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  • Mod Miami Starts Today in Miami, Florida

    Posted on March 3rd, 2011 "Tiki Chris" Pinto No comments

    modmiamiMod Miami, “The Swankadelic Weekend Experience for Modern Minds, Where Modernism Meets Mod” starts today (Thursday, March 3) on the historic MiMo (Miami Modern) Boulevard in Miami, Florida.

    As the swingin’ website says, this weekend cocktail soiree is for hipsters, Tikiphiles, lounge lizards, ultra-mods, swanksters and other jetsetters…and if you’re reading this, you probably fall into one of those groups.

    Mike Jones of Mod Miami, Mr. Swank himself.

    Mike Jones of Mod Miami, Mr. Swank himself.

    Headed by Mr. Swank himself, Mike Jones (former owner of the ultra-futuramic Jetsetter Lounge in Lake Worth, FL, sadly part of history itself now) this four-day event promises lots of mid-century Miami style music, fashion, cocktails, parties and entertainment galore.

    The lineup touts some of Tiki Lounge Talk’s favorite retro-tastic performers, including…

    Marina the Fire-Eating Mermaid

    Marina the Fire-Eating Mermaid

    • Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid
    • The Intoxicators!
    • Stolen Idols

    and much more, including several DJs, live acts, a fashion show by Black Cat Bikinis, and The Superions featuring Fred Schneider of the B-52s. Yeah.

    There’s also a walking tour of the MCM area surrounding the event’s headquarters, the New Yorker Boutique Hotel, a recently renovated, original MiMo motel on Biscayne Boulevard. (What the hell is a boutique hotel, you ask? It’s an old motel that’s been transformed into something a little cooler, dig?)

    The Hotel New Yorker

    The New Yorker Boutique Hotel

    “MiMo”, or Miami Modern, is a fairly recent term coined to fit the style of mid-century architecture and design that it so specific to South Florida. (Back in the old days we used to refer to it as Florida Deco, or Miami Deco). The style incorporates much of the mid-century modern styles popular in California and the shore towns of the north east (i.e., Wildwood, NJ) with Art Deco and Spanish influences. Let’s face it, nothing screams Deco or MCM like a pink hotel on the beach with palm trees and a turquoise ’56 T-bird in front, with Exotica music playing in the background and a beautiful chick in a sarong serving Zombies and Cuba Libres. You hip?

    So if you’re in town this weekend, take the wheel of your automobile and swing on down to Mod Miami. I’ll see you kats and kittens there Saturday night.

    -Tiki Chris reporting from the beach, across from a row of Art Deco hotels in Miami, Florida

  • Art Deco & Mid-Century Modern Come Together in Downtown Hollywood, Florida

    Posted on February 17th, 2010 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 4 comments

    ramada-frontIt was a beautiful day in downtown Hollywood, Florida where I work. Sun shining, puffy white clouds, not too crazy hot. So I decided to take my trusty Instamatic Camera (not really, it’s a digital camera) and head down to the happinin’ section of Hollywood Boulevard.retrovision

    Hollywood was founded in 1925 by a visionary named Joseph Young who wanted to build his dream city in Florida. It quickly became a thriving city, with beachfront hotels, beautiful homes, and a busy downtown area. This downtown was first built up in the mid to late 20s, with some slowing during the depression and WW2. It found a resurgence in the 50s, as many vacation spots did, and had a building boom through the 60s. This history led to a unique combination of early Art Deco construction, Spanish-Floridian construction, and Mid-Century Modern.

    It’s amazing that these buildings were able to survive through the architectual vacuum of the 70s and 80s, but some managed to hang on with their original look intact. The late 90s saw a re-popularization of the original styles, and luckily the popularization has remained through the present leading to numerous restorations, retro-refitting of more recent dull buildings, and dig this…brand new construction in the Art Deco and Mid-Century style. Seriously. (continued after the slide show)

    I was able to get some very nice shots of the Art Deco and Mid-Century Modern buildings along the boulevard. One of my favorite buildings is the Great Southern Hotel, located on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Young’s Circle. I believe Young himself had this hotel built as part of the city plan back in the mid 20’s. It has a sort of Florida-Spanish style combined with that 1920s pre-Deco look you see in a lot of shore towns. What the hell do I mean by that? Basically it means simplicity, symmetry, and terra cotta.

    There are a good number of trendy nightclubs and cafés along the boulevard, and most of them have stuck with the retro look. It’s nice to see people taking these historic styles seriously, and appreciating them for the timeless beauty they portray.

    ***

    Funny story about The Great Southern hotel. When we first moved to Florida in 2000, my wife and I took a drive to Hollywood to check it out. At that time it was in a state of change; a lot of stores were vacant, and still looked like they did in the 70s. I noticed the big white hotel on the corner, and thought to myself that it looked really familiar, but couldn’t place it. Mind you this is the first trip I ever took to Hollywood. Anyway, a few years later in 2005, I end up working in a building on Hollywood Boulevard a couple of blocks from downtown. While there I picked up a local paper, which happened to have a story about “The Great Southern Hotel” on the cover. The story was about how the owners wanted to tear it apart to put up a parking garage, how the city didn’t see anything wrong with that, and how the historical society was about ready to commit murder if necessary before letting that happen. The name rung a bell…but I still couldn’t catch it. Then one day it came to me…where I’d seen that name. It was in a movie, which I ran out and bought right away.

    There it was, in one of the last scenes of Midnight Cowboy from 1967. Joe Buck and Ratzo Rizzo are headed down to Miami on a bus. The bus stops for a break, and Joe Buck ditches his cowboy outfit and boots for a Hawaiian shirt. As he shoves the boots into a trash can, you can clearly see a giant white building with the name “Great Southern Hotel” in giant letters in the background. That was it; a scene in a movie I had seen when I was about 13 had stuck in my head for years…and as fate would have it, I wind up working down the street from the place. But here’s what’s even more interesting: One of the themes of the movie is that the characters want to get out of the city, out of the cold, away from the freaks up north and down to sunny Florida where the palm trees sway and you can pick the oranges right off the trees. Well, my father and I used to joke around about it all the time, that we had the same dream. Finally, in 2000, he, my wife and I made it down here. “Everybody’s Talkin’ at Me” from the movie was going through my head as we crossed the Georgia border into Florida. The sun actually was shining through the pouring rain as we drove down I-95 into Fort Lauderdale. My father, who was very sick at the time, made it down right behind us, but unlike Ratzo lived a few years to enjoy it. Whenever I see the Great Southern I think of him, and how we both got our dream to come true.

    (This is a repost from last year, but it was such a popular one I thought I’d give it another view)
    -Tiki Chris Pinto, for the Tiki 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