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Beware, more tiki going mainstream!
Lake Surfer
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Oct 21, 2002
Posts: 3414
From: Milwaukee, WI
Posted: 2003-02-07 10:49 pm   Permalink

So the little miss and I were buying towels tonight at Kohl's department store here in Milwaukee (they'll be in California soon too) when we came across little polyresin tiki photo holders by Sonoma... farther on we encountered Tiki God Lights and tiki torches by Tiki of Orange, CA. There were also plastic moai head party glasses and plastic platters and pitchers featuring classic tropical drinks such as Mai Tai and the like...

Someone in marketing for Kohl's caught wind of the tiki resurgance...

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Traitor Vic
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jan 02, 2003
Posts: 428
From: Greenville, SC
Posted: 2003-02-08 12:06 am   Permalink

Cool! At least for now, anyway. We have a Kohl's here in Greenville, SC, but it's over on the side of town with all the "Mainstream" Retail and Horrible Traffic, so I've never even been there. I do know that Target has been warming up to the Lounge Scene for the past year or two and that T.J. Maxx has started carrying more Cocktail Glasses and Barware in it's Home Accessories department. This is all well and good until the idiots start to tune in and claim ownership.
Of course... A lot of people probably thought that had happened when I joined this Chat Forum, so...

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Lake Surfer
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Oct 21, 2002
Posts: 3414
From: Milwaukee, WI
Posted: 2003-02-08 12:43 am   Permalink

I left feeling a little sad... it was like this little secret I had, my little obsession with tiki, and someone found out about it and told the whole world...

Its always been fun scouting out places in the barren Midwest to find tiki purchases and haunts... its not as fun when its everywhere...

Maybe I'm just being selfish, not very Aloha of me...

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Traitor Vic
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jan 02, 2003
Posts: 428
From: Greenville, SC
Posted: 2003-02-08 01:05 am   Permalink

LOL! Maybe not. Hell... You've still got some of the best Cheese and Sausage known to man that, I'm sure, you folks just pack away and don't share with any of the rest of us.
For those of us in the Even More Barren Regions finding something like an Ugly Plastic Tiki Water Bottle at Big Lots is a Marvelous Thing! Of course, we usually don't use it for its intended purpose.
Like I say... If the idiots find it and embrace it it could become a problem. For now, though, it just makes more and more tiki related material available to us at a low price. Keep in mind that Tiki was concieved (although, not in a board room) as a Mass Marketing Tool. Don and Vic didn't exactly mean for their places to be Exclusive Private Hangouts for Themselves and a Few Cool Friends.
Hell! Our interest only shows that it has pontential in the mainstream, don't you think? I mean.. We're the Crazy Ones! For each of us in TC there must be at least 50, perhaps 100, who are "not quite as into it" as us, but in to it all the same. Why shouldn't they be able to buy a cool Polyresin Tiki Photo Holder?
It's all good. Well... Until it goes REALLY BAD, that is.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 2370
From: Corona, Ca
Posted: 2003-02-08 11:19 am   Permalink


On 2003-02-08 00:43, Lake Surfer wrote:
I left feeling a little sad... it was like this little secret I had, my little obsession with tiki, and someone found out about it and told the whole world...

LS, welcome to California! Tiki is not definitely not a little secret out here. You can find tiki mugs at The Great Indoors, tiki t-shirts at Target and moai lamps at Spencer Gifts.

Welcome to the world of mass merchandising...


Poly-Pop *

Bartender, make mine a glass of WATAHHH!!!!!

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 11, 2002
Posts: 2026
From: Aku Hall, Chicago
Posted: 2003-02-08 1:14 pm   Permalink

Here is a article I wrote for a rockabilly magazine, that hopefully explains why a Tiki revival in the mainstream can be a bad thing.

"When bad things happen to good scenes

or -

Hip today, goon tomorrow

I like to say that popular culture is cyclical; what I mean is that cultural icons like to reassert themselves periodically in almost completely predictable patterns. Every few years, the mainstream becomes aware of a small group of people preserving a largely forgotten trend, fad, or lifestyle, which is then scooped up, repackaged, and sold in a new incarnation to the modern-day consumer.

