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  • A World Without Wonder (Bread) – Don’t cry over lost Twinkies

    Posted on November 27th, 2012 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 3 comments
    Vintage Wonder Bread Ad

    Vintage Wonder Bread Ad

    With the recent headlines of Hostess going out of business, many people are wondering how a company so old, so ingrained in American pop culture could close up shop overnight. Well, it’s a sad tail of greed, mismanagement and indifference, but that’s not what this article is about.

    This article is about losing things you love.

    So many of us who have a soft spot for mid-20th century pop have had to endure icon after icon fall from grace, only to be replaced by plastic-y, cookie cutter crap and chain-restaurant-ish dullsville blobs of made-in-China neveau detritus. From the demolition of almost all of America’s grand Tiki restaurants, to the destruction of the great movie palaces; from the downfall of America’s greatest music to its bubblegum-pop hip hop noise; we’ve seen way too many of the things that helped make America the great country it is get plowed down and swept away to make room for cardboard casinos and mislabeled “healthy” vitamin waters.

    Hostess pies, Devil Dogs, and yes, Twinkies – although, let’s face it, they are crap too, have stood the test of time, and have been with us our entire lives. Personally, I’m not a big Twinkie fan. But I do enjoy a Devil Dog now and then (our wedding cake was made from them…long story, for another post) and like to splurge on a Hostess apple pie when I want my sugar count to soar to give my doctor a premature heart attack.

    But there is one thing that I cannot live without.

    Wonder Bread.

    I know, I know, many of you will say it’s the nutritional equivalent of eating Elmer’s glue and White Out. I don’t care. It’s the only bread I can eat a PB&J on. And it’s because that’s what I’ve always had my PB&J on, from when I was a little kid in the 1970s…you know, back when bread was bread, and Moms bought Wonder Bread because it tasted good and had the fun polka dots on the bag.

    With Hostess making headlines last week as they close the company, apparently shutting their doors forever and denying future generations of Twinkies and Devil Dogs, something occured to me:

    I can’t imagine a world without Wonder Bread.

    The good news is, I probably won’t have to. In today’s society, there is a BIG difference between a successful BRAND and successful company. The company, run by a flock of who-the-hell-cares-as-long-as-our-bottom-line-stays-high investment firms, is worthless. The brand, however, is worth billions.

    What I’m getting at is that just because Hostess the company goes out of business, it doesn’t mean Hostess the brand will go away.

    Think about Monopoly, the game that’s been around since the 1930s. It was originally made by Parker Brothers games. Do you think Parker Bros. is still making Monopoly? Nope. Parker Brothers became part of General Mills, which merged it with Kenner, which was bought out by Tonka, which was in turn bought out by Hasbro. Still the same game, still the same fun, still the same look…just a different company building it.

    Same thing goes with a candy bar I really dig. I think it’s a Philly/Jersey area thing, or at least used to be, because few people I talk to in Florida ever heard of Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews. They disappeared about 10 years ago when a new company (Just Born) bought them out. They dropped the Goldenberg’s name, and sales fell. But they wised up…they brought the name back, and now I can buy Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews again, just like I did 30 years ago.

    So will it be a world without Wonder Bread? I don’t think so. I have a feeling that great polka-dot packaging and paste-like bread will be around for a long time. I’m pretty sure Devil Dogs and Twinkies will, too, possibly even with the name “Hostess” blazoned in red lettering across the top of the package. In a few years, will anyone remember there was a time when that “name” stood for a company that went out of business, and caused a blip on the news headlines of 2012?

    Probably not.

    -Christopher Pinto, aka Tiki Chris

  • Mod Movie Monday: Murder By Death, 1976

    Posted on November 26th, 2012 "Tiki Chris" Pinto No comments

    murderbydeath-poster“2-2-Twain”. It’s puns galore in Niel Simon’s hilarious spoof of just about every murder mystery detective of the mid-20th century, the movie that uses more old-time gags and goofy plot devices than a thief has disguises…

    Murder By Death, 1976

    Starring David Niven, Truman Capote, Eileen Brennan, Peter Falk, James Coco, Alec Guinness, Elsa Lanchester, Peter Sellers, Maggie Smith, Estelle Winwood, James Cromwell, Richard Narita, and Nancy Walker. (Whew! That’s a lot of stars!)

