Entries from November 2006

November 11, 2006

Vancouver, B.C.: New Tiny Tiki Lounge Group Show at Lucky Red Gallery

Filed under: Art,Events,Tiki,Vancouver, B.C. — Humuhumu @ 2:49 pm
The Gracious Host, by Heather Watts
The Gracious Host, by Heather Watts

The fourth annual New Tiny Tiki Lounge Group Show is happening at Lucky Red Gallery in Vancouver, B.C.’s Chinatown on December 9. Lucky Red is a tiny little speck of a gallery, and was formerly a one-car garage. Today it has been transformed into a tikified getaway, with bamboo and thatch — and of course art, with one-night-only shows. Artists for the show have not been announced (a call for artists went out just a couple days ago), but it’s likely that Vancouver-based tiki art superstar Heather Watts will be represented (above is her 2004 piece, The Gracious Host). For more details, visit 12midnite.com, the website of Lucky Red owner & curator, 12 Midnite. While you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to check out Funhouser Decor — they’re a great local source for your home tiki bar needs (it’s where the Tiki Bar TV gang shops).

Tiki-Ti Closing Soon for the Holidays

Filed under: Los Angeles,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 1:49 pm
Ray's Mistakes, at Tiki-Ti
Ray’s Mistakes, at Tiki-Ti

Every year, Tiki-Ti closes for a few weeks around the holidays, so that its owners and only employees, Mike & Mike Buhen, can catch a break with their families, and do some maintenance on the old ‘Ti. It’s a hard few weeks for the Tiki-Ti regulars (until I headed north to the Bay Area, I was steadfast among them, and felt very adrift myself through those weeks). It’s also a bit of heartache for those unfortunates who make the pilgrimage during this time and find themselves surprised to be greeted by a bolted door. The doom & gloom the holidays bring to a Tiki-Tiphile are well worth it though, for the mind reels at even the most fleeting thought of what would happen if Mike & Mike got burned out and threw in the towel on the whole operation. Tiki-Ti, started in 1961 by Mike’s pop Ray Buhen, is one of the very last places on the planet where you can taste drink recipes with a direct pedigree to the great Don the Beachcomber. And it’s the only place you can get a Ray’s Mistake (pictured above).

So, heed the warning, and get there while you can: Tiki-Ti’s last open day before the holidays is Saturday, November 18. They’ll open again on Wednesday, December 27.

November 8, 2006

Tiki Research Adventure: Disney Studios & Pago Pago

Filed under: Disney,History,Los Angeles,Research,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 12:47 am
Disney artist's rendering of the Walt Disney Studios in 1947, from the collection of Matterhorn1959
Artist’s rendering of the Walt Disney Studios in 1947,
from the collection of Matterhorn1959

I love being able to watch as bits of tiki history are uncovered — and it’s especially fun when a bunch of tikiphiles work together to unearth the past. This week is one that especially appeals to me — a rumored hangout of Disney artists in the ’40s and ’50s, called the “Pago Pago Club.” I am a freakin’ massive Disney nut. You all know how much I love tiki — I love Disney more. Old Disney, especially. So, this one’s right up my alley.

It all started with a postcard belonging to Matterhorn1959 (if you love vintage Disney, too, check out his blog Stuff from the Park — it’s hardcore vintage Disney porn, and it’s updated daily). The above postcard has a watercolor and ink sketch of the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, and was mailed in 1947. The written note at the bottom describes life at the studio, and makes mention of a nearby “Pago Pago Club.” After being posted on the Stuff from the Park blog, an anonymous commenter said:

I used to work at the studio… The pago pago was the local “studio” bar across the street from the studio East of the corner of Buena Vista St. and Alameda. (even warner bros. had their watering hole as well) Its now an unmarked Disney building that holds the travel office. (If you drove the alley to the pago, one would see all the studio work bikes parked in the alley).

This piqued Matterhorn1959′s interest, as he’s a tikiphile, himself. He posted a call for more information on Tiki Central a few days ago. I personally knew of a few unrelated Pago Pagos having existed over the years, including spots in Long Beach, Portland and Tucson, but not in the San Fernando Valley. With such scant, and quite possibly unreliable, information to work from, it seemed entirely possible that this place might not have actually existed, or perhaps was not called Pago Pago, or perhaps was at another location entirely.

