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What got you into it?

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What got all of you into the collecting of tiki?

When I was talking to Bong yesterday at 'Menahune' practice over a Lapu, we both agreed that we are into the history of tiki and this strange culture that has dissipated over the years. Not so much the newly produced stuff, but the stuff with history to it. Looking at a mug or a carving and saying, can you imagine where this has been and what it's gone through? Don't get me wrong though, alot of the new stuff is great too.

What originally got me into it though, was going to the thrift stores in Stockton, four years ago while I was at school. I would be finding 50's and 60's stuff real cheap and every once in a while I'd come across a mug or an ashtray from the Islander or Trader Dick's. This spurred my curiosity and got me talking to one of my design professors about it. Being a Stockton resident all his life, he told me about the Islander and invited me to his house to see his collection. Not only did he have tons of mugs but matchbooks and postcards; all kinds of stuff.

Shortly after that my girlfriend bought me a curiously puffy hardcovered book by some guy named Sven. He more or less put the pieces together for me and now, here I am, totally consumed in all this ridiculousness.

Let's here your stories.

I sort of drifted into it over a period of time, so it would be very difficult to point to a specific moment of conversion, but I do know that I first learned of Tiki culture because of Boyd Rice.

[ Edited by: KahunaMilu on 2003-03-28 16:40 ]

Well, one night (sitting in my parents hot tub) I was trying to figure out what I could get them for Christmas. They already have everything they want. I knew it had to be something unusual. I'm thinking, contemplating, meditating......swimmin' pool, hot tub, palm trees overhead, 70 degree summer night............then suddenly......inspiration...WAH LAH! TIKI! I'll get them a tiki. Next thought, where the hell do I get a tiki? Another inspiration...INTERNET......I'll get on the web. So I type in "Tikis" for my search. BINGO. Guess who comes up......BOSKO. After I met him it was all over. Now as some of you already know and as I stated before on this board, I sell his "stuff" up here. I am slowly acclimating to all that is the culture. But it's almost like going full circle realizing now (flashbacks) some of the luau's and listening to Don Ho and Quiet Village as a child. Quiet Village, a song that I just recently rediscovered. Ahhh paradise. Lastly, my parents taking me to the Tiki Room at the Mouse House, then years later taking my springoffs to The Tiki Room. I told them it was my favorite "ride", because it wasn't a ride. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

[ Edited by: jungletrader on 2003-03-28 17:16 ]


What got you into it?

The story has been repeated numerous times, seems not a month goes by without having to go over it again, what with all the new "members".

I was working in Juarez Mexico doing some preliminary recruiting for a small but fervent religious sect cum Amway distribution network. It was all very hush hush and wush wush. Met a Turkish ex-pat (REALLY should have seen that one coming) who wanted me to drive a van
across the border to El Paso. All I had to do was give the van to some Latvian chiropracter, 500 bones easy peasy, and since I was low on cash and high on low back pain, what I got to lose, eh?

Well, they have these dogs ya see, nice doggies, but persistent little cusses. Wouldn't you know it, but Fido or Sparky, whatever the damn mutt's name, decided to "mark" the van I am driving. These border agents go apeshit, I mean like they won a lottery or some such. None of them was all too concerned with my detailed story about the Latvian. Or, for that matter my "in" on some primo cleaning products that could remove all types of bad odors (which they obviously needed) and broaden their spritiual horizons. They were having none of it, my bad it seemed.

So, long story short, my court appointed evidently took the "abridged" version of Criminla Law and I got a dime on Fed trafficking charges. Not too bad, plenty of time to work on my translation of "The Simpsons" episodes into Esperanza. Unfortunately, the goverment has this real long application and vetting system for suppliers to Federal installations so I doubt I can get any commissions from cleaning product sales to this place.

Bottom line: I was framed, man, I am inn-o-cent.

Midnite tiki, so the dog pissed on your tire, federales then knew you were smuggling something (tikis) in your tires? That's what got you into the slammer? or tikis?
As for me I just cracked open a Samuel Adams.
Sure would be nice to have some tiki freaks out here tonite.

[ Edited by: jungletrader on 2003-03-28 18:08 ]

Tiki Room, Adventureland, Disneyland. No question about it.

I'd just broken off my engagement with the love of my life because I'd come to the realization that deep down, she just wasn't a very nice person. Heartbroken, for some sponteneous reason I hopped a train and went to Disneyland for a week. By myself.

So I'm moping around the happiest place on earth, and I find myself spending alot of time in Adventureland. During that week, I realized that while I'd always been more of a gothic/haunted mansion/classic horror
themed person, I really enjoyed the ambiance of adventureland in general, and especially the enchanted tiki room.

