October 20, 2010

Viva Kate!

Filed under: History,People,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 3:32 pm

It’s been a hard month. Tiki-Kate was sick for a long time, but she was so darned tough that we couldn’t help but be optimistic that she was going to eventually be okay. When we got word that her cancer was incurable, we’d hoped to still have some time with her, maybe even some great time once the chemo had left her system a bit. Sadly, it was not to be; Kate passed in only a few days.

She had enough time to do a bit of planning, and she let her wishes be known: she wanted lots of aloha wear at her memorial service, and she wanted a luau. Her family and friends gathered at her sister’s house, and we had a wonderful time sharing our joys and our sorrows and our memories.

Before Kate passed, I told her my plan to create a website for her, to be a tribute to all the wonderful things she had done for tiki. A great big celebration, a great big going away present. She got to hear about it, but she didn’t get to see it. I’m utterly crushed about that.

This has been pretty difficult. It’s hard to code when you want to cry. But it helped a lot, too… I spent a lot of time luxuriating in the wonderful Kateness still left in the world.

Here it is… a celebration of Tiki-Kate, called Viva Kate!*

Viva Kate!Viva Kate! A celebration of Katherine “Tiki-Kate” Simmons

Kate was particular about getting facts right, and boy did I love that about her. Personally, I would love for her to become a larger-than-life figure, a Paul Bunyan of tiki (and I’ve already seen some of that happening)… but on Viva Kate, I want the facts. It makes it feel more like it’s her site that way. I’ve had some assistance already with some corrections, but I’d love it if anyone out there could help me if they see anything that isn’t quite right, or if there’s anything that’s been left out that should really be included.

Time will trundle on, and new people will encounter the information that only exists because Tiki-Kate put it out there. I hope Viva Kate will help them understand where it came from; that this wonderful woman—who didn’t even know them—wanted to share a bit of beauty with them.

Mahalo, Tiki-Kate! I miss you too, too much.

* I originally wanted to call the site “Tiki-Kate, Fuck Yeah!” But that didn’t seem quite right… she said “fudge” a lot, but I don’t know that I ever heard her swear quite that readily. So maybe “Tiki-Kate, Fudge Yeah!” is the sort of unofficial alternate name.

September 22, 2010

Aloha Oe, Tiki-Kate

Filed under: People,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 3:07 pm

I lost my Ooga-Mooga better half today. Tiki-Kate passed away around noon. I got to see her, hold her, tell her I love her this past Saturday. I have much to say about Kate, but right this moment, I’m too wrecked. But I am going to put on my brightest aloha wear, because she told me that’s what she wanted.

Mahalo nui loa for everything, my darling Kate.

September 12, 2010

Trader Vic’s Emeryville: The Decor

Filed under: News,San Francisco,Tiki,Trader Vic's — Humuhumu @ 10:29 pm

The decor at Trader Vic’s Emeryville was only about half-completed during my preview, but it already looks and sounds like there will be a lot to love. The fundamental footprint of the space is not changing, and much from the old restaurant remains in place and untouched including a number of tikis, matting, bamboo, and tile dividers. The sun was shining brightly and there were no window coverings up yet, so these aren’t beauty shots, but you can get a general idea where things are headed in Emeryville.

The designers of the space are Image Three Events. They specialize in dramatic decor for special events (including lots of work in Vegas). Robert Gonas from Image Three told me that one of his inspirations for the space was his memory of being taken to a crazy, over-the-top Polynesian restaurant when he was about six years old, somewhere near Fort Lauderdale. That’s right: the designer was warped at a young age by the Mai-Kai. You can probably imagine his thrill at learning that it still exists today!

The new layout of the entry

The Entry
Before, upon entering there was a host stand directly in front of you, and a cabinet of items for sale to the left along with an entry into a back office. The hostess stand has been shifted to the right side of the hallway (where host staff will no longer get hit with gusts of cold air from the front door). The cabinet on the left has been removed and the office entrance relocated to the hallway side, to increase bar seating. Your first view is now of the bartenders at work, and the addition of a large porthole allows you to see clear through the restaurant to the water outside.

