Entries from February 2006

February 13, 2006

Lucky Tiki Moving in October

Filed under: Los Angeles,News,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 3:45 pm
Crazy Al tiki at Lucky Tiki
Crazy Al tiki at Lucky Tiki

The Lucky Tiki in Mission Hills, which opened just over a year ago, will be moving to a new location in October 2006. The strip mall the Lucky Tiki is in was recently sold to a developer who reportedly intends to build a car lot on the spot. However, the Lucky Tiki has a very long lease, so the new owner is buying out the lease and paying moving costs, allowing Lucky Tiki owner Bobby Green to move the Lucky Tiki to a new, larger, better location in North Hollywood. Lucky indeed!

Bobby says he is especially looking forward to being able to host live music acts in the new space. The new location is not far from the Tonga Hut, creating all sorts of great North Hollywood crawling/hopping possibilities. The Lucky Tiki will remain in Mission Hills for seven more months, with the last day being September 30 — look for news about a big bash to say goodbye to the old location. Bobby aims to have the Lucky Tiki closed for only a month before opening in the new North Hollywood spot.

February 11, 2006

My Travels: Royal Hawaiian in Laguna Beach

Filed under: Los Angeles,My Travels,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 6:43 pm
Plaque at the Royal Hawaiian in Laguna Beach
Plaque at the Royal Hawaiian
in Laguna Beach

As part of our trip, we paid a visit to the Royal Hawaiian in Laguna Beach; like Tonga Hut, I’d only been there once a few years ago, and Hanford had not been before. My previous trip had been during the day, which is never the best time to see a tiki bar. This time, it was dark outside, and the restaurant was pretty much deserted — we had the place to ourselves, which allowed us to do a lot of exploring and picture taking.

The place is lovely, far lovelier than I’d remembered. There is a lot of thatch and bamboo and sea grass matting, and many beautiful oil paintings and lamps. What really struck us was the music — it was about as perfect as I’ve ever heard in a tiki place. It was old Hawaiian music, like you can hear on old LPs brought back from Hawaiian vacations in the ’50s and ’60s. The bar was another story — modern pop/hip-hop music was blaring — but we couldn’t hear it from our table in the restaurant. It was so relaxing. It’s truly a shame that it’s going away — if we had a place like this in our neck of the woods, we’d make heavy use of it. You just can’t build history into a place.

On our way out we spoke with some of the waitstaff, and they confirmed that they know nothing about what the new owner intends to do — whether the building will stand or be destroyed in favor of a new building. They did say that escrow has been pushed back several times, and they don’t know exactly when they’ll close. They will definitely be open until at least June 11, which is significantly later than I’d last heard.

If you have any chance at all, be sure to pop into the Royal Hawaiian before it closes forever!

The Great Enchanted Tiki Room Dress Story Gets Awesomer

Filed under: Disney,Los Angeles,My Travels,Shopping,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 6:20 pm
Disney photo shoot
Disney photo shoot

The saga of this dress just keeps going and going. If you haven’t heard about this dress, get caught up by reading my earlier entry. Go ahead, it’ll only take a moment, and it’s a good story. I’ll wait right here.

Okay, so here’s the latest update — I got a call from Kevin Kidney, telling me about the photo shoot that Disney did for their print catalog. For the mockup version of the catalog, which is created to plan out what photos are needed, they used that picture of me in the purple dress as a placeholder. So, that picture continued to make the rounds, but the story behind the photo didn’t accompany it. As a result, the fellow in charge of designing the photo shoots for the catalog became “obsessed” with that photo — he worked as hard as he could to reproduce the whole look of the photo, the hair, the makeup, the props — it turns out he thought it was a photo from the 1960s!

They did a photo shoot at the Enchanted Tiki Room with a model who looked as much like me as they could find (though her hair turned out to be too long to do that little flip). Once Kevin & Jody saw the pictures, they said “why didn’t you just get our friend for the photo?” Once this fellow learned that I was alive — and not 70 years old — he was crushed that he hadn’t had me for his photo shoot. And he still didn’t even know that the photo with the purple dress was responsible for Disney deciding to produce it! Kevin & Jody got him all caught up on the background of the dress, that photo, and the whole story. It was too late for the print catalog, but it wasn’t too late for the online catalog (and since the dress is likely to sell out before the catalog hits anyone’s doorstep, that’s the biggie, anyhow).

So, I was asked to come down to Disney to model the green dress for them! As payment, I was given the dress to keep. Since they also now needed to take a new matching photo for the men’s shirt, Kevin was asked to step in, and he’ll likely be seen modelling for the online catalog, too. I was told they will be available on the website in late March or early April. The pictures that will appear on the website were taken separately and without props, but for fun the photographer took a few photos of us together with our mugs and vintage leis. We had such a fun time, and of course I was beyond thrilled to do it. And I’ve got a great new dress, to boot! Afterward, we went to Tiki-Ti to celebrate, and you’ve already heard how that went. It was a banner day!

