Entries from January 2007

January 9, 2007

New Robert Drasnin Album: Voodoo 2

Filed under: Music,People,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 4:23 pm
Robert Drasnin's Voodoo
Robert Drasnin’s Voodoo

Robert Drasnin has had a long and very busy career in Hollywood: he currently teaches film composition at UCLA; before this he had a long tenure as the Director of Music for CBS Entertainment from 1977 into the early ’90s; before that he was well-established as a composer, arranger and musician for a vast array of television and film productions through the ’60s and ’70s. Even earlier in his career, he worked as an arranger for Martin Denny, and he released just one album of his own compositions of Exotica jazz. That 1959 album, Voodoo, is one of the definitive works of the genre, a true classic. For a taste of Mr. Drasnin’s work, you can visit his MySpace page, where you can hear his songs Desiree and Enchantment. The album was re-released by Dionysus Records in 1996.

In 2005, there was a rare performance of Robert Drasnin’s Voodoo at the annual Hukilau event in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I was there, and it was absolutely otherworldly. The whole room, full of hundreds of people, was hushed in transfixed awe. It was really beautiful to hear music like that in person.

The renewed interest in this fifty-year-old album has had Drasnin excited to create new Exotica works. Ever since that performance in Florida, Mr. Drasnin has been hard at work writing a new album of Exotica: Voodoo 2. So many of the Exotica greats have gone on to that great luau in the sky; the idea of a new album of true classic Exotica is something many of us wouldn’t have even dreamed would be possible.

The project is happening with no corporate backing — Robert Drasnin is responsible funding this effort himself, to the tune of about 15 to 20 thousand dollars. Lush orchestrations like this require a lot of musicians, studio time, and other stuff I know nothing about personally. It just won’t be possible for Mr. Drasnin to do this himself, but he’s doing it anyway, “come hell or high water.” Even though the market for this album is a great big question mark — Exotica jazz is definitely a niche thing — he wants to create this album because he knows there are many people out there who will be excited for it. That’s what life should be all about.

But he doesn’t have to do this alone — all you fans of Exotica music can help make this dream come true, while minimizing the financial hit to Mr. Drasnin. A page has been set up to accept donations towards the recording of the album. There are three levels of donation: the first ($30) gets you a signed copy of the album, the second ($75) gets the signed album, and your name in the Special Thanks of the album’s liner notes, and the third level — now, this is big — for a $250 contribution, you get to sit in on the actual recording session, happening on February 17 in Los Angeles, plus the signed CD and the thanks in the liner notes. Now that would be something else.

To learn more about the project, and to donate, visit Robert Drasnin’s website. Voodoo 2 will be released this spring, by Dionysus Records.

January 7, 2007

Jungle Drums Are Calling You… to Watch a CBS Special Presentation

Filed under: History,Music,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 2:39 am

CBS Special ident from the ’70s

Anyone who was a kid in the ’70s or ’80s probably still experiences a pins & needles reaction when watching the above six scant seconds of gloriousness… this is the ident CBS played before their special presentations, i.e., the holiday specials. I am a huge fan of old holiday specials (especially Rankin/Bass), and I’ve amassed a pretty impressive collection of them on tape and DVD. The one thing that’s always missing, though, is the CBS Special Presentation intro… Hanford and I have dreams of building the Rankin/Bass-o-Matic, a custom video player that will hold all our holiday specials in digitized form, and will automatically play the CBS Special intro before each one. (Hanford worked on the original design of ReplayTV, so he’s terrifically handy for that sort of thing.)

Hanford just learned something that perhaps further explains my primal reaction to viewing this clip: the music used for it was composed by Morton Stevens, and comes from music he created for Hawaii Five-O. Of course! Why has it taken me this long to recognize that it was no ordinary call to the television — it was thundering drums pounding out an island rhythm. Or, at least the Hollywood version of an island rhythm.

The above clip is sadly not of the best quality; here’s a link to a higher-quality MP3 of the music. Also, Hawaii Five-O’s first season came out on DVD a short bit ago.