This is the last you’ll see of the white ceiling

The Bar

Marquesan tiki
An old friend greets you in the bar

The space has been expanded: the service bar is being moved to the opposite end of the bar (where the hostess stand used to be), freeing up that space to be a hallway for patrons to move about the restaurant. At the back side of the bar area there used to be the private Puka Room; this is now opened up to be part of the bar. The standing rail that ran parallel to the bar has been removed to increase flow in the room. There will be a mix of tall and short tables in the space, to let everyone see the great view of the marina.

They’re getting rid of the dreadful white ceiling in the bar! The ceiling will instead be covered with rich bac bac matting (which is similar to lauhala matting, with a finer weave and deeper brown tones). Lots more items will be added to clutter up the ceiling, including some light fixtures that were in Hinky Dinks. The curvy koa wood bar itself made its debut before the closure, and came out of the Trader Vic’s location in Osaka. The walls are covered with a variety of different tapa cloth pieces, and there are framed prints of vintage Trader Vic’s artwork on the walls.

Vintage Trader Vic’s artwork, including the Shingle Stain & Tortuga chalk drawings
My favorite of the three Leetegs

I believe these were in the new SF location?

A very exciting addition is the presence of three original Leeteg black velvet wahine paintings, which have been in the Bergeron family for years. They are absolutely stunning. Right now, they are hung in the former Puka Room, but they may be moved to another location to better protect them from sunlight.

A bit of sad news: the plans currently call for three televisions in the bar, which is a terrible shame in a space that is otherwise so lovely (and with that view!). Who would stand in this room and think to themselves, “Hmm… what’s really is missing is ESPN2 and someone hawking 5.6% APR on a new SUV”? I cannot understand how the televisions could possibly add to, rather than subtract from, the experience, and can only hope that they have the mercy to keep them turned off unless someone is actually begging to see something.

Lots of tikis in the main dining room

The Dining Rooms: The Palm Court (a.k.a. Tiki Room) and the Outrigger Room


Ken from Image Three

New carpet

The layout of these rooms is mostly the same, but a divider has been added between them in the form of a tall bamboo wall encrusted with tikis. This allows the Outrigger Room to be used as a semi-private space for large groups. The carpet in these rooms is a wildly-colored tapa-esque design (another design created by Image Three was taking too long in production, but will be used in the London location). The original ceiling is staying exactly as it was: the colors for the room were selected to complement the existing painted details on the beams.

The tikis that were there remain and more have been added, including a Marquesan from the San Francisco Golden Gate location, and a Barney West moai that was most recently in the Berlin location. The back hallway is lined with Papua New Guinea masks (similar to that great wall of masks at San Francisco Golden Gate), with some of them back-lit. When I was there, a sizable stash of Papua New Guinea items was awaiting final placement.

The Outrigger Room (two large outriggers are outside the picture frame)
More tikis line the hallway along the dining rooms
Original metal tiles fence-in the Outrigger Room
Papua New Guinea masks along the back hallway
The main hallway, plus the new hallway into the bar
Papua New Guinea canoe in the Captain Cook Room

The Captain Cook Room, The Office and The Captain’s Cabin


The Office

The changes in the private banquet rooms are minor: mainly a bit of freshening up, and rotating some of decorations. In particular, the display window in the Captain Cook Room has a massive canoe and a headdress added, and it looks just perfect. The massive shell chandelier remains, but the matching wall sconces are gone (thought I didn’t notice until someone pointed it out, so I guess I don’t miss them).



The Exterior
Looks exactly the same.

Since the redecorating was only half-done, I can’t be sure how it will all come together, but it looks very promising, doesn’t it? Coming soon: my thoughts on the food and drinks at the updated Trader Vic’s Emeryville.

