The Mai-Kai turns 60 with special history presentations, celebration

The Mai-Kai under construction in 1956 in Fort Lauderdale. (Mai-Kai photo)

The Mai-Kai under construction in 1956 in Fort Lauderdale. (Mai-Kai photo)

It’s a testament to a restaurant’s historic status and popularity when not one, but two book authors are scheduled speak at an anniversary event produced by a longtime supporter. When The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale turns 60 on Dec. 28, the annual Customer Celebration Party will be enhanced to include two special presentations in the acclaimed Polynesian palace’s main showroom, home of the longest-running authentic South Seas stage show in the United States, including Hawaii.

SPECIAL EVENT: The Mai-Kai’s 60th Anniversary Symposia Series & Customer Celebration Party – Wednesday, Dec. 28. Featuring presentations by authors Sven Kirsten and Tim “Swanky” Glazner brought to you by Tiki Kiliki Productions. Plus enjoy dinner shows, live music, and food and drink specials all night. Doors open at 1:30, symposia begin at 2, happy hour at 3:30, signings at 4, live music at 6, dinner shows at 7 and 9:30. Symposia tickets available at TikiKiliki.com and The Mai-Kai. For dinner reservations, call (954) 563-3272. [Facebook event]

The Mai-Kai's Mai-Kai 60th Anniversary Symposia Series

Named to the National Register of Historic Places two years ago, The Mai-Kai is the last remaining example of the classic mid-20th century Polynesian supper club. Indeed, the restaurant’s many fans consider it the Tiki mecca. Since the venerable Critiki website began compiling its user ratings into an annual list two years ago, The Mai-Kai has been honored as the No. 1 Tiki bar in the world two years straight. The Mai-Kai was also just voted the best Tiki bar by readers of SouthFlorida.com. [See video]

One of those fans, Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White, is producing a special Symposia Series for the 60th anniversary that features two authors who have written extensively about The Mai-Kai and Polynesian pop culture: Sven Kirsten and Tim “Swanky” Glazner. It’s that kind of reverence that makes The Mai-Kai a special place for many.

History symposia kick off party in legendary showroom

“The origin story of The Mai-Kai – its architecture, decor, and its influence on Polynesian pop on the American East Coast and beyond – makes it one of the greatest Tiki temples of all time,” wrote noted pop culture historian and author Kirsten in the forward to Glazner’s book, Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant, released in September by Schiffer.

A recent view of The Mai-Kai from Federal Highway. (Photo by Sven Kirsten)

A recent view of The Mai-Kai from Federal Highway. (Photo by Sven Kirsten)

“Before the era of theme parks, this place showed the way,” Glazner wrote in his debut work. “It weaves its magic, if you let it. It is a place out of time: ancient, mysterious, lush, and relaxing.” The California-based Kirsten and Tennessee-based Glazner will make the pilgrimage to The Mai-Kai on Dec. 28 to host symposia on the restaurant’s unique and fascinating history.

The party starts early: Doors open at 1:30 p.m. for the presentations, which will include slideshows of vintage photos and artwork, plus a raffle for special giveaways. Your ticket also gets you early entry into The Mai-Kai for an unencumbered look at all the dining rooms and Tiki garden; plus appetizers and tropical drinks, including three special “lost cocktails” from the early days of the restaurant.

At 2 p.m., Kirsten will present for the first time his research into the origins and history of The Mai-Kai’s iconic Tahitian cannibal carvings, which have served as the restaurant’s logo in one form or another since opening day. Founding owners Bob and Jack Thornton “showed themselves as standard-bearers of the coming Tiki generation by adopting these figures as The Mai-Kai’s trademark,” Kirsten wrote Tiki Pop (Taschen), his 2014 magnum opus.

