Vintage Vacation: Rum Roaming at The Hukilau, the World’s Most Authentic Tiki Event

Posted on: Jun 3rd, 2015 By:

by S.J. Chambers101x54fb77e2
Contributing Writer

The 14th annual Hukilau shimmies and shakes this June 10-14, in Fort Lauderdale, FL, promising to be bigger and grander with new digs at the historic Hyatt Regency Pier 66. This vintage venue is celebrating its 50th anniversary as one of South Florida’s iconic hotels and features a groovy retro-tastic space-age design and rotating cocktail lounge. Last year was nearly the premier Polynesian Pop Fest’s swan song, but, Tiki fans, you are in luck! Two of the festival’s long-time attendees and lovers of the luau lifestyle refused to let the festival set sail into the great beyond, so they did what any business gentleman would do – they revived the revival and are giving means to the festival, allowing it to grow bigger and more diverse, which can be seen in this year’s highlights, listed below: 1) Shipwrecked with Mary Ann. This year’s special guest is Dawn Wells of GILLIGAN’S ISLAND, who will host a three-hour South Seas-styled cruise aboard the Lady Windridge Yacht on the waterways of Fort Lauderdale’s historic Pier 66. 2) Lounge Luau-Style! The Tiki Tower Takeover will kick happy hour up 17 notches as Tiki’s best barmen— Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (Latitude 29, New Orleans) [See ATLRetro’s Happy Hour & Supper Club feature on Berry here], Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco), Paul McGee (Lost Lake, Chicago) and Brian Miller (Tiki Mondays With Miller, New York City) — will be pouring signature drinks to loungers enjoying the rotating view over the Fort Lauderdale sky and shorelines. 3) Tiki University. Six symposiums include Disney artists Kevin & Jody (Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily), Oscar-nominated filmmaker Arthur Dong, author Domenic Priore, author Jeff Chenault, Jon Bortles and Tiki Gardener, as well as thirst-quenching explorations with guest bartenders: Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Brian Miller, Martin Cate, Paul McGee, Dean Hurst, and the Straw Hat Barmen. 4) Surf ‘n’ Tiki Tunes. Musical guests and performers: Alika Lyman Group, The Intoxicators!, Gold Dust Lounge, Pablus, Slip and the Spinouts, Kinky Waikiki, Skinny Jimmy and the Stingrays, King Kukulele, Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid, Lila Starlet, DJ James Brown’s Sweat. Special ATLRetro correspondent S. J. Chambers attended last year’s Hukilau (June 11-15, 2014) with publisher Anya Martin, and the following dispatches give a tantalizing tropical glimpse into what fest-goers can expect from this year’s Tiki haven!

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For five days, “Tikiheads” from all over the U.S., and even as far as Japan and Belgium, gathered in Ft. Lauderdale, FL at the Bahia Mar Resort for the 13th annual Hukilau which served up sunshine, camaraderie, music, symposiums and the ever-tempting Tiki cocktail. Tagged as “The World’s Most Authentic Tiki Event” and founded by Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White, Hukilau has been keeping this retro culture of Polynesian kitsch and tropical libations alive and kicking since 2002, when it sprang to life at Atlanta’s own Trader Vic’s.

The Disasternauts and a very green lady friend.

The Disasternauts and a very green lady friend.

The event ventured South in 2003, to honor the Mai Kai Restaurant. One of the last remaining original Tiki establishments, the Mai Kai serves Don the Beachcomber’s original recipes while entertaining diners with an authentic Luau floor show. Each year has always outdone the last, bringing out performers such as Robert Drasnin and Los Straitjackets, renowned artists like Swag and Bosko, and the foremost Tiki gurus like Sven Kirsten and Duda Leite. Last year’s event was no different, and of course, it was impossible to experience it all. However, our correspondents tried their darndest, so come take a peek at what they pulled from this vast Tiki sea!

We ran into artist Derek Yaniger, who designed ATLRetro's logo, in the vendors' bazaar.

We ran into artist Derek Yaniger, who designed ATLRetro’s logo, in the vendors’ bazaar.

