Entries from November 2006

November 22, 2006

Severed Head Mug Sculpt, by Nacho

Filed under: Art,Shopping,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 4:45 pm
Sculpt for Severed Head mug, by Nacho
Sculpt for Severed Head mug, by Nacho

Bay Area artist Nacho (who was responsible for the massive and awe-inspiring Ku tiki bar seen at Forbidden Island’s sale event and at Viva Las Vegas) has created this stunningly faithful reproduction of the famous Ren Clark Severed Head mug. What is even more impressive is that Nacho has never actually seen the mug in person; he was able to create this sculpt using only photographs of the mug he found online. I think that Nacho’s version is actually an improvement — the shaping of his face is more realistic without losing its style, and has cleaner shaping and details. I can’t wait to see it in mug form — Nacho plans to paint it as true to the original as possible, right down to the pink and red blood drips. Aside from Nacho’s obvious sculpting skills, he’s an experienced painter, specializing in hot rods and classic cars.

Nacho is dropping off the sculpt this week to be turned into a mold; he hopes to be able to produce as many as 150 of this mug, and will be selling it exclusively on Tiki Central. He is also producing his own, sinister take on Tiki Bob, which will be sold through eBay. You can see more photos of Nacho’s takes on the Severed Head and Tiki Bob in this album on Humuhumu’s Life in Photos.

This Week at Arkiva Tropika

Filed under: Arkiva Tropika,History,Los Angeles,Midwest Canada,San Francisco,Tiki,Washington, D.C. — Humuhumu @ 4:16 pm

I’m a bit late with my weekly roundup of gaze-worthy items from Arkiva Tropika… but better late than never!

Postcard from the Beachcomber in Winnipeg, from Arkiva Tropika
Postcard from the Beachcomber in Winnipeg, from Arkiva Tropika

This postcard, from the Beachcomber in Winnipeg, Manitoba, gives a great view of a typical, middle-of-the-road Polynesian restaurant from the 1960s. This restaurant was no Trader Vic’s, or Kon-Tiki, or Kona Kai, or Mai Kai, or Kahiki, or any other of the famous, big-name restaurants. But, as was the case with virtually all Polynesian restaurants of the day, details were not skimped on — massive faux palm trees beneath a “star lit sky” create a full-fledged [i]scene[/i]. There are glass floats and other beachcomber lamps (including a lovely one covered in tapa), bamboo and matting envelop a dining alcove, and a decorative, open steak pit lets diners watch the master chefs at work. It’s hard to conceive, but this was simply a very typical Polynesian restaurant — this level of theming was every bit the norm, which is what makes these restaurants so fascinating. Mimi has more detailed views of this postcard on Arkiva Tropika.

Detail from 1952 cocktail menu from Lanai in San Mateo, from Arkiva Tropika
Detail from 1952 cocktail menu from Lanai in San Mateo, from Arkiva Tropika

This 1952 cocktail menu from the Lanai in San Mateo appeals to me for a number of reasons. First of all, I love the art style (I can’t help but wonder if the artist was inspired by an early Don the Beachcomber menu, as I was when I created the design for Humu Kon Tiki). Secondly, the Lanai was in our neck of the woods, and probably would be our watering hole of choice if it was still around today. Thirdly, the drinks on the menu are true classics, with drinks likely lifted (the names, if not the recipes) from those created by Don the Beachcomber. The Sidewinder’s Fang is served today at Forbidden Island, using the same recipe that was once served at the Lanai (I had one last night, they’re yummy).

Detail from '60s cocktail menu from Doc's Place in Toronto, from Arkiva Tropika
Detail from ’60s cocktail menu from Doc’s Place in Toronto, from Arkiva Tropika

My interest in this 1960s cocktail menu from Doc’s Place in Toronto has more to do with my love of lettering than my love of tiki. This menu is an excellent example of the difference real hand lettering makes over the over-used mock-hand lettering fonts of today. Look at the two places the word “Swizzle” is used — look at the “zz” in particular. Each “z” is different. There are a lot of “G”s on the page, too, and you can really see the difference there. This is where a font typically falls down. Sometimes a font will at least provide two variations of a letter, which helps a lot, but it still doesn’t really have the character and life that true hand lettering does. I’m a font fiend — I am crazy for a good font — but they have to be used with good judgement, and if this same menu was recreated with a hand-lettered font, it would look corporate and dull. I wish more people would just take the time to hand letter things — it’s a dying art. (Mea culpa — I’ve not done much hand lettering, as my attempts have been less than glorious — but that’s all the more reason to practice!)

