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  • Cal-Neva Resort Closes Casino

    Posted on April 3rd, 2010 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 1 comment
    Cal-Neva Lodge

    Cal-Neva Lodge

    Another landmark has fallen victim to our crap-assed economy: The Historic Cal-Neva Lodge, once owned by Frank Sinatra and frequented by Jack Kennedy and Marylin Monroe, shut down casino operations this week due to loss in profits. Although a drop in tourism to Tahoe and increased competition from Vegas were probably a part of the problem, I blame the greedy, ignorant bankers and politicians for the closing.

    But don’t start crying over it just yet. The Cal-Neva has had its ups and downs over the years; even Frank had his license yanked and the joint still made it through. The restaurant, lounge and showroom are remaining open. In fact, their website is still up, and they’re apparently still taking bookings for rooms. There are plans to get the casino back up by the end of the year.

    The way I see it, there are plenty of millionaires out there who dig Sinatra and know what preserving this place means to the world. If you’re reading this, think about putting in a bid on the place. It must be saved.

    See my post on the Cal-Neva Lodge (and a groovy story to go with it) by clicking here.

    See the story on the San Francisco Chronicle here.

  • Happy Anniversary to Tiki Lounge Talk!

    Posted on March 31st, 2010 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 3 comments

    happy-tiki-anniversary-bettApril marks the One Year Anniversary of Conversations at the Tiki Bar! Notice the shiny new header and the kool glowing background graphics? They’re just part of a month-long celebration of Tiki, Retro & Vintage fun.

    In the coming weeks I’ll post lots of fun-stuff, from some of the first few posts to new and exciting concoctions. I’m also planning on adding a drink recipe page and an events page to give a little more usable info in addition to the general silliness that usually swings around here.

    So sit back, take a sip of your Rusty Nail and enjoy Tiki Lounge Talk, the Tiki Blog for Tiki Culture & Tiki Lifestyle (whew that’s a load of Tikis, but I guess it will help with SEO!) in our second fantabulous year!

    -Tiki Chris, reporting from Sunny South Florida

  • Ocean’s 11, 1960: Mod Movie Mondays at the Tiki Bar Blog

    Posted on December 28th, 2009 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 5 comments


    What better way to ring in the New Year than with the greatest New Year’s Eve movie to ever hit the silver screen,
    Ocean’s 11, the first (and quintessential) Rat-Pack flick.

    The characters in this movie define cocktail-era cool better than anyone…and they should, as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop practically invented the essence of mid-century coolness, and pretty much play themselves in this liquor-soaked tale.oceans-eleven

    Enter Danny Ocean, the cocky, live-for-the-moment cat who gets a crazy idea in his head to get his old army buddies together to knock-over five Vegas Strip casinos for fun and profit. Using his charm, he talks his (otherwise mostly straight-up) pals into embarking on this rather ballsy scheme. They make the plan over billards and drinks, and make ready to pull it off on New Year’s Eve at the stroke of midnight. I won’t give any more away, in case you ain’t seen it for yourself as of yet.

    Here’s some Trivia (More here at IMDB):

    This flick combines the best the cocktail era has to offer: On-location shots of Vegas, plus cool cars, lots of booze, broads, and songs by Martin and Davis. (But funny enough, not Sinatra)

    ratpack1The Rat Pack shot the film in Vegas while working on-stage at the Sands. They scheduled the shoots around the stage shows, and often worked into the wee small hours filming.

    It is rumored that when Peter Lawford brought the idea to Sinatra, Ole Blue Eyes said, “Forget the movie, let’s pull the job!”

    Shirley McClaine ad-libbed her entire cameo. Her payment was a new car.

    Vegas ‘law’ at the time mandated African Americans could not stay in the major hotels. When they tried to make Sammy Davis Jr. stay at a “colored only” motel, Frank stepped in and strong-armed the casino into letting him stay there. This pretty much led to the end of segregation in Vegas Hotels.ratpack-sands

    Dean Martin’s movie version of “Ain’t That a Kick in The Head” , featuring Red Norvo on vibes, was much different (but just as cool) as the swingin’ big band version released on vinyl.

    PS: For those of you who are thinking of the remake with George Clooney and Brad Pitt…Hey, I think Clooney is just great…but he ain’t no Sinatra. See the original.

  • Frank, Dean & Ella at the Cal-Neva Lodge, 1963

    Posted on December 9th, 2009 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 10 comments

    Bar Napkin, 1963, signed by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Ella FitzgeraldRing-A-Ding Ding, Baby!

    This marks the 150th Post since  I started Tiki Lounge Conversations back in April…

    and I wanted to do something special. So, to commemorate our 150th post-a-versary, I’ve decided to share a drink, a story, and a very special bar napikin.

    The Drink.

    The first booze I ever tasted was Scotch. My old man let me try some of his Cutty Sark on the rocks at a Christmas party wen I was 12. It was a little strong for me at the time, but I knew when I was old enough to really start enjoying whiskey, Scotch would be it. I wasn’t wrong. When I was old enough to dig it, Scotch became my #1 choice.When I finally got my own joint and was able to built my first Tiki Bar, along with the rum and the Midori and the Kaluha sat a bottle of 12 year old Chivis.

    The first bottle of booze I ever bought at a liquor store was Chivas Regal. This particular bottle is from 1955. The Gold nugget next to it is a chunk of fool's gold my old man dug up in the Nevada desert in 1963.

    The first bottle of booze I ever bought at a liquor store was Chivas Regal. This particular bottle is from 1955. The Gold nugget next to it is a chunk of fool's gold my old man dug up in the Nevada desert in 1963.

