Posted on January 11th, 2016 No comments
On the day of his passing, January 10, 2016, here’s a few words about David Bowie, may he rest in rock n roll heaven:
Although not considered a part of the mid-century music that we love here at the Tiki Lounge, many people don’t realize that Bowie’s career began way back in 1962, when he played sax in a band he formed with his friends. He was truly part of the “new generation” of kids that dug rock n roll over swing and jazz, and of course went on to be one of the musicians who transformed the music landscape. For this reason, I believe he should be remembered as part of the history of mid-century culture.
Although not my personal taste, I appreciate how Bowie’s music touched millions, including many of those who grew up on Tommy Dorsey and Bing Crosby, who expanded their musical tastes later in life (my Mother was one of those people…born in 1943, she became a huge fan of musicians like Bowie, Hendrix, etc.) And although not my taste, a few of his songs, to me, broke through and stood aside from his usual format, songs like Let’s Dance (borrowing the title from the 1930s/40s Make Believe Ballroom theme and Benny Goodman’s opening theme), and the jazz chord-infused Changes, where Bowie plays the alto sax solos.
So today we say goodbye to a true musician and artist, a man who devoted his life to his craft and to making people sing and dance. Cheers to you, David Bowie…the music in heaven just got a little more exciting now that you’re there.
Posted on May 17th, 2015 No comments
May 17, 2015: Christopher “Tiki Chris” Pinto, author of several novels set in mid-century America, discusses his thoughts and ideas on the MAD MEN series on the eve of its series finale.
They are calling it “The End of an Era”, a fun double entandre that eludes to both the end of the era that Mad Men represents, and the end of one of modern television’s most respected and acclaimed shows. It’s the series finale of a TV program that promised us a glimpse into the events and lives of our favorite era, the era of mid-century pop culture, of cocktails and Tiki bars, Bachelor Pad music and finned cars.
And as we prepare to watch the finale, I have to admit I look back at the past 7 seasons with a bit of disappointment. Not in the quality of the show or its writing, and certainly not in the fine acting. Not even in the enjoyment I’ve had watching it, absorbing it, and appreciating the small details and hidden meanings that made it so great. Just in the fact that it moved way too fast into the 1960s for my taste, and for most of my friends who also tuned in to watch a show about mid-century cocktail culture in the 1950s.
Because when MAD MEN was first promoted, that’s exactly what it promised: A look into the lives of the cocktail culture set, played out during the 1950s, defined by the most notorious drunkards of the time, advertising executives. We got what we expected in season one, from sexy, accommodating secretaries in tight dresses to smarmy, misogynistic, Martini-swilling ad men with thin ties and pocket squares, driving big fancy cars and taking over the world one account at a time while their wives played the part of homemaker with the kids. We got to see incredible, larger than life ad pitches that rarely happen in the real world but fit perfectly into our imagination’s concept how the good old days must have been. And we were treated to all this eye candy with the best background tracks plucked from the Ultra Lounge series of Bachelor Pad and Exotica tunes of the day.
But we were misled (by advertising!). Almost as soon as it started, the 1950s decade ended in MAD MEN, swinging us full-on into 1960 before the paint on Roger’s ’59 Caddy had a chance to dry. But we were OK with that, because, after all, it’s mostly agreed that the golden era of cocktails and mid-century pop ended somewhere around the time of Kennedy’s assassination, the coming of The Beatles, and escalation of the Vietnam war. So we figured “our show” would linger in the early ‘60s, maybe with more glorious flashbacks to the 1950s.
Not so, of course, as this was not “our show”, it was Mathew Weiner’s. And Mr. Weiner happens to be a huge fan of 1960s pop culture. His intent from the start was to base the show at the END of the cocktail era, and show the drastic changes that took place in American culture in the 1960s. AMC may not have made that fact obvious in their advertising, but they sure as hell hooked us in.