I went home from that trip with a little tiki idol, and it just slowly grew from there.

I guess if I'm going to de-lurk like this,
I'd better go make an intro post...

Kim posted on Fri, Mar 28, 2003 6:28 PM

Uhm, dude, when you know your wife reads this board, calling an ex the "love of your life" is not the most tactful thing you could have done.


I got hooked on the Enchanted Tiki Room as a kid, and having a junkie for a husband has helped me develop a fondness for the stuff.

[ Edited by: Kim on 2003-03-28 18:33 ]

Love of my life up to that point of things, within the psychological context of being a mere 18 years of age...

Oh man, am I in trouble.

I guess you can say that I was born into it in 1957. My dad was one of the many tile setters that worked on the front and back rainbows at the Hilton Hawaiian in 1957. My parents loved the islands and would go back every other year till they passed away my dad was 60 and my mom passed last year at 83.

I can remember when I was growing up in the 60’s my parents had what I would call a somewhat Tiki bar in the basement. They had Shag style prints on the knotty pine walls and some other Tiki style decoration’s spread around. Friends and neighbors would come over once or twice a mouth the blender would be whirling around mixing up frozen drinks, my dad would have that cocktail shaker shaking away. After one or two drinks everyone would head over to the Jade East in Towson for dinner and drinks. Then they all came back and partied and dance the night away.

So to me it is a way keep to my parent’s lust for life and fun alive. I never though of tiki as being hip. It is just away of life for me


[ Edited by: powerofthetiki on 2003-03-28 19:57 ]

Mr. Lucky's. What got me, the Rev Bamboo Ben's into tiki? The KEY man!!! The KEY will get you into anything, you dig Man! Peace - Out!

Ben's you've confused me with that one.

Keep 'em coming. These stories are great.


[ Edited by: Luckydesigns on 2003-03-29 00:14 ]


What's gonna get me out of it?

That IS the real question, ain't it. I don't know about you guys, but it might be cheeper for me to get hooked on crank or something than to keep this collecting up.


I remember my parents having a luau when I was 6yo., growing up in SoFla. My parents took me to the Mai Kai in Ft. Lauderdale, and that's when it started.
Heading to WDW in a week, gonna have to check out the Polynesian hotel again!

Stumbled on the Book Of Tiki in a little underground bookstore in Athens, Ga. I had a couple of mugs which I used for certain drinks which obviously served as a sparkplug once I realized there was a pop culture phenomenon behind their origin. Now, what got me into drinking? Life in general, I guess.


It was the Enchanted Tiki Room at Walt Disney World that got me started. Even though it's considered lame and outdated by most it's alway been my favorite attraction. It never grew in to a full blown tiki infatuation until I heard Martin Denny a year ago.

So here I am.

I was born in Anaheim, CA in 1968 into the hotbed of this pop culture, and spent the early half of my childhood growing up there. We were so close to Disneyland, that when we stood on the diving board for the swimming pool in my grandparent's backyard, we could see the Matterhorn. So as an kid growing up I was exposed to all the googie/space age/tiki atmosphere that surrounded the park along Harbor, Katella and West St. in the late 60s and early 70s. It's been with me ever since.

A combination of; My parents retiring in Mulege, Baja Mexico, time spent in Huntington Beach, CA and one simple word: SHAG! Yes, Josh, you are to blame most of all!


I grew up in the 60's in South Carolina - nowhere near the beach. My mom had some fishnets, driftwood, and glass floats decorating a wall in our basement. They had these friends, the Hagens (who we now call the Pagans) and Mr. Hagen seemed to always wear a smoking jacket. The Hagens had a pool in the backyard and I saw my first champagne fountain at a party at their house.
My Aunt Mimi was a drinker and liked to stir up the holidays at my grandparents house. One year she gave my teenage brothers X-rated gifts (inflatable leg, peter meter, etc) to shock the family. She also gave them memberships to the Playboy Club. Little did she know that my folks would actually GO THERE. I was 3 years old at the Atlanta Playboy club and I was fascinated. Around that same time, the family went to Greenville's only Polynesian restaurant (in a faux colonial Ramada Inn). The sheer scariness/tackiness of the decor, plus the mysterious purple glow of the pu pu platter had me hooked. I have been searching for it ever since and here I am trying to continue the lifestyle of those swinging Hagen/Pagans.


What fun you must have had growing up with such colorful characters around you ...champagne fountains, inflatable legs... my childhood somehow seems so tame in comparison ! Great story.


