Posted on September 25th, 2009 1 comment
It was a beautiful day in downtown Hollywood, Florida where I work. Sun shining, puffy white clouds, not too crazy hot. So I decided to take my trusty Instamatic Camera (not really, it’s a digital camera) and head down to the happinin’ section of Hollywood Boulevard.
Hollywood was founded in 1925 by a visionary named Joseph Young who wanted to build his dream city in Florida. It quickly became a thriving city, with beachfront hotels, beautiful homes, and a busy downtown area. This downtown was first built up in the mid to late 20s, with some slowing during the depression and WW2. It found a resurgence in the 50s, as many vacation spots did, and had a building boom through the 60s. This history led to a unique combination of early Art Deco construction, Spanish-Floridian construction, and Mid-Century Modern.
It’s amazing that these buildings were able to survive through the architectual vacuum of the 70s and 80s, but some managed to hang on with their original look intact. The late 90s saw a re-popularization of the original styles, and luckily the popularization has remained through the present leading to numerous restorations, retro-refitting of more recent dull buildings, and dig this…brand new construction in the Art Deco and Mid-Century style. Seriously. (continued after the slide show)
I was able to get some very nice shots of the Art Deco and Mid-Century Modern buildings along the boulevard. One of my favorite buildings is the Great Southern Hotel, located on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Young’s Circle. I believe Young himself had this hotel built as part of the city plan back in the mid 20′s. It has a sort of Florida-Spanish style combined with that 1920s pre-Deco look you see in a lot of shore towns. What the hell do I mean by that? Basically it means simplicity, symmetry, and terra cotta.
There are a good number of trendy nightclubs and cafés along the boulevard, and most of them have stuck with the retro look. It’s nice to see people taking these historic styles seriously, and appreciating them for the timeless beauty they portray.
Funny story about The Great Southern hotel. When we first moved to Florida in 2000, my wife and I took a drive to Hollywood to check it out. At that time it was in a state of change; a lot of stores were vacant, and still looked like they did in the 70s. I noticed the big white hotel on the corner, and thought to myself that it looked really familiar, but couldn’t place it. Mind you this is the first trip I ever took to Hollywood. Anyway, a few years later in 2005, I end up working in a building on Hollywood Boulevard a couple of blocks from downtown. While there I picked up a local paper, which happened to have a story about “The Great Southern Hotel” on the cover. The story was about how the owners wanted to tear it apart to put up a parking garage, how the city didn’t see anything wrong with that, and how the historical society was about ready to commit murder if necessary before letting that happen. The name rung a bell…but I still couldn’t catch it. Then one day it came to me…where I’d seen that name. It was in a movie, which I ran out and bought right away.
There it was, in one of the last scenes of Midnight Cowboy from 1967. Joe Buck and Ratzo Rizzo are headed down to Miami on a bus. The bus stops for a break, and Joe Buck ditches his cowboy outfit and boots for a Hawaiian shirt. As he shoves the boots into a trash can, you can clearly see a giant white building with the name “Great Southern Hotel” in giant letters in the background. That was it; a scene in a movie I had seen when I was about 13 had stuck in my head for years…and as fate would have it, I wind up working down the street from the place. But here’s what’s even more interesting: One of the themes of the movie is that the characters want to get out of the city, out of the cold, away from the freaks up north and down to sunny Florida where the palm trees sway and you can pick the oranges right off the trees. Well, my father and I used to joke around about it all the time, that we had the same dream. Finally, in 2000, he, my wife and I made it down here. “Everybody’s Talkin’ at Me” from the movie was going through my head as we crossed the Georgia border into Florida. The sun actually was shining through the pouring rain as we drove down I-95 into Fort Lauderdale. My father, who was very sick at the time, made it down right behind us, but unlike Ratzo lived a few years to enjoy it. Whenever I see the Great Southern I think of him, and how we both got our dream to come true.
Posted on September 23rd, 2009 2 comments
I know, I know, I have a kookie tendency to brag about how glorious the weather here really is. Well, as that swinger Kid Rock would say, ‘it ain’t braggin’ (buddy) if you back it up’. Aside from a few nasty hurricanes, our weather is some of the hippest on the planet.
Today I’m looking out my office window at the Hollywood/Aventura skyline. There’s some puffy white clouds, and a slight breeze is giving the palm trees a nice riff to dance to. To the west, over the Everglades, the daily storm clouds are getting together for cocktails before sliding over to the coast for an afternoon wash. Mostly, they’ll hang out for about a half an hour, then they’ll lazily make their way across the coast until they hit the beach and dive into the Atlantic. Then everything cools down, inviting the night. Can you dig it? I sure as hell can.
In my other life, back in the Philly/South Jersey area, I’d be looking out my window lamenting the last few days of decent weather before the long, koooold wintertime. The air is already turning crisp up north – and hey, I can groove to a little cold air around Halloween and Christmas, but the thought of nine months of icy cold wind biting my ears off used to really get me down. And I mean way down, lowest of lows. I had to skip that town, come down to where the sun keeps shining through the pouring rain, where the weather suits my clothes.