Music and Performers While surf was king with shreds by Florida bands The Intoxicators, The Disasternauts, and Skinny Jimmy & the Stingrays, there was also an air of jazz fusion, punk and Ska coming from Miami-based Gold Dust Lounge and Atlanta’s own Grinder Nova. Les Baxter would have been proud of Belgium’s Left Arm of Buddah, who gave a heck of an exotic show that featured multiple dancers performing Arabian and Asian-influenced moves. The early days of the cocktail were represented as well by Japan’s The Sweet Hollywaiians, whose 20s and 30s-inspired sets gave Hukilau-goers a relaxing atmosphere to really deconstruct the Mai Kai Mai Tai.

angiepontani

The presence of Burlesque and Go-Go dancers kept the crowd moving.

One favored moment was seeing Angie Pontani perform. Her fun Go-Go vibe melded perfectly with the Hukilau, and her movements and demeanor reminded me of later bombshells like Bridget Bardot and Sophia Loren. She did this one thing with a scarf was reminiscent of the Marilyn Monroe photography session with Bert Stern that just completely put Salomé and her whole seven scarf shtick on notice. Seminars Alas, we did not arrive at the Hukilau in time to catch Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s symposium,  “Tiki’s Dark Ages,” which he gave at the legendary Mai Kai Restaurant, but we heard from the general chatter that the sold-out event was remarkable, and we will make sure to catch it next round. We did get our books signed by the “Beachbum” at the Cocktail Kingdom table, and got to meet Steven Yamada, co-manager and head bartender of the Beachbum’s new New Orleans Tiki restaurant Latitude 29.

Grinder Nova

Grinder Nova

I was able to catch two symposiums, Philip Greene’s “To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion,” based on his book of the same name, and “RetroRenovation.com presents: Create Your Own Suburban Savage Paradise!” Greene’s presentation began with an interesting question: Was Hemingway a Tiki guy? Sort of. He definitely shaped the associations we have between drinks and lifestyle; so much that he was one of the inspirations for the Dos Equis Most Interesting Man in the World. Why? Like Don the Beachcomber, Papa traveled the world and brought back food and cocktail recipes as souvenirs for the rest of us. He also was close friends with rumrunner Joe Russell, who was also the owner of Sloppy Joe’s in Key West, and who inspired TO HAVE AND HAVE ANOTHER. Perhaps most important to the cocktail crafting debate, he dabbled in recipe-making so much that he ruined Floridita’s Constante Daiquiri perfection—depending on who you ask—by adding another shot and cutting the sugar for what is known as the “Papa Doble.”

band

The Sweet Hollywaiians.

Greene was witty, and his slideshow presentation was filled with jewels, like a manuscript from a nine-year-old Hemingway, who even then had the mission statement of wanting to grow up to write and travel. Greene also served the audience two drinks from his book, the “Josie Russell Cocktail”, which Greene uncovered from Hemingway’s fishing log, and the infamous “Papa Doble”—both served with Papa’s Pillar Rum, a new libation from Tampa blessed by the Hemingway estate and for whom Greene is now a spokesman. “RetroRenovation.com presents: Create Your Own Suburban Savage Paradise!” was also a very fun symposium and a historical benchmark for the Hukilau. Hand-picked by Tiki Kiliki, the panel was comprised of Tiki Designer Deities Bamboo Ben, Danny Gallardo a.k.a. Tiki Diablo, U. K.’s Jamie Wilson & Anjy Cameron of Cheeky Tiki, and David Wolfe a.k.a. Basement Kahuna.

Tiki treasures abounded in the vendors' bazaar.

Tiki treasures abounded in the vendors’ bazaar.