Welcome Luminoir! Your sig animated GIF rocks!

Grew up early '60s around grasscloth wallpaper, Danish Modern teak, African masks, and Tiki stuff, books, CoCo Joes etc. sent over by my Mom's sister from Kailua, Oahu (married to military air-traffic controller). Exotica, bossa and mambo on the hi-fi. Parents were dance teachers and party animals (though poor as churchmice, we lived in an apartment - poor but COOL).

Visited Oahu 1968-9, caught it like the FLU! Many years pass: the Book Of Tiki. Epiphany! Hawaiiana addiction becomes Tiki addiction - this helps tie it all together with more childhood memories of visiting our local Polynesian restaurant ("the Beachcomber") and other 1960s phenomena. I'm a lucky, happy boy.


OH HELL! I'll break down and ask. What is this "TIKI" I keep hearing about? Who is he? Or what is he? All you people keep on talking about this "Tiki"! OH....wait....this isn't a sewing forum? No wonder I carve sewing baskets! FUUUuuuu%#kkk.

You carve sewing baskets, too!!!! Hot damn!Now I can finally take up a "girlish" hobby!

I also grew up in Southern California so over time there were many occaisions that "Tiki" crossed my path. The annual trips to Disneyland where my favorite spot was Adventureland shooting gallery, The Jungle Cruise, and the Enchanted Tiki Room. Always bought either a Shrunken Head or A Tiki necklace to bring home. And for those old enough to remember Pacific Ocean Park in Santa Monica, there was the "South Sea Island" attraction and the huge Tikis at the entrance, "Cross a beautiful waterfall, then board a gay bannana train run by a carefree beachcomber. You'll see cannibals, monkeys, and other inhabitants of the South Sea jungles". I will try to post a picture of that postcard soon....also occaisional dinners at the Bahooka, near my Grandmother in West Covina, and noses pressed to the pink Rambler station wagon windows as we passed all the apartment Tikis along the way to the Bahooka in Rosemead. One time my parents gave me a shirt that came with a Tiki necklace...all gone now...Resurfaced about 5 years ago with a $1.00 Tiki found at a thrift store and my Mom giving me her Martin Denny Records not long after that. My wife loves this stuff too. She gave me a copy of The Book of Tiki when it came out and the search was on....

What got me into? I'm of Native American descent and am interested in and create tribal art, drums, breastplates and the like. I'm a Navy vet and I love Hawaii, the aloha spirit was like a magical force in the air and finally I like retro stuff so it was bound to happen. I went on a backpacking trip to the Sawtooth mt.s with my girlfriend a couple of years ago and we found a small man shaped rock. I christened him Camp tiki and we gave him food and drinks, he's our camp gaurdian and we always take him camping. What got me into collecting? A year ago I was thrift store shopping and found 14 mugs and S/P shakers from the 50's or 60's all shaped like tiki or moai. I did not know they were worth anything, I bought them because I dug them. I kept thinking how sad it was because some cool old cat had passed on and his kids had probably dumped his/her stuff and it seemed as though the collection should remain together. Later I found out the dollar fifty tikis were worth 20-30 bucks apiece, started looking on the internet to read about tikis and I still find great stuff in thrift stores. I like reading these stories so I decided to post my first message.
Sneaky Tiki

[ Edited by: Sneakytiki on 2003-03-31 12:16 ]


When I was a kid, my Dad always served hot chocolate in the special "hot chocholate mugs" with faces on them. Of course my sister and I loved them. They were hot chocolate mugs with weird faces on them.

In my early twenties I got into all kinds of strange music, including exotica. I also read stuff in ReSearch about exotica and Tiki culture.

Later I started buying mugs at garage sales, but had no inclination to actually "collect" them.

One day I counted up the mugs I had, and realized I had a bonafide Tiki Collection. Whoops! After that I couldn't stop.

Yes, I found the series of mugs that had previously been known only as the hot chocolate mugs at a garage sale. I know they were made by Westwood and were manufactured in the early 60s, and they are still my favorites!

Cue "schmarmy music."


I'm jealous of how many of you were actually exposed to original tiki culture as children - my folks avoided it like the plague, being early proto-hippies/musicians and such. Tiki culture and similar kitsch was part of what they were rebelling against, though I never understood why that was...

I always loved themed experiences of any kind, especially restaurants and bars, and was also exposed to and influenced by Disneyland and P.O.P., being a SoCal sprout and all.

I've said it before - Gilligan's Island was the real clincher for me. That's where I acquired my life-long bamboo fetish.

Oh, and I love booze. Strong, complicated cocktails for me! So where else was I gonna go?