The Mai-Kai's opening day ad. (Provided by Sven Kirsten)

The Mai-Kai’s opening day ad. (Provided by Sven Kirsten)

In “The Tahitian Cannibal Carvings: The Logo Tikis of the Mai-Kai,” Kirsten will reveal how this specific Tiki design dates back to the early days of Polynesian pop, then marked the beginning of the Tiki period. This “cannibal trio” became the logo Tikis of important Polynesian restaurants across America, reproduced in a multitude of forms and materials. This will be a rare opportunity to see the influential Kirsten, author of The Book of Tiki (2000) and Tiki Modern (2007), in South Florida. He last did a presentation at The Mai-Kai during The Hukilau in 2012.

A 3 p.m., it’s Glazner’s turn to take the stage in the showroom, home of The Mai-Kai’s Polynesian Islander Revue and part of the original A-frame structure built in 1956. Glazner, a longtime Mai-Kai fan and Tiki enthusiast, has been collecting memorabilia and stories from longtime and current employees for more than a decade. The resulting labor of love, Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant, is a lavish 176-page hardcover book featuring 440 color and black-and-white images, many revealed for the first time.

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Halloween treat: The Hukilau 2017 tickets go on sale!

The Halloween announcement from The Hukilau was certainly not a trick, but rather a treat for fans of the vintage Tiki event returning to Fort Lauderdale in June 2017: Weekend passes plus tickets to two special parties are on sale now.

The top-level South Seas Pass comes with everything you would ever want, including admission to two exclusive parties: A late-night Rat Pack lounge, plus the return of the Tiki Tower Takeover featuring three of the world’s top Tiki barmen: Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Martin Cate and Paul McGee. In addition, all weekend passes include free admission and complimentary cocktails at an Island Pool Party featuring pop-up bars from around the country.
Official website: Get your passes now at TheHukilau.com

The Hukilau 2017 official artwork by Tiki Tony

The 16th annual edition of the most authentic Tiki event in the world is scheduled for June 7-11 at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Last year, top-level passes went on sale in late October and sold out in a matter of weeks, so it’s encouraged that you act now. Similar special event passes also sold out within a few months.

A view of the famous Pier 66 tower during the Tiki Road Trip Pool Party during The Hukilau 2016. (Atomic Grog photo)

A view of the famous Pier 66 tower during the Tiki Road Trip Pool Party during The Hukilau 2016. (Atomic Grog photo)

Rooms at the iconic Pier 66, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year along with The Mai-Kai, have already been released at a special rate for guests of The Hukilau, or “villagers” as they’re affectionately known. Rates range from $129 for a standard “double” room in one of the two-story buildings that overlook the marina, to $226 for a suite in the 17-story tower. Other options include $149 for a double room in floors 3 through 8 of the tower, and $164 for floors 9 through 15.

The tower rooms are always the first to sell out, so don’t hold off. The hotel is already 60 percent booked for the event, according to co-founder, producer and organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White. To get the special rate, be sure to go to TheHukilau.com and click on the “Book Your Room Now” link.

Here are the details on Monday’s announcement:

* Weekend passes are now available online, ranging from $159 to $379. See our breakdown below for details. Passes include the Rum Island Pool Party and admission to most of the entertainment happenings and spirits tastings at the hotel. Friday’s Rum Island is a new version of last year’s Tiki Road Trip Pool Party, which featured complimentary Tiki cocktails from five highly-regarded bar teams from across the country. For 2017, The Hukilau promises “longer hours, lawn games, cocktails from pop-up bars and sponsors all included in the weekend pass,” said Tiki Kiliki in an email to villagers.

