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What got you into it?
Traitor Vic
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jan 02, 2003
Posts: 428
From: Greenville, SC
Posted: 2003-03-31 11:29 pm   Permalink

Well, believe it or not, I grew up in (and still live in) the same town as Chacha. The weird little Polynesian Restaurant at the hotel is a vivid memory for me as well. So is a later Chinese one with two giant Maoi statues carved from pumice out front. Man, were they cool!

My family used to vacation on a island off of South Carolina that was one of the early ones to be completely developed as a resort community. The Clubhouse there had a Polynesian Themed Restaurant and Bar and the entire island was covered with signs bearing the image of an outrigger.

My dad was in sales and, so, spent a fair amount of time out of town. Upon his return he would always let me have the swizzle sticks he had picked up along the way. My favorites were invariably the ones with the Tikis, the Hula Girls or the Bunny Heads on top. He finally brought me my own mug from Harvey's (long gone now) when I was about 9.

Back then, of course, Children were not invited to Grown Up parties. I remember having a babysitter to watch my sister and I when my parents were just downstairs workin' the bar and hootin' it up with the neighbors. The music was always Exotica/Lounge with some Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdink mixed in, until later in the evening when Junior Walker and the All-Stars took over. The next day I'd get up to watch my cartoons and find the remains of the night before strewn around the den. The odd shaped glasses, the mounds of ash in the trays, lampshades a-kilter, the discarded poloroid film leftovers with the negative images of women in mini-dresses sitting on men's laps with drinks in their hands... I found all of it mysterious and fascinating.

Going to a restaurant with my family and eating from a flaming pu-pu platter while my mom and dad drank out of scary lookin' heads was HEAVEN!

After that, of course, came Punk Rock, the Rockabilly Revival, the ReSearch books, Betty Page... Hell, the list is miles long by now.

I guess I'm into because I was born to be.

[ This Message was edited by: Traitor Vic on 2003-03-31 23:31 ]

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 09, 2003
Posts: 3836
From: LA-2547 mls east Hawaii &5500 Easter Is
Posted: 2007-01-14 11:05 pm   Permalink

Good topic.

For me, it was going to Hawaii for the first time and trying to get in touch with the true Hawaii, something more than Hilo Hattie's (although I subsequently have been to HH on 3 different islands).

It was learning about pre-contact Hawaii, about the Kapu religious system, and Kamehameha II.

Staying at the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel, with its giant Ku statue brought it all together.

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Pomaika i
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jun 24, 2003
Posts: 209
From: Orlando, FL
Posted: 2007-01-15 07:11 am   Permalink

Since my name is Anna, I loved "A-Frame" houses when I was little because I thought they were spelling my name. As I got older, I still loved that architecture and in relation, started loving the Tiki culture.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 20, 2004
Posts: 1784
From: Orlando
Posted: 2007-01-15 12:07 pm   Permalink

Adventureland at Disney World. And Gilligan's Island. Those are the two earliest tropical/exotic influences I can think from from my childhood. Then there's all the 50s/60s shows that I watched religiously as a kid (re-runs thank you very much!) that gave me that mid-century view of America. I Love Lucy, Get Smart, Dick Van Dyke Show, Twilight Zone, and on and on. So I was in love with the primitive and the sophisticated. But I didn't know the two knew each other until I read the BOT and saw those people who could have been my parents from years ago getting out of their jet-set cars, wearing suits and nice dresses and walking into a tropical tiki paradise lounge where they could let their hair down and shed their inhibitions. Discovering that was magic for me. It brought it all full circle for me and connected me both to my childhood and to my parents' generation. And now it's taken on a life of its own in my generation. It's a beautiful thing, eh?

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 20, 2004
Posts: 1784
From: Orlando
Posted: 2007-01-15 12:15 pm   Permalink


On 2003-03-31 23:29, Traitor Vic wrote:
Back then, of course, Children were not invited to Grown Up parties. I remember having a babysitter to watch my sister and I when my parents were just downstairs workin' the bar and hootin' it up with the neighbors. The music was always Exotica/Lounge with some Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdink mixed in, until later in the evening when Junior Walker and the All-Stars took over. The next day I'd get up to watch my cartoons and find the remains of the night before strewn around the den. The odd shaped glasses, the mounds of ash in the trays, lampshades a-kilter, the discarded poloroid film leftovers with the negative images of women in mini-dresses sitting on men's laps with drinks in their hands... I found all of it mysterious and fascinating.