Aloha...In 1950, I was born in a tiki hut in santa ana. I was raised in Manhattan Beach in grandparents home full of rattan pretzel shaped furniture, turner prints, and tikis and tales from my dad's travels of exotic islands in the merchant marine. I remember living in a 50's home with a tropical garden. It was in the early 60's, I remember going to I think a Sam's seafood at the Manhattan pier or could have been Redondo. With dinner, I would get to order a "tropical drink" of 7-up with a splash of some grenadine, and a garnish of orange and cherry, and a plastic mermaid or monkey on the side. I can remember when tiki necklaces became hot and I had a black plastic one with red eyes, same time I think pluto platters came out. Anyway My grandfather was a Navy pilot and had been assigned to Pearl Harbor during the war. Thats probably where they got the furniture. Later he was a crew member on Howard Hughes's Spruce Goose, and then a test pilot at China Lake.
Growing up in this tropical setting somehow sunk in I guess... When I was in the Air Force I visited Waikiki and some how found the Waikikian which became my place to stay. The people, drinks, lanai and lagoon, the music and feeling, its hard to explain...you felt at peace and one with the tikis there. Also as a kid in the late 60's I moved to newport, My folks had fishnets and floats hanging around all over and cocktailed pretty good making drinks with funny little umbrellas. Visting Disneyland adventureland jungle ride, and tiki room I'm sure helped brainwash me too. In the 70's I found the Bali Hai in San Diego and bought a very cool 40-50's style rattan bar thus continued my affection for tiki. Then several months ago, still thinking I was a lonely tiki freak, I find T.C. with a great bunch of people who have similar interests and likes. Thanks Tiki Central!
P.s. Remember you're not too drunk if you can lay on the floor without holding on!


I first became aware of Tiki Culture in 1995 - with issue #5 of Tiki News.

Before that I was aware of 50's googie architecture, but the only other tiki associations I had were via television: Gilligan's Island and the Brady Bunch.

The first time I visited Orlando Disney's Tiki Room was in 1984 ... and at that time I did not care for it at all. Fortunately, people do change, and when I visited the Tiki Room again in CA last year, I absolutely loved it.


all it took for me was my first trip to hala kahiki years ago, and i was completely hooked........i'll never forget that night....i was so blown away by that place, that the next day, i started looking for ANYTHING dealing with tiki at all........aint stopped since.....

Well, believe it or not, I grew up in (and still live in) the same town as Chacha. The weird little Polynesian Restaurant at the hotel is a vivid memory for me as well. So is a later Chinese one with two giant Maoi statues carved from pumice out front. Man, were they cool!

My family used to vacation on a island off of South Carolina that was one of the early ones to be completely developed as a resort community. The Clubhouse there had a Polynesian Themed Restaurant and Bar and the entire island was covered with signs bearing the image of an outrigger.

My dad was in sales and, so, spent a fair amount of time out of town. Upon his return he would always let me have the swizzle sticks he had picked up along the way. My favorites were invariably the ones with the Tikis, the Hula Girls or the Bunny Heads on top. He finally brought me my own mug from Harvey's (long gone now) when I was about 9.

Back then, of course, Children were not invited to Grown Up parties. I remember having a babysitter to watch my sister and I when my parents were just downstairs workin' the bar and hootin' it up with the neighbors. The music was always Exotica/Lounge with some Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdink mixed in, until later in the evening when Junior Walker and the All-Stars took over. The next day I'd get up to watch my cartoons and find the remains of the night before strewn around the den. The odd shaped glasses, the mounds of ash in the trays, lampshades a-kilter, the discarded poloroid film leftovers with the negative images of women in mini-dresses sitting on men's laps with drinks in their hands... I found all of it mysterious and fascinating.

Going to a restaurant with my family and eating from a flaming pu-pu platter while my mom and dad drank out of scary lookin' heads was HEAVEN!

After that, of course, came Punk Rock, the Rockabilly Revival, the ReSearch books, Betty Page... Hell, the list is miles long by now.

I guess I'm into because I was born to be.

[ Edited by: Traitor Vic on 2003-03-31 23:31 ]

Good topic.

For me, it was going to Hawaii for the first time and trying to get in touch with the true Hawaii, something more than Hilo Hattie's (although I subsequently have been to HH on 3 different islands).

It was learning about pre-contact Hawaii, about the Kapu religious system, and Kamehameha II.

Staying at the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel, with its giant Ku statue brought it all together.


Since my name is Anna, I loved "A-Frame" houses when I was little because I thought they were spelling my name. As I got older, I still loved that architecture and in relation, started loving the Tiki culture.

