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  • A day off, and your weekend Tiki Cocktail: The Tropical Sunrise

    Posted on April 8th, 2011 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 2 comments
    Tropical Sunrise

    Tropical Sunrise

    It’s been a rough week, kids…no doubt you saw there was no Mod Movie Monday this week. Been crazy-bizy with work (good), writing (better), and of course, drinking exotic cocktails (best). I’m racing to get Murder on Tiki Island finished for the April 30th debut, and it’s taking a lot out of me. So I took the day off from work, have been doing some writing, and will begin drinking those exotic cocktails any minute!

    Here’s a fun and easy on that tastes great at any Tiki bar or poolside cabana. The Islanders’ answer to the Tequila Sunrise, here’s…

    The Tropical Sunrisetropicalsunrisecocktail

    In a shaker, combine:
    crushed ice
    2 shots spiced rum
    1 shot triple sec
    2 shots orange juice
    2 shots pineapple juice
    Grenadine

    And shake, baby, shake! Strain into a tall glass filled with ice, drizzle with grenadine and garnish with orange slices, a pineapple wedge and a cherry. Preferably on one of those little plastic swords. You ever see the drink swords at the Mai Kai? They’re HUGE! I think they must have them special-made, cuz I ain’t seem em anyplace else that big. Anyway, there’s you drink…cheers!

    -Tiki Chris P reporting from behind the bar at Tiki Lounge Talk, the Blounge for Tiki and Retro Lovers around the world. Come and visit me and my lovely wife Colleen at The Hukilau 2011, here in fabulous Fort Lauderdale, June 9-12!

  • Who Cares About San Francisco’s Tonga Room? I do.

    Posted on November 20th, 2010 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 10 comments

    The Tonga Room as it is Today

    The Tonga Room as it is Today

    The historic Tonga Room at the  Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, one of America’s last surviving Tiki Bars from the golden age is slated for demolition to make way for – you guessed it, that dirty word – Condos. The Tiki community and a group of SF preservationists have been trying desperately to keep the owners from closing it down, but the owners (and unfortunately for people like us who would like to preserve the past) have every right to do with they want with the property, and I agree they should have that right. The owners are adamant to remove the Tonga Room from their property in order to build new hotel rooms and condos, but are willing to carefully dismantle the Tonga Room, store the artifacts and help move it to a new location. Personally, although I believe it should be preserved as-is and could be a major profitable attraction, this is probably the best compromise that can be made. It’s just a shame that developers like these owners don’t realize that places like The Tonga Room are what make an area desirable to begin with – and once it’s all gone, who cares about living in their condos?

    Last month, the San Francisco Chronicle (online) published an article about the looming demise of the world-famous Tonga Room Tiki restaurant & lounge. The article, written by a staffer whose name I shall not dignify with posting here, caused an uproar of anger among the Tiki-loving community, as well as many San Franers. Why? Well to begin with, the name of the article is

    “Tonga Room Execution Stayed. Does Anyone Care?”

    The Tonga Room's history goes way back to the pre-war era when it was the SS Tonga

    The Tonga Room's history goes way back to the pre-war era when it was the SS Tonga

    Yes, the SFWeekly Blog staffer (not even sure if he’s on the payroll) who usually writes about sports or community events wrote a number of articles slanted heavily with his opinions about the Tonga Room and its impending doom. His slant was basically that it is nothing but an out-dated dump, a tacky catastrophe that should be plowed under and forgotten as soon as possible. A blemish on the nuevo-hipster world where clubs with numbers for names and cookie-cutter upscale condos rule. A ridiculous piece of grandpa’s past, an overpriced monument to crappy kitsch that interferes with progress.

    His last article, the one that asks if anyone cares, is a sarcastic, juvenile attempt to slander not just the Tonga Room but Tiki culture as a whole. Phrases like “historic preservation label slapped on postwar kitsch” and “tiki bars are relics of a bygone era” were cutting enough to enrage an entire population of preservationists and Tikiphiles…enough to foster 111 comments in just a few days, 99% of which were from people opposing his opinions.

    Now, let’s take a minute to be fair. The guy has a right to his opinion. The post was on a blog, not the front page of the SF Chronicle. He has the freedom to say what he wants, just like I do here. That said, let’s also be fair by saying that even though the article is published on the SF Chronicle’s blog, it’s STILL the SF Chronicle, a reputable newspaper that is committed to publishing real news along with editorial opinion – but traditionally, those opinions are based on well-researched facts, not the ramblings of some kid who just doesn’t care – or doesn’t get it. And that is the tragedy of this article; the writer doesn’t care because he doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about.