A few of us tried to pin down which block it may have been on, based on what had been learned so far — a spot across the street from the Disney Studios, near the intersection of Alameda & Buena Vista, with an alley nearby. Still wasn’t much to go on; the buildings in that area have pretty much all been rebuilt. Sven Kirsten chimed in, saying he’d heard a rumor of there being an underground passage to the bar, something he didn’t take seriously. Freddiefreelance had a distant memory of possibly seeing a sign for Pago Pago at that spot, “caddy corner to St. Josephs” (the medical center that is also at the intersection of Alameda & Buena Vista) when he used to ride his bike through the area to work in the ’80s. Matterhorn1959 found an older post on Tiki Central that quoted an interview with Paul Page, where he said he’d played off & on at a bar in the San Fernando Valley called the Pago Pago Club for ten years. Still, nothing solid, but a few more smidges of info indicating that this place once existed. So tantalizingly close!

In comes Naomi Alper to the rescue. Naomi owns the 8-Ball store in Burbank, and has some serious researching chops (she’s also Sven’s girlfriend). Naomi tracked down an address from a 1952 Burbank City Directory for a Pago Pago Club — 2413 W. Alameda Ave. Bingo! That address maps to this location, directly across from the Walt Disney Studios, diagonal from St. Joseph’s, and a stone’s throw from the intersection of Alameda & Buena Vista:

Likely location of Pago Pago Club
Likely location of Pago Pago Club

Naomi also learned a bit about that sign that Freddiefreelance remembered:

One of the librarians who assisted me in the search recalled hearing that a Disney animator liberated the Pago Pago sign when the bar closed. This story was corroborated by this blurb that I found in the LA Times archives from an article dated 1/23/1994:

“A sign in the back yard reading “Pago Pago” offers a clue to the party’s origins. “It used to hang outside this bar across from the Disney studios, in Burbank, where the old-time animators met and drank,” says Dave Spafford, a Disney vet himself before forming Spaff Animation with [Debbie Spafford] in 1989. Among their credits: “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and Woody Woodpecker’s Oscar presentation for Best Animated Short Film of 1990.”

To get more than that excerpt, you have to pay for the full article; I haven’t decided if I want to pony up the $3.95; it may not say anything more about the Pago Pago than that blurb does. If you’re curious, you can find it here.

I’ve now added Pago Pago Club to Critiki. The next step is to see if any emphemera or other documentation of this place is out there — naturally, something with some images would be highly desired! Chisel Slinger thinks he may have a matchbook from there in his collection.

Even without having any real way of knowing if there was anything truly tiki about this place beyond the tropical-sounding name, I love the idea of it. I get to daydream about hanging out with Disney artists in the heyday of Disney animation, at a tiki bar across the street. That suits me just fine. Many thanks to all the wonderful Tiki Centralites who have pitched in on this one!

November 7, 2006

Stolen Tiki Alert: Original Sculpt of Shag’s Enchanted Tiki Room Mug

Filed under: Los Angeles,Stolen Tiki Alert,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 11:29 pm
Original sculpt of the Shag Enchanted Tiki Room mug, by Squid
Original sculpt of the
Shag Enchanted Tiki
Room mug, by Squid

This Stolen (or possibly just Missing) Tiki Alert comes from Squid in San Clemente, California — Tiki Farm’s resident sculpt master:

Howdy folks-
Just posting to let you all know that a certain sculpt of mine has gone missing from its rightful place in my display cabinet. If any sharp eyes come upon it, I would be grateful for a heads-up.

If someone should wish to return it, regardless of how they acquired it, no questions asked.


Shag designed this mug as part of Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Mug merchandise in 2004, and Squid created this original sculpt of the design, from which the mugs were cast. I’m sure it’s something that Squid is very proud of, and I would imagine it’s a terrible loss. Please keep your eyes peeled for this sculpt, and if you find yourself in a position to get this back to Squid, please do! Squid can be contacted through Tiki Farm.