The Hukilau's Christie "Tiki Kiliki" White with Jeff "Beachbum" Berry at the Latitude 29 bar at the Tiki Tower Takeover during The Hukilau 2016. (Atomic Grog photo)

The Hukilau’s Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White with Jeff “Beachbum” Berry at the Latitude 29 bar at the Tiki Tower Takeover during The Hukilau 2016. (Atomic Grog photo)

* The Tiki Tower Takeover returns for a third year on Thursday, June 8, to the Pier 66’s 17th-floor, revolving Pier Top Ballroom. Also returning for a third happy hour party are the owners of three of Tiki’s most acclaimed bars: Jeff “Beachbum” Berry of Latitude 29 in New Orleans, Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco, and Paul McGee of Lost Lake in Chicago. Each bar team will serve up a signature cocktail while villagers nosh on appetizers and mingle at one of the Tiki cocktail world’s most exclusive events of the year. Additional bars will be announced in January. Tickets are on sale now for this three-hour party for $75, exclusively for passholders (and included in the South Seas Pass).

* Also on sale: A late-night Rat Pack party on Thursday, June 8, in the Saturn Lounge, as the Pier Top is being dubbed for this 10 p.m. event. A sequel to last year’s swanky affair, Shag’s SkyLounge, this party will feature the Rat Pack (or perhaps facsimiles thereof) taking the stage with martinis, showgirls and more. “Don’t miss Frank, Dean and Sammy at this exclusive Florida engagement,” Tiki Kiliki’s announcement says. Tickets are on sale now for $55, exclusively for passholders (and included in the South Seas Pass).

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Photos: A hauntingly good time at historic Mai-Kai’s 8th annual Hulaween party

Approaching its 60th anniversary, Fort Lauderdale’s hallowed Mai-Kai got into the Halloween spirit with its eighth annual Hulaween party on Friday, Oct. 28. More than 100 costumed revelers packed The Molokai lounge for an evening of deadly tropical drinks and live music from Slip and the Spinouts. The highlight was the creepy and creative costume contest, a South Florida tradition.
See below: Exclusive Atomic Grog photo gallery

Elvis (Slip) and the Spinouts rocked and rolled through three sets during Hulaween 2016

Elvis (Slip) and the Spinouts rocked and rolled through three sets during Hulaween 2016.

The event’s theme, “Curse of the Cannibals,” honored The Mai-Kai’s rich history as one of the world’s top Tiki bars and Polynesian restaurants (Critiki website users rank it No. 1 in the world). The iconic “three cannibals” logo has been a mainstay since the Dec. 28, 1956, opening.

During Hulaween, the fun is timeless as Slip Mahoney and his band ripped through three sets of roots rock and rockabilly hits from the past half-century. Always in the spirit of the event, Slip and his band joined the costumed hordes. Only at The Mai-Kai during Hulaween will you find Elvis performing on guitar and vocals with a Stormtrooper from Star Wars on bass and a SWAT team member on drums (Mahoney, Kristi Lÿnx and Jason Furman, respectively).

After eight years, Hulaween has become known for its laid-back party atmosphere amid the vintage nautical decor in The Molokai. This year, the weekly New Times newspaper ranked it as the No. 2 Halloween party in Broward and Palm Beach counties. Only the massive MoonFest ranked higher.

The Molokai Maidens got into the spirit of Hulaween

The Molokai Maidens got into the spirit of Hulaween.

But Hulaween is still an intimate affair. Many guests arrived early, with special jungle exotica tunes (mahalo to Spyrate Radio) adding to the atmosphere of the fully-decorated bar. The Molokai girls were also in costume, though still wearing their signature sarongs (another Mai-Kai tradition that goes back to the mid-century era). Happy hour ran from 5 to 7, with most of the bar’s signature cocktails, from the Zombie to the Shrunken Skull, available at half-price. Just as popular were the bar’s classic Polynesian pupus, plus the new selection of sushi and signature tapas.

After happy hour, Slip and the Spinouts kicked out the jams, making their sixth Hulaween appearance. Partiers danced to the beat as the band covered everything from country-tinged rock ‘n’ roll to surf to blues. The band, which has been a fixture on the local scene for decades, is also known for its original tunes (Seven Nights to Rock, 13 Miles) that harken back to a vintage era.