Page from 1956 cocktail menu from the Luau in Beverly Hills, from Arkiva Tropika
Page from 1956 cocktail menu from the Luau in Beverly Hills, from Arkiva Tropika

This 1956 cocktail menu from the Luau in Beverly Hills is gorgeous — it’s not unusual to see neat illustrations of the drinks on cocktail menus, but a menu full of illustrations of this size and quality is rare. Not entirely surprising — the mugs from the Luau were also detailed, colorful affairs of high quality, designed by Gabe Florian, and are among the most highly-sought vintage mugs. Restauranteur Stephen Crane went on to create the popular Kon-Tiki chain of restaurants for Sheraton hotels.

Menu from an unknown Bali Hai, from Arkiva Tropika
Menu from an unknown Bali Hai, from Arkiva Tropika

Thanks to the popularity of the 1958 film South Pacific (based on the Rodgers & Hammerstein Broadway musical, in turn based on the James Michener book), the name “Bali Hai” sprung up all over the place in the early ’60s, and naturally a number of Polynesian restaurants adopted the name. Like the mystical island from the film, this Bali Hai is extremely elusive — Mimi has both a dinner menu and a cocktail menu, and neither give any hint as to where it was located. The menu advertises a “Pit of Eternal Fire,” but odds are not good that it is actually still burning. Mimi has taken the time to type up some of the text from the menus; “florid” seems a tad insufficient, but it’s certainly apt.

Menu from Luau Hut in Washington, D.C., from Arkiva Tropika
Menu from Luau Hut in Washington, D.C., from Arkiva Tropika

As Mimi has noted on Arkiva Tropika, this menu from the Luau Hut in Washington, D.C. is a good example of something that was pretty common during the golden age of tiki — ripping off of menu imagery. The tiki on the cover of this menu was certainly lifted from a menu for the Kahiki in Columbus; this is the Kahiki’s famous signature fireplace. There are many examples of this sort of graphic “borrowing;” it rarely, if ever, created a legal issue, as the imagery was taken from far-flung restaurants, and the risk of getting caught was low. Today, the risk is much higher, and this sort of lifting doesn’t happen nearly as often.

We’re already halfway into a new week of great Arkiva Tropika posts — be sure to check them out yourself!

November 18, 2006

Well-Done Cartoony Tikis

Filed under: Art,Australia & New Zealand,San Francisco,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 1:06 pm
Illustration by Onno Knuvers
Illustration by Onno Knuvers
Tiki Bob's logo
Tiki Bob’s logo

I’ve sometimes been heard to disparage certain tiki designs as being too “cartoony,” but this actually is not my complaint. Great, goofy, stylized tiki designs have been around since the start of the tiki craze, as exemplified by the logo for Tiki Bob’s in San Francisco, which I love. Of course, the appeal of stylized tikis varies greatly — there are people who can’t stand the Tiki Bob design (hi Pablus!), just as I can’t stand a lot of the stylized designs I see.

Well, here is a goofy, cartoony tiki design that I love. Four of them, in fact! New Zealand-based illustrator Onno Knuvers says he quickly put this together for his portfolio. The colors chosen and the style give it a fun mid-’60s look without feeling like an obvious, cliched attempt at something “retro.” That is probably a large part of the appeal for me. They’re instantly recognizable as tikis, but they still manage to be a fresh take on tiki design. Most of all, they’re just well done by a talented illustrator.

Knuvers’ blog is fairly new, and he doesn’t have any other tiki work on it (indeed, he seems to indicate that this was done as a bit of a lark).

November 16, 2006

Mai-Kai Calendar Lives Again in 2007

Filed under: Ft. Lauderdale & Miami,Shopping,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 2:59 pm
Ad for Mai-Kai 2007 Calendar
Ad for Mai-Kai 2007 Calendar

After an extended hiatus, the Mai-Kai calendar is returning in 2007, as part of the Mai-Kai’s celebration of 50 years in business. The Mai-Kai’s 50th anniversary is on December 28, 2006. I haven’t seen any images from this new calendar yet, but it’s advertised as featuring “never before released photos from the Mai-Kai’s private archives.” The photos from the private archive that were on display at the Hukilau included some really fun shots. If this calendar does well, hopefully the Mai-Kai will be inspired to continue the tradition in 2008 and beyond.

The calendar costs $17, which includes tax and shipping, and is a natural gift choice for the Mai-Kai lover in your life. To order, use this old school form at the Mai-Kai website.

[Via the Tiki News mailing list]

November 15, 2006

London: Vintage ‘n’ Retro Xmas Market at South London Pacific

Filed under: Events,London,Shopping,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 6:13 pm
Vintage 'n' Retro Xmas Market
Vintage ‘n’ Retro Xmas Market

A Vintage ‘n’ Retro Xmas Market is happening at London’s South London Pacific on Sunday, December 10, from midday to 6pm. Admission is £1.50. The event is being organized by Miss Aloha, who also hosts South London Pacific’s Hula Boogie vintage music & dancing night, which happens every Tuesday. South London Pacific is located at 340 Kennington Road.