RetroRenovation.com’s authors, Pam and Kate, were moderators of the panel, and they led the audience through beautiful examples of the various styles of Tiki (from Swiss Family Robinson to Asian-fusion) from restaurants like Mahiki by Cheekytiki to private residential dens done by RetroRenovation.com readers. To attest for the growing rise in commercial Tiki design, Anjy Cameron remarked that Cheeky Tiki has designed 21 bars in eight years, and that “the crowd is young, and they are enjoying it and it’s like going on holiday.”   The Jungle Queen Cruise On Friday, attendees wishing to take a break from the hotel were able to do so via The Jungle Queen cruise. This antique riverboat is a tourist staple at the Bahia Mar Yachting Center, and is considered one of the oldest roadside attractions in Florida. It definitely maintains that bit of kitsch, with snarky commentary on the landmark homes dotting the canal. Normally, a three-hour dinner cruise, it was truncated to an hour and half and was transformed by The Straw Men serving up welcome cocktails including Josie Russells and Witch Finders (maybe my first complex punch I’ve ever had with spices like nutmeg), and the funny ditties by King Kukulele and Crazy Al TikiMania on the coconuts. Mai KaiThe Mai Kai and Luau The centerpiece of the Hukilau is the Mai Kai Restaurant, which opened its doors in 1956 and is one of the few remaining, original Tiki restaurants. There were parties every night with bands in every room, symposiums, and of course the Saturday night dinner show featuring an authentic Luau. It really is something to be experienced. With its main window-waterfalls, nautical decor, and Polynesian artifacts, the bar felt like you were below-deck in ship quarters. gardenThere is also an impressive tropical garden with orchids and lush palm fronds flanked by flaming torches and various wooden Tiki totems. It is very easy to feel separated from the busy highway beyond the fauna. I let myself get lost, to just sip meditatively on my grog and listen to some hidden ukulele player, when I came across a group of elegant older women standing on the lagoon bridge. They were dressed in sarongs and wore blooming, dewy tropical flowers in their hair. They were talking amongst themselves, but every once in a while, they would break away, as if summoned, to dip their hands into the water. When I later learned that they were retired mermaids from the Weeki Wachee golden age, and guests of the “Cocktails and Fishtails: The Untold Story of the Porthole Cocktail Lounge” event by Vintage Roadside and Marina the Fire-Eating Mermaid, their inability to resist the water made sense and became a metaphor for the entire Hukilau experience. The word “Hukilau” refers to the traditional Hawaiian fishing festival where the community would gather to cast large nets into the sea that would ensnare a variety of fish. The celebration and feast that would follow not only nourished the community but also brought the villagers together to celebrate kinship. That is what the Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale has accomplished over its thirteen year run. It has brought together all the tiny villages from Polynesian Pop–the mermaids, the bartenders and scholars, the performers, and the collectors–to celebrate, collaborate, and corroborate on the continuation of the grand Tiki tradition.

Mai Kai Floor Show

Mai Kai Floor Show

For more information about Hyatt Pier 66 and the Hukilau (including schedule and tickets), check out the official site here. S. J. Chambers is a writer from Tallahassee, FL. When not found drafting pool-side, she is sublimity-seeking on the road, or in the air, and sometimes in a glass. She blogs irregularly atwww.selenachambers.wordpress.com. ATLRetro Managing Editor Melanie Crew also contributed to this article.

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Retro Review/Vintage Vacation: The Weird are Victorious: CUTE AND CREEPY Opens in Tallahassee, FL

Posted on: Nov 3rd, 2011 By:

Pop-surrealist/guest curator of CUTE AND CREEPY Carrie Ann Baade posed in costume besides Jessica Joslin's OTIS, bone and metal assemblage.

By S. J. Chambers
Guest Contributing Blogger

Something unprecedented happened in Tallahassee, FL, last October 14. Over 2,000 people, masked and unmasked alike, showed up at the Florida State University’s Museum of Fine Art for the opening of CUTE AND CREEPY, which runs through Nov. 20. Guest curated by FSU painting professor and pop surrealist extraordinaire Carrie Ann Baade, CUTE AND CREEPY is one of the first exhibits to look at the new surreal, grotesque and macabre dark art that is beginning to permeate popular art, and is exhibiting 25 of the most cutting edge artists working today like Kris Kuksi, Elizabeth McGrath, Jessica Joslin, Kate Clark, Kathie Olivas and Chris Mars. In addition to being the first exhibit to collect all the facets of the bizarre and strange under one museum roof, Baade explores what a “Weird” aesthetic really is, its cultural significance, and why now, as she writes in the catalog’s introduction, “is the time to revel in the macabre.”

Can you find the Diva-in-Sheep's clothing posing next to Kate Clark's mixed media sculptures?

And revel Tallahasseans did. On opening night, Professor Baade treated gallery-goers to not only art, but a dark carnival-like atmosphere where the weird, the cute and the creepy came to life and swarmed the space. There were acrobats, Goths, Steampunks and unclassifiable fabulous costumes, one of which was what I can only describe as a Were-sheep Diva. Even Professor Baade got into the spirit with a beautiful Steampunk/Surrealist vintage costume.