Hula Hula, New Tiki Bar in Seattle

Filed under: News,Seattle,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 12:50 am
Hula Hula, a new tiki bar in Seattle, photo from Hula Hula website
Hula Hula, a new tiki bar in Seattle, photo from Hula Hula website

Seattle has a new tiki bar, near the Seattle Center, called Hula Hula. It’s in the space nextdoor to Tini Bigs (once upon a time, this space was a nightclub called the Romper Room, and I spent many an evening there shaking my tiny hiney). Hula Hula is run by the same folks who run Tini Bigs. Seattle once had a rich tiki history, but now virtually all traces of vintage tiki are gone; those holding their breath for a comeback of true tiki in Seattle will have to keep biding their time at the new Trader Vic’s in Bellevue. Hula Hula looks to be more about tiki as kitch.

The drink menu holds lots of familiar names (Mai Tai, Navy Grog, Shark’s Tooth, Zombie), but sadly the recipes are anything but familiar. Or rather, they’re the sad side of familiar — that familiar sinking feeling you get when you see that the tropical drink menu you’re staring down is nothing but a pell-mell assortment of alcohol and pineapple juice. Don’t take my word for it — I haven’t been able to check this place out myself yet, obviously — but a look at their online drink menu doesn’t exactly have me excited. From what I’ve been able to gather, the local tikiphiles aren’t exactly beating a path to the door, either; the general reaction I’ve heard so far from folks in the area is something along the lines of “meh,” which is telling in a town that doesn’t really have much to offer in the way of tiki in the first place. The website has one of the sure “tells” of a letdown of a tiki place: the website trumpets “EVERYDAY $2 PBR”.

Hula Hula, a new tiki bar in Seattle, photo from Hula Hula website
Hula Hula, a new tiki bar in Seattle, photo from Hula Hula website

But, like I said, don’t take my word for it. It’s hardly fair of me to judge a place so harshly without setting foot in it myself. Go out there and check it out yourself, and let me know what you think of it (rate it on Critiki, while you’re at it). There are plenty of tiki bars out there that have won my heart despite lackluster drinks (though it takes some pretty kick-ass decor [see: Bahooka, the Alibi, Kon-Tiki]). I would be extraordinarily pleased to hear that there is something loveable at Hula Hula.

January 6, 2007

Hollywood: Lava Lounge’s Final Night

Filed under: Events,Los Angeles,Music,News,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 12:05 am
Lava Lounge in Hollywood, CA
Lava Lounge in Hollywood, CA

Hollywood’s Lava Lounge is nestled in a tiny, nondescript strip mall (“nondescript” and “strip mall” are pretty redundant, I suppose) on La Brea, just off of Sunset. I’ve only been there a handful of times — parking in the area is a pain in the keister, and it’s not the tikiest of tiki bars — but I did think it was pretty cool. For one, it’s dark, and I love a dark bar. For another, they weren’t kidding around with the often too-casually-applied “Lava Lounge” name: the room was a mix of pitch black faux and real rockwork, contrasted against blonde bamboo, and it came together really nicely. There was a rocky wall at the back that wept water, and a very small stage area bathed in red light. The drinks were not very good, but at least they tried.

Now comes word that the Lava Lounge’s days are nearing an end. After 13 years, the small bar is closing at the end of February, and undergoing a remodel and name change — no word yet on what the new incarnation will be. 13 years for a bar is impressive, but it’s even more impressive when you consider the competitive environment of bars in Hollywood, and that when it opened in the mid-’90s, tiki was not a hot thing, but the realm of a small cache of hipsters. The bar is one of the very, very few that opened during the exact years that really cool, original places were shutting down all across the country.

If you can, stop in one last time to spend some time in this swell little bar. Lava Lounge mainstays the Blue Hawaiians will be playing a final show there the night of Friday, February 23. Hat tip to bigtikidude for the heads-up.

January 5, 2007

Tiki Road Trip, 2nd Edition Coming in May

Filed under: Critiki,News,Shopping,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 2:49 pm
Tiki Road Trip, 2nd Edition, by James Teitelbaum
Tiki Road Trip, 2nd Edition,
by James Teitelbaum

A newly updated 2nd edition of James Teitelbaum’s very popular Tiki Road Trip is due out in May of this year. The world of tiki has changed very much, mostly for the better, since James’ book originally came out in 2003, and fans of the book are very eager to get a more up-to-date version of their road bible. The new TRT features many revised and re-written entries, more photos, and a design that will make it a bit easier to find what you’re looking for.

I’ve pointed many, many people to Tiki Road Trip over the years, here on Humu Kon Tiki, on Tiki Central, and on Critiki. As a matter of fact, for the first year Critiki was available to the public, I required you to prove you owned Tiki Road Trip before you could access detailed information like addresses, maps, websites and phone numbers (now, this information is available to anyone who registers, for free, on Critiki). However — and this may shock some of you — I have never actually read Tiki Road Trip. I know! Can you believe it!?