Boy, can I relate to that! My Dad was an Air Force fighter pilot in the 60s-70s and did they ever throw some parties! Many weekend nights I remember putting my ear to my bedroom door listening to the cocktail party going on in the living room. And the laughter. And the music (Herb Alpert, Sergio Mendes, etc). It's no wonder I love it now.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 04, 2006
Posts: 1317
Posted: 2007-01-15 1:07 pm   Permalink

I guess I never got into it originally, rather I was raised in it. My mother Ione was a designer and decorator who loved tiki. She would take me to the LA tiki palaces before I could talk.
The Stardust Casino was her frequent weekend escape and the Aku Aku tiki resturaunt there was her favorite Vegas spot.
Trader Vic's, Don the Beachcomber, the Bamboo Room were all within a few miles of her studio in LA.
Bud (Martin V. Smith) who developed most of Ventura County, coaxed her to Oxnard where she worked on dozens of projects but her favorite was the Trade Winds built in 1964 when I was 10. Bud also loved tiki and had collected objects from his extensive travel that she used in the interior and exterior.
I got to help find items and went to Oceanic Arts and storage yards on hunting trips.

He once joked to a reporter that the only way he could display his collection was to build a place as Martha his wife, wouldn't let him display them at home. Most of the time when I went out as a child it was to a tiki palace so I assumed most places were like them.

Last summer I found Bongofurys post on the Trade Winds here on TC, Bigbro and all of you began to teach me about all of this. Tiki Central has reignited my passion for tiki. ( Still, I like to clown around at times but its all in fun. I never mean to offend anyone)

So, thats my story and its good to be a part of Tiki Central

Ojaitimo Tim

All the world is a stage and all men and women merely players, they have their entrances and exits and one man in his life plays many parts. William Shakespere

Life is a state of mind


[ This Message was edited by: Ojaitimo 2007-01-15 13:30 ]

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 05, 2004
Posts: 214
From: Ventura, Ca
Posted: 2007-01-15 10:00 pm   Permalink

The tiki seed was planted when I was a kid, my uncle brought me a coco joes tiki necklace from Hawaii. I always loved Gilligan's Island too. I was so moved by Shag's art that I went to Palm Springs to a gallery showing. There I learned of Tiki Oasis. So a few weeks later I was back in Palm Springs at Tiki Oasis and I got bitten by the tiki bug hard!!!I met so many interesting,Zany, tiki loving people there that it led me here and forever changed my life.Thanks Hanford! Thanks everybody!I will never be the same.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 31, 2003
Posts: 474
From: los angeles
Posted: 2007-01-15 10:54 pm   Permalink

I think, too, that more than anything else it was probably a Coco Joe's tiki necklace that I got while visiting the relatives in Hawaii in the 70's. That's where it started. I didn't have it long--because the cheap plastic string it was on snapped and the pendant vanished--but I remember wearing the thing almost continuously, and I always liked looking onto those colored jewel eyes. If it was a monster, it was of the helpful friendly type, and I thought of it as an image of strength and mysticism. But the word "tiki" was in the vocabulary very early on.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Sep 15, 2006
Posts: 284
From: Syracuse, NY
Posted: 2007-02-03 9:20 pm   Permalink