Trader Vic’s Emeryville Sneak Peek:

Related Links:

September 11, 2010

Trader Vic’s Emeryville: A New Hope

Filed under: News,San Francisco,Tiki,Trader Vic's — Humuhumu @ 4:56 pm
Looking into the Outrigger Room from the back hallwayLooking into the Outrigger Room from the back hallway

This past Thursday, I got to have an early look at the newly updated Trader Vic’s in Emeryville. There’s a lot to talk about, so I’m breaking this up into a few posts. I know you’re dying for pictures, and more are on their way, along with a whole mess of details. But first, my more free-form thoughts about the state of affairs in Emeryville. (In case you missed it, here are a few of my pictures from Twitter to whet your appetite.)

In many ways the Trader Vic’s in Emeryville is the heart of the Bay Area tiki scene, and is certainly the heart of the Trader Vic’s organization. Tonga Room may be older, but the sense of tradition is stronger in Emeryville.

“Tradition” is exactly what has been Trader Vic’s challenge. What to keep, what to change, what to let go? It’s easy to think that we’d like Trader Vic’s and other historic locations to stay trapped in amber, but do we want museum pieces? Or do we want stirring experiences?

Everyone says we’re out of date! We need to get with the times! And no wonder, this place looks like a dust-filled attic! It’s easy to imagine this has been the line of thinking at Trader Vic’s. Case in point: when Trader Vic’s returned to San Francisco in 2004 they tried to attract their same old fine dining audience by offering essentially the same menu of food and drinks (with some flavor tweaks for modern palates). Operation Modernize seemed mostly about the decor, which was simplified, more open and airy, and generically tropical (right down to the bizarre Latin music).

It didn’t work. I’d love to blame the loss of that old-style Polynesian Pop goodness, but that wasn’t really the problem; tiki buffs are not enough to keep Trader Vic’s afloat alone. The problem was that they updated the wrong thing. The competition for restaurant dollars was far too stiff. Extraordinary and world-renowned restaurants are liberally peppered throughout the city, and offered amazing meals for about the same price. Less expensive restaurants of every ethnic stripe bring the exotic within arm’s reach. Choosing to eat dinner at Trader Vic’s simply didn’t make sense.

But while Trader Vic’s has had some very obvious stumbles in recent years, it turns out it has not been for naught. They’ve been paying attention, they’ve been learning. They’ve realized that the big thing that needs to change, the one thing that needs updating, is the food. Not the taste, mind you: those Chinese ovens turn out some lovely meats. But the model. Smaller portions, less stodgy, less expensive, more… with it.

Carved panelA new carved panel sliding door for the Captain Cook room

They seem to have figured out that the old decor wasn’t repelling people, it was the old food. And if the decor wasn’t repelling people, why change it into something that definitely will repel the folks who do like you? So they seem to have knocked that off.

Here’s a simple example that demonstrates how this change of thinking manifests at Trader Vic’s Emeryville: the tables no longer have linen tablecloths. Does that seem like a shame? It’s not, trust me. You’re not going to miss that fussy, stiff, bland expanse of white on your table one bit, because you’ll be eating on gorgeous koa wood instead. The tables are new, but they look straight out of a great old golden-era Polynesian restaurant.

I have so much more to say… so, so much more. I’ll be back soon with lots of details about the food offerings, the drinks, and lots of great news about the decor. And plenty of photographs!

September 9, 2010

A Sneak Peek at the Renovated Trader Vic’s Emeryville

Filed under: News,San Francisco,Tiki,Trader Vic's — Humuhumu @ 3:00 pm

Trader Vic’s in Emeryville is scheduled to reopen on September 28, but I’ll be getting a sneak preview today starting around 4 p.m., and of course I’m sharing it with you! I’ll be posting photos to my Twitter account (here’s a handy link straight to my Twittered photos on Twitpic), and I’ll have some nicer photos from a proper camera tomorrow. I’ll also share my impressions of the updated food menu.

Stay tuned to my Twitter feed!