Don’t get me wrong…it’s a great story, and one that Mathew Weiner has told incredibly well, from a perspective not seen before. Let’s face it…whenever someone makes a show or movie about the 1960s, it’s always from the point of view of the young, the rebels, the hippies and college kids who wanted to change the world, not from “the man”, the established middle class who fully enjoyed the world they had created after WW2. It’s about time someone told the story of the anti-anti-establishment, the coolest cats and kittens who dug drinking at the Tiki bar and thought hippies were kooks.
And yet, as the series comes to a close, I can’t help but personally ask, “Is That All There Is?” Couldn’t the show have lingered just a little more in the late 1950s/early 60s? Couldn’t there have been fewer time jumps, where the show could have done some more things with what was happening before the major culture-changing events of the 1960s, especially with advertising?
It just seems to me, as a writer, that there were so many juicy things going on that got glossed over or completely ignored. For instance, color television made a huge impact on the industry. Directors and camera operators were suddenly faced with shooting TV spots that looked good in both black and white AND color. Production costs rose. More people needed to be hired to accommodate the changes. Agencies were in upheaval, trying to figure out how to accommodate the new medium while remaining profitable (just like they have with the internet). That alone would have made a good season thread, if not a multi-show plot line.
And what about changes in the auto industry? Sterling-Cooper made every effort to get a car on the roster. But the show never went into how difficult it was to effectively advertise/market automobiles at a time (1959-64) when horsepower, styles and tastes were changing faster than the liquor bottles on Don’s minibar. Back then car styles changed pretty drastically every one or two years. When you consider that today’s models usually stay exactly the same for 5-8 years, you can imagine how difficult it must have been to convince buyers that the car they just bought last year was out of date junk. I really would have liked to see the show back up to around 1958, and get the Edsel account. Imagine how much fun that would have been!
And then of course, there is the whole concept of the Playboy bachelor, the never-married, successful young man who drives an Austin Healey sports car, listens to Martin Denny, reads Esquire and of course Playboy, drinks Macallen Scotch and plays golf on weekends before hitting the nightclubs in search of a tipsy, willing bird. It really surprises me that not a single major character on MAD MEN was single because he wanted to be. What a fun and interesting addition a true cocktail set bachelor would have made to this show!
But that’s just my own personal opinions and ideas, and that’s not the show. That’s not MAD MEN as Mathew Weiner envisioned it. We may have been misled by AMC’s advertising in the beginning, but we soon realized this wasn’t going to be a show about the 1950s. It was about the ’60s, and how that decade changed everything. And guess what?
We still love it.
Adieu, Mad Men, and thank you Mr. Weiner for bringing us one hell of a show.
– Christopher “Tiki Chris” Pinto, reporting from the television viewing room at Tiki Lounge Talk
Posted on April 13th, 2014 No comments
Tonight starts a bittersweet journey through the final 12 episodes of MAD MEN, arguably one of the best dramas ever to be transmitted over the airwaves. Sweet, because we get to enjoy another season of Don Draper bulldozing his way through life. Bitter, because it’s the last time we’ll get to enjoy Don Draper bulldozing his way through life. And to make it a little more bitter, AMC has decided to split the season in half: Six episodes will be aired this year, with the remaining six to be aired sometime next year. (Era-appropriate note: Cold war era audiences would not stand for such nonsense, as it was never a given that there would be a “next year”.)
Matthew Weiner has given us a tiny glimpse into the very end. He recently told The Hollywood Reporter, “What has really been the pressure this year, no matter what happens, is that these people are going to end this season frozen in time. That’s the last time we see them.”
But let’s not dwell on the impeding end. Let’s talk about how we can celebrate this fantastic piece of yesteryear, right now, in the present. So here are some Tiki Lounge Talk suggestions on how to make tonight’s premier a little more fun, and a little more exciting.
Cocktails (of course): Martinis, Manhattan, Screw Drivers…the most popular drinks of the 1950s were also very popular at the end of the ’60s, but there are a few new ones that you can add to your menu, including…
The Emma Peel
The tough honey from The Avengers TV series earned her own cocktail. Just add a cherry to a champagne flute, mix 1 oz chilled cherry brandy and 1 oz chilled pineapple juice and top with champagne.