Video of Islands Restaurant

Filed under: San Diego,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 3:44 pm

Footage of the Islands Restaurant in San Diego, by Chongolio

Chongolio has created this great little video clip of the Islands Restaurant in San Diego, using footage he took at last year’s Tiki Oasis. It includes a nice, lingering pan shot of the clamshell fountain that was demolished last week (you can see heartbreaking before & after pictures on Joel Delano’s blog).

November 14, 2006

Miles Thompson Loves Tikis & Tatas

Filed under: Art,People,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 4:57 pm
Wahahine, by Miles Thompson
Wahahine, by Miles Thompson

Miles Thompson is one of my favorite artists. His sense and use of color and shapes is reminiscent of another favorite of mine, Mary Blair. This piece is titled Wahahine, and it’s a monster at 4′ x 2′. It was part of the recent Tiki Art Now III show at Roq la Rue in Seattle, and it’s sold. In its very shrunken form here, you’re missing all kinds of Milesy goodness — click on it to see it a bit bigger. Go on, do it. I haven’t seen this one in person, but I’m sure it’s breathtaking — the color and detail on Miles’ stuff never really comes through unless you’re seeing it in person.

At first glance, Miles’ pieces can seem simple, even cartoonish (he does have a background in animation, after all), but as any animation fiend will tell you, there can be a lot buried beneath the surface. Miles’ compositions look casual, but their is a lot of intent in each one, and stories to be found in them. In one of Miles’ earlier tiki pieces, he painted a very simple nighttime skyline of Waikiki using just a few strokes of paint — and it instantly transported me to the Waikiki nights I knew as a child many, many years go.

Miles is also one of my favorite people — when I was new to Los Angeles, Miles and his friends were one of the very first groups to take me in as one of their own, which was an incredible stroke of luck for me. Not only did it open up all sorts of fascinating and wonderful things to me (like getting to meet and sit for the most astounding artists, like Michael Hussar and Kevin Llewellyn, and of course Miles himself), but his friendship was a much needed rudder for me as I figured my new life out. Whether it was over instant messenger or over drinks at Tiki-Ti (always a Chi-Chi for Miles, and on the rocks, ever since the Great Tiki-Ti Power Outage of Ought-Four), Miles has always been there for me, with an ear, a shoulder, and wise, wise words.

To see more of Miles’ work, visit his blog, or his website, or his MySpace page. At the moment, Miles has a photo atop his blog of some mysterious woman with one of his tank tops stretched across her tatas (or, as Miles insists, her “beautiful bosom”). They sure look familiar…

November 13, 2006

Tiki Quest: Collecting the Exotic Past

Filed under: History,Shopping,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 5:17 pm
Tiki Quest: Collecting the Exotic Past, by Duke Carter
Tiki Quest: Collecting the Exotic Past,
by Duke Carter

Tiki Quest isn’t new, it actually came out in 2003, but a conversation I had with someone who’d just purchased it last week is inspiring me to spotlight it today. It’s every bit as deserving of a place on your bookshelf today as it was when it came out three years ago.

Tiki Quest is the creation of Duke Carter and his wife Amy, who have amassed a very impressive collection over their years of tiki obsession. The book is 183 pages of large, full-color images of items from their collection, beautifully photographed so that every detail can be appreciated. All of the items in the book are from the vintage era of Polynesian Pop (’70s and earlier), and most of the book is dedicated to tiki mugs, although postcards, matchbooks, swizzle sticks and other items are also presented. A bit of history is included, particularly around the manufacturers of the mugs and their sometimes tangled relationships to each other.

Pages from Tiki Quest, by Duke Carter
Pages from Tiki Quest, by Duke Carter

As is typically the case, Duke and Amy struggled a bit in getting their book published — most publishers who had interest in the book wanted to cut corners on the quality of the book (the quality of the photographs was of high importance to the Carters), or insisted on including current-day values, turning it into a price guide (understandably, the Carters didn’t want the focus to be on the monetary value of the items). In the end, the Carters took the bold step of self-publishing, and made a deal directly with a printing & binding shop.

Pages from Tiki Quest, by Duke Carter
Pages from Tiki Quest, by Duke Carter

The result is well worth the extra effort, as the final product is a loving tribute to the golden age of Polynesian Pop. I fell in love with tiki all over again when I first received the book. The pages are now falling out of mine after spending lots of time admiring and savoring the items shown in it. It’s one of my favorite Tiki books.

If you’d like to order Tiki Quest, it’s available on Amazon.com, or directly from Duke & Amy’s Pegboard Press.

