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  • May 22 Marks 20 Years Since I Bought StarDust, The Smokin’ 53 Chevy Hot Rod

    Posted on May 22nd, 2010 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 1 comment
    StarDust, the Smokin' 53 Chevy Belair Wild Custom

    StarDust, the Smokin' 53 Chevy Belair Wild Custom

    20 YEARS!

    That’s right kats and kittens, May 22nd means I’ve had this beauty for 20 years on the button. That’s half my life, by the way. Longer than I’ve known my wife and most of my friends, longer than I’ve been able to legally drink.

    You’d think by now it would be done!

    But when you have an antique car that you work on yourself, you’re never really finished. The short story is, I bought her at a yard sale in a little community that went by the name of Birdland in South Jersey, and drove it home.

    My 1953 Chevy Belair StarDust in 1992

    My 1953 Chevy Belair StarDust in 1992

    Within a few months I’d added a set of tires, rebuilt the carb, got the brakes working, put new seat covers, installed a new fuel pump and did some bodywork, enough to get her primed. By summer she was on the road. I drove her around primed gray for over a year while I got the lettuce together to get her painted, and by September 1991 she was seafoam green with a white top and chocolate interior.

    I drove it around like that for ten years, to fun places like Wildwood and Cape May, Ocean City and Smithville, NJ. Then in June 2000, we moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. StarDust came with us on a flatbed behind the 22′ moving truck.

    FINS! 1953 Chevy Belair Custom Hot Rod

    FINS! 1953 Chevy Belair Custom Hot Rod

    Once down here (with a two-car garage) I decided to totally re-think her, make her a wild custom ride. I started with engine – adding a 4-banger carb and headers with duals to the original six, then cut the top like a cabriolet, then…the FINS. Yes kids, in true 1950’s custom fashion, I hand-built 33″ fins on the back of this baby, working them into the contours of the car.

    Then I installed the leather seats from my Father’s Cadillac in, added a purple rug and custom center console with a pop-up DVD player, and chrome spokes. Recently I rebuilt the braking system from the ground up, and added a new high-torque starter to make her start up easily and more reliably. She’s running great now, and looks decent although she’s still in black primer (I plan to paint her metalflake candy purple before I kick the bucket).

    53 Chevy in Primer

    53 Chevy in Primer

    I’d really like to put a Mustang II front suspension and a dual master cylinder on her in the near future, but that front end’s more work than I can handle myself. I’ll have to take it to a shop for that, and frankly I ain’t met no kats in SoFla that I’d trust her with!

    The Trunk

    The Trunk

    Twenty years is a long time to have a car. I have a feeling this car will outlast me. I have a lot of neat pix and info on how I built it at the StarDust Chevy website, Check it out if you have some time. It’s a gass, baby!

    -Krazy Chris reporting from under the car, next to a palm tree in Sunny South Florida

  • The Party, with Peter Sellers, 1968 – Mod Movie Monday at The Tiki Bar

    Posted on March 7th, 2010 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 2 comments

    sellers-sitar-theparty Get out your Naru jacket, tune up the sitar and get ready to watch a truly mod movie from the psychedelic ’60s, baby! Peter Sellers and Blake Edwards got together only once to make a comedy that wasn’t about The Pink Panther.  The Party, 1968 is a crazy, mod, very ’60s flick about Hollywood craziness of the day, and spoofs a big hippie-era Hollywood party so well you’ll wish you were there.

    Peter Sellers plays an Indian actor named Hrundi V. Bakshi who is trying desperately to get his big break in American films. As you might expect, mod-movie-mondayshe does more harm than good on the set and gets himself put on the black list, only to be accidentally put on the invitation list to the big Hollywood shindig instead. Add every 1960s mod movie gag in the book, hot women, pot smoking musicians and a baby elephant and you can’t miss. And I guarantee, for the rest of your days every time you see a parrot, you’ll want to call him Birdy Num Num.

    You’ll have to put yourself in the era to enjoy this flick – it’s not exactly action-packed, theparty-girl-sellersand there’s no real story, just one funny scene after another. (According to IMDB: “This film was improvised from a 56-page outline. Each scene was shot in sequence, and built upon the previous scene. To aid in this experiment, the film’s producers had a video-camera tube attached to the Panavision camera and connected to an Ampex studio videotape machine, allowing the actors and crew to review what they had just filmed.”)theparty_elephant

    Since the movie is about a big swingin’ Hollywood party in 1968, suitable fare should include fondue, caviar, California salad and cucumber sandwiches. For drinks, Champagne would be grand, or Beefeater Martinis for the cocktail set.