    He assumes that because he doesn’t like original Tiki bars, that no one does. He assumes that because (possibly) his circle of influence is content to drink Vodka made in France (France???) and chain-store lattes, eat overpriced food at “trendy” restaurants and brag about it, and go into debt paying for cookie-cutter foreign cars just to show off, that the rest of us do.

    Over the years the SS TONGA began taking on more and more Tiki decor

    Over the years the SS TONGA began taking on more and more Tiki decor

    He should have done his homework. He should have done a few minutes of research on the net, and he would have realized that yes, there’s a big revival of Tiki Culture, and it shows no signs of slowing down. A few keyword searches would have shown him The Mai Kai in Fort Lauderdale, still thriving even in this recession, packed to the gills with people who come just for the experience along with people who are avid regulars. He would have found Trader Vic’s and Don the Beachcomber, and their world-wide success. He would have found Otto’s Shrunken Head in Manhattan, or Taboo Cove and Frankie’s Tiki Room in Vegas, newly-constructed Tiki Bars built in the traditional way. (Taboo Cove had a great run at the Venetian. It doesn’t get ‘hipper’ than that).

    This individual, like so many people today, is using his platform to push his misinformed opinions and beliefs on the rest of the world. Well, 100+ comments on his blog show that the world is pushing back. If he wanted to make the point that the owners of the Fairmont Hotel are entitled to do with they want with the property, then he could have done so in a much more responsible manner. Instead, he blurted out his opinion as if the entire city of San Fran (and basically the rest of the world) agrees with him. That’s what we professional writers call ‘bad journalism’.

    By the 1960s The Tonga Room was transformed into a full-fledge Tiki Bar complete with mid-pool bandstand, hurricane bar and a real tropical storm

    By the 1960s The Tonga Room was transformed into a full-fledge Tiki Bar complete with mid-pool bandstand, hurricane bar and a real tropical storm

    Now, some of you may be saying to yourselves, “Hey Tiki Chris, ain’t you just blurtin’ out your opinions here? Ain’t that, like, the same gig?” Well, it’s a little different here, kids. First of all, this is a site for people who love Tiki, not a newspaper’s blog. Second, I’m not saying anything here that’s not based on fact. Millions of people enjoy Tiki bars around the world. Many of them would be sad to see our history pushed away to make room for condos. The owners of the Fairmont do have the right to plow it down, if they want. And the guy who wrote the article doesn’t seem to think anyone in the world likes Tiki Bars anymore, and that they should all be forgotten and turned into TGI Friday’s. Well, ok, I made up the TGI Friday’s, but it gets the point across.

    Can the Tonga Room be saved? Of course. Should it? Absolutely. Should the owners of the Fairmont Hotel included the Tonga Room in their renovation plans, and market it as a world-class attraction? Damn straight. But they haven’t, and they won’t. Hopefully the investors who’ve taken an interest in moving the room will be successful. Hopefully this piece of history and architectural wonder will be spared the wrecking ball and preserved for generations to rediscover and enjoy. Perhaps the kid who wrote that goofy article will learn a lesson from the comments.

    Comments welcome.

    (This article assumes the reader has already read up on the impeding closing of the Tonga Room in San Fransisco. If not, just Google it (Tonga Room news) and you’ll see all there is to know about the topic)

    -Tiki Chris P, a little steamed, reporting from the newsroom at Tiki Lounge Talk, the Tiki Blog for people who believe in preserving our past and enjoying it to the fullest.

    A Final Note: Last year, the Sheraton corporation decided to renovate one of Fort Lauderdale’s most famous landmarks, The Yankee Clipper Hotel. This seaside hotel, built in the 1950s, looks like a cruise ship moored at the beach. But it’s not only famous for its unique outer look, but for its lobby bar – called The Wreck Bar, this kitschy-fun lounge looks like the inside of a sunken ship. But what makes it truly unique is the portals that look out into the hotel’s pool, where people sitting at the bar can watch swimmers go by. For years this has been the site of the world-famous Mermaid show, where beautiful women with Mermaid tails swim by doing water acrobatics. When the plans to renovate were announced, everyone assumed this mega corporation would remove the Wreck Bar and replace it with a modern, more trendy and dull lobby bar. Well to everyone’s surprise and to the Sheraton’s credit, they restored the bar to its original glory, not changing a thing except the rugs and the upholstery. The Wreck Bar fits into the hotel’s new decor perfectly, and Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid and her pod of beauties swim their show to a packed house every Friday Night, year round. A true success story about blending the old with the new. Maybe the owners of the Fairmont need to take a trip to South Florida, huh?