Adventureland at Disney World. And Gilligan's Island. Those are the two earliest tropical/exotic influences I can think from from my childhood. Then there's all the 50s/60s shows that I watched religiously as a kid (re-runs thank you very much!) that gave me that mid-century view of America. I Love Lucy, Get Smart, Dick Van Dyke Show, Twilight Zone, and on and on. So I was in love with the primitive and the sophisticated. But I didn't know the two knew each other until I read the BOT and saw those people who could have been my parents from years ago getting out of their jet-set cars, wearing suits and nice dresses and walking into a tropical tiki paradise lounge where they could let their hair down and shed their inhibitions. Discovering that was magic for me. It brought it all full circle for me and connected me both to my childhood and to my parents' generation. And now it's taken on a life of its own in my generation. It's a beautiful thing, eh?

On 2003-03-31 23:29, Traitor Vic wrote:
Back then, of course, Children were not invited to Grown Up parties. I remember having a babysitter to watch my sister and I when my parents were just downstairs workin' the bar and hootin' it up with the neighbors. The music was always Exotica/Lounge with some Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdink mixed in, until later in the evening when Junior Walker and the All-Stars took over. The next day I'd get up to watch my cartoons and find the remains of the night before strewn around the den. The odd shaped glasses, the mounds of ash in the trays, lampshades a-kilter, the discarded poloroid film leftovers with the negative images of women in mini-dresses sitting on men's laps with drinks in their hands... I found all of it mysterious and fascinating.

Boy, can I relate to that! My Dad was an Air Force fighter pilot in the 60s-70s and did they ever throw some parties! Many weekend nights I remember putting my ear to my bedroom door listening to the cocktail party going on in the living room. And the laughter. And the music (Herb Alpert, Sergio Mendes, etc). It's no wonder I love it now.


I guess I never got into it originally, rather I was raised in it. My mother Ione was a designer and decorator who loved tiki. She would take me to the LA tiki palaces before I could talk.
The Stardust Casino was her frequent weekend escape and the Aku Aku tiki resturaunt there was her favorite Vegas spot.
Trader Vic's, Don the Beachcomber, the Bamboo Room were all within a few miles of her studio in LA.
Bud (Martin V. Smith) who developed most of Ventura County, coaxed her to Oxnard where she worked on dozens of projects but her favorite was the Trade Winds built in 1964 when I was 10. Bud also loved tiki and had collected objects from his extensive travel that she used in the interior and exterior.
I got to help find items and went to Oceanic Arts and storage yards on hunting trips.

He once joked to a reporter that the only way he could display his collection was to build a place as Martha his wife, wouldn't let him display them at home. Most of the time when I went out as a child it was to a tiki palace so I assumed most places were like them.

Last summer I found Bongofurys post on the Trade Winds here on TC, Bigbro and all of you began to teach me about all of this. Tiki Central has reignited my passion for tiki. ( Still, I like to clown around at times but its all in fun. I never mean to offend anyone)

So, thats my story and its good to be a part of Tiki Central

Ojaitimo Tim

All the world is a stage and all men and women merely players, they have their entrances and exits and one man in his life plays many parts. William Shakespere

Life is a state of mind


[ Edited by: Ojaitimo 2007-01-15 13:30 ]


The tiki seed was planted when I was a kid, my uncle brought me a coco joes tiki necklace from Hawaii. I always loved Gilligan's Island too. I was so moved by Shag's art that I went to Palm Springs to a gallery showing. There I learned of Tiki Oasis. So a few weeks later I was back in Palm Springs at Tiki Oasis and I got bitten by the tiki bug hard!!!I met so many interesting,Zany, tiki loving people there that it led me here and forever changed my life.Thanks Hanford! Thanks everybody!I will never be the same.

I think, too, that more than anything else it was probably a Coco Joe's tiki necklace that I got while visiting the relatives in Hawaii in the 70's. That's where it started. I didn't have it long--because the cheap plastic string it was on snapped and the pendant vanished--but I remember wearing the thing almost continuously, and I always liked looking onto those colored jewel eyes. If it was a monster, it was of the helpful friendly type, and I thought of it as an image of strength and mysticism. But the word "tiki" was in the vocabulary very early on.