Now at this time of year, I look forward to the winter…8 months of warm, mild, dry days with plenty of sunshine and nights cool enough to wear a nice sport jacket and fedora. This is the best time to live the Tiki good life in SoFla. Drinks at the outdoor Tiki Bar, picnics under the palms at the park, air perfect for strolling down Hollywood Boulevard or Las Olas or any of a thousand other hot spots along the coast.
Maybe tonight I’ll pull the hot rod out of the garage and tinker with her a little. Or maybe sit out on the lanai and blow some riffs on the tenor sax. Or just sit outside for some Tiki Lounge Talk with my wife Colleen. Or maybe we’ll go down to the Thunderbird Drive-In (now the Swap Shop Drive-In), put the ragtop down on the convertible and watch a scary movie, just like kids were doing 50 years ago.
I would be remiss not to mention the birthday of the late, great John Coltrane, born September 23, 1926. I’m not going to give you a bio or rundown of his charts; you can Google the kat and find a thousand sites that can do that better than I. What I will lay down for you is this: The man took chances, pushed hard, real hard. He mastered the horn and the styles of jazz popular at the time he was playing, then got together with some smooth kats and invented a few new things altogether. Not everyone was hip to the craziness of Free Jazz, but those who dug it, dug it deep. That same man could honk for hours at a time and never play the same riff twice, or could play sweet on ballads and cool on the laid back stuff. A true revolutionary. If you’ve never grooved to Trane and need a start, try listening to Impressions or A Love Supreme for the fast stuff, Star Dust for a ballad, and My Favorite Things for the mid range.
Posted on September 22nd, 2009 No comments
Tube amps, 45 RPM records and ’63 Imperial Convertibles are swell, but you can’t kick when technology hands you a new toy to play with. Since the advent of ‘teh interwebs’ kats like I have had a ton of new gizmos to knock around with, virtually. Just being able to lay my riffs on you kids is something I never even dreamed about back in the day. But here we are, you and me rapping about the Tiki bar and the retro good life. And those techno-wizards out there have laid another little toy on us to make life a bit more fun…
Now you can get an email every time there’s a new post on Tiki Lounge Talk! Just enter your info in the form on the sidebar. Don’t worry, I promise I won’t spam you or sell your email to some kookie company that’ll try to sell you ringtones. Just a good old-fashioned heads-up whenever there’s a new post.
Thanks to all of you for tuning in to Tiki Talk. I have a lot of fun writing this jazz, and hope you have fun reading it! Remember, comments always welcome and you don’t have to be a registered user to comment.
Posted on September 21st, 2009 No comments
A while ago I came across this video of the Count Basie Orchestra playing Corner Pocket back in 1962. If there is such thing as big band jazz perfection, this is it. Basie’s band was known for it’s exceptional combination of virtuosity and soul. This version of Corner Pocket illuminates both.
I had the pleasure of playing lead tenor sax + solo on this arrangement in my college big band. Although nowhere near as swingin’ as Basie’s band, I’ll always be happy and proud to have swung this number in that college band.
Sit back, pour a Manhattan, and take five to enjoy this: The Count Basie Orchestra swinging Corner Pocket (Until I Met You)
Posted on September 19th, 2009 1 comment
Of all the cockeyed, crazy things ye may come across whilst transversing the seven seas, Talk Like a Pirate Day is bound to be one ye favorites. For today, fellow scallywags, ye be blessed with calm seas, a fair wind, and all the grog ye can drink!
There ain’t much to be sayin’ about this day. It was started by a couple of pirates many years ago, and has grown into a phenomenon that reaches the four corners of the globe. If ye wantin’ to be learnin’ about it all, navigate to their web cove at http://www.talklikeapirate.com/piratehome.html.
Some of us have had a bit of Pirate blood in us since we were wee little tykes. In fact, there be a sign on my Tiki Bar that my dear ole dad made for me way back in the 70s…Pirate’s Cove. And I’m probably the only sailor in South Florida who has a pirate ship docked at his front door! But I digress. it’s time ye should talk like a pirate today, wear an eyepatch, and drink lots of rum at ye tiki bar. ARRRR!
Here are some Rum Recipes to get your Pirate day going…
1 1/2 oz Rum
1/2 oz. sweet Vermouth
Juice of 1/4 Orange
Juice of 1/4 Lime
Shake with ice and straaaain into ye old fashioned glass over ice cubes. Add a slice of Orange as a gaaaarnish.
The Drunken Wench
1 Shot Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum
1 Shot Meyers Dark Rum
1 Shot Malibu Coconut Rum
1/2 Shot Maraschino Cherry Juice (Or Grenadine)
Mix the rums and the Cherry Juice in a shaker with ice. Shake it and pour into a large glass (Hurricane glass or one of those big Tiki jobs) filled with ice. Top it off with Coke. Garnish with a couple of cherries, and more fruit if you want. If you’re a land lubber, add more Coke. To make it a Dead Wench, add a 151 Floater.
1 1/2 oz Rum
1/2 oz. Brandy
1/2 oz Dry Gin
1 oz Orange Juice
1 1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1 1/2 Tspn Orgeat Syrup
Shake it all up in ye shaker and pour over the rocks in a highball glass. Top her off with teaspoon of sweet sheeeeerrrry.