Those of us who are interested in any of the myriad niches of middle 20th century culture have watched this happen several times over: witness the rockabilly revival in the early 1980’s, the ska revivals in both the late 1970’s and early 1990’s, and the swing revival of the mid-late 1990’s. All of these subcultures began with a small group of hardcore followers who were genuinely passionate about their music, their mode of dress, and even the beverages associated with their peer groups (whiskey, Guinness, and either water or martini - depending on the voracity of your dancing - respectively).

All of these cultures built a steady underground following, reached a critical mass, and were then pounced upon as the latest fad by the mainstream, before fading back into relative obscurity. Die-hard pundits of these ‘scenes’ were left scratching their heads, puzzling over a conundrum unique to the latter half of the 20th century: “I was into it before it was cool, and then when it became cool in the mainstream it got really lame, and now the mainstream has moved on to something new. So is it ‘safe’ to like it again, or has it been permanently ‘ruined’? Will I look like a fool, or a nerd, or someone hopelessly behind the times (oh the irony!) if I publicly admit to liking it now?”.

This question may sound silly to some, and conceited to others, and irrelevant to still others, but I’ll bet there are more than a few Re-Vue readers who have had to struggle with this at some point. We all like to say “I do what I do and I don’t give a fig what any one thinks of me”. Well, that sounds mature, grounded, and well-balanced when we say it, but how many of the people who say this really mean it? Face it: we all care, to a degree, what others think of us, whether we admit it or not. If someone wants to listen to a type of music, wear a style of clothes, or furnish their home in some way that the general public hasn’t become aware of, but that makes this individual happy, then he ought to be able to. If this makes him a little odd to the squares in mainstream society, well, that’s their problem, right?


The problem really begins after any given subculture breaks into the mainstream, runs it’s course and then becomes passé to even the most clueless conservatives. At this point, one stops being a quirky individual with unique and interesting tastes (be they rockabilly, bondage, Tiki, or Tolkien), and is suddenly transformed into a dopey has-been who is jumping on last year’s fad, too slow to get hip to the new thing. The people one meets day to day don’t know (or care) if you have been into this ambiguous ‘it’ for perhaps a decade; they just think you’re failing miserably in an attempt to be cool. It is easy to be a trend-setter, but it stinks being a has-been, especially when you actually haven’t changed a bit... and when public tastes have shifted the average person’s conception of you from ‘unique’ or ‘interesting’ to ‘loser’ in a year’s time, it is an annoying thing to cope with.

After a few years, the public forgets completely, and a new underground begins to develop. This is where the cycle I mentioned at the beginning of this article comes into play. If you truly love something, care about something, and have spent a portion of your life becoming part of a community of people with similar interests, it is really hard to watch the mainstream media swoop down, decide that your little world is the ‘next big thing’ and then ruin it.

But does the fact that something has become popular ruin it?
Isn’t it better if something does become popular?
If our favorite musical idiom or social subculture suddenly becomes accepted by the masses, doesn’t that mean more accessibility to goods/ music/ clothes/whatever, more choices of places to go, and less instances of having to deal with the ‘you’re a freak’ attitude?

Yes, and no. The statements in the above paragraph are true. But this convenient access to goods, entertainment, and acceptance comes at a price. You see, in order for the media to popularize something with the masses, they have to water it down first in order to make it accessible to the lowest common denominator. In watering something down, it is robbed of it’s essence, it loses it’s character, and is denied much of what makes it interesting or unique. It becomes quantified and commodified, packaged in a shiny pretty box for sale to those who never had the cultural awareness to discover interesting things for themselves. Most people are content to surf the fads each year, and be told what to listen to, what to wear, and what to drive. Underground things don’t become lame because they go mainstream - they must be made lame first in order to go mainstream. Our media is exceedingly adept at this, to the extent that the transition is almost invisible to all but the most keen observer.

The most recent example is the swing revival a few years ago. I know a great number of people who have been into authentic vintage swing music since the 1980’s or earlier. I personally got hip to Louis Jordan in about 1990, and have been hooked ever since. Others felt the same way, the cult built and built, and what happened? After existing happily and building organically over the course of a decade or so, the media finlaly spotted it and seized it. Almost overnight, prices on 1940’s clothing destabilized and spiraled out of control, and for most people under thirty, swing as a musical idiom is now defined by “Zoot Suit Riot”. Need I say more?