Wow! What a great thread. Maybe not. It's almost midnight on a Saturday night and I'm plowed. Too many cocktails. It's cold and snowy outside and I'm warm and toasted inside. The pursuit of Tiki is a quest for me but I don't know what I'm looking for. Escape maybe. In a post elsewhere on Tiki Central today Chongolio quoted James Michener "-- In an age of anxiety men seek a refuge. Because of some deep urge, constant throughout history, troubled men traditionally dream of islands, possibly because the smallness of an island invites the illusion that here the complexities of continental societies can be avoided, or at least controlled. This is a permanent, world-wide dream." As I close in on a half century here I find that things aren't as clear as I might have thought they would be. What got me started collecting Tiki? As a young boy I read a lot. In the late 60s and early 70s I was reading anything with travel and adventure in it. I read Kon Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl and I was totally captivated. I was too young for the Tiki lounge scene of the 1950s. I am nostalgic for something I never experienced. I am nostalgic for something that maybe never even existed but is only an ideal that can be seen in retrospect. And maybe I'm just plowed. Part of me is saying don't hit submit because no matter how smart you think you are after you've had too many cocktails, no matter how deep you think your insights are, come the cold harsh light of morning, you're going to say, "I had too much to drink last night." Ahh.. but the drunkard drones on... I think Michener hit it right on the head. I'm building my own little island. My little Tiki lounge is a place where I can retreat when all the crap weighs on me so much that I don't think I can even breathe another minute. My Tiki lounge, my island, is a place in my soul, and my collecting Tiki is an attempt at the creation of a physical manifestation of that island; or safe haven. It is an attempt to bring that piece of my soul to life in the light of day. Man, am I plowed or what? I must be almost drooling. I think I will wrap up this post, make myself one more cocktail, and slip into oblivion in front of the fireplace as the snow swirls outside...

Bought a couple of peanut man mugs here in london about 14 years ago not really knowing what they were but have always been into the 50's and 60's music and collectables.Then 10 years ago went to hawaii on our honeymoon and got a few bits there and discovered what tiki was all about at last.,from there on it was all downhill and empty wallets,usually come over the states on vacation and manage to get a load of tiki stuff but less and less every year due to the advent of ebay.Now the whole house and garden is done in tiki/south seas style.


Many seem to have gotten into it due to early exposure. The opposite for me. The aesthetic exuberance and joyful whimsy characteristic of tiki style and exotica music were totally absent where I was growing up and in the reigning ethos of our household. Like many here it seems, Gilligan's Island provoked many a pleasant daydream. I wanted to be there. Later, Hawaii Five-0 suggested that you could have your cake and eat it too -- live in a beautiful tropical island setting, wear wildly colorful clothes (even to work!) -- and enjoy all that a modern society offers. (I currently live in Arizona where we plant palm trees and wear Hawaiian shirts and kind of pretend. But Asia-Pac. has been a big part of my life.) Anyway, my entry into a kind of contemporary tiki "scene" was via thrift store record collecting. I was drawn to anything suggesting a refreshingly naive, maybe even politically incorrect, tropical/exotic fantasy world. All those Latin dance, "Tijuana Brass," Hawaiian hits, Calypso, whatever ... albums that needed rescuing. Exotica is the "Rome" to which all those roads lead, at least in my mind. I liked finding image collections of similar record collections on the internet -- the weirder the better. Of course it wasn't long before I found Tikicentral. To which, come to think of it, that "Rome" metaphor also applies nicely I think.

My Tiki experiences began when I was younger, too. Not from my parents, but my grandparents (I'm almost 40 if that helps place me for you). I was never actually cogniscent of a Tiki culture growing up, but the grand-folks definitely were. They traveled a lot, and always brought back cool stuff from the places they visited. Now, occasionally they'd bring back stuff for us, but it was always the stuff they just happened to bring back by accident that I liked. Things like swizzle sticks, and coconuts carved to look like monkeys, and neat cocktail glasses, and the like. And many of these things were tiki-related in some way.

Add to that their "porch" room in the back of the house. It was a summer room, one that was closed off during the winter but heavily used during the summer (they lived in Cleveland). The walls were almost solidly louvered windows and the furniture was all bamboo with tropical patterns on it. The carpet out there had tropical patterns, too, as I remember. And they were most certainly in the cocktail world - grandpa was a whiz with a shaker and a few bottles in front of him. This was what I grew up with when we visited by grandparents (which was pretty often).

I've also always loved shows about mysterious places, far-off lands, etc. I was a big National Geographic geek (still am). Places like Stonehenge, Egypt, etc. grabbed my attention easily. One place that I always liked to read about and see documentaries about was Easter Island. The Moai there fascinated me.

