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Tiki Central Forums General Tiki Vintage LPs, water ski shows, and Polynesian dancers (footage included)
Vintage LPs, water ski shows, and Polynesian dancers (footage included)
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 27, 2002
Posts: 1323
From: D.C. / Virginia
Posted: 2008-06-20 8:55 pm   Permalink

Come sit right here, and I'll tell you a tale .... I think it is rather fascinating. I have told bits and pieces of it before, but there is so much more to tell now.

A few years ago, I stopped in at the sole thrift store in the town of Wisconsin Dells, a small town in Central Wisconsin whose population skyrockets in the summer due to tourism. In that thrift store, I found the following personally autographed LP record.

Doug Alii was a Samoan-born entertainer, who hosted a Polynesian show as part of the nearby Tommy Bartlett water ski and thrill show. The water ski show has been going since 1953 - I'm not sure when Doug Alii first performed there.

I posted a picture of the above LP on Tiki Central ... and then about a year later I received an e-mail from someone saying 'You have my father's record!'

To make a very interesting story short, I ended up sending this LP, and a CD of the music on the disc, to the daughter of Doug Alii, and helped reconnect her with some of her relatives in the Polynesian dance community.

About one month ago, while in L.A. on business, I arranged to meet Doug Alii's daughter, Kara at the Tiki Ti. She brought the LP with her, and this picture was taken of us that evening.

Kara, as a child, traveled around the country with her father, performing various Polynesian dances as part of her father's show.

Last weekend, while in Fort Lauderdale, I was able to meet and talk with several of the former Mai Kai dancers. They said that in the early 1960's, during the summer months, the Mai Kai would close, and they would go elsewhere for work (for at least one summer, the Mai Kai floor show was relocated to St Louis) I asked the dancers if any had worked for the Tommy Bartlett show, and one, named Tahiti Toti said that he spent several summers in Wisconsin Dells at the Bartlett show. (I'm not sure if this was when Doug Alii perfomed there) Toti did say that he did remember Kara, as a small girl, dancing as part of the Alii show.

The site of the Tommy Bartlett water ski is on a lake called Lake Delton. It made national news two weeks ago, when heavy rain caused the lake to overflow and breech a levee, causing the entire lake to drain. Its not often when you see a house floating down a river.

Lake Delton is now mostly empty - a vast stretch of drying mud. There will be no water ski shows there until the breech is repaired and Lake Delton refills itself. Near the end of this film, they point out the location of the water ski show.

The draining of Lake Delton likely persuaded one person to go and post some vintage lake footage onto Youtube. So here is actual home movie footage from 1967, that shows both water skiing action and some of the Polynesian revue. (I'm not sure if Doug Alii or Toti, or any other Mai Kai dancers are a part of this footage)

I paid a visit to the Tommy Bartlett water ski show in 2005. The Polynesian revuew was no longer a part of the show, but they did have these signs displayed in a small museum-like stand.

It is quite rewarding, to see all the connections one can make - all because at one point I purchased a record from a thrift store.

Stay tuned, there may be more of this story to share with you later.


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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11605
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2008-06-20 9:26 pm   Permalink

Cool Polynesian floor show anthropology, Vern, those signs are great. As I said before, there is a whole un-researched facet of Tiki restaurant history out there, with all the musicians and performers that intermingled in various venues, all over the States. Most might not have paid as much mind to the decor as we do nowadays, taking it for granted, many did not keep materials like photos or menus, but we had some interesting posts here before, like the one from the dancer Hawaii Kai, a Tiki temple from which very little evidence exists. Likewise, there must be more little Rosetta stones out there in the trunks and attics of participants of the vivid Polynesian floor show community that existed in the heyday of Tiki.

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The Gnomon
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 01, 2007
Posts: 1293
From: MD-DC-VA
Posted: 2008-06-24 06:42 am   Permalink

That must have sent her heart reeling with joy. Yours, too. Well, done! The planets must have been in syzygy.

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Or Got Rum?
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 29, 2009
Posts: 530
From: Wisconsin
Posted: 2009-11-04 4:17 pm   Permalink

..Now to add to this Midwest Polynesian fun...hey, we don't get much...A huge 1959 6x9 post card and a matchcover.....now all I need to find is a menu and a mug

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 16, 2007
Posts: 5152
From: Santa Barbara, CA
Posted: 2009-11-04 5:48 pm   Permalink


Wow, what a great story. So glad to see that you reunited the record with the daughter and then got to meet her - at Tiki Ti no less.

I have these three postcards from the Tommy Bartlett Water Ski show at the Wisconsin Dells with Doug Alii and the Hinano Dancers.


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