    -Tiki Chris for Tiki Lounge Talk

  • Tiki Bar Talk on a Thursday Night

    Posted on April 23rd, 2009 "Tiki Chris" Pinto No comments
    Converstaions at the Tiki Bar

    Converstaions at the Tiki Bar

    First, Welcome Captain Steve to! The Captain will be writing about his adventures in Jacksonville Florida and abroad. Which broad he’ll be writing about, I don’t know.

    Talking at the Tiki Bar

    What a rough, stupid and annoying day I had. Broken computer, co-workers whining, yucky lunch. I suppose it could have been worse, but it was still pretty bad. At least I’m not in New Jersey.

    Then I came home, and everything was better. My wife, Colleen, showed off a pretty new top she got (cheap!). Then we had drinks outside on the Lanai, at the Tiki Bar, and things got better from there. We talked about books mostly ( I just finished reading Duma Key by Stephen King, and she’s just begun to read it), plus a few other subjects as they lilted on. I enjoyed a Chivas Regal low-ball, I believe she had some wine. It was nice to relax in our little surreal getaway. Our Tiki Bar looks like something crossed between the Pirates of the Caribbean ride in Disney World and old town Key West. No matter how rough things get, we have our place to forget. Looking forward to the rest of the evening now!

    BTW: I’m not sure if this is true everywhere, but in Florida, you can buy hard liquor at Sam’s Club, BJ’s, and Costco without a membership card. Their prices are about 15% to 30% cheaper than any liquor store around, and when you’re drinking 12 year old Glenlivet, that means a lot!

  • How To Have The Perfect Atomic Age Cocktail Party

    Posted on April 15th, 2009 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 1 comment

    Ah, the ‘50s, a time of diverse cultures, Rock ‘n Roll and Jazz living side by side, greasers and swingers intermingled in the same cities. While atomthe rock ‘n rollers were drinking Pabst and dancing to Bill Haley and the Comets, the cool crowd…the jetsetters…the swingers…were sipping Manhattans, dressed in evening gowns and sharp tailored suits, dancing cheek to cheek to Ole Blue Eyes and Nat King Cole, or just conversing with Stan Getz or Martin Denny in the background. Here’s how to throw a cocktail party, hi-ball style…

    The cocktail party. Suave, continental, the utmost.

    Today’s cocktail parties are but a remnant of the original, sophisticated gatherings that grew up in the ‘20s and ‘30s and reached mature perfection in the ‘50s. The music is different, the dress code is much less formal, and even the drinks are…just not the same.

    But it doesn’t have to be that way, does it? With a little imagination and a few bucks, anyone can reach back to 50 years ago and pull the elegance and glamour of a real cocktail party into the present.

    The Mood
    “The best way to wreck a party is to turn on the lights”. Atmosphere is everything, and before you buy your first bottle of Cointreau or open your first pack of swizzle sticks, you’ve got to get the mood right. Dig this: Mood = Lighting. Simple as that.

    To create the proper atmosphere, you need the proper setting, and the most important part of that setting is the lighting. Experiment a few evenings before the party with different light combinations. Keep the lights low. A good rule is people, after their eyes adjust, should be able to read their watches, but have to get close to see the color of the eyes of the person in front of them. This makes for a much more intimate, social mood. Avoid direct overhead lights, unless you have a dimmer. A small light at the bar to see the bottles is good, as long as it doesn’t stream out and glare into the room. Colored bulbs can do wonders; blues and greens are very nice, and create a mysterious, vintage feel. Reds tend to make everything look like a bordello, so unless that’s the look you going for, shy away from red. Candles can create a nice effect, but remember two things: First, too many candles can create too much light, actually spoiling the mood, and second, in the Atomic Age, candles were considered quaint (or antiquated)…A true Atom Age party would use the keenest and most up-to-date electronics, even for lighting (which also means if you have special effect lighting, such as ultraviolet or image projection lights, using them sparingly can help create a retro atmosphere). A very cool effect is to have colored bulbs low to the floor, behind furniture shining up, to give it a sort of “glow” in the background. And of course, a lava lamp can’t hurt… Oh, and by the way, the perfect time to start a cocktail party is 8:30pm. Not 8, not 9. Expect many of your guests to arrive at exactly 10:10.