So to see places that combined the world of cocktails with those far-off places drew me in easily. Through the preponderance of Celtic festivals and the like (a Scottish one in my hometown and an Irish one in Columbus where I moved later), I was first pulled in to the Irish Pub scene, and still enjoy going to places that recall that green and pleasant land. But more recently, I've started to wander back into my own past and pulled out the cocktail culture that my grandparents enjoyed.

Upon moving to Columbus about ten years ago, I spent a lot of time getting to know the city with my grandparents (who had moved from Cleveland to Columbus 15-20 years before me). One day, in early 2000, they introduced me to this place called the Kahiki. I loved it from the moment we pulled up to it - gawked at the exterior for a while until they pulled me inside and I gawked the interior for a while, too. We were there for brunch, so I wasn't able to partake of any cocktails that day due to the puritanical Ohio drinking on Sunday laws. But the decor reawoke that love of island-type looks that I still have today.

You probably know the history of the Kahiki, but suffice to say its loss sort of ended my tiki affection for the time being, though it would rear its head occasionally during trips to Disney World, the West Coast, and the occasional odd flea market/what have you where a tiki item might be found.

I'm not sure what re-reawoke this recently, but I found myself looking around on the internet for information on the Kahiki and whether they were ever going to rebuild it, and I discovered this site as well as information on the Tropical Bistro in town (run by former staff of the Kahiki and showing off many of the decor pieces). Well, I made my way to the Bistro with my family over the weekend and fell back in love with this stuff as an adult. So now my copy of Sven Kirsten's book is on the way to me, I've been perusing my cocktails books for tropical recipes, and I've pretty much jumped back into this with both feet for a while. We'll see where it takes me, but suffice to say I'm very pleased to see this forum with its appreciation of all things mysterious and fun. I look forward to chatting with you folks!

I love these stories!

I wrote a thread about mine here:



My grandfather gave me my first tiki... The rest is history.


Here’s something a bit more specific; the very first time outside forces introduced me to Retro Music. There was exactly one time when it felt like a two-by-four hit my head with a music style radically different and way more interesting than anything I had ever heard before.

There were skirmishes before, like when the Captain Kangaroo show used to play the Perry Como version of “Faraway Places” with a photo still of Hawaii. It was weird, the whole show would stop and they’d just play the song. I think Cappy was taking a ciggy break.

Or when that band played in front of the old town hall in the summer of ’68. They had these huge black boxes on each side of the stage, the size of Volkswagens.
“Those are the speakers!” my friend pointed out.
Yup, those were speakers all right.

We climbed the back of the stage to get a better look, where we could peak over, and the whole damn town was in front of us looking at this group playing. Our ears popped up over the edge and the sound hit us. It was so loud it made everything shake. The players were right below us, way down there, dressed in slick looking tuxedoes and strumming these great looking classical-type instruments. But there were microphones everywhere and lots of power lines all over the stage and that music was the loudest thing I had ever heard.

It was JAZZ they were playing, but I didn’t know that’s what you called it. It was wild, fast, loud jazz, and we loved it instantly. Ken and I hung on, smiling down at the whole town.

Or years later, when Buddy Rich played drums on “The Lucy Show”. If you’ve seen it, you know what I mean.

But the time everything snapped, or in this case sch-wanged was…

In the last year of high school we were ordered to attend an assembly to see a live musical. It was to take place in the gymnasium, with a small music theater group doing their best to bring us a “stage production”. My friends and I were into Led Zep, AC/DC, anything hard rockish. One friend was a bit of a freak because he loved the Kinks, but we put up with his oddball ideas about music because his older sister was real cute and his dad owned a WW2 German motorcycle. I got to ride it once through a flower bed. (The bike, not the girl.)

So we were herded into the gym, sneering at the crummy painted backdrops and corniness of the whole idea of seeing a musical in this modern day and age. We were 17 years old, fer crissakes! Men of the world! We sat down right at the front, a row of us, Ben, Colin, Serge, Richard. Most of us were would-be musicians, Richard especially could play a really fast guitar, Colin is still a part time folk singer. Pros.

We were ready to be amused.

The play started and it was a bit better than we had all imagined. It was kind of funny. The actors were really giving it a heave-ho effort. It’s hard to be aloof and uninvolved when you’re right up there in the first rows. It was kind of fun.

Then SHE came out. We hadn’t noticed this actress before, I think she was the comic foil of the lead character’s girlfriend. She had said a few funny things and exited stage right in the first act.

But now she was wearing this tight, bright fire-engine red dress with killer matching lipstick. Her skirt was pretty short, and from where we sat that was just fine. I forget the plot. The music and banter had stopped, and she paused, her eyes sweeping around the whole gym. Then back to the little area right in front of her, and she looked right at us. We sat there, squirming, trying not to be obvious about looking at her great legs. She was about, what, 27? Yow. She kept looking right at us, a little smirky smile growing on her lips. It was classic theater, draw your audience in, stare ‘em in the eye, let them know something really great is about to happen.