UPDATE: A few more details about it — it is about 10% larger than a final Shag Enchanted Tiki Room mug, it’s light gray (as seen above), and it’s made of a special hard tooling wax, which is not sticky.

Islands Update: Here Come the Jackhammers

Filed under: News,San Diego,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 12:05 pm
Islands Restaurant after first day of renovation, photo by Mr. NoNaMe
Islands Restaurant after first day of renovation, photo by Mr. NoNaMe

The past day has brought a series of confirmations and more information about the remodeling of the Islands Restaurant and Hanalei Hotel in San Diego. Much of the information comes from an email from Otto von Stroheim’s Tiki News mailing list. Otto is the organizer of the Tiki Oasis event that will be at the Hanalei Hotel in August 2007. Otto was able to speak to the upper management of the hotel directly, so this information should be pretty solid. Much of the decisions around these changes, or the direction to make changes, came from the Red Lion corporate office the hotel’s owners (see update below).

Here’s a quick summary:

  • The hotel’s name is changing. The new name is not known, but it will no longer have “Hanalei” in it. According to Otto, “This was mandated in order to raise the status of the property.”
  • The Islands Restaurant “[is] going to be more TROPICAL than TIKI,” per the GM.
  • The waterfalls and the waterway into the restaurant are being removed.
  • The Dragon Room will be removed.
  • The bamboo in the Islands is staying, the glass floats might stay, but all the other tiki decor in the restaurant is being removed. It’s not known yet what the fate of these items will be. There’s a chance the artifacts will be put on dispay for Tiki Oasis attendees, but this has not been worked out yet. The large outrigger sign is staying.
  • On the first day of renovation, all of the artifacts in the Islands Restaurant have been removed and boxed up for storage.
  • The Islands Restaurant’s monkeypod tables are staying, and $38,000 is being spent to refinish them.
  • Some walls are being knocked down, and an outdoor patio is being added, to expand seating.
  • Windows are being added to overlook the patio and pool.
  • Food & drink menu will be unchanged. Tiki mugs will be used for serving.
  • Carved railings removed from the Islands Restaurant will be relocated into the tropical, tikified Atrium area in the hotel tower.
  • Landscaping is being enhanced with a $20,000 budget, and fresh palapas have been added.
  • Room rates are increasing, but this won’t affect Tiki Oasis 2007, because Otto locked those rates in before these changes.

There have been discussions on Tiki Central about writing letters — while it’s never a bad idea to let these places know that you’re specifically patronizing them because of their tikiness, I must sadly say that I think this course is unchangeable. For one, it may just be too late — the restaurant has already been gutted, and jackhammers are scheduled to be there today, probably to rip out the water features. Another reason is that the Hanalei has over the years morphed into a conference hotel. They don’t flinch at individual people’s opinions, they focus on what helps them court large group reservations, and what those groups want is a larger restaurant. Writing to let the Hanalei know that you support their keeping the tiki they still have can’t hurt, though.

So essentially — the Islands will now be a more generic tropical restaurant, with some hints of what it once was, and probably still worth seeing. The hotel itself, while changing its name, will still have plenty of great tiki on-site in the Atrium, including the great artifacts from Stephen Crane’s Luau in Beverly Hills. The big question at this point is what will happen to all the items that have come out of the Islands Restaurant. I hope they find a way to keep them on-site and visible.

UPDATE: The Hanalei’s banquet manager, Joel Delano (whose blog was my tipoff that changes were afoot at the Islands) has chimed in with more info, in a comment on this post. The hotel is becoming part of the Crown Plaza chain of hotels, and will reportedly be renamed the “Crown Plaza San Diego.” He’s also posted another entry on his blog, giving a bit more info: he says the fountain pictured at the top of my last post is currently slated to stay, and that he thinks the glass floats that Otto was told would most likely stay may not stay after all.

November 6, 2006

New York Trader Vic’s Tikis Headed to Portland

Filed under: History,New York,Portland,Tiki,Trader Vic's — Humuhumu @ 9:42 am
Robert Volz with tikis from New York Trader Vic's
Robert Volz with tikis from New York Trader Vic’s

A wild, almost too-good-to-be-true story came to me from Robert Volz yesterday. Robert is the owner of the new Thatch bar in Portland (development is well underway, and the bar will be opening soon, hopefully). Robert has already had some fantastic scores of items for use in his new bar, including original Armet & Davis booths from a local Denny’s that was one of the last midcentury Denny’s in the nation to be remodeled, and all of the decor from the local Jasmine Tree restaurant that recently closed.