Spotted in the crowd were many classic costumes, from Beetlejuice to E.T. as well as wacky originals. Zombie doctors mingled with cannibals, while Baron Boris von Frankenstein beamed himself back from the 1967 Mad Monster Party and Hannibal Lecter sipped potent Tiki cocktails. Yours truly conjured up the ghost of Don the Beachcomber, the Tiki bar pionner considered to be The Mai-Kai’s evolutionary forefather. [More photos on Facebook]

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The Mai-Kai’s eighth annual Hulaween party is cursed by cannibals

It’s that time of year again, when ghouls and ghosts haunt the historic Fort Lauderdale restaurant The Mai-Kai, scaring up frightening fun at the eighth annual Hulaween on Friday, Oct. 28. The event takes a savage turn this year with the theme “Curse of the Cannibals” in honor of the famous Polynesian eatery’s upcoming 60th anniversary.
UPDATE: See our annual recap and photos from the party

Featuring live music from South Florida’s long-running retro rockabilly band Slip and the Spinouts, drink specials and a wild-and-wacky costume contest, Hulaween has become a South Florida favorite for those looking for a vintage Halloween experience. Happy hour begins at 5 p.m. and the party runs past midnight. The best part: There’s no cover charge or minimum. But The Molokai bar fills up fast, so get there early.

Hulaween 2016 - Curse of the Cannibals

*** Friday, Oct. 28 – Hulaween 2016 – Curse of the Cannibals featuring Slip and the Spinouts at The Mai-Kai, 3599 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. (954) 563-3272. Free admission. Happy hour 5 to 7 p.m. Live music and costume contest in The Molokai bar, 7 p.m.-midnight. Facebook event
* See 2015 party recap, photos | Past event coverage

Slip and the Spinouts jam at Hulaween 2015. (Atomic Grog photo)

Slip and the Spinouts jam at Hulaween 2015. (Atomic Grog photo)

Hulaween is once again sponsored by Appleton Rum, which will provide special giveaways and drink specials. The official Hulaween cocktail is the Appleton Zula, based on the vintage Zula cocktail that has been featured on The Mai-Kai’s menu since 1956 and dates back to Tiki drink godfather Don the Beachcomber. [To find out why Zula is the Hulaween special, watch the video below] Appleton is the most popular rum on the extensive menu, featured in dozens of drinks.

Another Hulaween fixture is Slip Mahoney and his all-star band, a familiar face at South Florida events for decades and always a favorite at The Mai-Kai. The band will play three sets of classic covers and originals, keeping the party going past the witching hour. The band is adept at an incredibly eclectic variety of genres, from rockabilly to Western to swing, surf, blues and roots rock. Also look for Slip and company to get into the spirit of things with their own festive costumes. This will be the band’s sixth Hulaween appearance.

During happy hour, The Atomic Grog will serve up a special playlist of “jungle exotica” music courtesy of Spyrate Radio. Then, before and after the live music, a brand-new mix of Halloween and monster music will fill The Molokai, curated from Spyrate’s special Tiki Oasis Radio mixes broadcast live in August during Tiki Oasis 16: Party on Monster Island. The Appleton Girls will be on hand, as usual, offering up samples and giveaways. In past years, there were free Mai Tai samples, so keep an eye out.

Around 10 p.m., don’t miss the costume contest featuring cash and prizes for the winners. Hulaween attendees are always creative with their costumes, with past winners including a Headhunter and Head (2015), Evil Tiki (2014), and the Tiki Couple (2013). This year’s theme will allow guests to once again explore their primitive sides.