I mean, we had been to rock concerts and all! We were seasoned!

But this lady stared us down. Then WHAM! the recorded orchestra started up these wild horn notes. We hadn’t heard a big band brass section before, let alone one that tight. The notes blared out, screeching through the school’s lousy audio system. She marched right up to the edge of front center stage in perfect time to the music, clack clack clack with these big red pumps, glancing at us to make sure we were ready, and then she started her song.

she yelled! Holy crap, she was LOUD! She was belting out these lyrics, and her whole body was bouncing up and down to the song –

"I LIKE THE THEATER… BUT NEVER GO LATE!” man, she was yelling so loud, she was spraying spit all over us front rowers! Her big red heels were slapping that stage HARD, we weren’t allowed to wear heeled shoes in the gym but she was smashing these big pumps up and down Bang! Bang! Bang! as hard as she could! Her chest, her snazzy little tummy, her rear was bouncing in time. The whole audience FROZE, the principal over there at the side of the isle, our guidance councilor sitting to our right, man they were watching this lady, their mouths were watering and their eyes did not blink! They had approved and paid for this musical – what had they got?

We froze too! What the hell was going on?

“I JUST DON’T BOTHER… WITH PEOPLE I HATE!” she shrieked, stretching upwards, her hands grabbing at an invisible wall of churning energy, her whole body arched up, her arms circling up and down, smoothing down her thighs, the dress getting shorter and shorter…

Damn she was good!

“AND SO THEY SAY,” and she posed, flipping her hips up in a grinding, sleazy, slow, frigging perfect from where we were sitting, classic burlesque move, and stopped, staring - - -

right at our principal - - -

“THE LADY IS A TRAMP!”, flinging her hair back.

Well, she plastered us against the seats. She was great. The best. That was her main song, and she did it right. A showstopper. At the end there was this big pause, and I looked across to my friends, and they all had these stupid grins on. Was Richard drooling?

Then we all cheered and applauded. Don’t know how she did it, but she was as good as the Stones. Better.

That was it. I hadda find out who wrote the song. (Rodgers & Hart, natch) There was other stuff out there, good stuff, where was it? Who was this Peggy Lee lady I kept hearing about? Les Baxter arranged what?

And who is this Basie guy?…


I went out drinking, passed out on my friends floor. Woke up with my head on a bartenders magazine saying'paradise lost: rise & fall of tiki'. Read the article and never lost interest. that was about 5 years ago.

Great stories!

I grew up as an Air Force Brat. We lived in Okinawa for 3 years when I was in 4th thru 6th grade. I have collected Japanese decor since then. I love ceramics and was doing a few things at Hickam Air Force Base Studio and happened to meet Gecko. I bought some of his mugs, made some of my own and got on this site by way of Google. I knew Gecko was a super cool guy, but was surprised to find out he was so well know to such a big audience...

I have learned a lot from hanging out with Gecko, even though I sure don't see much of him lately, that is a busy man! I am also impressed with Freddie. There are some great ideas going on there! So now I have a super tiki bar and super tiki friends. I'm so glad I got on this site, I've learned much. And it was gratifying to have a party for Wendy and Dan of DanLovesTikis and have my military friends and my artist friends and my internet friends get together. One of our military friends at the party asked where we met some of the people at the party and when my husband answered "There are her internet friends" our friend was so shocked! Of course at a later party they all were still talking about what a fun night that was!


I kinda "grew up" on tiki, when an older cousin used to slip me drinks at a Chinese restaurant. Over time I became legal, and frequented the same restaurant and partook of (more than) my share of Mai Tais. I reduced my drinking as I got older and wiser, though my love of Chinese restaurants kept them an occasional indulgence.

Then I discovered sipping rums a few years ago, and years of study and research have made me a bit of a connoisseur of the smoother rums. Very recently I started delving into cocktails and mixology, and my love of rums led me right to tiki drinks. And that led me to books by Trader Vic and Don the Beachcomber and Beachbum Berry, and the Beachbum's website led me here to Tiki Central.

And now that I'm here, I'm discovering that there's a LOT more to tiki than just the drinks. In my youth I never really appreciated the food, the culture, the knick-knacks or the mugs. But Tiki Central is changing that.

So what made me start collecting? Tiki Central.

[ Edited by: Scottes 2007-02-28 05:25 ]

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