strip joints in the world). And, come to think of it, diagonally across the street from the Condor is yet another tiki bar, I forget its name, great Mai Tais, wonderful interior, awful terrible music.

(and btw, the Rainbow Room no longer attracts sophisticated boho yuppies as they had planned in their redocoration scheme; it is instead a pure tourist trap and clip joint, the drinks are tiny and poorly made and cost at least $25, but the view of lower Manhattan makes it all absolutely worth it.)

And when I die and go to heaven I hope the tiki bar up there is half as nice as SF's Tonga Room.


 
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thejab
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 2986
From: Tradewinds Apartments, Alameda, CA
Posted: 2005-08-26 2:32 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2005-08-26 13:10, Satan's Sin wrote:
By "funky" I guess I meant that San Fran is a town that doesn't take itself too seriously and in fact you can still catch a faint vibe of gold-rush boominess in the air. By "hard core" yes I meant sex, it seems to be open with its sexual services industry but forefront in mind is that diagonally across the street from City Lights (one of the most famous bookstores in the world) is the Condor Club (one of the most legendary strip joints in the world). And, come to think of it, diagonally across the street from the Condor is yet another tiki bar, I forget its name, great Mai Tais, wonderful interior, awful terrible music.

(and btw, the Rainbow Room no longer attracts sophisticated boho yuppies as they had planned in their redocoration scheme; it is instead a pure tourist trap and clip joint, the drinks are tiny and poorly made and cost at least $25, but the view of lower Manhattan makes it all absolutely worth it.)




My mistake. I meant the "Redwood Room" not the Rainbow Room. The Redwood Room is a 1930s Art Deco masterpiece of a bar in the Clift Hotel in San Francisco. About 10 yrs ago Ian Schrager bought the hotel which instigated a "Save the Redwood Room" drive. After the ownership transferred the room was restored (the Klimpt artworks that were added in the 1970s were removed and the 1930s "curly" redwood interior - supposedly from one old-growth tree - and light fixtures were retained), and then the atmosphere was changed for the worse, as they added 4 huge video screens in the room. They now serve overpriced weak drinks like the Lychee-tini (gasp) and DJs play crappy music. But nobody seemed to care anymore because the hotel has been a smashing success especially since it reopened in the peak of the dot-com boom. It has since become a hangout for the rich and famous and wanna-be rich and famous.

The Condor is still there but they made changes to the signage. They also recently removed the classic sign for the Hungry I (the old comedy club had been toen down but a strip club took over the name). I love North Beach but it is changing rapidly, and in the Bay Area we have nothing like the LA Conservancy. Old places disappear all the time with maybe just a brief mention in the newspaper.

Before:

After:


Broadway street used to be all neon signs - now it looks like this:
The Condor Club's sign featuring a topless woman (Carol Doda?) with blinking red nipples was removed in the 90s when the topless dance bar became a sports bar (I think it's now a dance club).

For more Farewell Favorites check out one of the best web sites on San Francisco (www.mistersf.com)

http://www.mistersf.com/farewell



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thejab
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 2986
From: Tradewinds Apartments, Alameda, CA
Posted: 2005-08-26 4:15 pm   Permalink

Sabu, your postcard collection is the next best thing to a time machine!

It would be hard for me to pick one place, and I still have not been to some areas (Canada, New England) but I think the greater Los Angeles area (including Orange County) would be at the top of my list (it's no surprise that Humuhumu has relocated there). Not only for quantity of tiki but it's variety (small bars, large restaurants, old bars, new bars, apartments).



 
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Tiki Chris
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 24, 2002
Posts: 1543
From: London
Posted: 2005-08-26 5:45 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2005-08-26 11:36, thejab wrote:
How about Barcelona for tiki town? 3 fine tiki bars.



Barcelona's probably got my vote too.

(Then again, Rotorua has so many frickin' tikis everywhere that I almost suffered whiplash trying to take it all in!)



 
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christiki295
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 09, 2003
Posts: 3811
From: LA-2547 mls east Hawaii &5500 Easter Is
Posted: 2005-08-26 5:46 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2005-08-26 16:15, thejab wrote:
I think the greater Los Angeles area (including Orange County) would be at the top of my list (it's no surprise that Humuhumu has relocated there).




Very interesting point about the OC, The Jab.

I also was thinking particularly of the Sunset Beach area, where there seems to be a very high TIPSY factor, with Sam's, Taco Surf - with outside tikis visbile from PCH - and that 3rd bar down the street.

Speaking of distinguished TC members, I believe Crazy Al also resides there.


 
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Humuhumu
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 22, 2002
Posts: 3606
From: San Francisco
Posted: 2005-08-26 6:01 pm   Permalink

All the cities that have been mentioned are worthy contenders, and have varying states of tikiness in their histories and present-day. Assuming that the use of the word "tiki" in the question relates semantically to what we're all gathered here for (midcentury Polynesian Pop), rather than actual Oceanic art, my vote goes to the greater Los Angeles area.

Sabu made reference to the sheer amount of tiki here, using apartment buildings as an example, and that hints at what I think makes Los Angeles special: it seems that here more than anywhere else Polynesian Pop was embraced in an everyday fashion. In other parts of the country, tiki bars and Polynesian restaurants were popular and active, but here, tiki life was actually happening. Here in southern California, beachcomber living and suburban savagery was in people's homes and people's livelihoods, sometimes cheekily, sometimes seriously.

Additionally, the idea of casual tropical exoticism equalling glamour was really solidified by the earlier Hollywood pre-tiki establishments, like Sugie's Tropics, Bob Brooks' Seven Seas, and Don the Beachcomber. Chicago is definitely a contender on that front as well.

Midcentury Polynesian Pop has many roots in all sorts of places, but for me the most meaningful roots are here in Los Angeles.

Aside from that, I almost want to consider the Mai Kai as a city unto itself. The Mai Kai is the single best tie we have today to the heyday of Polynesian Pop.

_________________

Critiki - Ooga-Mooga - Humu Kon Tiki


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thejab
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 2986
From: Tradewinds Apartments, Alameda, CA
Posted: 2005-08-26 6:11 pm   Permalink

And the LA/OC area probably has the highest concentration of folks who contribute to, and take part in, the current tiki culture.

 
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valcano
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Aug 24, 2005
Posts: 19
From: l.a.
Posted: 2005-08-26 10:24 pm   Permalink

every major st. in Los Angeles had a major tiki site on it at one time.I can probably list a couple dozen at least.Chicago is up there though with the best of them.

 
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