Granted, we live in a free society, and newcomers to any given scene are usually warmly welcomed. The problem here isn’t a social group expanding in a natural manner, it is the fact that these same social groups are being pillaged for whatever makes them unique, and having their essence stolen in order for corporate culture to sell the consumer the Next Big Thing. Like a village being sacked by Vikings, little is left after the fact.

So what can we do about it next time?

Not a darned thing.

We just have to batten down the hatches and weather the storm.

Unfortunately (you all knew I was going to get to this subject sooner or later!), the ‘next big thing’ is Tiki.

I began collecting Tiki in about 1988, and I decided I had to devote an entire room in my house to my collection in about 1996. I met a scattered group of kindred spirits who were also interested in Tiki, and a little ‘Bamboo Crew’ began to develop here in Chicago. The ball started rolling quicker: in the past three or four years, I have seen many more people begin to build Tiki zones into their own homes. Exotica music - the soundtrack of Tiki - made a brief appearance as part of the lounge revival a few years ago, and soon after, Aloha shirts came back into mainstream fashion. In the past few years, I have charted a steady increase in the presence of Tiki in cartoons, television programs, web sites, antique malls, magazines, and purveyors of sundry and odd kitsch. As Tiki mugs went from fifty-cent thrift store items to $20 internet auction collectibles, unfriendly competitions developed among members of the Bamboo Crew, and the group splintered by mid-2000. My own web site (launched in 1994) regularly exceeds my bandwidth limit, and my book, Tiki Road Trip, has already sold a truckload of copies... and it won’t even be out until this April. Truly, the second coming of Tiki - a popular culture icon so long-lived that it’s original incarnation lasted from the late 1920’s through the mid 1970’s, encompassing (in their entirety) all of the original swing, rockabilly, lounge, and mod eras - has arrived.

This summer is the summer of Tiki.
In addition to the opening of Chicago’s Rock-A-Tiki Lounge, and the release of my book, several other new Tiki bars are opening in other cities (New York has four new ones). There are three major Tiki events planned for the year (Chicago, Ft. Lauderdale, and Las Vegas). I suggest attending as many as possible, since by next summer the Hala Kahiki will certainly be overrun by keg-swilling frat boys demanding that the soothing traditional Hawaiian music usually heard there be replaced with Dave Matthews Band, and that HK’s stalwart ‘no beer’ policy be abolished. So use this coming spring and summer wisely - hoist those mai-tais, suffering bastards, and scorpion bowls while the spirits of Trader Vic and Stephen Crane are still with us.

On a brighter note, you’ll be able to get all of the neo-Tiki stuff that is coming out right now at clearance prices sometime in 2005 or 2006. After this summer you’ll be able to sell your vintage Tiki collectibles to hipster-wannabe yuppies for a small fortune, or just hold on to them... the mainstream will forget about it in a few years, and if the few remaining traces of the original mid-century Tiki culture aren’t wiped out by the plague of locusts that the popular media has begun to summon, we’ll be able to enjoy the spirit of Tiki again in peace by around 2008 or so.

In the meaintime - here is some information about those events.

The second annual Hukilau is taking place in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on June 27 - 28, 2003. Performers include the Italian surf-rockabilly band I Belli do Waikiki, plus the Delusionaires, and the hilarious King Ukelele. Check out
http://thehukilau.com for details.

Visitors to Viva Las Vegas in April might want to make sure to check out Mondo Tiki, which is happening concurrently with VLV on Saturday, April 19 at the Hard Rock Hotel in Vegas. The all-day-all night Tiki fest will culminate in a performance by Brian Setzer.

A third event, being planned for Chicago in August, is still under development. Additionally, there will be release parties for Tiki Road Trip in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and apparances by the author (yours truly) at both the Hukilau and Mondo Tiki."

...now the one thing I didn't mention in this article is my own guilt complex for potentially fueling this oncoming spoilage of the Tiki community with my site and my book, but that's a matter to be dealt with bewtween my and my Aku Aku.

- James T.
My newest book is "Destination: Cocktails" - www.destinationcocktails.com.
See www.tydirium.net for info on Big Stone Head, Tiki Road Trip and all of my other projects!

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Lake Surfer
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Oct 21, 2002
Posts: 3414
From: Milwaukee, WI
Posted: 2003-02-08 2:42 pm   Permalink

Hey, great piece of writing there James...