  • Your Friday Tiki Bar Cocktail: The Stars & Stripes

    Posted on November 12th, 2010 "Tiki Chris" Pinto No comments
    stars-and-stripes-feature

    The Stars & Stripes Cocktail At Fabulous-Cocktail-Recipes.com

    Since yesterday was Veterans Day, I thought it would be kool beans to do a little patriotic concoction this week. Now, I haven’t tried this cocktail yet, but it looks good and seems like it would be pretty tasty if you like your drinks sweet, so here’s

    The Stars & Stripes Cocktail

    for your weekend Tiki Bar pleasure.

    I found this recipe on Fabulous Cocktail Recipes, a fun site with a retro-cocktail party feel. Check them out!

    “Start with shot glass and pour 1/2 oz of Grenadine for the bottom layer. Using a bar spoon, float 1/2 oz of Blue Curacao for the middle layer. Wipe down the spoon and then use it to float 1/2 oz of Heavy Cream for the top layer. Sing the Star Spangled Banner and serve!” (Click here to see the actual post on Fabulous Cocktail Recipes).stars-and-stripes-tiki

    Of course I can’t leave well enough alone, and had to turn it into a Tiki Drink!

    -Tiki Chris P. reporting from the Tiki Bar at Tiki Lounge Talk, the Tiki Blog For Tiki Fans. (Wow, that’s a lot of Tiki!)

  • Plan 9 from Outer Space, 1958 and Ed Wood, 1994 for Mod Movie Monday’s Creature Double Feature

    Posted on October 29th, 2010 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 2 comments

    plan-9-from-outer-space-one-sheet

    It’s Halloweekend at the Tiki Bar! From one of the worst directors to one of the best, on this week’s Mod Movie Monday we’ll look at two kats who changed the way we look at movies forever.

    Let’s start with our favorite bad director, Ed Wood, Jr. Ed brought us some of the most poorly written, directed and produced films of all kind, with the zenith (or basement) of his work being Plan 9 from Outer Space. I feel bad for this kid. He just wanted to make movies that people would enjoy. Unfortunately for him, nobody really dug his stuff until years after his alcohol-soaked death. Now, we can love these lowest-budget flicks for what they are: So incredibly bad they are great. Fun to watch, fun to make fun of, fun to imagine yourself on the set 50+ years ago as walls shook and gravestones fell over.

    Plan 9 is actually an interesting premise. Originally entitled “Grave Robbers from Outer Space”, the title was deemed too gory for the film’s religious backers. So it’s about space aliens who come to earth and resurrect dead people to do stuff like slowly walk into people, killing them. Or something. Actually, I’ve seen this movie several times and I’m still not sure what it’s about. Maybe because I can’t get through it sober.

    plan9zombiesEd Wood extensively used free, stock footage to fill in the holes in his films. Scenes of cattle stampeding, WWII footage, and people walking around get spliced in at the strangest places. Add Bela Lugosi, who died during filming, Tor Johnson and Vampira to the cast. Then add in a stand-in for Bela, a guy who had the same shaped head, skulking around with a cape over his face for the rest of the flick. Tin pie plates on strings attacking California. Car chases where the cars change to different models when showed in different angles. A shower curtain in the cockpit. Are you confused? Wait’ll ya see the movie.

    edwoodposterBut it’s fun to watch, for certain. So much fun that one of Hollywood’s top weirdos, Tim Burton, made a film about Ed Wood, Jr. and his repertoire of canned junk. Shot in black and white and starring Johnny Depp (of course), Ed Wood is a thousand times better-made movie than any of Wood’s movies ever were. Martin Landau steals the show with his Bela Lugosi character. Vampira looks and acts like the original Vampira. And Ed Wood is so goofy, so much fun you have to wonder if he was really like that, or if that’s how Burton envisions how he must have been.

    Either of these films is great on its own. Back to back, they’re a riot. And speaking of Bella Lugosi…

    Dracula, 1931

    Turn this duet into a trio this Halloweekend with one of the movies that started it all, the original Bela Lugosi Dracula from 1931. Still scary and creepy today as it was 70 years ago, no vintage-style ‘ween is complete without this master of horror flicks. dracula_1931_poster

    Your Halloweekend Drinks!

