Posted on November 15th, 2009 17 comments
While looking through some of my old man’s old junk, I found a treasure that I forgot existed. A photo of my Mother, Father, Aunt and Uncle taken at the world-famous Hawaiian Cottage back in the golden era of Tiki Bars, 1963. This was one of those photos where a cute girl would go table to table snapping pix, and have them framed and ready for you when the floor show was over and you were ready to split.
The Hawaiian Cottage was built in the late 1930’s, and featured dining rooms and a gift shop under unique coconut and pineapple roofs, Pacific island decor, and nightly entertainment. As the brochure promised, “you receive the impression of actually being in Hawaii.”
You gotta admit, from the hairstyles to the clothes, this photo just reeks of the 60’s. Unfortunately for us, the Hawaiian Cottage met the same demise as so many of our favorite destination…it burnt down in 1978, taking 40 years of history with it. From what I hear there’s a useless, cookie-cutter chain restaurant on the site now. Maybe someday things will change for the better, and when the cookie cutters burn down, they’ll build more Tiki Bars. (Well I can dream, can’t I?)
Thank you to Mod Betty at Retro Roadmap for turning us on to this Hawaiian Cottage T-shirt available at Vintage Roadside. Very kool fellas!
Posted on November 13th, 2009 2 comments
Even in the land of swaying palms and warm sunshine, we get a few days when the temp dips down below 70°. This is one of those days. We had to bring the parrots inside from the lanai last night, because it went down to the 50°s! Seems strange when it gets chilly like this. Reminds me of the North. And I don’t like the weather in the North.
Which reminds me once again, why I moved to Sunny South Florida. Oh, there were tons of krazy reasons, but the thing that nailed the lid down on the coffin was when in Winter of 2000, during a light but annoying snowfall, I went to put my key into the door lock of my ’75 Buick LeSabre Convertible (which hadn’t had the top down in months), and the keys flew out of my frozen, trembling hand and landed in three inches of snow. It was the soft, powdery snow, and it promptly closed in on itself, disguising the place where the keys landed. To make matters worse, there was a good two inches of oak leaves and stringy dead grass under the snow. In the end, it took two hours, a rake, a shovel, and frozen feet and hands before I found them. It was then I vowed never again to live in a climate where A) I couldn’t put the ragtop down year round, B) The weather sucked eggs 9+ months out of the year, and C) I could ever lose my keys in the snow.
So here I am, where the sun keeps shinin’ through the pouring rain, where the weather suits my clothes. Today I’m wearing a sport jacket over my Hawaiian print shirt to keep out the chill. In a couple of days it will be in the 70’s again, and all will be right with the world.
Posted on November 11th, 2009 12 comments
The Management at the Tiki Bar (which consists of two cats, four birds, a screwy dog, another dog on loan, a hot blonde bombshell and yours truly) would like to take this opportunity to thank all the GI’s, Airmen, Sailor Boys (and Girls) and Marines for keeping our land, seas and skies safe from the axis of evil and forces that are hell-bent on tearing down America’s freedom and everything we stand for. Without you, we’d all be speaking German right now. Or Russian. Or some other strange gobbledee-gook. Anyway, thanks, and keep up the great work.
(I’m doing this from memory of stories I heard 30 years ago, so my details may be a little sketchy) My Grandfather, Charles Pinto Sr. was born in Italy in 1898. He came to America as a young boy, and a few years later found his new beloved country entangled in a war with, among others, his homeland. It was difficult, be he had sworn his allegiance and citizenship to the USA, so when his number came up, he went to War in Europe, April 1918.
When he got to the recruitment office, they asked him straight out if he was willing to fight for America against not only Germans, but Italians (who were allied with Germany). His answer was he was an American. They gave him the choice of sending him back to Italy and denounce his American citizenship. He said no, he would willingly fight for the country that gave him and his family freedom and opportunity. And so in April, 1918, he was shipped over to Europe as a GI in the 52nd Pioneer Infantry. He spent the next several months in a trench trying to stay alive. Without doubt, he was one of the luckiest soldiers in WWI, as the war ended in September, 1918, and he was back home in Philadelphia in the land of freedom a few months later. But he almost didn’t make it…
Gas. Chemical warfare at its earliest stages. Atomized sulfuric acid, chlorine gas, all kinds of nasty stuff. The Germans were at the end of their rope and were throwing everything they had at the dough-boys. My Grandfather got caught in a cloud of Mustard Gas that left him alive, but deaf in one ear and with only 1-1/3 lung capacity for the rest of his life. But that’s not all kids; he had one of the best stories (although apparently a pretty common one) to come out of WWI…
Trench warfare was probably the dumbest, most inefficient and silliest form of two sides killing each other ever dreamed up. Basically, you dug a long trench, and a couple of hundred yards away the other guys dug a long trench, and for four or five years you just kept killing each other back and forth, without really going anywhere. The first one to run out of warm bodies lost. In between, commanders would attempt ‘raids’ on the enemy…a bunch of poor soldiers running across what was known as ‘no man’s land’, through barbed wire, dead bodies, mud, gas, mortar and machine-gun fire. Whoever lived through it jumped into the other guy’s trench. Their weapon was a bolt-action rifle that was basically good for one shot… then it was all hand-to-hand fighting with bayonets. This always ended badly.