My interest in tiki began with my trip to two of the islands in 1996 and the connection between my surfing interests, the surfing history of Hawaii and the way that surfing in California started to borrow from traditions in Hawaii, i.e. early San Onofre. I became very interested in the history of Hawaii after spending a day on Oahu with a Hawaiian born guide of ours that told us of the gods and the ancient tales of the islands. I began digging for as much info as possible from outdated library books and started to collect tiki and polynesia where I could, mainly on vacations to California. What I couldn't find, I started making on my own. I think this was the best way for me to get into it all, it all started with a true passion for it all, rather than jumping on the hottest new trend. I think that's why I feel so selfish about letting the mainstream take over...

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 14, 2002
Posts: 1290
From: Bangkok
Posted: 2003-02-08 6:50 pm   Permalink

I'm all for tiki going mainstream coz once it's not "the-in-thing" the mainstream will shed its newly aquired tiki goods back into the thrift comunity.

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Jungle Trader
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jan 04, 2003
Posts: 3765
From: Trader's Jungle Outpost, Turlock, Ca.
Posted: 2003-02-08 7:31 pm   Permalink

JT you hit it right on the head. And the cycle goes round again.

Oki NiKsoKoWa
(Hello all my relatives)

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Tiki Centralite

Joined: Jan 19, 2003
Posts: 100
From: Jacksonville
Posted: 2003-02-08 7:39 pm   Permalink

Wow Lake, you have a keen eye for all things tiki. Today I was busy scouring Spencer gifts at the dreaded mall then, TV, I made the rounds of the DC area Big Lots in search of the crappy plastic tiki heads (none to be found). Tomorrow I'll have to scoot on over to Kohl's to see what they have going on... so thanks for the tip.

I know how you feel about being a little sad that your little secret is getting exposed to the masses. I built my first home tiki bar in 1996 - after years of planning and searching for the right house. That coincided with the "lounge" scene and I, too, felt like MY thing was being stolen by the mindless frat boys. I felt so bad about it I regretfully turned my back to all of it. In a period of insanity, I gave my tiki stuff to a newfound tiki co-worker and tried to pretend I didn't care. Well, five years later I bought my damn tiki bar back from the fool I sold it to (for $50!!!), had it shipped from Atlanta to DC, and began re-collecting all the stuff I gave away so carelessly. I recently got reconnected with Otto and some of the original tiki gurus and here I am. At first I was disappointed to see so many members to this board but then again, so what. I say this because I'm sorry I did it and hope you don't make the same mistake. I used to get so pissed when I saw tiki stuff in mainstream places, but then I remembered that tiki used to be pretty mainstream. In fact, if it hadn't been so available to the masses, I'm sure I would not be here now. When I was little, in Greenville, South Carolina, we got excited when Pizza Hut first came to town. There is NO WAY I would have developed this passion for tiki if I had not gotten exposure to it at common places like the World Bazaar at the mall or the one and only Chinese restaurant in town. I don't think tiki will be as mainstream as it was, and I agree that it will get bigger then settle back down. That's all good for us - the die hards, the "real" tiki lovers. Let the fad followers create the demand, let there be mass production of the goods we so love and cherish, and let there be markdowns aplenty when they get bored with it. I learned my lesson the last time I got too hip to express my tiki-ism. It doesn't make me less cool for the masses to like what I like. Just because they dig it, doesn't take anything away from my enjoyment. I'll be there this time to reap the rewards when "they" lose interest.
Cheer up - think of the little kids (the baby Chachas and Lake Surfers) wandering aisles of Kohls who will see those tiki head cups. Twenty years later, maybe THEY will be sitting on this website talking about the cool tiki stuff that turned them on when they were little.

BY THE WAY: While raiding the shelves of Spencers I found Moai "crackle" lamps. Not the lightning plasma head, something I have not yet seen. So I bought/rescued all three.

Finally, I think I ended up in one of the worst parts of DC in my Big Lots/crappy plastic tiki water bottle quest. Big Lots are hard to come by in this area and I miss it! I think they were caught off guard as I pushed passed the crack dealers and passsed out guys on the sidewalk and cheerfully asked "Do you have any tiki head tumblers" It was only as I was driving away (with my $9.99 lava lamps) that I noticed how scary the place was.