Wow! What a great thread. Maybe not. It's almost midnight on a Saturday night and I'm plowed. Too many cocktails. It's cold and snowy outside and I'm warm and toasted inside. The pursuit of Tiki is a quest for me but I don't know what I'm looking for. Escape maybe. In a post elsewhere on Tiki Central today Chongolio quoted James Michener "-- In an age of anxiety men seek a refuge. Because of some deep urge, constant throughout history, troubled men traditionally dream of islands, possibly because the smallness of an island invites the illusion that here the complexities of continental societies can be avoided, or at least controlled. This is a permanent, world-wide dream." As I close in on a half century here I find that things aren't as clear as I might have thought they would be. What got me started collecting Tiki? As a young boy I read a lot. In the late 60s and early 70s I was reading anything with travel and adventure in it. I read Kon Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl and I was totally captivated. I was too young for the Tiki lounge scene of the 1950s. I am nostalgic for something I never experienced. I am nostalgic for something that maybe never even existed but is only an ideal that can be seen in retrospect. And maybe I'm just plowed. Part of me is saying don't hit submit because no matter how smart you think you are after you've had too many cocktails, no matter how deep you think your insights are, come the cold harsh light of morning, you're going to say, "I had too much to drink last night." Ahh.. but the drunkard drones on... I think Michener hit it right on the head. I'm building my own little island. My little Tiki lounge is a place where I can retreat when all the crap weighs on me so much that I don't think I can even breathe another minute. My Tiki lounge, my island, is a place in my soul, and my collecting Tiki is an attempt at the creation of a physical manifestation of that island; or safe haven. It is an attempt to bring that piece of my soul to life in the light of day. Man, am I plowed or what? I must be almost drooling. I think I will wrap up this post, make myself one more cocktail, and slip into oblivion in front of the fireplace as the snow swirls outside...


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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Sep 09, 2002
Posts: 374
From: England
Posted: 2007-02-04 11:37 am   Permalink

Bought a couple of peanut man mugs here in london about 14 years ago not really knowing what they were but have always been into the 50's and 60's music and collectables.Then 10 years ago went to hawaii on our honeymoon and got a few bits there and discovered what tiki was all about at last.,from there on it was all downhill and empty wallets,usually come over the states on vacation and manage to get a load of tiki stuff but less and less every year due to the advent of ebay.Now the whole house and garden is done in tiki/south seas style.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 15, 2005
Posts: 372
From: Lake Mojave
Posted: 2007-02-04 10:15 pm   Permalink

Many seem to have gotten into it due to early exposure. The opposite for me. The aesthetic exuberance and joyful whimsy characteristic of tiki style and exotica music were totally absent where I was growing up and in the reigning ethos of our household. Like many here it seems, Gilligan's Island provoked many a pleasant daydream. I wanted to be there. Later, Hawaii Five-0 suggested that you could have your cake and eat it too -- live in a beautiful tropical island setting, wear wildly colorful clothes (even to work!) -- *and* enjoy all that a modern society offers. (I currently live in Arizona where we plant palm trees and wear Hawaiian shirts and kind of pretend. But Asia-Pac. has been a big part of my life.) Anyway, my entry into a kind of contemporary tiki "scene" was via thrift store record collecting. I was drawn to anything suggesting a refreshingly naive, maybe even politically incorrect, tropical/exotic fantasy world. All those Latin dance, "Tijuana Brass," Hawaiian hits, Calypso, whatever ... albums that needed rescuing. Exotica is the "Rome" to which all those roads lead, at least in my mind. I liked finding image collections of similar record collections on the internet -- the weirder the better. Of course it wasn't long before I found Tikicentral. To which, come to think of it, that "Rome" metaphor also applies nicely I think.

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Kilty McTiki
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Feb 05, 2007
Posts: 11
From: Columbus, OH
Posted: 2007-02-05 09:46 am   Permalink

My Tiki experiences began when I was younger, too. Not from my parents, but my grandparents (I'm almost 40 if that helps place me for you). I was never actually cogniscent of a Tiki culture growing up, but the grand-folks definitely were. They traveled a lot, and always brought back cool stuff from the places they visited. Now, occasionally they'd bring back stuff for us, but it was always the stuff they just happened to bring back by accident that I liked. Things like swizzle sticks, and coconuts carved to look like monkeys, and neat cocktail glasses, and the like. And many of these things were tiki-related in some way.