    So here’s a few drink ideas for Hallowe’en Weekend, to sip with your movies or push at your party…

    Vampire’s Blood Martini

    1.5 oz Russian Vodka
    1 oz orange juice
    1 oz  cranberry juice
    1 small scoop raspberry sorbet
    seltzer

    Shake vodka, OJ, & cranberry in shaker with ice until well chilled. Strain into a large martini glass, add a small (about a teaspoon) scoop of sorbet and top with seltzer. You can add a few drops of red food coloring to make it really bloody.

    plan9The Zombie (Frozen)

    There are a few variations on the Zombie Cocktail. This one, close to the old version but frozen, is probably my favorite:

    1/2 oz 151 rum
    1 oz pineapple juice
    1 oz orange juice
    1/2 oz apricot brandy
    1 tsp sugar
    2 oz light rum
    1 oz dark rum
    1 oz lime juice

    Blend all ingredients with ice except the 15. Pour it into a tall Tiki mug and flloat the 151 rum on top. Garnish with a fruit slice, sprig of mint, and a cherry. To give it a real kick, add a few sprinkles of cayenne pepper into the mix. Yow!

    The Michael Myers Halloween Cocktailedwood-scene

    Yep, made this one up at the Tiki Bar. Not really an exotic drink, as there’s no rum, but it’s strong and will probably tear your guts out, so…

    2 oz Jack Daniels (or Jim Beam, which will be a little sweeter)
    1 oz Goldschlager or Cinnamon Schnapps
    1/2 Orange Curacau
    1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
    2-3 drops Bitters (optional)
    Apple and pumpkin, chopped into small cubes
    Cinnamon stick

    This can be served over the rocks, or warmed up in a mug. Stir all ingredients together. float small cubes of apple and pumpkin on top and garnish with a cinnamon stick stirrer. Like I said, strong as hell but krazy fun!

    plan9sceneWell kids, that’s all for this week. I know I haven’t posted much lately (This is my busiest time of year) and probably won’t get to another post until Monday, so Happy Hallowe’en to you kool ghouls!

    -Tiki Chris P, in ghost form floating around Haunted Tiki Island Resort. Reporting for Tiki Lounge Talk, the Tiki Culture Tiki Blog for retro lovers and Tikiphiles all over the world.

  • A Collection of Fun Old Scary Movies for Halloween

    Posted on October 18th, 2010 "Tiki Chris" Pinto No comments

    ghost-stories

    The Halloween Season is a very busy one for Ole Tiki Chris P. I’ve been going bananas decorating every day for our big Halloween bash, and have been too beat to lay down some groovy stories. So I’m cheating a little…here’s a kool post from last year with some great movie ideas. Tomorrow I’ll post two new horror flicks and a couple of drink recipes too!

    If you’re into old movies, I don’t have to speil about the wonders of the original Dracula, Frankenstein & Wolfman. You’ve probably seen them, or they’re already on your list. So here’s a few creepy flicks that may have escaped your radar…some you’ve heard of, but maybe never got around to witness. Some you’ve probably never heard of, but take it from this kat, they’re fun to watch and might even give you the heebee-geebees. I’ve included the IMDB link so you can get more info. So here goes, in no particular odor (I mean order. Damned spellchecker.)

    The Haunting (1963) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057129/the_haunting_poster
    One of the first ghost stories I ever saw as a kid, this black & white thriller sets three unsuspecting volunteers in a secluded, creepy mansion with a scientist conducting an experiment on sleep deprivation. Secretly the well-intended scientist believes the mansion to harbor spirits, and his volunteers have been selected for their apparent sensitivity to the spirit world. The spirits come. It’s krazy. A well-crafted movie from a well-written book, you’ll want to watch this one with the lights off and some spiked hot chocolate.

    The Uninvited (1944) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0037415/
    Ray Milland leads this Noir thriller centering around a haunted house on the English coast. He and his sister move into the lovely old home only to find there are skeletons lurking in every closet. A well-written and well-acted movie, this one is at the top of my ghost movie list.

    Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081505/
    Jack Nicholson at his craziest/finest. Stephen King may have hated this adaptation, but there’s no denying this is one of the creepiest, scariest, most disturbing movies ever made. From blood pouring out of the elevators to butchered children to eerie music from a not so distant past, The Shining will leave you with chills and craving for more. The sets of the Overlook Hotel are so evil and creepy looking that the hotel itself becomes one of the main characters (as intended). Even the opening credits are scary!