Thanks for listening.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 24, 2002
Posts: 447
From: Dayton, Ohio
Posted: 2003-02-08 10:33 pm   Permalink

Surfer, you took the wind outta my sails!

I actually went and picked up another one of those picture frames this evening when my wife (having the best tiki-eye in town) caught a glimpse of a couple new items in Kohls lawn/garden department.
We found a Moai head that held a set of silverware and also the same Moai that looked like a Headhunter mug with pineapple garnish that was a s&p set. Still a little pricey, but they will go on sale I'm sure.

You know, some of those Sonoma frames are pretty neat. I like the hula girls too.

At Target, they have some new kids shirts for your smaller tiki fans again.
And a really cute swim suit, complete with a green hula skirt.

Looks like Tiki will be a big thing this summer.

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Tiki Centralite

Joined: May 16, 2002
Posts: 44
Posted: 2003-02-08 11:07 pm   Permalink

Tikis going mainstream! yeah! this is a great revenge for polynesian culture in general. The Missionnaies (representing the 2 mainstream religions at the time) tried to snuff out all the Tikis and their effigies during their missions from God in Polynesia. You know, because of all that idolatry and so on, they destroyed tons of beautiful and unique works of art. Happily for us all at TC, they missed out a few and so tiki has survived and is ..... well, now, going mainstream. Even if our nowadays plastic tikis from Woolsworth look a bit crappy and that everyone's got one, that's OK. Just think, if it wasn't for some slack friars we all might have missed out on something culturally cool and ended up collecting
Barbie dolls and Tinky toys.

Boy are we lucky & long live Tiki.

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Lake Surfer
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Oct 21, 2002
Posts: 3414
From: Milwaukee, WI
Posted: 2003-02-09 12:31 am   Permalink

Sorry 75stingray, as soon as I saw them I said to my wahine, "Boy, I gotta tell the folks on Tiki Central about this!" But yea, I am starting to reconsider the picture frame with the three tiki heads, I really like the style. The hula girls were cool too, I couldn't stop making them hula! I guess when it comes down to it, yes you could buy stuff anywhere back then... I spoke with the owner of Hala Kahiki in Chicago the last time I was there and she said all their thatch was ordered from the Sears catalog of all places!

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Traitor Vic
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jan 02, 2003
Posts: 428
From: Greenville, SC
Posted: 2003-02-09 12:41 am   Permalink

Great Article, Tikibars!
I agree wholeheartedly. The part of all of it that should make us all feel completely happy is that the "Tiki" that the masses will flock to will not be even close to the real thing. It will be so watered down and stupid that it won't even make a dent. And it will be forgotten by them as swiftly as it was absorbed.
As Chacha pointed out, though, Tiki was a Creation of Popular Culture to begin with. It Was HUGE in the 40s, 50s, 60s and into the 70s! If Tiki is so Exclusive... Why has the "Carving Post" been viewed 2449 times? Or the "Are we all Star Wars/Trekkie Nerds?" post 1154? Sure alot of those are repeat visitors, but... That's a lot of visitation! Tiki Central has 711 registered users. That's a fairly large number for a Chat Forum dealing with a strictly Underground Topic, guys.
If the Masses that we all deride and speak so poorly of had remained googoo over Tiki the Kahiki, in Columbus, would Still Be Open! We would be able to go to a store (or a Website) and buy Witco Fixtures and Furniture for our homes. Orchids of Hawaii Glasses would be affordable and available at Wal-Mart! I don't know about you folks, but I think that would be good.
I think one thing that sets this "trend" apart, too, is Age. I mean Our Age, of course. The Rockabilly and Swing revivals in past years were based on the genre's popularity with the Youth of America. Most of us tikiphiles are not the kids we were just a few years ago. What do we care if every college town opens a half-assed Tiki Bar and it closes in the next year and a half? I, for one, will carry on.

[ This Message was edited by: Traitor Vic on 2003-02-09 00:48 ]

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Lake Surfer
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Oct 21, 2002
Posts: 3414
From: Milwaukee, WI
Posted: 2003-02-09 02:15 am   Permalink

"We would be able to go to a store (or a Website) and buy Witco Fixtures and Furniture for our homes."

That would be dangerous... my credit card would be maxed out and I'd have a fountain in every room!

[ This Message was edited by: Lake Surfer on 2003-02-09 02:17 ]

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