Posted on February 25th, 2015 No comments
Congrats to Fort Lauderdale’s Mai Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Show for being granted National Historic Landmark status! (It’s about time!)
The quintessential Tiki Bar/Lounge/Experience has been one of the world’s most elaborate (and famous) Tiki-themed establishments since 1956. It’s gone through a few changes over the years (The Molokai Lounge was created with the ship interior theme in the 1960s) but still retains much of its original architecture and decor, and all of its original charm.
Tiki themed restaurants & lounges began sprouting up in the mid 1930s, and had their heyday from around the end of WW2 through the late 1960s (see our Tiki Culture page). But as society evolved out of the sophisticated cocktail culture of the American mid-century and into the torn blue jeans & acid rock culture of the late ’60s, Tiki Bars became less fashionable, less of an exotic escape and more as a kitschy joint for “the last generation”. Sales fell, and most of the grand and beautiful Tiki palaces fell too.
The Mai Kai is one of only a handful of the original Tiki-themed restaurants to make it through the Disco era, the Mod ’80s, the bland ’90s and The Great Recession, along with multiple hurricanes and an insane buildup of furniture stores, strip clubs, strip malls and other restaurants along the strip of Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale…a stretch of road that was completely vacant and considered “way out west” when the Mai Kai was built in ’56. It’s a testament to the family who has owned this family-owned business and to the newest proprietors that it has remained not only open, but successful, for nearly 60 years.
And it’s about time that fantastic, fantasy palaces like this are finally being recognized for what they are: A great piece of American history.
-Tiki Chris, reporting from the lanai at the Mai Kai
Posted on April 7th, 2014 No comments
He was Santa in Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town (1970). He was only six when he acted in his first movie, “Not To Be Trusted” (1926). He had already become a star, making over three dozen Mickey McGuire shorts before his 15th birthday. Then came the Andy Hardy films, and his pairing with the lovely Judy Garland. He became the #1 box office draw in the US before age 20, and held that honor from 1939 to 1941.
Born in Brooklyn, NY on September 23, 1920, Mickey hit the stage not long after his first birthday, appearing with his parents in vaudeville shows. From there he catapulted to stardom, winning a special Academy Award in 1939 for “bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth, and . . . setting a high standard of ability and achievement.”
Most of us remember watching Mickey Rooney in reruns on Saturday afternoons. Some of us remember him from Dinsey’s “Pete’s Dragon” (1977), or from the dozens of TV show and movie appearances he made throughout the past 60 years, including The Golden Girls, Murder She Wrote, The Return of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and his own TV series “Mickey” (1964-65). More recent roles include Babe: Pig in the City (1998), The Muppets, and one of his best ever, in my opinion, as Gus in Night at the Museum (2006).
According to Mickey Rooney’s IMDB page, he was still working, with three projects currently in filming or pre.production. That’s not bad for a 93 year-old.
There aren’t many actors who can claim nine decades of work, and nearly eight of stardom. Mickey was a one of a kind, and we’re lucky to have had him in our lives for so long. A true part of American film history, Mickey Rooney will always be remembered as one of the top stars of the 20th and 21st centuries, and one of the last from the first golden era of film and television to remain with us.
Break a leg Mickey!
-Chris Pinto, for Tiki Lounge Talk
Posted on March 26th, 2014 No comments
“Happy Days” first aired in 1974. It took place in the mid 1950s, about 20 years earlier. The nostalgia centered around the “good old days” when big fins, Rock n Roll, drive in diners and poodle skirts defined America. It was an homage to a happy-go-lucky time in America’s history (if you ignore Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War and segregation), a time best remembered for pink and black motifs, big fast cars, cool dudes and hot chicks. It was also the era of modern architecture, cool jazz and cocktails, but those elements rarely made it into this mainstream-pop TV show.
The Fonz was an icon, but also an enigma: A street-tough, greaser/biker who was into fast cars (and faster women), yet was also an intelligent, fairly well spoken and surprisingly respectful adult. Google how and why that character evolved, there are some interesting stories behind it.
Now to blow your minds…
- “Happy Days” premiered FORTY YEARS AGO. It’s theme song was “Rock Around The Clock”, then was changed to “Happy Days” later.
- If this show were to be made today, it would be reminiscing back to 60 years ago. Which means a 60-year-back nostalgia show at the time Happy Days premiered would have been about World War One.
Also if this show were made today:
- The Fonz would look like Kurt Cobain, Potsy and Ralph would be dressed in grunge, and Richie would dress like Chandler on Friends (Which, by the way, came out in 1994)
- Instead of jalopies, the kids would be driving 1980s Honda Civics Ford Tauruses.
- The jukebox would play Nirvana, Boyz II Men, Micheal Bolton and Snoop Doggy Dog,
- Instead of hanging out at the diner, they would be hanging out at a coffee shop.
- The Fonz would work at a Jiffy Lube.