August 31, 2010

Humu Kon Tiki Readers Share Memories of the Waikikian

Filed under: Hawaii,History,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 11:27 am
From the collection of Tim Haack, via Critiki

A July 2006 Humu Kon Tiki post about a postcard I’d found from the Waikikian Hotel has something special happening in the comments section. Every few months (including just a few days ago) someone posts a memory about their own time spent at this historic hotel. They are enchanting to read, and a stirring reminder of the deep impact tropical experiences can have on people:

Judy Hall, August 23rd, 2006:

I cried the day that I heard they were tearing down the Waikikian. To me this was the most interesting hotel in all of Honolulu…..the most historic looking.

The lounge was the best place to hear the locals sing and sip mai-tais.

The world is a sadder place for it’s loss…..all those young lovers looking for a truly romantic place.

I’ll be eternally grateful for this postcard that you published for all of us.

Regards,
Judy

Corey Pruden, October 6th, 2006:

I grew up at the Waikikian. Every year (sometimes two and three times a year) my grandparents, Midge and Richard, would bring my twin sister, Candice, and myself to The WAikikian where we would get our towels at the lagoon from Turkey, eat banana muffins and french toast with coconut syrup at the Tahitian Lanai, and walk down Waikiki to surf or just hang in front of the Rainbow Hilton swimming to the reef or catching crabs near the helicopter pad. I’m taking my kids there next month and will probably cry at all of the changes!!

Nick, November 27th, 2007:

I stayed 10 days at the Waikikian in January 1962, my first visit to Hawaii, which triggered a love affair between me and the islands. I’ve been back 7 times since then, sparked by that memorable stay, but Waikiki has changed. There were fewer hotels then, but now it’s a concrete jungle. My 2nd visit was 32 years later in 1994 when the Waikikian was still around, and although I didn’t stay there I went there for breakfast poolside a couple of times, when they served their famous Eggs Benedict, spicy Portuguese Sausage, and Hash Browns made from scratch. A couple of years later, I saw them pull down that hiotel and I could have wept. Such is progress!

Back in 1962, my self-contained room, literally surrounded by tropical plantlife, was at ground level, and every evening at dusk while enjoying a drink on my lanai, a Hawaiian lady in a muu-muu would come around playing a ukelele and softly singing Hawaiian songs. And every evening I found a scented plumeria blossom on my pillow.

I particularly remember the Piano Bar, and the pianist who, I think, was blind.

Much water under the bridge since then.

The Waikikian was filmed in the movie titled “And the Sea Will Tell,” about a real murder that took place on Palmyra Island.

And what can I say about the Waikikian’s fabulous “sail” roof that covered the entrance lobby where one checked in.

That was the real Hawaii to me. Now, Waikiki seems to be losing its identity, its Hawaiianness. For newcomers, it may seem Hawaiian, but to me, who saw it before Waikiki fell victim to land developers, it will never be the same.

Honolulu Airport back in 1962 comprised several quonset huts where Customs check our baggage on trestle tables. Now, Honolulu International Airport is a large sprawl.

Despite this, I have gone back almost every other year since I retired. I can’t seem to stay away. Call of the islands, I guess.

The Waikikian’s famous lobby, from the collection of Mimi Payne at Arkiva Tropika

Marsha Lever, May 7th, 2009:

I stayed at the Waikikian my honeymoon in 1972. I remember so well the authenticity of the polynesian architecture. There was a little flower shop in the corner of the lobby and a woman sat and strung plumeria leis. I would buy a bunch of gardenias every day, open them in a sink of warm water and put them in my hair every night. What a romantic I am and what a romantic place it was. I am so sorry that it has been torn down. A precious part of Oahu is gone for ever. Too bad.