    In 1991 I had the good fortune to see the Chairman of the Board himself perform at the Spectrum in Philly for his 75th Birthday Diamond Jubilee tour. Steve and Edie opened for him…and half way through his set, he said “I’d like to thank my two best friends for being with me tonight…Mr. Chivas and Mr. Regal.” He then took a drink of the 12 year old Scotch from a platform onstage, and continued the show. Chivas-Regal sponsored the tour…and got me to try their booze. Today, Chivas is in my top five favorites. If it’s good enough for Frank, it’s good enough for me.

    Momentos from my old man's trip to Vegas, 1963

    Momentos from my old man's trip to Vegas, 1963

    The Story.

    In 1963, before he met my mother and while he was still free enough to do his own thing, my father took a trip on a whim to see his cousins in California. On the way he stopped in Vegas, and hit all the hot spots of the time…The Golden Nugget, The Sahara, and of course, the StarDust Hotel. He rented a Hertz and drove up to Tahoe, and made his way to the Cal-Neva Lodge, then owned by Frank Sinatra himself. He stayed a while, and continued on his trip to CA.

    42 years later, a couple of years after his death, I was going through some of his photos and heirlooms. I found an envelope with a letter requesting a Hertz rental car in Nevada from 1963, and a folded up napkin with some blue smudges on it.

    The Napkin.

    Our Rat Pack Wall in the Dining Room

    Our Rat Pack Wall in the Dining Room

    I opened it up, and immediately recognized the smudge as the name “Ella Fitzgerald”. (That opened my head to a memory of him telling me he had met some celebrities in Vegas…but I was so young when he told me, I didn’t (yet) know who these people were. ) When I flipped this napkin over, imagine my surprise when I saw very clearly two more names…’Frank’, and ‘Dean’.

    calnevaCall it dumb, call it funny, but it’s better than even money that these are the quickly scrawled sigs of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, scribbled while having a slug at the bar in Frank’s place, the Cal-Neva, probably after a show, along with the slightly nicer sig of Ella, who was probably sitting right there with them. I don’t have any way to authenticate this, and I’m not paying anyone to do it…for all I know my old man could have gotten the bartender to autograph the napkin as a joke, but I don’t think that’s the case. I think I’ve got a little magic here, a couple of autographs from a couple of guys who loved to entertain, and loved to hang out in the bar with their fans, have a drink, and share a few laughs in the days when celebrities could get away with it without being stalked. A very special napkin, from a very special person, who met some other very special people in his long and krazy life.

    So that’s post number 150. I couldn’t think of a better way to do it than with a drink at the Tiki Bar, an story from the past and a salute to the Chairman of the Board.

    Mahalos to all you kats & kittens  for tuning in to Tiki Lounge Talk For 150 Posts!


  • This Week’s Top Songs In 1956: #1 Heartbreak Hotel by Elvis, #2 Moonglow/The Theme from Picnic by Morris Stolloff

    Posted on July 1st, 2009 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 9 comments

    The King - Click to Play Heartbreak Hotel

    The King - Click to Play Heartbreak Hotel

    Flip your ears to the hi-fi kats and kittens and listen to what I’m laying on ya, two big hits from ’56 in the mix and there ain’t no tricks, it’s the King, The Man with the Swingin’ Pelvis, Elvis Presley in the Number One slot this week in 1956, and right in view at Number Two is…Morris Stoloff?

    Yeah, that’s how it was back in the 50’s. Back then there was ONE chart, one list of hits, and you could have Rock ’n’ Roll and a Jazz standard together with a Western tune and standards vocalists like Frank Sinatra on the top five at the same time. Today you have a couple of dozen charts, so you’ll (probably) never see Winton Marsalis on the same hit list as Beyonce. but back in the day that would have been common.

    Now don’t get me wrong, most kats that were digging Elvis wouldn’t listen to Jazz if their lives depended on it. And vice versa…A lot of kats in the Jazz scene were too busy groovin’ to sophisticated bop to catch the Rhythm & Blues bug. And neither click would turn their ears to say, Patsy Cline, who also topped the charts plenty in the 50’s. But there were some mavericks who could riff along with all of them…From Frank and Dean to Les Brown and Dorris Day to Miles Davis and Stan Getz to Elvis and Buddy Holly.

    My old man was just such a kat. “Picnic” happened to be one of his favorite movies, and according to him the scene where William

    Picnic - Click Here to Play "Moonglow/The Theme From Picnic"

    Picnic - Click Here to Play "Moonglow/The Theme From Picnic"

    Holden and Kim Novak danced to “Moonglow” had everybody going crazy (Kim Novak burns through the scene with one of the most understated and sexiest ‘innocent’ dances  of all time, believe me). It’s a krazy scene musically because up to that point there is sort of corny dixie-type music playing for the picnic. Then this piano, guitar, bass and brushes comes in swinging with Moonglow, and these two characters finally get together (and just dance) after an hour of repressed 50’s sexual tension. It’s like, hypnotic, lulling you into this dream-like paradise for two…then all hell breaks loose. If you want to know more, rent the movie, I won’t spoil it for you here.

    So back to the tunes.

    #1 This week, July 1, 2009 is Boom Boom Pow by the Black Eyed Peas. Imagine if a Diana Krall tune was #2. That’s how it used to be. Granted, you’ll get a few Jazz or other tunes reaching into the Top 20 now and then, if they’re from a movie usually. But gone the days when diverse talent like Fran Sinatra and Bill Haley shared the top positions on the charts.

    Other #1 songs of 1956 included:

    Dean Martin – Memories Are Made Of This
    Gogi Grant – The Wayward Wind
    Platters – My Prayer
    Les Baxter – The Poor People Of Paris
    Tennessee Ernie Ford – Sixteen Tons

    All on the same chart. Krazy, ain’t it?