Robert, who was once editor of a magazine for scooter enthusiasts, recently took part in a coast-to-coast scooter race. (Yep — from Pacific City, Oregon to Orange, New Jersey in ten days, on a scooter.) Once he was in New Jersey, it was clear that he wasn’t going to be one of the top finishers, so when he saw a sign saying “Restaurant Auction Today,” he decided to take a breather. In between the kitchen equipment and other typical restaurant fixtures were eight tikis. Not just any tikis, really honkin’ big tikis. And they were reported to be from the New York City Trader Vic’s. Robert said:

The funny thing, is that no one bid on the eight large statues that used to be in the NYC Trader Vic’s in the Plaza Hotel.

After no takers on several, I wrote a note to the auctioneer who passed it onto the the manager. The note was a ridiculously low offer for all of them.

To my surprise, I got them all.

Back of one of Robert Volz's Trader Vic's tikis
Back of one of Robert Volz’s
Trader Vic’s tikis

Now, as I said at the top of the story — too good to be true. But I think in this case that it could very well be true. For one, two of the tikis are the same design as the Trader Vic’s salt & pepper shakers, and have “TRADER VIC’S” carved in the back of them — which anyone can do, but the carving doesn’t look fresh. For another, the tikis look somewhat consistent with (though larger than) some tikis Trader Vic’s still has in their possession, as seen when they loaned them out for the San Francisco Airport tiki exhibit.

If these tikis did indeed come from Trader Vic’s, it’s likely they date to 1965, when the Trader Vic’s moved from the Savoy Hotel to the Plaza Hotel; when Donald Trump bought the building in 1989, he closed the Trader Vic’s. These tikis have been somehwere — probably a warehouse — ever since.

Shipping these fellas back across the country was no small feat — shipping was quoted to Robert at $3,200, so he rented a van and drove all the way to New Jersey and back to get them himself. He says these guys are all going into Thatch, where they will get to hang out with the three massive cannibal tikis from the Portland Kon-Tiki he scored from the Jasmine Tree. To learn more about Thatch, check out this thread on Tiki Central, and this one where Robert asks a bit about one of the tikis.

UPDATE — Perhaps a bit too good to be true, after all. Sven Kirsten and Tim “Swanky” Glazner have weighed in on Tiki Central, and they’re of the opinion that these are more recent carvings (Sven speculates that perhaps these were rounded up for a proposed re-opening of Trader Vic’s in New York that didn’t happen).

San Diego’s Islands Restaurant Renovation?

Filed under: News,San Diego,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 3:18 am
Fountain at the Islands Restaurant in the Hanalei Hotel, San Diego
Fountain at the Islands Restaurant in the Hanalei Hotel, San Diego

Joel Reis reports on his blog that the Island Restaurant at the Hanalei Hotel in San Diego closed yesterday for some apparently drastic renovations. The Islands Restaurant has been at the Hanalei since it opened in 1966. The hotel was once a beautiful example of midcentury Polynesian Pop architecture and design, but sadly has been updated over the years to a bland cookie-cutter chain hotel (currently owned by Red Lion). The hotel has managed to keep a few wonderful pieces through these renovations, including several items that came out of the historic Luau in Beverly Hills when it closed.

Fountain at the Islands Restaurant in the Hanalei Hotel, San Diego
Fountain at the Islands Restaurant
in the Hanalei Hotel, San Diego

While the Islands Restaurant has not emerged unscathed from these renovations, it has still retained enough of its decor to be a very worthwhile stop for the travelling tikiphile; indeed, the hotel was host to the annual Tiki Oasis event last year, and is scheduled to host the event again in 2007. It is one of the very few restaurants remaining in the world that give the feeling of stepping into the golden era of Tiki. It’s not yet clear what this latest renovation has in store for the Islands, but it sounds devastating.