Mike Nervik, July 4th, 2009:

My dad worked for TWA and took us to the Waikikian during my senior year in high school (1970)..remember a steak and shake joint across the street…the Ala Moana shopping center, riding a rental bicycle up into the preserve and getting lost…remember the Lania rooms and the lagoon…so sad its gone

paula, September 17th, 2009:

My parents took me annually to the Waikikiian hotel on vacation for over a decade where my sisters & I learned the “hukilau” hula…words and all from Aunt Tillie & Mary who sang & played the ukulele nightly. They took the time to write words to several songs for us to take home one year. In 1981, we moved to Waikiki, where we lived just next door & went to the restaurant & bar almost daily. I missed Uku, the green parrot who greeted me until someone stole him. I miss my “hukilau ladies.” I miss Marian who played the piano in the evenings. I miss the bartenders…Hannibal, Danny, Larry & Tony. I miss the bold welcome & unconditional acceptance by all when we entered the “TL” (which the locals affectionately named the bar). My last trip to Honolulu was in 1994…before the Waikikian closed. I graduated high school in 1987 & always found a reason & the money to return to the place I called home…until the Waikikian closed. A large piece of my past has gone with the Waikikian. My heart still aches & my tears still fall whenever I think of the wonderful piece of paradise that is no longer. One thing is certain. I have my memories, my pictures & my videos, but I will never stay at a greedy Hilton hotel again.

Poolside at the Tahitian Lanai, from the collection of Mimi Payne at Arkiva Tropika

Kele, April 20th, 2010:

The Waikikian was the best! I only saw it in person one night, a wonderful evening in late July 1994. We ate poolside at the Tahitian Lanai and spent a wonderful few hours singing in the piano bar with the regulars. When the staff told me the story of how there had been plans to close the place up before but they were still holding on & just barely at that, I felt that the Waikikian & Tahitian Lanai had held on & waited for me. It wasn’t til just a couple years ago that I found out the rest of the story.

I search on the internet nearly every day looking for more info/pics/memories. Hearing from Paula’s previous post, gives me hope to carry on, she has ‘memories, pictures & videos.’ I would absolutely love to be fortunate enough to glimpse those & other tokens of what I consider one of the most magical places in the world.

Lisa, August 19th, 2010:

I,too will miss this little piece of paradise. It was unpretentious, lush and lovely. The people there were amazing, and although we did not spend much to stay there, we were treated as though a fortune was spent. We had mimosas ready at check-in and flowers on the pillows at night. Every morning I ate coconut waffles with coconut syrup and Kona coffee outside.

It was my first and only trip to Hawaii. I loved it so much I cried when I left. I wanted to stay there with the local friends we met forever.
When I heard of its plans for demolition, I was and still am, saddened. There never will be another place like it.

Carla, August 23rd, 2010:

My husband and I stayed at the Waikikian on our Honeymoom the day that we were married in September of 1961…almost 50 years ago.

When we arrived, there were orchids all over the bed and around the room. In the lobby, there was a pineapple juice machine for all to enjoy. And the talking parrot in the round cage.

THe Tahitian Lanai resturant was a favorite of many in Honolulu and of ours too. Every evening, they lit the torches around the hotel.

Out beyond, was the wonderful lagoon full of fish.

I cherish the postcard that I have kept as a rememberance.

Wonderful memories and still married to the same man, my highschool sweetheart!

Reading the post, above, brings to mind the hula dancers who met each airplane that arrived. THey danced on a wood platform in fromt of the quonset hut
All that remains now is the Waikikian name on the Hilton. I am happy for that!

Ahhhhh… can’t you just picture it now? Mahalo nui loa to all who have allowed us to live vicariously through them for a moment, by sharing their memories here.

I will echo Kele’s sentiment above: I would love to see more of people’s photographs and memorabilia from the Waikikian! If you have items to share, please please pretty please consider sharing them via Critiki’s pages for the Waikikian and the Tahitian Lanai. Critiki is Humu Kon Tiki’s sister site, a not-for-profit archive of tiki locations. Any images you can add to the archive are always greatly appreciated—not just by me, but by all other lovers of these pieces of Polynesian paradise.

August 30, 2010

New Syrups from Trader Tiki: Ginger and Falernum

Filed under: Drinks,Seattle,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 4:32 pm
An assortment of Trader Tiki syrups

Anyone who’s cracked the spine on a Beachbum Berry book has quickly recognized that your typical home bar setup will not be sufficient to tackle most of the drinks… some Special Ingredients are called for. That has meant a lot of hunting, searching, begging, pleading, and ultimately, cooking. It’s not uncommon to peek into the refrigerators of my friends and see a whole half shelf staffed with the cold soldiers of our War Against Lackluster Cocktails: cinnamon syrup, vanilla syrup, passion fruit syrup, grenadine, and more.