The thing is, I’d love to. I own several copies of it. I’ve skimmed it a bit, but always very briefly, and very cautiously. You see, when I started work on Critiki in late 2002, James’ book hadn’t been announced yet. In the course of collecting information about tiki places for Critiki’s database, I realized how much effort had gone into the creation of James’ Tiki Bar Review Pages (Tiki Road Trip’s online ancestor). The last thing I wanted to do was poach someone else’s very hard work, and so even though it meant re-inventing the wheel a bit, I didn’t use any of the information he’d collected, only information I’d collected myself. I steered completely clear of the Tiki Bar Review Pages, though they’d been a great initial inspiration to me in my personal search for tiki when it was new to me. When I learned that James had a book coming out, I wasn’t sure what to do: I knew the power of what a good database-driven site could do, not just for my own travel plans, but for others’, but I also didn’t want to do anything that would steal James’ thunder. In the end, I decided I couldn’t shelf Critiki, I was far too excited about it, and I’d put far too much effort into constructing it. I gave James some advance notice that Critiki was underway, so he wouldn’t feel sideswiped, and when I launched Critiki, I did everything I could to encourage folks to support James’ book. Not that it needed my help — James’ book really sells itself.

James and I became dear friends — he came to visit me in Seattle, and he showed me the sights in Chicago — and naturally our shared passion for tiki travel has formed a strong bond. As time has marched on, I continue to update Critiki on a very regular basis, and there sits James’ book, with all my other tiki books, spine uncracked. It’s a very hard temptation to resist — after all, how could a book possibly be more up my alley?!? But, I can’t take the risk that James’ hard work would influence my own research. So, I don’t use it. It’s probably silly of me.

I can’t conclusively say what’s different about James’ book vs Critiki, beyond two pretty salient points: his is paper, and much more portable; and it’s James’ voice, not mine. Multiple voices & viewpoints always make the general understanding better. Even though I haven’t read it myself, I feel very, very comfortable recommending it, and it’s great news that a new edition is coming out.

This is going to be a banner year for tiki books: I’ve already mentioned Sven Kirsten’s new Tiki Modern book, and there are two more books on their way in the coming year: Sippin’ Safari by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, and another book that I don’t think has been announced yet, so I’m going to keep quiet about it. Tiki Road Trip is due in May 2007, from Santa Monica Press.

Pictures from Thatch Sneak Preview

Filed under: News,Portland,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 12:32 am
Thatch, Portland's new tiki bar, photo by Heather Gregg
Thatch, Portland’s new tiki bar, photo by Heather Gregg
Water feature near entrance to Thatch, photo by Heather Gregg
Water feature near entrance to Thatch,
photo by Heather Gregg

Tonight there was a sneak preview of Portland’s new tiki bar thatch, an art installation party for two velvet paintings by Portland’s Pander Bros. Another sneak peek is planned tomorrow, for Tiki Central members only. Heather Gregg and Noel Henneman both uploaded photos to Critiki (psst — Critiki is always looking for more photos of tiki places!).

Owner Robert Volz hired Portland’s Bamboo Craftsman to do the bamboo construction, and it looks absolutely gorgeous in these pictures. The bamboo and decor even extends into the restrooms. The water features near the entrance do a great job of letting visitors know they’re heading into a different world when they come off the street (it’s great to see the use of clam shells).

Inside the private hut at the back, photo by Noel Henneman
Inside the private hut at the back,
photo by Noel Henneman

My one little quibble is that the pufferfish and tapa lamps, which are gorgeous, are lined up a little to neatly for my taste — I prefer a look that gives the impression of items added over time, one where there’s a sense of discovery as you see things you hadn’t seen before. That may be Robert’s way of marrying the midcentury modern booths and seating to the inherently flotsam & jetsam-driven world of tiki. It sounds like there’s more work to be done before they open though, so maybe more stuff is going up on the ceiling. Overall, the place looks really inviting.

There’s still no final word on what date Thatch will be open to the public (Saturday is not looking likely, but the opening is definitely imminent). Visit Critiki to see the all the pictures, and thanks to Heather and Noel for sharing them so quickly!

UPDATE: Thatch will be open for regular business starting next Wednesday, January 10.

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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