November 11, 2006

This Week at Arkiva Tropika

Filed under: Arkiva Tropika,Central California,Hawaii,History,Las Vegas,San Diego,San Francisco,Seattle,Tiki,Trader Vic's — Humuhumu @ 5:54 pm

A weekly review of my favorite among the many items Mimi Payne has posted to her Arkiva Tropika website in the past seven days:

Trader Vic's Trading License, from Arkiva Tropika
Trader Vic’s Trading License, from Arkiva Tropika

This is a souvenir Trading License, given to customers in the ’40s at Trader Vic’s, granting the recipient “trading privileges.” This one was granted in 1945 to a couple after having dinner & a scorpion at the Oakland location.

Detail of a menu from the Islander in Stockton, from Arkiva Tropika
Detail of a menu from the Islander in Stockton, from Arkiva Tropika

This is a bit hard to make out here, but I love this bit from a menu from the Islander in Stockton. “The Gourmet Deluxe Dinner” (“For those discriminating people”) cost $4.75 per person, and was served with a bottle of Paul Masson Rose Wine. Also: “The Islander is available for private parties, fashion shows or any special activity.”

Menu from Halekulani Hotel in Waikiki, from Arkiva Tropika
Menu from Halekulani Hotel in Waikiki, from Arkiva Tropika

This 1952 dinner menu, from the Halekulani Hotel in Waikiki, is just dag-flippity gorgeous. The artwork and color palette look like they could have come straight from a vintage rayon aloha shirt. The Halekulani, and its famous House Without a Key restaurant & bar, are still operating today.

'60s or '70s postcard from the Hanalei Hotel in San Diego, from Arkiva Tropika
’60s or ’70s postcard from the Hanalei Hotel in San Diego, from Arkiva Tropika

With the sad news about the remodeling of the Islands Restaurant at San Diego’s Hanalei Hotel this week, Mimi pulled out a lot of great Hanalei & Islands items from her collection. Above is a great postcard from the ’60s or ’70s, showing how the front of the hotel used to look, including its famous sign, which was sadly removed a few years back.

'60s brochure for the Hanalei Hotel in San Diego, from Arkiva Tropika
’60s brochure for the Hanalei Hotel in San Diego, from Arkiva Tropika

This brochure from the 1960s has lots of full-color pictures from the Hanalei’s heyday, inclulding views of the Islands Restaurant.

'60s postcard for the Hanalei Hotel in San Diego, from Arkiva Tropika
’60s postcard for the Hanalei Hotel in San Diego, from Arkiva Tropika

Another postcard from the Hanalei has two different views of the Islands Restaurant.

Page from a '60s cocktail menu from the Islands restaurant, from Arkiva Tropika
Page from a ’60s cocktail menu from the Islands restaurant, from Arkiva Tropika

And this ’60s cocktail menu, from the early days of the Islands restaurant, features some fantastic illustrations of tropical cocktails.

'60s appetizer menu from Aku Aku in Las Vegas, from Arkiva Tropika
’60s appetizer menu from Aku Aku in Las Vegas, from Arkiva Tropika

Another item inspired by a recent closing — this 1960s appetizer menu is from the Aku Aku in Las Vegas, which was part of the Stardust Casino for 20 years. Aku Aku closed in 1980, but the Stardust closed just last week.

'60s postcard from Trader Vic's in Seattle, from Arkiva Tropika
’60s postcard from Trader Vic’s in Seattle, from Arkiva Tropika

This postcard shows the exterior entrance to the Trader Vic’s in Seattle, which was in the Benjamin Franklin Hotel (today it’s the Westin). The Seattle location was Vic’s second restaurant, after the original Oakland location; it was initially named the Outrigger, and was renamed Trader Vic’s later on to be consistent with the rest of the chain. This picture is from the 1960s. Trader Vic’s used birdcage lamps like these in several locations; when the Seattle Trader Vic’s closed in 1992, some of these lamps went to the then-new Crocodile Cafe a few blocks north, where they can still be seen today — perhaps even the lamps in this very postcard!

Gadzooks, Mimi went on a posting rampage this week! This is truly just a smidge of all the great things she posted — be sure to check it all out yourself at Arkiva Tropika.

Ace Jackelope Goes Lewis & Clark

Filed under: Art,Portland,Seattle,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 3:46 pm
The Alibi in Portland, photo by Ace Jackelope
The Alibi in Portland, photo by Ace Jackelope

Ace Jackelope, a.k.a. Tikijackelope, is a kindred spirit, if ever I’ve encountered one. He travels the nation, visiting the best Americana ‘murica has to offer — especially tiki places — taking pictures all the way. His latest tiki-flavored adventure brought him to the northern wilderness of my youth, the Pacific Northwest. He’s taken some wonderful photos (pictures that handily trump the many I’ve taken) of the Alibi in Portland and the Islander in Seattle, and got a sneak peek at Portland’s Thatch. He also grabbed a few pics of the recently-closed Tiki Art Now show that was at Roq la Rue in Seattle. Special Lake Wobegon bonus: another recent post on his blog features Ace Jackelope sitting on the head of Garrison Keillor.


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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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