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  • Coffee at the Diner: Living the Retro Life

    Posted on January 21st, 2010 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 7 comments

    diner-hat-coffeeMan, it’s been way too long since I parked it in a diner booth. All day long I had a brain pain for a Bamburger and grease rings. So when I hit the door, I grabbed the ole Lady and we swung the Caddy down to Lester’s Diner on 136th Avenue.

    Not the least bit disappointed in my grub. A big old Cheeseburger with bacon and fries, rings, slaw and a cup’a Joe. A shake would have topped it off, but it would have broke the bank so I quit early.

    Joints like this used to be my hang out, back in the days before I had my own little Tiki Bar, back before the Mai Kai was a short drive away. Diners, all kinds of diners when I swung back in Jersey. Jersey is, after all, the diner capital of the world. You couldn’t swing a bat without hitting a neon sign that said “open 24 hours”. Not so much down here in the land of Mai Tais and Palm trees. There’s one diner in 8 miles, and it shuts down at midnight. Thank God the Tiki bars are open late…

    point-dinerThere were a few haunts I made my mark at. The Point Diner in Somers Point, NJ is where I spent many a night and many a paycheck. Coffee and a burger at 2 am? Why the hell not? All my gang hung out there too…in fact, I remember one particularly kool New Year’s Eve that we wound up there around 3 am…and who was there, but this really hot swingin’ chick that I went around with in high school. It was a very groovy meeting, that night. Never forget it.

    blue-dinerThen there was the Blue Diamond Diner in Pomona, NJ. This was a 1950’s rail-car style stainless steel masterpiece, with the original guts still intact. They had the old 70’s style jukeboxes filled with stuff from Sinatra and Elvis. And one of my favorite songs to play at a diner, just before leaving, Sleepwalk by Santo and Johnny. Yeah, those were the days. 50¢ cup of strong Greek coffee and I was good for hours.

    Back when I had my Dinner Theater Company, Stardust Productions, after every show I’d take the cast to a diner and buy them all dinner. We’d wind down and talk about the show, how much fun it was, how to make it better. It was around then I picked up the nickname Mack, after a gangster character I played in a show.

    Me during a performance of "The Mysterious Presto" with StarDust Theater. The beautiful blonde is my wife, Colleen

    Me during a performance of "The Mysterious Presto" with StarDust Theater. The beautiful blonde is my wife, Colleen

    I miss those old diners. I miss the smell of grilled onions in the middle of the night, the taste of good diner coffee and breakfast at 4 am. I miss the feel of those old places, the scratchy records in the jukebox, the neon lights. The diner we hit tonight was good but not quite right. There’s something unhip about a diner that has a 34″ plasma TV mounted on the wall, that plays nothing but commercials. There’s something un-groovy about a CD jukebox that’s filled with riffs by Jenny Lopez and Matchbox-20, but doesn’t have a single Elvis tune. Sure, the burger was good, the java was good, and the company was great…even motoring there in the old Cadillac was fun. But these new joints just don’t have the same feel, the same atmosphere, as those old stainless steel diners held together with apron strings and grease that I grew up with.

    -Mack (aka Tiki Chris)

  • Mod Movie Mondays: Casino Royal, 1967

    Posted on January 18th, 2010 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 1 comment

    mod-movie-mondaysToday from the Tiki Bar, here’s a kookie flic that’s got so much insanity flying around you’ll have to watch it three times just to figure out what the hell is going on. Straight from swingin’ London during the heart of the Mod era comes

    James Bond 007 in Casino Royal

    This is a kinda-sorta real but not really part of the James Bond 007 series of movies…it was supposed to be the movie version of Ian Flemmings’ first James Bond novel, but Hollywood politics got in the way. Long story short, producer Charles K. Feldman decided to make it a spoof of the James Bond movies. Cut to Peter Sellers. Hilarity ensues.

    Casino Royale, 1967

    Casino Royale, 1967

    The Tiki-Time Scoop:

    This is the only James Bond film to offer multiple Bonds…David Niven stars as the retired James Bond, a somewhat stodgy fellow who is rather annoyed by the sexual antics of the new 007s. Peter Sellers stars as Evelyn Tremble, who becomes James Bond. Woody Allen plays Jimmy Bond. The list goes on…

    This spoof takes elements of the original story and twists them into an LSD-induced string of craziness that is fun to watch. The fact that Ursela Andress, Jaqueline Bisset and Deborah Kerr are in it don’t hurt. Throw in kats like William Holden, Orson Welles and George Raft, and you can’t miss.

    1967 Computer...hi tech stuff

    1967 Computer...hi tech stuff

    This truly “Mod” movie even includes original music by Burt Bacharach, much of it performed by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. “The Look of Love” is performed by Dusty Springfield behind one of my favorite 60’s Movie Scenes of all time, which includes glowing goldfish and a sunken living room.007-sellers

    I won’t try to give you a synopsis of the story…that would just make things more complicated. Just watch the silly film. It may be a little hard to take if you’re not into the scene. It’s strange, it’s odd, it’s a product of the times. It had six-plus separate directors. Sellers and Welles couldn’t stand each other and the scenes they were in together were shot separately using stand-ins.

    casino_royale_1967_gameSellers was so much trouble on the set he was fired before filming was over, and they re-arranged the ending of the movie around scenes he never shot. (There’s a lot of great trivia on the movie at IMDB, click here). It ran over budget and was one of the most expensive films produced up until that time. All in all, it managed to make it to the number 3 spot for 1967.