Thankfully, our dear friend Trader Tiki has made things a whole heck of a lot easier. Now all these amazing syrups are available from one source, and reasonably priced to boot. Another nice thing about using his syrups is that you can count on the quality—they’re all free of high fructose corn syrup, and are packed with the bright, vibrant flavor these recipes require. In our house, we also use his syrups for flavoring our morning coffee, and as syrup for our pancakes.

He’s steadily been expanding his line, and the most recent additions are shipping this week: Ginger and Falernum. His syrups are available in a number of stores; here in San Francisco, I’ve been able to buy the syrups at Cask. You can also buy them direct from Trader Tiki via his website, or you can pester your own local store to start stocking them.

August 29, 2010

Hey La, Hey La, My Gecko’s Back

Filed under: Art,People,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 9:53 am
My beloved Gecko tiki has returned home!

In 2002, the artist Gecko was so excited about having recently joined the Tiki Central community that he offered to create a limited edition Tangaroa wall panel for anyone at Tiki Central who wanted one. It was offered at a very generous price for such a large panel: only $60. It would become the first of many limited edition artworks from Gecko (back then, a limited edition of 50 items of anything would sell out in weeks, not minutes), and it generated not only a flurry of interest, but also some very good aloha feelings.

I will put your usernames on them to make them special. So when we grow old and gray or gone [through] the Tikigates of heaven our next [Tikiphiles] will be collecting our wall panels and saying “WOW! Do you see that old TC edition wall panel of Kokomo Tikibar&Grill on ebay”!

- Gecko, Sept. 2002, Tiki Central

Gecko had been carving for several years when he joined Tiki Central, and shortly after making these wall panels he was able to focus on art full-time with Gecko’z South Sea Art. In addition to carving, he now creates beautiful tiki mugs and other ceramic pieces.

I loved my Gecko tiki (#18 of 50), and gave it center stage in my home tiki bar at the time, the Humuhumu Room (the source of my name). When I moved away from Seattle in 2003, I was worried about how it would fare in the storage container, and there wasn’t room for it in my Miata. My dear friend Mimi has held onto it for me all this time. Now that I have room for another home tiki bar, it has returned to me, Modesty Tapa and all!

August 28, 2010

Polynesian Fabric Designs by Sophista-tiki

Filed under: Art,Shopping,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 11:28 am
Marquesan Delight, by Sophista-tiki

Seattle-based artist Dawn Frasier, a.k.a. Sophista-tiki, has designed some lush Polynesian-inspired fabrics, available for purchase through Spoonflower. There are currently seven designs available, and more designs are under consideration for the future. Her style reminds me of the beautiful watercolor backgrounds created for Lilo & Stitch.

Spoonflower provides the fabrics in a number of different Lose Weight Exercises and sizes, and sample swatches can be had for $5.

August 27, 2010

Ozzie & Harriet’s Fancy Luau with Harry Owens

Filed under: Hawaii,History,People,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 10:27 am

Oh dear… I haven’t spent much time watching Ozzie & Harriet, but based on this 1957 clip I’d say they sure earned that reputation for corniness. If ever there was a party that needed its punch spiked, it’s this weirdly stiff affair.

Thank goodness someone thought to invite Harry Owens to the party. Harry Owens was the bandleader at the legendary Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki, starting in 1934. He had a big role in developing the hapa haole sound that defined “Hawaiian” music for at least a generation, and he enjoyed introducing tourists from the mainland with aspects of traditional Hawaiian culture. He plays that role in this clip, too, by sprinkling the luau with Hawaiian fun facts. It’s a treat to see him in action, and the outfits are pretty covet-worthy, too.

Mahalo to Murph for the tip!


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About Humuhumu
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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