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Recipes: Exotic cocktails at Altered State Tattoo’s 20th anniversary party

Exotic cocktails at Altered State Tattoo's 20th anniversary party

The Atomic Grog had the distinct pleasure of serving up cocktails on Aug. 27 for special guests of artist Mike “Pooch” Pucciarelli at the 20th anniversary party for Altered State Tattoo, the South Florida shop that has gained him a worldwide following for his highly creative ink.
See recipes below: Altered State Zombie | Mai Ta-IPA

Mike "Pooch" Pucciarelli gets festive at the party marking the 20th anniversary of his Altered State Tattoo shopMike “Pooch” Pucciarelli gets festive at the party marking the 20th anniversary of his Altered State Tattoo shop.

Respectable Street in downtown West Palm Beach hosted the private bash, which also included a rare performance by Pooch’s hard-rocking band, Ferocious Stones; a lowbrow art marketplace featuring Altered State artists; and a DJ keeping the eclectic tunes flowing during the three-hour party. The Atomic Grog pop-up bar was featured on the back patio along with food by chef Corey Hall.

Pooch opened his modest shop in August 1996 in Lake Worth, funneling his creative energy into a new career as a small business owner. His talent as an artist (and musician) was always evident, with much of his early work centered around his acclaimed hardcore metal band Raped Ape. Pooch quickly became an in-demand tattooist, showcasing his highly original work in national magazines and building a loyal following. A lowbrow art career soon followed, with Pooch’s paintings shown at gallery shows from Los Angeles to Seattle to New York City.

Altered State Tattoo 20th anniversary party at Respectable Street: Kenny 5 (left), Pooch and JC Dwyer kick out the jams with Ferocious Stones. Many guests enjoyed cake, while Dwyer was a two-fisted drinker of Atomic Grog cocktails. (Atomic Grog photos)
Altered State Tattoo 20th anniversary party at Respectable Street: Kenny 5 (left), Pooch and JC Dwyer kick out the jams with Ferocious Stones. Many guests enjoyed cake, while Dwyer was a two-fisted drinker of Atomic Grog cocktails. (Atomic Grog photos)

The artist’s eye-popping surrealist work includes many exotic images, including Polynesian Tikis, Day of the Dead, and his own unique take on roller coasters. Full disclosure: The Atomic Grog home bar and surrounding walls feature a half-dozen Pooch prints, including Franken Tiki Island. Pooch painted a boomerang table that hangs behind the bar and also gave me this rare Tiki piece he painted. Needless to say, I’m a huge fan of his work. I even traveled to his 2005 gallery shows in Seattle and Los Angeles.

Not only is Pooch a major talent in the lowbrow and tattoo art worlds, he’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. A seemingly imposing figure, Pooch is actually a gentle giant, literally and figuratively. Nowadays, we typically meet up for cocktails at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale, sharing our affinity for Tiki culture and exotic libations. Mrs. Hayward and I also often join Mike and Stacy (Mrs. Pooch) at the creative gastropub Sweetwater in Boynton Beach.

Hurricane Hayward mixes up the Altered State Zombie and Mai-Ta-IPA during Altered State Tattoo's 20th anniversary party
Hurricane Hayward mixes up the Altered State Zombie and Mai Ta-IPA during Altered State Tattoo’s 20th anniversary party. (Atomic Grog photos)

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Kapow! replacing Longboards in downtown West Palm Beach

Updated Sept. 1
Longboards, the surf-themed restaurant and bar in downtown West Palm Beach, closed unexpectedly this week after five years of serving up fresh seafood and good vibes to the 500 block of Clematis Street. In its place, according to reliable sources, the veteran restaurateurs who own the building and neighboring Hullabaloo restaurant plan to open a second location of their successful Asian street-food concept, Kapow!

The Longboards closing announcement posted on Facebook.

The Longboards closing announcement posted on Facebook.