The FSU Fine Arts museum has never seen a crowd like this before. In fact the 2,000 attendees were four times the amount of any prior opening. At one point in the night, people were shuffling from one room to the next, gridlocked as though they were in line for Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. But this was a show that people want to return to, and throughout the gallery, people began making rendezvous to return for more quiet contemplation.

Gallery-go-ers contemplate the cute and/or creepy aspects of one of Kathie Olivas's "Misery Children."

I, for one, am not surprised at the success of this rare and intriguing exhibit. It is in line with a prominent and emerging trend in the arts. In 2010, Tim Burton’s retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art became its third most-attended show in its history (Matisse and Picasso hold rankings first and second). Then, earlier this year, the Boston Athenaeum presented a very thought-provoking exhibit on the work and genius of Edward Gorey. What better way to bookmark the year than with Florida State University’s Museum of Fine Arts fall exhibit: CUTE AND CREEPY.

S. J. Chambers is a writer and native Tallahasseean. She is co-author of THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE (Abrams Image), which was just featured on CBS SUNDAY MORNING, and the editor of THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE, VOLUME 2.0. She can be found espousing ephemeral musings on her Twitter. Meet her on Sat. Nov. 12 at The Mechanical Masquerade Presents: A Paranormal Fantasy

All Photos by S.J. Chambers.

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Vintage Vacation: Road Trips from Hell with Blast-Off Burlesque, Part 3: Barbilicious Gets Lost in Texas

Posted on: Sep 10th, 2011 By:

Barbilicious performs with LUST. Photo courtesy of Barbilicious.

With Blast-Off Burlesque’s World Tour about to take off this weekend at 7 Stages (if you haven’t bought tickets yet, book ‘em here! Only two more shows on Sat at 7:30 p.m. & 10:30 p.m.), we asked those gorgeous gals and guys about their craziest real-life travel experiences. And did they have some stories to tell—from wicked weather to dodgy directions.

In the third of this three-part series, Barbilicious was having a great time on tour with her band LUST until she headed to a rather unusual gig in Canyon, Texas…

Road Trips with my band LUST have always brought surprises, victories, defeats, and just plain weirdness. We used to take an annual West Coast Tour and go from Atlanta to the West Coast and back. A big loop that rolls down to New Orleans, then up through TX, NM, AZ and CA. Texas is a HUGE state, so in between Houston, Dallas, Austin and our favorite El Paso, there are little entertainment-starved places like Canyon, TX.

Canyon is a beautiful place located in Central TX, and cold as hell in February. After a wonderful show in Lubbock, TX, where we played for a couple of Black Metal dudes and their girlfriends in a room in a house, and had a grand tour of Buddy Holly‘s high school gym, we are looking forward to what Canyon would bring. Of course, we are pretty much broke, gas is expensive, and we need to get to the next place, so anywhere to play is always going to be better than not playing, right?

Dickie Van Dyke & Barbilicious. Photo credit: Derek Jackson.

Where’s the gig? It’s a little ambiguous, but we do have a phone number. After some phone tagging and crackly connections, we get directions. This was before smart phones and Google maps, so we get to pull out the ole’ paper one. Why that seems to be right in the middle of a State Park. Another call, wait don’t go there, go here instead. Why, that seems to be another State Park. It’s getting dark, and really cold, it’s 28 degrees, and yes, we’re playing in a State Park. Illegally.

There is more confusion, what gazebo will we be playing at? We need one with an outlet. There are no lights, the park is closed, it’s fucking freezing. After winding around the park, we finally pull up to a gazebo, where our headlights catch glimpse of a young punker pacing back and forth, all bundled up, and waiting for us to arrive.

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Vintage Vacation: Road Trips from Hell with Blast-Off Burlesque: World Tour Guest Star Jim Stacy Goes Fishing

Posted on: Sep 9th, 2011 By:

Frequent Blast-Off Burlesque Guest Star Jim Stacy whips up a seafood boil at Drive Invasion 2006. He also manages the Starlight Drive-In, owns the Palookaville corn dog food truck and stars in the PBS series GET DELICIOUS.