    A Bucket of Blood (1959) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0052655/
    Beatniks, jazz, pretty girls and ‘innocently’ unintentional murder for the sake of art. This early Roger Corman film is as dark as dark comedy can get. Creepy, BW & even an actual bucket with blood in it. This is one of those movies where you’ll be saying “They got away with THAT in 1959?”

    House of Wax (1953) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0045888/
    No Paris Hilton, but plenty of Vincent Price at his best. Murder, wax and insanity. Need I say more?

    mark_of_devil_posterMark of the Devil (1970) (aka Hexen bis aufs Blut gequält) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0065491/
    Hot 60’s European chicks getting tortured as witches. Amazingly realistic and gory for the time, the plot centers around Inquisitors using their power to satisfy their sadistic lusts. Pretty damned disturbing, actually. The American version is dubbed pretty well, so you don’t have to read subtitles. Lots of torture devices, dirty villagers, and torture of pretty medieval women that borders on a snuff flick. Don’t let the kids near this one.

    Young Frankenstein (1974) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0072431/
    It’s not easy to pull off a really great spoof of a really great movie, but they really nailed it with this one. Mel Brooks in his heyday with Harvey Korman, Peter Boyal, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr, Madeline Kahn, a cameo by Gene Hackman and Gene Wilder at the reins. Wilder plays the grandson of Victor von Frankenstein. He refuses to believe his grandfather’s work had any merit until he visits the ‘old country’ and finds his journal. When he decides to try the experiments himself, hilarity ensues. Shot in black and white with the same techniques as movies from the 30’s (and with some of the same sets as the original “Frankenstein”) this flick is timeless, with great gags, great writing, and Teri Garr looking like a real honey.

    The Exorcist (1973) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070047/exorcist_poster
    Speaks for itself. If you ain’t seen it, see it. It’ll blow your mind. Scary, evil, disturbing. Interesting note: Max von Sydow played Father Merrin, the old priest. He was only 43 at the time. He also played the role of Jesus in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), and Director Burgess in Minority Report (2002). Talk about a career!

    the-changeling-posterThe Changeling (1980) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080516/
    Probably the best Ghost Story I’ve ever seen on film. George C. Scott stars as John Russell, a music composer who moves to a secluded vintage mansion outside of Seattle, hoping for some peace and quiet. What he gets are strange noises, visions, and visitations. As he unravels the mystery he gets drawn deeper into the web of the strengthening spirit. I don’t want to give anything else away! This has been one of my favorites from when I first saw it as a kid. Even though it was released in 1980, it has that old 60’s-70’s production style that makes it even creepier than any of the newer flicks can go for. Sure, new movies have great effects, but when they’re too slick they just don’t have that gritty creep factor.

    Ghost Story (1981) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082449/
    What happens when you get Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks and John Houseman together in their retirement years? A very creepy ghost story, that’s what. Add Patricia Neal, Alice Krige and a 50 year old bloody secret and you’ve got the makings of a very spooky film. 80’s production values are laughable, but if you can get past that it’s a fun flick to watch.

    christine_poster1Christine (1983) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085333/
    “She’s Death On Wheels” was the movie’s slogan. Another Stephen King adaptation, this time by John Carpenter. Nerdy teenager finds a beat to hell ’58 Fury “That’s uglier than he is”, spends all his time fixing it up and driving it, all the time becoming possessed by the demon car. It follows the book fairly well, but the way Carpenter translated the story to the screen has become legend. There’s even a Christine Car Club dedicated to restoring and preserving ’58 Plymouth Fury Christine clones (and a few real movie cars). With no computer graphics to help them, 25 Plymouths were used in the film, with about 15 of them being destroyed (which brought car guys like me to tears). It was later said that many of the destroyed cars were junkyard dogs anyway, didn’t run, didn’t even have engines, and were just painted rustbuckets used for the shots. A little Trivia: When my family and I went to see this in the movies around Christmas, 1983, we drove to the theater in my father’s ’64 Caddy. When we came out, people were pointing at his finned car and yelling, “It’s Christine!”…even though it was powder blue and didn’t look anything like a Fury! A few years later my Dad and I bought a ’59 Plymouth Savoy (with a ’58 front end on it) with the intention of making a Christine Clone. Turns out the motor was shot, and it was too much trouble to do it so we sold it back to the guy we bought it from for the same $200 we paid for it.