Occasionally there were night raids. These were the worst of all because you couldn’t see a damned thing; there were no lights allowed, so you never knew who you were fighting. They even invented a special ‘trench style’ cigarette lighter, so the enemy couldn’t see the flame. It was during one of these night raids that the young Pasquale (named ‘Charlie’ at Ellis Island so he would sound more American) who barely spoke English found himself alone in a stretch of trench on the front lines of France. Bombs were exploding, he was out of ammo, and was basically just waiting it out in the dark when he heard footsteps running toward the trench. A second later there was someone with him in the trench, not knowing he was there. He readied his bayonet, and called out to the guy. The response came in English, “Hey Joe, got a cigarette?” Relieved, he lit up a couple of sticks and quietly talked with the soldier for a few hours, until the bombs stopped and they were able to get some shut-eye. At dawn, the blood-red sun cast long, eerie blue shadows over the trench. When my Grandfather awoke, the soldier was gone. In his place was a German infantry pin. He had spent the night talking not with another dough boy, but with a German, a guy who was supposed to be the evil enemy. But it wasn’t like that at all. That German could have easily killed my Grandfather. But he didn’t because that night it was just two scared kids trying to get through hell in one piece.
(Click to enlarge images)
Posted on November 9th, 2009 28 comments
same since. Oh sure, Sex in the City may have brought back the Cosmopolitan, and Mad Men may have reintroduced us to the Martini and the Old Fashioned, but the
sophistication…the rituals…of cocktail life iarelong gone, except for us fortunate few.
For a swingin’ bachelor or hip chick in the rat pack days, no pad was complete without a bar, or at least a decent set-up and a couple of cut-glass decanters of your favorite spirits.
Those who had the lettuce and the elbow room to juice a full bar did so with the utmost hipness, from wild, hand-carved Tiki bars to crazy mirrored jobs hidden in a rotating wall, combined with the Hi-Fi, TV set, or even fireplace. Those kats who were livin’ lean, spreading out in a one-room studio flat or just scrapin’ for space took another route…enter the Portable Bar.
These little babies took on many enigmatic forms, from fake tabletop TV sets to large, floor-stand globes (see upcoming posts). But one of my favorites was one of the simplest…the mini bar in the shape of a car.
From what I’ve been able to glean over the last several years (including a many-year stretch on the fringes of the antiques and collectibles biz), these were popularized in the 1950’s, and had a decent run through the 70’s until the coolness ran out. (I blame the hippies, Nixon, and aggressive beer company advertising for the demise of home bar, by the way.)
Man, were these bar cars nice. I’ve had several over the years, and can tell you they all have a few neato things in common: They all contain shot glasses, they all have at least one decanter for booze, and they are all music boxes. When you pick up the bottle, the music plays…anything from ‘How Dry I Am’ to holiday tunes like ‘Sleigh Ride’ or ‘The Anniversary Waltz’.
Every one I’ve ever seen has been made of nicely detailed pressed metal, either painted steel or brushed aluminum or brass. The decanters are usually cut-glass (or a reasonable facsimile) and the inside is almost always covered in red velvet or something close to it.
Depending on the original cost, nice details like spoked wheels and rubber tires, convertible top, and working lights adorned the cars. And a little tag denoting the contents…usually Bourbon or Scotch…was included to hang from the neck of the bottle.
These little beauties were top-shelf items back in the day, and were built to be expensive-looking additions to a well-appointed home’s décor (although they were generally frowned upon in uptight society, and found themselves adorning swingin’ joints like you or I would have dug).
Of course by the time I was old enough to enjoy them (for the car part, as it would be a couple of decades later when I’d start to imbibe) they were generally known as something you’d find in Grandpa’s house, or on the coffee table in your odd-ball uncle’s apartment uptown, you know, the uncle older than you dad who never got married and had black velvet paintings of naked women over his bed…The uncle who paid more for a record player 10 years before you born than you paid for your first car. HE’s the guy who had the bar car sitting at a place of honor in his bachelor pad, and drank a cocktail nightly from it, J&B on the rocks, or Johnny Black, or Canadian Club & Ginger because he was the hippest cat in the neighborhood and that’s just what he did. Well now your uncle is pushing 70; he’s got a condo in Boca and all his old stuff is in storage somewhere in Philly. Give him a call. That bar car can be yours, along with his original Modern Jazz Quintet records and that 1965 Grundig.
Posted on November 6th, 2009 No comments
Top down, wind ripping through my head. Cruising 85 down 95, ragtop down and the radio blastin’, not a care in the world. The roar from the GT’s turbo-souped engine fills in between riffs, lights whiz by like demons in the night. I’m gone, way out there, in my own galaxy racing against the stars. A blue blur in the night.
I pull up to some square in a rattle-trap hugging the speed limit. I throw the four-on-the-floor down into second and stomp on the hammer. Rubber squeals and smoke flies as my hot rod takes off like a shot outta hell past the bucket of bolts in front of me. I’m quicksilver, hitting light speed in my rocket-powered Chrysler. 370 mad horses gallop hard through the night. I can feel everything she feels, every curve, every pebble on the highway; I’m part of that machine, and will be until they bury me in my Detroit casket. The speedo tips 100…110…the powerplant still winding out, the turbo-thruster accelerating the souped-up jitney past any conceivable limits. 120…125…130…
White knuckles ache as I grab the wheel as hard as steel clamps. Teeth grinding, eyes squinted, every nerve taught and on fire. Dead cars flying backwards around me. Police lights there, then long gone. 18 wheeler up ahead, coming up fast; I give the wheel the slightest touch to the left and man, I hope the hell the hospital has a lot of Type-O blood handy. Can you dig it?