From Joel Reis’ blog:

The Hanalei is undergoing extensive remodel in the next 6 months and the first stage is the remodel of the hotel’s signature restaurant. This waterfall is one of the victims of the remodel. It has been there for decades along with priceless tiki artifacts as well as Monkeypod tables (which is a now endangered wood native to the South Pacific). The tables are supposed to return, since they truly are priceless at this point, but the fate of many of the artifacts is in question. Most are supposed to return, maybe not to the restaurant, but around the property. But there has been rumour that they may not return and simply be liquidated at bulk to some collector.

The waterfalls mentioned in his blog are at the entrance to the restaurant, and can be seen in the pictures above, taken in 2004. They are dramatic and beautiful, and I simply cannot fathom why the hotel would want to remove them. This news is just crushing, and surprising, considering that the hotel has become host to one of the largest annual events for tikiphiles, drawing hundreds of people. A very strange and disconcerting development.

I’ve heard nothing about this beyond this one blog post, so I wouldn’t say it’s verified. Stay tuned for information as I learn more.

November 4, 2006

This Week at Arkiva Tropika

Filed under: Arkiva Tropika,Daytona Beach,History,Las Vegas,Midwest U.S.,New York,Portland,San Francisco,Tiki,Trader Vic's — Humuhumu @ 3:52 pm

Mimi Payne keeps adding great items from her collection to Arkiva Tropika — she adds cool things too frequently for me to post about it every time, and I can’t not post about the wonderful things she’s sharing, so there’s only one thing for it: a weekly roundup. This is just a small fraction of the items she’s posted this week; if you like these, make sure to check out Arkiva Tropika yourself, and you’ll be over the moon.

1954 Waikiki Room menu, from Mimi Payne's Arkiva Tropika
1954 Waikiki Room menu, from Mimi Payne’s Arkiva Tropika

This is a 1954 drink menu from the Waikiki Room at the Hotel Nicolette in Minneapolis, Minnesota. There was another Waikiki Room across town, in the Hotel Leamington. I love the woodgrain backdrop of the menu, and the tiki is simple, but beautifullly illustrated. Inside, the menu has full-color photos of the drinks, rather than the more commonly seen drawings. Very cool!

1950s postcard from Portland Trader Vic's, from Mimi Payne's Arkiva Tropika
1950s postcard from Portland Trader Vic’s, from Mimi Payne’s Arkiva Tropika

This is a lovely postcard view of the Portland Trader Vic’s, which was in the Hotel Benson. I have no idea what that carved thing in the foreground with the white thingy on top could be.

1950s menu from Zombie Village in Oakland, from Mimi Payne's Arkiva Tropika
1950s menu from Zombie Village in Oakland, from Mimi Payne’s Arkiva Tropika

Without a doubt, hands down, no contest, this is my favorite bit of Polynesian Pop imagery anywhere. That woman is just gorgeous. I want her tattoed on me. I want to be her. She even makes the menacing dark cloudy figure seem like something you can’t be bothered to be concerned about. Who could possibly be distracted by a 50-foot angry genie when you’ve got that woman mezmerizing you? Oh yeah, there’s a neat building in the back, too. Seriously, aside from the beautiful woman, it’s a nice, simple composition that conveys a mood without having to try too hard. Beautiful. This image can also be seen at the beginning of the Book of Tiki.

Fan from Aku Aku at the Stardust in Las Vegas, from Mimi Payne's Arkiva Tropika
Fan from Aku Aku at the Stardust in Las Vegas, from Mimi Payne’s Arkiva Tropika

This fan is an unusual item, although Mimi has a few fans in her collection. It comes from the Aku Aku at the Stardust in Las Vegas. The Aku Aku closed long ago, but the Stardust closed just this past Wednesday. I like the rendering of the Aku Aku moai as an Asian brush painting, and I like the muted colors.

Back of a 1964 menu from the Hawaiian Room in New York City, from Mimi Payne's Arkiva Tropika
Back of a 1964 menu from the Hawaiian Room in New York City, from Mimi Payne’s Arkiva Tropika

And straight from muted colors, we have color overload, with food, no less. Look at this — this is every classic ’60s food cliche in one spread. I’ll just let it speak for itself, since I wouldn’t be heard over its screaming, anyhow.