    There’s no way to tell you much about the storyline without giving it all away…so I’ll give you the basics. Lionel Twain (Capote) invites each of the most famous mystery detectives of all time to “Dinner and a Murder”. With slightly-off names like Sam Diamond and Jessica Marbles, the guests reluctantly come to Twian’s mansion (address: 22 Twain), and are soon treated to exactly what they were invited for…dinner, served by the blind butler (Guinness), and a murder. Yes, Obe Wan is a blind butler, aided by the deaf made (played by Nancy “Rosie” Walker). It’s all about devices.

    The lights go out. Someone is stabbed in the back. Rooms change. The moose on the wall talks. People’s clothes disappear. There is thunder and lightning, the bridge is out, and everyone is a suspect. It’s up to the spoofish detectives to overcome their goofy lines and solve the mystery before it’s too late…but will they? Yes, they will. Or will they?murder-by-death-niven

    Directed by Robert Moore in a 1940’s Noir style (although it’s in color, which was probably also meant as a joke), Murder by Death is packed full of just about every cliché possible, from the “Milo Perrier” character (aka Poirot) mixing up English and French words:

    Marcel: Something isn’t right in all of this, eh. I can feel it in my buns.
    Inspector Milo Perrier: Your what?
    Marcel: My buns.
    Inspector Milo Perrier: Buns? Your buns? You bought buns and you didn’t tell me? Where are they? Where are the buns?
    Marcel: Oh! No, monsieur. The BONES in my body.
    Inspector Milo Perrier: You should not speak with an accent when you know I am so hungry.

    murder-by-death-movie-dinnerTo Sam Diamond talking like Bogie in a BW flick:

    Tess Skeffington: There’s nothing on him ’til ’46, when he was picked up in El Paso, Texas, for trying to smuggle a truckload of rich white Americans across the border into Mexico to pick melons.
    Sam Diamond : I think we picked ourselves a queer bird, angel.

    Because it’s by one of our favorite cats, Niel Simon, the writing is incredibly rich and intelligent, in spite of the crazy wandering and goofy puns. Just when you think the mystery is solved, something else comes along to throw the “Twain” off the tracks (sorry, couldn’t resist). There are more twists than a bag of Twizzlers. All this, plus the fantastic performances from some of old Hollywood’s brightest stars, makes Murder By Death a fun movie to watch any time.murder-by-death-sellers

    Food & Booze: This is a grand dinner, so go all out – roast turkey, baked ham, the works. Or, serve invisible soup (you’ll see). Vintage cocktails are in order: Martinis, Manhattans, and straight whiskey.

    My Take: I first saw this movie in the mid 1980s, then again in the early 1990s. It’s part of what made me decide to start my own murder mystery comedy dinner theater, and to later write Noir murder mystery novels. Even though it’s a spoof, I rank it up there with The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, and Murder on the Orient Express.

    -Tiki Chris, reporting from the other dining room at Tiki Lounge Talk.

  • Happy Thanksgiving from Tiki Lounge Talk!

    Posted on November 22nd, 2012 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 1 comment

    thanksgiving-cartoonSeems like just yesterday I was writing the 2011 Thanksgiving post, and here we are a year later…2012, the end of the world if you’re a Mayan, the last year before we hit the “teens” to everyone else.

    The Teens…remember how your grandparents used to talk about being alive in “The Teens & Twenties”. Bet you never thought you’d be able to say the same, did you?

    As Thanksgiving is a time for family and being thankful for what we’ve got, it’s also a time reflection, and memories.

    I’m sure you all have your great memories of this fun holiday. Mine have to do with everything from giant family and friend gatherings at show-offy relatives’ houses, to quaint, personal dinners at South Jersey diners with my parents. One particular diner dinner stands out…when a sudden snowstorm shut almost everything down, but the diner on Tilton Road in Northfield, NJ stayed open…and honored our reservations. There were only two other families in the restaurant, but they stayed open anyway, and it was loads of fun for everyone including the people working there. Sounds kookie, but it’s true. That was in the late 1980s.