My Travels: Tonga Hut

Filed under: Los Angeles,My Travels,News,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 5:52 pm
Tiki at Tonga Hut in North Hollywood
Tiki at Tonga Hut in North Hollywood

Great news from North Hollywood — the Tonga Hut is on the rise! We paid a visit to the Tonga Hut this past Tuesday evening, it was my only visit since my first trip there a few years ago, and it was Hanford’s first time there.

As previously reported, the Tonga Hut was taken over by a new owner, Jeremy, last November; Jeremy was there on Tuesday, and we spent the whole night chatting with him. Jeremy had been going to the Tonga Hut for a few years, and had often daydreamed about what he would do if he owned the place. When he found he had the means to do so, he bought it from the previous owner, who had purchased it from the original family just a year or two before. The difference is already striking — the lighting is more dim, and all the beer posters are gone. This alone has made a world of difference, but Jeremy told us it’s only “an eighth” of what he wants to have happen. Jeremy is brand new to tiki, but you wouldn’t know it from talking to him — he simply saw a cool old bar that should be restored to what it once was, and he told us that if it had been an old Irish pub, that’s what he’d studying. He knew nothing about Polynesian Pop when he bought the place in November, but he’s been a quick and eager student. He’s been poring over resources like Tiki Central and the Book of Tiki, and is eager to do right by the old place — and his ideas are spot-on.

The Tonga Hut is currently supported by a handful of loyal regulars — one has been coming since the place opened in 1958, and the doors to the bar open at 6 a.m. daily. These regulars might find too sudden and drastic a change off-putting, and Jeremy is wisely making his changes slowly and surely. The television sets are turned off, a more interesting mix of music including some oldies are making their way into the jukebox, and the fountains are going to be repaired. Jeremy has a few vintage oil paintings on the walls and is looking to add more vintage art.

When asked about tropical cocktails, he eagerly showed us his notebook from behind the bar, which is peppered with recipes he’s working on, including the classic Trader Vic’s Mai Tai recipe, which he felt was important to have on the menu. See what I’m talking about? Things are looking very, very good. He’s also made sure that the original Tonga Punch recipe is on their menu; Jeremy received the original piece of paper, yellowed and spattered, that the Tonga Hut’s Tonga Punch recipe was written on. When I learned that Jeremy hadn’t heard yet of Jeff Berry’s wonderful drink books, I immediately told them I’d be sending them to him as my gift.

Not only is the Tonga Hut very deserving of support during this exciting renaissance, it’s also a damned great place to hang out. I wish there was an old place like this in my neighborhood. The classic bones of this place are tiki all the way, and it’s much easier to see and appreciate now that the lighting is getting more appropriate, and the walls aren’t blighted by Budweiser. I’ve made some big changes to my Critiki rating of the Tonga Hut. Patience and imagination are still required — the regulars are to be respected for keeping this gem alive for so long, and Jeremy is doing right by them by not ripping the rug out from under them — but it’s not difficult at all to see where things are headed.

My Travels: Back to Los Angeles

Filed under: Los Angeles,My Travels,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 4:59 pm
Humuhumu gets a tag at Tiki-Ti!
Humuhumu gets a tag at Tiki-Ti!

Just got back from a few days in Los Angeles… it was my first trip back since moving away at the end of last November, and it simply could not have been better. The weather was amazing — bright blue skies, temperatures in the 80s — and I had some once-in-a-lifetime-type experiences.

Pictured at left is one of them: after years as a regular at Tiki-Ti, I was awarded with a tag. These tags paper the walls and ceiling at Tiki-Ti, and are highly coveted. They’re distributed at the whims of Tiki-Ti’s owners Mike and Mike Buhen (and before he passed away, Ray Buhen). While one could probably get one pretty easily if one asked nicely, it’s generally regarded as something earned after years of service to Tiki-Ti, and best relished when given freely by Mike. I have friends who have been going to Tiki-Ti weekly for years who do not have tags, and I have friends who only got their tags after going for more than a decade. It’s the sort of thing that generates lots of popping eyeballs, dropped jaws, and breath-taken soft “whoa”s when one is handed out. And this past Wednesday, I got one. No word on when it’ll go up on the wall — it typically takes a few months — but I’m looking forward to seeing it there.

That was just one of our many adventures over the past few days, and more posts are coming. Some highlights: a visit to the Tonga Hut, which has gotten a new lease on life; a visit to the lovely Royal Hawaiian, which is not long for this world; and a modelling session for the online Disney catalog. Sorry pablus, I didn’t scrutinize the Ray’s Mistake drink-making — once again, I was too focused on “WANT!” I think it’s a Jedi mind trick.

February 6, 2006

A Look at Seattle’s Polynesian Past

Filed under: History,Seattle,Tiki,Trader Vic's — Humuhumu @ 5:14 pm
Outrigger in Seattle, from the collection of puamana
Outrigger in Seattle, from the collection of puamana

On Tiki Central, puamana has added some scans of items from her collection to an existing thread about Seattle’s tiki history. The postcard above is from the Outrigger, which was Trader Vic’s second restaurant. The Outrigger’s name later changed to Trader Vic’s, and closed in the mid-’90s. Other items puamana has shared include ads, matchbooks, entries from a Seattle cookbook, and menus from Seattle locations like Luau Barbecue, Canlis, Polynesia, and the Kalua Room. It’s sad to think that Seattle once had so many tiki spots, and none of the old places survived. Thanks to puamana for sharing her collection yet again!