    How To Watch:casino-royale-bed

    I don’t dig drugs, but if I did, I’d want to be high on acid to watch this. Since that ain’t gonna happen, I’d suggest something a little far out there…for snacks, stuffed mushroom caps, escargot, assorted cheeses with pimentos and olives, you know, goofy 60’s stuff. For the booze, I think Martinis would be ok, but expand your mind for this groovy movie, try a Gin or Vodka Collins, a Harvey Wallbanger or maybe a nice Golden Cadillac.

  • A hip, kool, Tiki Tiki Tiki blog post just because…

    Posted on January 17th, 2010 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 7 comments
    Converstaions at the Tiki Bar

    Converstaions at the Tiki Bar

    Tiki Time: This is just a shorty little post, something I had to throw far out there into the gaxlaxy. Ya see, my SEO guy says I’m not laying enough (tiki) keywords into my posts to get (retro) optimized search engine results. So I figured I’d (hot chicks) pepper  a few into a post to sort of make up for (tiki bar) lost time. Personally, I think it’s kind of annoying (cocktail) and very un-hip to constantly (boobs) throw keywords into a post just to get a search engine to pick you (LOLcats) up. But I guess if you want to stay in the search engine limelight, you’ve got to play the (drinking) game.

    So here I am, Tiki Chris Pinto, aka Mack, aka ChrisPFlorida, writing my Tiki Blog at my Tiki Bar while sipping a Mai Tai on this sunny South Florida day. I’m wearing a cool retro fedora and have my Moai friend Tiki Mo sitting on the Tiki Bar to keep me company. I’m writing about the Tiki Lifestyle while sipping my Tiki Drink, and have a Tiki of Tiki next to my Tiki Tiki Tiki, with a Tiki doing the Tiki over her two big beautiful Tikis.

    huh?

    Ok, ya know what? All the Ess eee Oh stuff is a bit much for a kat set in the past like me. If you said ‘search engine’ in 1955, everyone would think you were talking about a new rocket designed to seek out life on the moon. If you said anything about “optimization” it probably had to do with seating seven passengers comfortably in a new Buick. My, how these crazy (tiki) times have changed.mai-tai

    Well, I guess that’s enough Tiki Bar Talk for today. Maybe the search engines will motor down my way. Maybe I’ll get optimized with Simonize. Whatever…As long as I got a laugh from you, and a visit from them, I’m happy as a (retro tiki bar talk weblog for hip swingin’ kats and kittens) clam.

    -“Tiki Chris” Pinto, live from the Pirate’s Cove Tiki Bar in Tiki-ville, Florida, land of the Tiki Lounge Talk Blog

  • Remembering The Warner Movie Palace on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City

    Posted on January 16th, 2010 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 5 comments
    warner-inside

    The auditorium of the Warner Theater, c. 1930. Yes, this is the INSIDE.

    retro-fun-stuffSince moving pictures first made the scene in the early part of the 20th century, movie houses have enjoyed mega highs and way-down lows. From make-shift screens dropped in stage theaters, to magnificent movie palaces of the 1930’s, to crowded one-room joints to modern megaplexes, the architecture of the American movie theater has swung back and forth so many times it’s hard to tell what theaters were popular and when.

    The Warner Palace Theater opened in 1929 on the world famous Atlantic City Boardwalk. Built as a movie house and showroom, it was giant, beautiful and elegant. But the timing was bad for such a remarkable showplace; Depression, World War II and that new-fangled thing called television proved too daunting. By the 1950’s it had been turned into a bowling alley, and by the 1980’s it was finished. Caesars Atlantic City bought the property, tore down the auditorium and turned it into a parking garage. Lights out.

    But not entirely. Somehow, and no one seems to know the real reason why, Caesars didn’t demolish the building’s facade on the boardwalk. Through the ’80s and ’90s it remained, with a small building behind it that stayed open as a burger joint. This is how I remember the Warner, from the early 1990s, popping in now and then to grab a hot dog and listen to bad karaoke. I remember a friend of mine singing that bad karaoke there one night; she sang “Come Rain or Come Shine” to another friend of mine…they started dating after that, it ended badly, and that was that. Wouldn’t have expected anything different from Atlantic City.

    The Warner Theater facade as I remember it in the 1990's

    The Warner Theater facade as I remember it in the 1990's

    How was that for digression, huh? Now back to the theater. The front somehow survived until the late 1990’s-early OO’s, when Caesars and Bally’s decided to pour a few million bucks into their Atlantic City properties. They had plans to build between the two casinos, essentially tying them together. The old Warner was in the way.