Add to that their "porch" room in the back of the house. It was a summer room, one that was closed off during the winter but heavily used during the summer (they lived in Cleveland). The walls were almost solidly louvered windows and the furniture was all bamboo with tropical patterns on it. The carpet out there had tropical patterns, too, as I remember. And they were most certainly in the cocktail world - grandpa was a whiz with a shaker and a few bottles in front of him. This was what I grew up with when we visited by grandparents (which was pretty often).

I've also always loved shows about mysterious places, far-off lands, etc. I was a big National Geographic geek (still am). Places like Stonehenge, Egypt, etc. grabbed my attention easily. One place that I always liked to read about and see documentaries about was Easter Island. The Moai there fascinated me.

So to see places that combined the world of cocktails with those far-off places drew me in easily. Through the preponderance of Celtic festivals and the like (a Scottish one in my hometown and an Irish one in Columbus where I moved later), I was first pulled in to the Irish Pub scene, and still enjoy going to places that recall that green and pleasant land. But more recently, I've started to wander back into my own past and pulled out the cocktail culture that my grandparents enjoyed.

Upon moving to Columbus about ten years ago, I spent a lot of time getting to know the city with my grandparents (who had moved from Cleveland to Columbus 15-20 years before me). One day, in early 2000, they introduced me to this place called the Kahiki. I loved it from the moment we pulled up to it - gawked at the exterior for a while until they pulled me inside and I gawked the interior for a while, too. We were there for brunch, so I wasn't able to partake of any cocktails that day due to the puritanical Ohio drinking on Sunday laws. But the decor reawoke that love of island-type looks that I still have today.

You probably know the history of the Kahiki, but suffice to say its loss sort of ended my tiki affection for the time being, though it would rear its head occasionally during trips to Disney World, the West Coast, and the occasional odd flea market/what have you where a tiki item might be found.

I'm not sure what re-reawoke this recently, but I found myself looking around on the internet for information on the Kahiki and whether they were ever going to rebuild it, and I discovered this site as well as information on the Tropical Bistro in town (run by former staff of the Kahiki and showing off many of the decor pieces). Well, I made my way to the Bistro with my family over the weekend and fell back in love with this stuff as an adult. So now my copy of Sven Kirsten's book is on the way to me, I've been perusing my cocktails books for tropical recipes, and I've pretty much jumped back into this with both feet for a while. We'll see where it takes me, but suffice to say I'm very pleased to see this forum with its appreciation of all things mysterious and fun. I look forward to chatting with you folks!
Jamie Fellrath

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 20, 2003
Posts: 752
From: Central Coast of California
Posted: 2007-02-17 5:18 pm   Permalink

I love these stories!

I wrote a thread about mine here:


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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jun 11, 2003
Posts: 477
From: LB to LA, CA
Posted: 2007-02-17 7:19 pm   Permalink

My grandfather gave me my first tiki... The rest is history.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 18, 2006
Posts: 2033
From: San Diego
Posted: 2007-02-27 11:23 am   Permalink

Here’s something a bit more specific; the very first time outside forces introduced me to Retro Music. There was exactly one time when it felt like a two-by-four hit my head with a music style radically different and way more interesting than anything I had ever heard before.

There were skirmishes before, like when the Captain Kangaroo show used to play the Perry Como version of “Faraway Places” with a photo still of Hawaii. It was weird, the whole show would stop and they’d just play the song. I think Cappy was taking a ciggy break.

Or when that band played in front of the old town hall in the summer of ’68. They had these huge black boxes on each side of the stage, the size of Volkswagens.
“Those are the speakers!” my friend pointed out.
Yup, those were speakers all right.

We climbed the back of the stage to get a better look, where we could peak over, and the whole damn town was in front of us looking at this group playing. Our ears popped up over the edge and the sound hit us. It was so loud it made everything shake. The players were right below us, way down there, dressed in slick looking tuxedoes and strumming these great looking classical-type instruments. But there were microphones everywhere and lots of power lines all over the stage and that music was the loudest thing I had ever heard.

It was JAZZ they were playing, but I didn’t know that’s what you called it. It was wild, fast, loud jazz, and we loved it instantly. Ken and I hung on, smiling down at the whole town.

Or years later, when Buddy Rich played drums on “The Lucy Show”. If you’ve seen it, you know what I mean.