    Of course here in the subtropics of South Florida, we don’t have to worry about snow storms shutting anything down. As a matter of fact, things kind of empty out down here as so many people leave the area to go “home” for the holiday. A lot of restaurants are actually closed here today, while up north Thanksgiving is one of the biggest restaurant sales days of the year.

    It’s about 72° here, and the sun is shining. Later we’ll take the 53 Chevy Hot Rod out for a drive, maybe take the pooch (Snoopy-Cookie) to the park. We’re having dinner at home, the traditional turkey set up, just my wife and me, very nice and intimate. Today’s cocktails will be Kahlua and cream with a touch of cinnamon, in keeping with the Tiki-Turkey tradition. We’ll watch Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving Special as we both have all of our lives, and be thankful for the wonderful things we have: nice weather, a fun house with a Tiki bar, a kool car, goofy pets, and most of all, each other.

    Happy Thanksgiving, swingers!

    -Tiki Chris, reporting from the kitchen at Pirate’s Cove Tiki Bar

  • Thank you, Veterans.

    Posted on November 11th, 2012 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 1 comment
    Thank a veteran today

    Thank a veteran today

    Today is Veterans Day, 2012,

    and we’re going to take a minute to thank everyone who put their life on the line to keep America, and the world, a safe and better place.

    Whether you were on the front lines or supporting staff, whether on a boat, in a plane, or on the ground, we want you to know that America knows that without ever one of you we wouldn’t be the great nation we are today. From the two World Wars where we fought against tyranny and beat the living hell out of them, to the ongoing fight to keep us safe from POS chicken terrorists, we salute your valiant and unselfish sacrifice.

    I, Tiki Chris, have never served in the military. It is for that reason that I respect and honor anyone willing to put their life on the line to make sure I’ve got the freedom to sit here typing this post.

    “The History of Veterans Day:

    Many people don’t realize Veterans Day grew out of WWI. Here is a brief history of the day, taken from the US Department of Veteran Affairs Website:

    “World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” – officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

    Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse in France.

    Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse in France, wait for the end of hostilities.  This photo was taken at 10:58 a.m., on November 11, 1918, two minutes before the armistice ending World War I went into effect

    In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”

    The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m.

    The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words:

    Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and

    Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and

    Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.

    An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as “Armistice Day.” Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting in its place the word “Veterans.” With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

    Later that same year, on October 8th, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first “Veterans Day Proclamation” which stated: “In order to insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans’ organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose. Toward this end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans’ Affairs as Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include such other persons as the Chairman may select, and which will coordinate at the national level necessary planning for the observance. I am also requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the Executive branch of the Government to assist the National Committee in every way possible.”

    President Eisenhower signing HR7786, changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day.

    President Eisenhower signing HR7786, changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day. From left: Alvin J. King, Wayne Richards, Arthur J. Connell, John T. Nation, Edward Rees, Richard L. Trombla, Howard W. Watts

    On that same day, President Eisenhower sent a letter to the Honorable Harvey V. Higley, Administrator of Veterans’ Affairs (VA), designating him as Chairman of the Veterans Day National Committee.

    In 1958, the White House advised VA’s General Counsel that the 1954 designation of the VA Administrator as Chairman of the Veterans Day National Committee applied to all subsequent VA Administrators. Since March 1989 when VA was elevated to a cabinet level department, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs has served as the committee’s chairman.

    The Uniform Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-363 (82 Stat. 250)) was signed on June 28, 1968, and was intended to ensure three-day weekends for Federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. It was thought that these extended weekends would encourage travel, recreational and cultural activities and stimulate greater industrial and commercial production. Many states did not agree with this decision and continued to celebrate the holidays on their original dates.

    The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion on October 25, 1971. It was quite apparent that the commemoration of this day was a matter of historic and patriotic significance to a great number of our citizens, and so on September 20th, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479), which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978. This action supported the desires of the overwhelming majority of state legislatures, all major veterans service organizations and the American people.

    Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.”

    – Tiki Chris, reporting from the canteen at Tiki Lounge Talk