1950s menu from the WikiWiki Coffee Shop at the Hawaiian Inn in Daytona Beach, from Mimi Payne's Arkiva Tropika
1950s menu from the WikiWiki Coffee Shop at the Hawaiian Inn in Daytona Beach, from Mimi Payne’s Arkiva Tropika

This menu is interesting to me not so much because of the design, but because this is from a place I’ve been to, that’s still operating today. The Hawaiian Inn in Daytona Beach still has a Polynesian floor show and restaurant, but this menu comes from the small coffee shop just off the hotel’s lobby. Today, the coffee shop is run by the same family that performs the floor show at night; it’s kind of fun to be served your hangover-healing coffee by the same woman who was hulaing for you the night before. Gives it a sort of end-of-Wizard-of-Oz feeling. Another interesting thing about this menu is that while it’s from the coffee shop, and has “Good Morning” printed in the decorative border, the paper insert is a dinner menu, which seems a little odd.

Check out Arkiva Tropika for more — much, much more — stuff just like this!

November 3, 2006

Name Tiki Farm’s New Decanter

Filed under: Shopping,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 3:17 pm
Unnamed Dirty Donny decanter from Tiki Farm
Unnamed Dirty Donny
decanter from Tiki Farm

Tiki Farm will be offering this new decanter, designed by Dirty Donny, in 2007. Tiki Farm owner Holden Westland is asking for help in naming this fellow. He’s accepting name suggestions through November 10, and the winner will get a decanter of their very own. The decanter shown here is a prototype, the final version will be slightly different.

Crazy Al’s Tiki Drawer Pulls

Filed under: Art,Shopping,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 12:00 pm
Tiki drawerpull from Crazy Al Evans
Tiki drawerpull
from Crazy Al Evans

Years ago, Accoutrements made some tiki head drawer pulls. They were crap. The design was okay, but the quality was terrible — the resin cracked when you tried to mount them. I wound up gluing them onto the drawers in my bar. Blech. They were cheap, and I got what I paid for. It’s no surprise that Accoutrements stopped making them a while ago.

Tiki drawerpull from Crazy Al Evans
Tiki drawerpull
from Crazy Al Evans

Thankfully, this hole in the market has been filled in a fantastic way by Crazy Al. He’s offering a whole range of designs, all of them traditional tiki styles, including Hawaiian, Tongan, Maori and Tahitian, and Papua New Guinean, with small and large sizes. I haven’t tried them myself, but I do have a small resin chimpanzee made by Crazy Al that I bought from him about four years ago — it’s been on my Bamboo Handbag ever since, and has seen, and lived through, much abuse. It has held up incredibly well, and still looks fantastic — I would think that Crazy Al’s door pulls would be of similar strength and quality.

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

- Website Design and Programming

- A Worldwide Guide to Tiki Bars & Polynesian Restaurants

- Tiki Mugs & More: Track & View Collections




Arkiva Tropika
Mimi Payne’s massive Polynesian Pop collection

Barefoot Bloggin’
A surfin’, ukein’, freewheelin’ monkey boy

Beachbum Berry
Author of Grog Log and Intoxica!, and one of my dearest drinkin’ buddies

Blog from the user interface designer extraordinaire

Worldwide Guide to Tiki Bars & Polynesian Restaurants

Dumb Angel
A look at the 1960s Los Angeles mod, pop, surf, and music scene

Eye of the Goof
Pop culture with a tiki tinge

Forbidden Island
My Wednesday hangout, the Bay Area’s best tiki bar

Humuhumu’s Life in Photos
Pictures of my adventures

I build websites

Junkyard Clubhouse
Random interesting things from Humuhumu & Hanford Lemoore

Kevin Kidney
Kevin loves tiki, I love Kevin, you will too

Tiki links galore

Mai Tai Online
Montreal-based tiki ‘zine

Tiki Mug Collection Organizer

The Jab
Follow the way of the jab

Tiki Bar TV
Public Access meets Modern Drunkard

Tiki Central
Community forums

Tiki Magazine
Periodical publication covering the wide world of Tiki

Tiki Talk
Hot Lava’s Tiki Blog