Trader Vic’s Chicago Torch Passes to Harry Caray’s

Filed under: Chicago,Events,News,Tiki,Trader Vic's — Humuhumu @ 4:23 pm

With the recent ousting of the Chicago Trader Vic’s from the Palmer Hilton, local sports-bar chain Harry Caray’s has stepped up to find a way to keep Trader Vic’s in Chicago. They’ve salvaged what they could of the Trader Vic’s interior, and are currently looking for a good location, with an eye towards opening as quickly as possible, even as early as very late 2006.

In the meantime, Trader Vic’s will live on at the three Harry Caray’s locations, in a way. The environment of course is anything but tiki, but the Trader Vic’s organization has worked with Harry Caray’s to teach them how to make a great Trader Vic’s Mai Tai, so that the city of Chicago will not have to go without until the restaurant opens. There is even a televised “passing of the tiki torch” ceremony planned for tomorrow, Tuesday February 7 at Harry Caray’s Chicago location (33 West Kinzie Street), starting at 12:30 in the afternoon. Trader Vic’s CEO Hans Richter will be there to symbolically pass on the Trader Vic’s torch and Mai Tai recipe to Harry Caray’s widow, Dutchie Caray. WCKG radio personality (and Trader Vic’s regular) Steve Dahl will emcee the event, which also includes Samoan fire dancers and Tahitian and Hawaiian hula dancing. For tomorrow only, Harry Caray’s will have tikis brought in for decor, the servers will be wearing aloha shirts and orchid leis, and some of Trader Vic’s most famous food items will be served, including BBQ Pork Spare Ribs, Trio of Tartare (Scallops Opihi, Tuna Poke and Salmon Lomi Lomi) and New York Steak Teriyaki with Steamed White Rice and Sautéed Baby Bok Choy. I tell you, I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t get Salmon Lomi Lomi. I’ve become seriously addicted to the stuff.

After tomorrow, the tikis and the tidbits will be gone, but the Mai Tai will remain — until the Trader Vic’s reopens, you will be able to get a Mai Tai at any of the three Harry Caray’s locations: Chicago, Rosemont or Midway Airport. If it’s at all possible to swing it, try to get to tomorrow’s afternoon celebration, and proudly wear your aloha shirt for it. Let the world know you miss Trader Vic’s!

Vintage Disney Views at Stuff from the Park

Filed under: Disney,History,Los Angeles,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 2:41 pm
Tahitian Terrace, from Stuff from The Park
Tahitian Terrace, from Stuff from The Park

A fellow going by Matterhorn1959 has started a really stellar new blog, called Stuff from the Park. In it, he posts vintage images from Disneyland (and sometimes other amusement parks) on a nearly daily basis. These images come from vacation slides, mostly, and date from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. In each post he presents a short blurb about the image, with a thumbnail linking to a large version of the picture. The images are gorgeous and give a remarkable view of what the park used to look like.

There are a few tiki-related images so far — two exterior views of the Tahitian Terrace from 1959 (pre-Enchanted Tiki Room), one snapshot of dancers at the Tahitian Terrace show from 1973, and one photo of a tiki and shell fountain at the Marineland of the Pacific park in Rancho Palos Verdes.

This new blog has definitely stoked my Disneyland jones — not that it takes much! Thank goodness we’re going to Disneyland this week… mmmmm, turkey leg.

Tiki Sign Pictorial

Filed under: History,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 2:15 pm
Islander in Los Angeles, from the collection of Sabu the Coconut Boy
Islander in Los Angeles,
from the collection of
Sabu the Coconut Boy

Sabu the Coconut Boy, paper hoarder and tiki archaeologist extraordinaire, has posted a collection of images from various tiki locations around the nation that present a chain of connectedness, perhaps demonstrating that one sign company was in heavy use back in the good old days. He presents a compelling case, with a series of signs with a tiki-shields-torches motif. The tiki used shows up in at least one logo from another restaurant where signage has not been preserved in photographs. In some of the pictures, the similarity is obvious, and in others it’s hard to say whether it was the same company or another one simply borrowing some ideas. It’s a great pictorial (Sabu spoils us regularly), and hopefully others will be able to chime in with some insights.

London: 2006 London Luau

Filed under: Events,London,News,Tiki,Trader Vic's — Humuhumu @ 1:41 pm

Last fall’s London Luau went well enough that Cheekytiki is making it an annual event, with this year’s luau happening in mid-summer. Appleton is again a sponsor, and it will again be held at the historic London Trader Vic’s. The event will take place on Saturday, June 10 — lots of details are still to be worked out, but the organizers wanted to give plenty of time for those who want to make travel arrangements. Cheekytiki is also looking for artists interested in participating in a group show to coincide with the event.


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Humuhumu
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Humuhumu is the creator of several tiki websites. She is a designer and programmer based out of San Francisco.

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