With Blast-Off Burlesque’s World Tour about to take off this weekend at 7 Stages (if you haven’t bought tickets yet, book ‘em here! Fri at 9 p.m., and Sat at 7:30 p.m. & 10:30 p.m.), we asked those gorgeous gals and guys about their craziest real-life travel experiences. And did they have some stories to tell—from wicked weather to dodgy directions.

In the second of this three-part series, guest star and regular show contributor Jim Stacy (GET DELICIOUS!, Palookaville, AM Gold, Starlight Drive-In, etc) goes fishing in Florida with his dad. Let’s just say the weather started getting rough and the tiny ship was tossed. If not for the courage of the fearless crew…

I was about 9 years old and my family had gone to Daytona Beach, Florida for vacation. My Father and I decided to go Deep Sea Fishing, a ritual for he and I to this day. As we got further out and started catching fish the Captain came down and said a tropical storm was coming in but should pass to the south of us. We moved a few miles further out just to make sure the storm was well away from us and continued to fish our asses off.

The storm approached land where my Mother and siblings were safe in the Beach House awaiting a fish dinner. The storm had other ideas. It bounces off the shallows and comes at a beeline back towards us.

The Captain stows all gear as green and black asshole clouds bank up on us and we run. Skeedaddle as fast as the 40-foot cabin forward fishing boat will go. The storm gets us. We hunker in the Galley as we race at a 70° up the face of a wave, to crest it, race back down and have another wave smash over the bridge.

Jim Stacy plays with the Wizard of Oz, pictured here with real Munchkin Karl Stover, Blast-Off Burlesque & other Plaza friends. Photo Credit: ATLRetro..

So the waves smash out all the Galley windows and smash the coolers full of Lunch and Dinner. A steady tide of glass, broken wood, styrofoam, ice, fish and gear wash around my ankles as I see my new Chuck Taylor’s get deeper and deeper in the storm water.

We end up being 9 hours late getting back. My frantic Mother and brothers and sister are standing at the dock.

We lost all the fish.

 

Coming Soon: Vintage Vacation: Road Trips from Hell with Blast-Off Burlesque, Part 3: Barbilicious Gets Lost in Texas.

Read Part 1: Blizzard in North Carolina here.

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Vintage Vacation: Road Trips from Hell with Blast-Off Burlesque, Part 1: Blizzard in North Carolina

Posted on: Sep 8th, 2011 By:

With Blast-Off Burlesque’s World Tour about to take off this weekend at 7 Stages (if you haven’t bought tickets yet, book ‘em here,! Fri at 9 p.m., and Sat at 7:30 p.m. & 10:30 p.m.), we asked those gorgeous gals and guys about their craziest real-life travel experiences. And did they have some stories to tell—from wicked weather to dodgy directions.

In the first of this three-part series, the entire Blast-Off gang braves a blizzard but our intrepid entertainers know the show must go on…

In January 2009, Blast-Off was heading to Asheville to put on two nights of a “best of” show at North Carolina Stage Company. We were psyched about it, because it was the first time we’d really taken the show on the road, rather than traveling to guest in other folks’ shows.

As the date approached, we kept an eye on the weather. It was January, after all. And as luck would have it, a snow – and ice – storm synched up with our travel plans. We were planning on heading up in two groups, one on Thursday evening and one Friday. The storm had a similar plan of attack.

Sadie Hawkins. Photo courtesy of Sadie Hawkins.

Barbilicious and Dickie Van Dyke were first to make the journey from Atlanta to North Carolina. They made it just ahead of the storm. Sadie Hawkins had been in Washington, DC for her day job. It was snowing there, too, and she was playing the weather delay game with Delta. Finally, a flight got through, and she made it home just as Atlanta’s weather started to get exciting. She was scheduled to drive up to Asheville with her partner – and Blast-Off’s sound man – Bryant. The goings were slow, but they made it up there in the wee hours.

Now, when team Blast-Off goes to Asheville, we stay in a cabin in the woods. Seriously. Disastrid’s mother has a rustic place at the base of a mountain, off of a curvy road and next to a babbling creek. It’s remote enough that there’s no cell service. It has power and water – and a landline phone.

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