But the time everything snapped, or in this case sch-wanged was…

In the last year of high school we were ordered to attend an assembly to see a live musical. It was to take place in the gymnasium, with a small music theater group doing their best to bring us a “stage production”. My friends and I were into Led Zep, AC/DC, anything hard rockish. One friend was a bit of a freak because he loved the Kinks, but we put up with his oddball ideas about music because his older sister was real cute and his dad owned a WW2 German motorcycle. I got to ride it once through a flower bed. (The bike, not the girl.)

So we were herded into the gym, sneering at the crummy painted backdrops and corniness of the whole idea of seeing a musical in this modern day and age. We were 17 years old, fer crissakes! Men of the world! We sat down right at the front, a row of us, Ben, Colin, Serge, Richard. Most of us were would-be musicians, Richard especially could play a really fast guitar, Colin is still a part time folk singer. Pros.

We were ready to be amused.

The play started and it was a bit better than we had all imagined. It was kind of funny. The actors were really giving it a heave-ho effort. It’s hard to be aloof and uninvolved when you’re right up there in the first rows. It was kind of fun.

Then SHE came out. We hadn’t noticed this actress before, I think she was the comic foil of the lead character’s girlfriend. She had said a few funny things and exited stage right in the first act.

But now she was wearing this tight, bright fire-engine red dress with killer matching lipstick. Her skirt was pretty short, and from where we sat that was just fine. I forget the plot. The music and banter had stopped, and she paused, her eyes sweeping around the whole gym. Then back to the little area right in front of her, and she looked right at us. We sat there, squirming, trying not to be obvious about looking at her great legs. She was about, what, 27? Yow. She kept looking right at us, a little smirky smile growing on her lips. It was classic theater, draw your audience in, stare ‘em in the eye, let them know something really great is about to happen.

I mean, we had been to rock concerts and all! We were seasoned!

But this lady stared us down. Then WHAM! the recorded orchestra started up these wild horn notes. We hadn’t heard a big band brass section before, let alone one that tight. The notes blared out, screeching through the school’s lousy audio system. She marched right up to the edge of front center stage in perfect time to the music, clack clack clack with these big red pumps, glancing at us to make sure we were ready, and then she started her song.

she yelled! Holy crap, she was LOUD! She was belting out these lyrics, and her whole body was bouncing up and down to the song –

"I LIKE THE THEATER… BUT NEVER GO LATE!” man, she was yelling so loud, she was spraying spit all over us front rowers! Her big red heels were slapping that stage HARD, we weren’t allowed to wear heeled shoes in the gym but she was smashing these big pumps up and down Bang! Bang! Bang! as hard as she could! Her chest, her snazzy little tummy, her rear was bouncing in time. The whole audience FROZE, the principal over there at the side of the isle, our guidance councilor sitting to our right, man they were watching this lady, their mouths were watering and their eyes did not blink! They had approved and paid for this musical – what had they got?

We froze too! What the hell was going on?

“I JUST DON’T BOTHER… WITH PEOPLE I HATE!” she shrieked, stretching upwards, her hands grabbing at an invisible wall of churning energy, her whole body arched up, her arms circling up and down, smoothing down her thighs, the dress getting shorter and shorter…

Damn she was good!

“AND SO THEY SAY,” and she posed, flipping her hips up in a grinding, sleazy, slow, frigging perfect from where we were sitting, classic burlesque move, and stopped, staring - - -

right at our principal - - -

“THE LADY IS A TRAMP!”, flinging her hair back.

Well, she plastered us against the seats. She was great. The best. That was her main song, and she did it right. A showstopper. At the end there was this big pause, and I looked across to my friends, and they all had these stupid grins on. Was Richard drooling?

Then we all cheered and applauded. Don’t know how she did it, but she was as good as the Stones. Better.

That was it. I hadda find out who wrote the song. (Rodgers & Hart, natch) There was other stuff out there, good stuff, where was it? Who was this Peggy Lee lady I kept hearing about? Les Baxter arranged what?

And who is this Basie guy?…

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