A message posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page by the Sub-Culture Group says the owners “decided to close this chapter with Longboards and bring you another new, exciting concept to be unveiled soon.” According to reliable sources, however, the restaurant going into 519 Clematis St. won’t be entirely unique. Look for a new, expanded outpost of Kapow! Noodle Bar, a mainstay in Boca Raton’s Mizner Park since late 2011.
* Official sites: Longboards on Facebook | Sub-Culture.org
* Related: Goodbye Grub: Longboards closes on Clematis Street (The Palm Beach Post)
Aug. 9 update: Longboards closes to become second Kapow! location (New Times)
Sept. 1 update: Follow the progress on the Kapow WPB Facebook page

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Sub-Culture Group honcho Rodney Mayo has been considering bringing Kapow! to Clematis Street since at least May 2012, when he was planning the opening of Hullabaloo (see story). The cozy artisan food and craft cocktail den, which launched just to the east of Longboards at 517 Clematis St. in January 2013, has been a smash success for the owners and chef Fritz Cassel. Hullabaloo has won numerous awards, acclaim, and high-profile exposure thanks to cheerleaders such as Emeril Lagasse, who featured the cutting-edge eatery on Emeril’s Florida on the Cooking Channel.
Atomic Grog past coverage
* Hullabaloo brings inventive craft cocktails to Clematis Street

 Longboards operated as a surf-themed restaurant and bar in downtown West Palm Beach from July 2011 through July 2016. (Facebook photo)

Longboards operated as a surf-themed restaurant and bar in downtown West Palm Beach from July 2011 through July 2016. (Facebook photo)

Longboards, by comparison, was a disappointment. While it was immaculately themed to surf culture and featured fresh seafood and an inviting atmosphere, the restaurant never caught on in a big way. When we visited last Thursday evening, less than a week before it closed its doors, it was nearly empty while Hullabaloo was bustling with diners and Clematis club crawlers happily consuming the creative food and high-end spirits. We sampled some impressive Tiki cocktails recently added to the Longboards menu, but the writing was apparently already on the wall.

With a much larger footprint (nearly 4,000 square feet, compared to Hullabaloo’s 1,700), Longboards had an uphill struggle with a lower-priced menu and a niche (seafood and a beachy theme) that could be attached to many other area eateries. Not that Mayo and his team didn’t find much success and high points over the past five years. Opening on July Fourth weekend in 2011, Longboards took over the long-vacant room that many old-timers and local music fans will remember as the site of Ray’s Downtown Blues bar from 1995 to 2007.
Atomic Grog past coverage
* Clematis Street rides a new wave with the opening of LongBoards
* Surf’s up: The story behind LongBoards

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Week/Month in Tiki (May 1-31, 2016): Recap Tiki Caliente; preview Tiki Kon, Tales of the Cocktail and Tiki Oasis; plus Tiki bar news and more!

The Week in Tiki As usual, May kicked off the Tiki event season with Tiki Caliente in Palm Springs. Check out a recap and photos, plus previews of Tiki Kon in Portland, Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, Tiki Oasis in San Diego, and more upcoming events. We have news on South Florida Distillers joining Kreepy Tiki Lounge in an expanded location near Fort Lauderdale’s airport, plus lots more Tiki bar news. Regular features spotlight the godfather of pop surrealism, artist Mark Ryden; Sven Kirsten’s 2010 compilation, The Sound of Tiki; the Palm Springs outpost of the venerable Tonga Hut; plus the Modern Tiki Lounge website. Our featured rum, the inventive Santeria, is included in an Atomic Grog original cocktail, Koko Kahuna.
* Keep up with The Week/Month in Tiki: Facebook page | RSS feed | Past blogs | Archive
* More below: Artist | Band/music | Bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

EVENT RECAP: Tiki Caliente expands to four days of wall-to-wall Poly Pop parties in Palm Springs

The Tiki Caliente tribe gathers poolside at the Caliente Tropics resort in Palm Springs. (Photo by Kari Hendler of Poly Hai)

The Tiki Caliente tribe gathers poolside at the Caliente Tropics resort in Palm Springs. (Photo by Kari Hendler of Poly Hai)