- Richie’s dad wouldn’t own a hardware store, as it would have been put out of business by the big-box stores. He’d be an assistant manager at one of them, using a third of his paycheck to pay off his debts after being driven out of business. Richie would go to community college on a Pell grant.
- Joanie would have listened to Madonna and would have loved reruns of The Cosby Show.
- And last but not least, instead of singing “I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill,” Richie would go around singing “Whoomp, There It Is!”
-Tiki Chris reporting from the TV room at Tiki Lounge Talk. If you dig the 1950s, check out one of my Detective Bill Riggins mystery books, all of which take place or flash back to the Decade of Pink Dreams.
Posted on February 17th, 2014 1 comment
(Translation: Let’s take a history lesson from 1955)
Hep talk, Jive, hipster lingo…It all started with jazz musicians back in the 1920s and 30s. It’s generally accepted that “jive” started as a kind of code, especially to warn your fellow musicians about an impending police raid on the speakeasy you happened to be playing in that night. From there it took off into just a cool way for these kats (musicians) to differentiate themselves from the squares, and from there is took off into any USA culture click that considered themselves gone, out, way out, and in possession of a coolness that the cubes could never dig. Dig?
Sent to me 20 years ago through a very un-hip but easy-to-use channel, “email”, this is a list of the hippest words with their American translation. I’m not sure, but I believe this dictionary was originally printed in Mad Magazine, c. 1955
ABE’S CABE – a five dollar bill
BIG GEORGE – a quarter
BLAZE – to go
BLOOD – wine
BREAD – money
BRIGHT – day
BROWN ABE – a penny
CHEATERS – eye glasses
CHLOROPHYLL GEORGE – a dollar
COOL – nice
CRAZY – odd
CRIB – house
CUBE – 3-D square
CUT – make fun of
CUT OUT – leave
DIG, TO DIG – to understand
DUCE – a two dollar bill
ENDS – money
FLICKS – movies
FLIP – react enthusiastically
GONE – wonderful
GREASE – eat
HENCHMEN – friends
HOLLYWOOD EYES – cute girls
HUB CAP – important fellow
JAMS – bop records
JELLY TOT – young hub cap
LATER – I’ll see you
LAY DEAD – wait
MAN – opening word when addressing a kat
MAN, MY – friend, comrade
MAN, THE – Stan Kenton
NOD – sleep
NOWHERE – condition of a cube
OUT, THE OUTEST – best
PLAYER – popular fellow
QUIT, QUIT IT – leave
RANCH – house
RANK – stupid
SCARF – eat
SCROUNGY – bad
SIDES – bop records
SILVER JEFF – a nickel
SILVER WING – a half dollar
SLAMMER – door
SONNET – radio commercial
SPLASH – rain
SPLIT – to go
SQUAT – sit
SQUARE – one who is nowhere
STOMPERS – shoes
STONED – ecstatic
STROLLER – car
STRUGGLE – dance
THIN ONE – dime
TICKS – minutes
TUNES – bop records
TURKEY – square
WASTED – broke
WHEELS – car
WILD – nice
YARD, A YARD – a hundred dollars
Dig it how some of these terms are still cool today, like ‘dig’ and ‘cool’, along with ‘scarf’, ‘player’, ‘crib’ and ‘jams’. I also particularly dig that “The Man” is Stan Kenton (see previous post). Well, it’s a bop dictionary, after all.
Compare to the 1958 “COOL” Magazine Hipster Dictionary, one that was more for the masses, not so much for Bop jazzers. Some common ground, of course, but a lot more words for ordinary things. Bop musicians didn’t need so many words. They said very little, saving their strength to play all those notes in their complicated Bop charts. Wild, man, wild.
-Guest Post by Zoot Jackson, Gobble Pipe blower and swingin’ kat extraordinaire.
Posted on September 11th, 2013 1 comment
Just as the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 changed the course of American history (and directly led to the mid-century era that we love so much), the attacks on 9/11 changed America and Americans again. Personally, I think part of that change came in the from of more people having an appreciation for our culture, including our past.
The new Freedom Tower is being built…and what are they comparing it to? The height of the Empire State Building. Ellis Island is currently undergoing its second restoration in 25 years, after being neglected for decades. Classic cars are more popular than ever, with several TV shows dedicated to them. There is even a Tiki Bar in New York City again, after so many years without one.
We’ll be visiting New York City this weekend, including Ground Zero. I am not a New Yorker; I only saw the World Trade Center Towers once, in 1986. I looked up. It was amazing. It will be amazing to stand where they were, where the new tower is now. I will remember the 3000 people who lost their lives to a gang of whacked-out hoodlum cowards. And I’ll recognize that we haven’t had an attack in America since then.
Today, I raise a glass to all those who endangered or lost their lives trying to save other on this day. To the victims and their families. To everyone who was impacted by this horror.
- Christopher Pinto