    The Dress Code
    An essential part of the perfect cocktail party is what your guests look like. Let’s face it, jeans and sweatshirts just won’t cut it. You can be as formal or informal as you like, but whatever you decide, insist your guests dress the part. It will probably be difficult and annoying to your guests to have the wear evening clothes, ties, etc. But they should at the very least dress as well as they would for a wedding. Dresses for the ladies, sport coats for the men. If you’d like, get them excited about dressing the part by having a ‘best dressed’ contest with the winner getting a bottle of champagne.

    ultraloungeThe Music

    Let’s be Frank…this is a ‘50s cocktail party. Stick to the right kind of music. Since you have a couple of decades and several styles to choose from, it would be incredibly cool and mix a few together…Sinatra, Nat Cole and Billy Holiday, Lester Young, Stan Getz and Miles Davis, Martin Denny, Esquivel and Charlie Parker. The “Ultra Lounge Series” of CDs covers a lot of the tiki-inspired music of the era, real bachelor pad stuff. The Peter Gunn soundtrack has a lot of great cuts too. Don’t play anything corny like Percy Faith or Lawrence Welk, and stay away from Rock ‘n Roll, even the old stuff. The music is for background only, or slow dancing, and if anyone complains, call them an uptight square and hand them another drink.

    Turn off the Tube
    Remember, TV was not the center of attention in the Atom Age. The TV would never be on at a cocktail party. If you absolutely must have the tube on, consider playing DVDs of old movies or TV shows, such as The Malteze Falcon, The Peter Gunn series, Bell, Book & Candle, etc.

    The Bar
    You can’t force your guests to drink Side Cars and Singapore Slings, but you can try! Look up three or four old school drink recipes, and get familiar with making them. When your guests ask for the usual vodka and cranberry, offer them Vodka Collins instead. Or a Tahitian Sunset. Or maybe a Stinger. But don’t be too pushy…if they really want that Crown and Diet, let them have it. After all, they’re your guests, and you want them to have fun.

    It’s a good idea to try to find out ahead of time what people will be drinking. I’ve found the best bar set up consists of a lot of vodka, one Crown, one Jack, one Captain, one tequila and a bunch of fruit juices, plus coke, diet coke, seven up and a bottle of seltzer. If people ask if they can bring something, I tell them they don’t have to but (whatever you’re lacking) would be great. And I never buy beer…someone will always bring it, and if not, someone will go get it. Just make sure you have a couple 5 lb bags of ice. Oh, and a few lemons, limes, and cherries should be enough to get you through the night, unless you’re incredibly detailed about your garnishes. Then go the whole route with cocktail onions, olives, oranges, pineapple, etc.
    Someone once gave me a great book with cocktail recipes: The Great Tiki Drink Book. Found one here:

    The Food
    The fare served at a cocktail party can vary from simple snax to extravagant hors d’oeuvres. Just remember, once the party starts, the last thing you’re going to want to do is cook. Plan a menu ahead, taking into account the number of guests, the time of year, and the occasion itself. Stay away from anything soupy or glorpy…no chili, stew, or beef-a-roni, kids. If it needs a fork or spoon, forget it.

    No matter what the occasion, you’ll want simple finger foods that can be made in advance. Cocktail wieners are a sure-fire hit. Cheeses cut into one inch cubes, arranged with crackers and pepperoni is always popular. Frozen mini quiches are quick and easy to make, too. Put several small bowls of chips, dip, and nuts around the different rooms. If you’re having an informal friend and family affair, onion dips, mini hot dogs, or a large (6’ or longer) sub cut into small pieces is acceptable, but if you’re having a sort of “singles” get-together, stay away from anything with onion, garlic, etc. Don’t serve anything that can spill easily, and never…NEVER…serve anything out of a can (Except canned fruits or fruit cocktail).

    A chocolate fondue fountain is a nice modern touch that seems old fashioned, too. They’re inexpensive and easy to use.


    Conversation Pieces

    Don’t underestimate the power of a good old fashioned conversation piece. In the ‘50s, this could have been anything from a piece of avant-garde art, to an antique cigarette box, to a rare book. Today things aren’t too much different…art of any kind, particularly originals, will always catch people’s attention. Antiques today can also include collectibles from the late 20th century, including ‘50s bar memorabilia (I have a few goodies myself that always get a laugh, including VIP matchbooks…Very Important Places…gag advertising matchbook covers denoting various brothels, flophouses, sailor saloons and other funny establishments). And If you don’t have art or collectibles, you still don’t have to go out of your way to find interesting things. Have an old photo album with you in your younger days? Bring it out. Play a musical instrument? Put it on display. Even a few Playboy magazines placedchamplain girl on the coffee table, in the right company, can be a fun way to spice up the Tiki talk. Of course there are some of you who just don’t have anything “conversationally”. When all else fails, hire a stripper to jump out of a cake. Need ideas?, search “retro”

    And Now, The Party

    The mood is set, the lights are low, a Les Baxter arrangement is lilting out of the hi-fi, a pitcher of cold Martinis sits on the Tiki Bar, and you look sharp as a tack in your white tux or black evening gown. The first guests have just rung the doorbell. The time has arrived. Sip your Martini, take a deep breath, and get ready to have gas, baby!

    I’m gone…catch you cats on the flip side…