Like the first major college football bowl game (but a lot more colorful), Tiki Caliente kicked off the annual Tiki event season in style with its eighth gathering of the tribe in the tropical mid-century splendor of Palm Springs on May 12-15. Expanded to four days at the historic Caliente Tropics resort, the intimate, sold-out event also featured a pre-party at Tonga Hut as well as more symposiums, an eclectic lineup of performers, art shows, vendors and the usual festive room parties. Tonga Hut also served as Tiki Caliente’s on-site bar all weekend, keeping the party going with authentic Polynesian-style cocktails from 11 a.m. until 1 a.m.
* See below: Tonga Hut, bar of the week/month

Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid joins Marty Lush for his Don Ho tribute show at Tiki Caliente 2016. (Photo by Kari Hendler of Poly Hai)

Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid joins Marty Lush for his Don Ho tribute show at Tiki Caliente 2016. (Photo by Kari Hendler of Poly Hai)

Performers included Creepxotica, Ding Dong Devils, The Do-Its, The Jimmy Psycho Experiment, Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid, Martini Kings, Surfbroads, TikiTronic, and Voodoo Organist. Organizer Rory Snyder ratcheted up the kitschy fun with a yacht rock party co-hosted with Marty Lush (aka Digitiki of The Quiet Village podcast). Lush also performed a rum-fueled Don Ho tribute show, “Suck on This.”

Symposiums featured some of the most creative minds in Tiki cocktails, including “From the High Seas to High Tiki: Rum’s Cocktail Voyage” by Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco, “Finishing Touches” by Marie King of Tonga Hut, and “Punch and the History of the Communal Cocktail” by Chad Austin of Bootlegger Tiki in Palm Springs.

Tiki Caliente organizer Rory Snyder (front) enjoys a Zen Tiki Lounge room party. (Photo by Kari Hendler of Poly Hai)

Tiki Caliente organizer Rory Snyder (front) enjoys a Zen Tiki Lounge room party. (Photo by Kari Hendler of Poly Hai)

While not officially part of the event, the room crawl has become a fixture and allows guests to meet and mingle as well as show off their mixology skills. Many participants go all-in with full-blown Tiki decor, DJs, live music and more. Organized by the crew from the Zen Tiki Lounge podcast, this year’s crawl spanned three days and featured 15 rooms. Among the more noteworthy parties were hosted by Zen Tiki Lounge (celebrating their 10-year anniversary), Kevin Upthegrove of the 5 Minutes of Rum podcast (serving a riff on the Cobra’s Fang/Cobra’s Kiss called The Snakepit), and the faculty and students from Poly Hai (serving the “Wake Your Tiki Ass Up Coffee Grog” with sponsor Deadhead rum at 9:30 a.m.).

Artist Tiki Ray Kieffer sees one of his tikis installed at the Caliente Tropics in Palm Springs during Tiki Caliente 2016. (Photo by Kari Hendler of Poly Hai)

Artist Tiki Ray Kieffer sees one of his tikis installed at the Caliente Tropics in Palm Springs during Tiki Caliente 2016. (Photo by Kari Hendler of Poly Hai)

Commercial Tiki bars got in on the act on Saturday night with a Tonga Hut bash followed by the finale, hosted by Huntington Beach’s Don the Beachcomber in the Caliente Tropics lobby and featuring live music from Jason Lee and the R.I.P. Tides. The room crawl judges gave the best cocktail award to John and Janet Mulder of Eekum Bookum for their gin Saturn. The award for best decor/theme went to artist Doug Horne for “Swampfire Ball.” The judges choice award went to Stephen Holt’s Kraken Hunter Bar.
* Room crawl photos on Facebook | Tiki Central discussion
Live at Tiki Caliente: Listen to the Zen Tiki Lounge podcast

The Mulders collaborated with Horne on the Tiki Caliente 8 War Club, one of the most creative event mugs we’ve seen in a long time. Horne also created the official event limited edition print and limited-edition war club pedants. The art of Shag was also featured in a special reception and party for the massive “Trousdale Twist” painting. Shag, who owns a mid-century modern home in Palm Springs, was on hand to meet guests and soak in the Polynesian Pop atmosphere.