Southern Comfort Manhattan
Two oz So Co, one oz sweet vermouth and three cherries, on the rocks.
The Hippie Cocktail
1 oz. Gin, 1 oz. Peach schnapps, 0.5 oz. dry vermouth, 1 tbs. Grenadine, 3 oz. Ginger ale
Put a half lemon wheel, half lime wheel, half orange wheel in a large old fashioned glass, and half fill with ice. Mix it up so the fruit is suspended in the ice. In a shaker add all ingredients except the ginger ale, with ice. Shake and strain into the glass, top with ginger ale. Garnish with a daisy.
Dinner: TV dinners were as popular as ever in the late 1960s…possibly even more popular than the ’50s, as more people watched the tube and had less time to cook. I wonder if any of these still come in tinfoil trays?
Attire: This is a big event, so you should be dressed for the occasion. Resist the temptation to throw on ripped jeans and a tie-died t-shirt. Believe it or not, people were still dressing up in the late 1960s. Most restaurants wouldn’t allow gentleman to dine without a jacket and tie, and many frowned upon pantsuits for the ladies. Business attire still meant black, blue or gray conservative suits for the men (even if they could get away with some colorful, double-breasted, wide-lapeled beauties at the track) and long dresses or skirts for women. Of course this was also the heyday of the Mod era, so if you’ve still got that Austin Powers costume you bought in 1998, break it out!
Snacks: After the TV dinner, you’re going to want some ’60s style snacks to get you through the rest of the hour. If you want to be era-accurate, you just have to stick with the traditional things: Plain potato chips, corn chips, mixed nuts, homemade onion dip, melted Velveeta and salsa dip, Doritos (invented in 1964) and pretzels. Stay away from anything too modern like Bugels, or things that promise “extreme” flavors…although it was an era of extremes, they never called it that.
For more reading, there’s a good, non-spoiler article on the Mad Men Season 7 Premier at The Hollywood Reporter.
-Tiki Chris Pinto, reporting from the screening room at Pirate’s Cove Tiki Bar
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 June 4th, 2013 9 comments
Fans of MAD MEN know that music plays a fairly important role in the series, but when it comes to individual characters, music generally takes a backseat.
So, I was wondering what kind of albums the character of Don Draper might have on hand. We’ve heard him play classical music at a dinner party; we know he doesn’t dig the Beatles. But that’s about it.
So what kind of music does Don Draper dig?
I think, in order to answer that question, first we need to answer, “What kind of music does Don NOT like?”
Well, lets take a look at his past: He grew up in the 30s & 40s, when big bands played the most popular music in the country. There were swing bands and sweet bands, and they dominated the music scene. It’s safe to say that big band swing and jazz were probably what Don heard most as he was growing up, along with more “localized” music that probably included country/western and folk. Since he considers his childhood a complete bust, I’m going to lay my chips on big band, jazz vocals, folk and country/western as being the kind of music that Don Draper (well, Dick Whitman, actually) hates with a passion. Hell, he might even go into a cationic fit whenever he hears “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby” for all we know.
It’s also a safe bet that Don wouldn’t be into Rock ‘n’ Roll. Let’s face it – Rock ‘n’ Roll was considered “kids music” back in the 1950s, and had a very small adult following. Don was already an adult (in his 20s) when he was in Korea (somewhere between 1951 and 1953), so like most men of the era, he probably dismissed RnR as kiddie pop.
Don has never showed us a side of him where he sits and listens to sophisticated music, whether it be jazz or classical, for the pleasure of it. He sits in front of the tube a lot, but we never see him play an album (except for the Beatles song, which he completely dismissed). So it’s probably safe to say that he has never really bought a record for the enjoyment of the music. Unlike Meghan, who’s life revolves around music and acting, for his character, it’s just not that big of a deal.