    There’s not much left of old Atlantic City. The Steel Pier was torn down in the 1980s (I watched them remove the last of it with a crane), the Steeplechase Pier burned down around the same time (I watched it burn), the glorious hotels from the Golden Era – Marlborough-Blenhiem, Traymore – were imploded to make room for ugly glass and steel casinos that have since been torn down, gutted or remodeled. The Atlantic City Historical Society was loosing every battle.

    In walks a woman named Florence Miller. I never met Florence, but my parents knew her. All I remember them saying about her was that she was relentless. I don’t know the whole story, but somehow she, along with the ACH, talked or strong-armed Caesars into not destroying the facade. They even had plans to dismantle it and move it down the boardwalk to the old Garden Pier, the site of the Atlantic City Historical Museum. But the casinos caved in, and worked it into the architecture of the new boardwalk facade.

    Today, the Warner Theater’s original facade stands proudly among the glitzy casinos, restored to perfect condition. Its doors no longer open on a grand palace, its windows no longer emit sparkling light; it just sits in quiet dignity, a reminder of the glory days of the movie palace – and  Atlantic City.

    * * * * * * * * * *

    Closeup of the Warner Theater today

    Closeup of the Warner Theater today

    Movie Palaces became obsolete when TV came on the scene. No longer did you need to be entertained in a giant, beautiful theater when you could see Uncle Milty for free at home. The Palaces slowly closed, one by one, giving way to smaller, one-room neighborhood theaters. By the 1970’s only a handful of these beautiful buildings remained; 50’s style single and twin theaters are all that held on. The 70’s also brought the Quardaplex, four screens in one building. This would set the stage (some pun intended) for the mega-plexes of the 80’s.

    The Warner Theater facade at night, blending in with the Casino facades

    The Warner Theater facade at night, blending in with the Casino facades

    I think you can thank Star Wars, Rocky and Jaws for the return of the big theaters. I remember people waiting in a two-block long line to see Rocky. There were lines for Star Wars 3 months after it hit the theaters. In our area, the Towne 4 movie theater became the Towne 12, then the Towne 16, then the Towne 24. The Tilton Twin became the Tilton 6. Then Loews moved in with like a 32-screen theater or something crazy like that.

    Down here in Florida, a company by the name of Muvico took a chance that people would pay an extra buck or two to see movies like Jurassic Park in a 30’s style movie palace. It paid off. Muvico runs several vintage-themed megaplexes in South Florida, my favorite being the Muvico Palace in Boca Raton. This multi-plex beauty is as close as you can get to a deco-style movie palace. A grand entrance, giant lobby with marble floors and art deco styling, large auditoriums with giant screens, and the palm trees are real. If only they played Casablanca, it would be like going back in time.

    The (new) Muvico Palace Theater in Boca Raton, Florida

    The (new) Muvico Palace Theater in Boca Raton, Florida

  • Hukilau 2010! June 11-13 – Fort Lauderdale, Florida

    Posted on January 14th, 2010 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 3 comments

    hukilauWell kids, there’s not much to say about the most intimate Tiki event in the world that they don’t do a great job of saying on their website:

    http://www.thehukilau.com/2010

    So I’ll just tell you if you’re into the Tiki Lifestyle, dig Tiki Art, swing to Exotica music, love Tiki drinks and have a thing for hot chicks doing Polynesian dances, you’ve got to hop a rail and get yourself down to Fort Liquordale, Florida this June.

    If you’ve ever been to a Tiki event, you know how much fun this can be.

    For those of you who are saying “what the hell is a Huki-whatsis?”: The Hukilau is a weekend of crazy people celebrating all things Tiki. There are Tiki idols, Tiki music, Tiki art, Tiki mugs, Tiki Ti-shirts, and of course Tiki Bars. Have I said “Tiki” enough yet? You catch my drift, right?

    Colleen at the Hukilau 2009. That's not me next to her.

    Colleen at the Hukilau 2009. That's not me next to her.

    There will be tons of great performers like  The Bikini Beachcombers and King Kukulele. And of course, South Florida’s favorite underwater bombshell, Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid will be showing of her fabulous dancing and aquatic skills.

    mai-kai-at-nightBut one of the things that really sets this Tiki Life event apart from all the others is the inclusion of the world-famous Mai Kai Tiki Bar & Restaurant, a Fort Lauderdale landmark since 1956. It’s one of the few remaining original Tiki bars from the golden era of Poly Pop, and has stood the tests of time, hurricanes and changing fads to take its place as one of, if not the top, Tiki bars in the world. When you go, make sure you take a stroll through the tropical garden.

    If all goes well (and the banking industry doesn’t turn America into a desert) we’ll be attending all three days. Hopefully we’ll see some of you retro-kats and swingin-kittens there! Come up and say hello to us…I’ll be the guy in the Hawaiian shirt.

    For more info on the event, to book tickets online and to arrange for a motel click the Hukilau link above. You can also join their facebook fanpage by clicking the words in the pretty color.

    Mahalos! See you in June!