More from Poly Hai: Gallery of 400+ images from Kari Hendler | Videos
* Official sites: Tiki-Caliente.com | Facebook page

EVENT PREVIEW: Step back into the WWII era at Tiki Kon in Portland

Tiki Kon

The northwest Tiki scene is gearing up for the 14th annual Tiki Kon, happening July 8-10 in Portland. Themed to Polynesian Pop’s roots in the post-World War II era and the USO, the eclectic event is centered at a new host hotel, the Red Lion Hotel On The River. Guests can enjoy Tiki-themed music, art and fashion, with a rollicking camp show, surf and lounge bands, educational symposiums, themed food and drinks, vendors from around the world, and the longest-running home bar tour of its kind.

Here’s a look at the schedule and highlights of the vintage weekend. Unless noted, all events are at the Red Lion Hotel. Some individual events have tickets available at the door, while others are free and open to the public. Check the online schedule for details.

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Still available: The Hukilau 2016 merchandise by Shag, inspired by The Mai-Kai

November 2016 update

Lots of leftover merchandise – including mugs, glasses, pendants, and swizzle sticks – will go on sale in January when the The Hukilau’s new website launches. Co-creator, co-founder, producer and organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White posted photos of the leftover merch on The Hukilau’s Facebook group on Nov. 23, offering to add anyone who’s interested to a waiting list. But you need to act fast. “Some of these are in extremely limited quantities,” she wrote.
Latest news: The Hukilau 2017 tickets go on sale!
Bonus recipe below: Brian Miller’s Greedo in Paradise featuring Rhum Barbancourt
* Related: Exclusive day-by-day photo recaps

The artist Shag created a special lithograph for The Hukilau 2016 that pays tribute to The Mai-Kai and the iconic Mystery Girl.

The artist Shag created a special lithograph for The Hukilau 2016 that pays tribute to The Mai-Kai and the iconic Mystery Girl.

Original post, June 2016

If you missed The Hukilau earlier this month, or somehow didn’t grab all the official merchandise by artists such as Shag and Eekum Bookum, now’s your chance to snag some collectible souvenirs.

Mugs, prints, glassware, swizzle sticks, plus beach and bar towels are all on sale now while supplies last. Many items are expected to sell out fast, so don’t delay. Keep an eye on the merchandise page on the official website for updates.

The Hukilau has also announced the dates for the 16th annual event, returning to the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale: June 7-11, 2017.
* Latest updates: TheHukilau.com | Facebook: Page and Group | Twitter | Instagram

In the meantime, you can outfit your home Tiki bar with all this cool custom merch:

The Hukilau 2016 official limited-edition mug, sculpted by John Mulder and produced by Eekum Bookum, is a tribute to a tiki at The Mai-Kai

The Hukilau 2016 official limited-edition mug, sculpted by John Mulder and produced by Eekum Bookum, is a tribute to a tiki at The Mai-Kai.

Official Tiki Mug: Created by John Mulder and Eekum Bookum, the 2016 mug is based on a historic tiki in The Mai-Kai’s indoor garden (see 2016 photo) that used to live in the outdoor gardens (see vintage photo). Limited to 350 mugs, there were 115 remaining for online sales at $75 each.

Shag/Mai-Kai Lithograph: A limited-edition print with The Hukilau’s logo and artwork of The Mai-Kai’s iconic Mystery Girl created by Shag over a vintage photo of the restaurant. The acclaimed artist was a special guest at The Hukilau, hosting events such as Shag’s SkyLounge and the symposium “I Learned My ABC’s in Waikiki”. Of the 250 printed, 100 remained for online sales at $25 each.

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The Hukilau 2016, Day 1 photo recap: Pre-Party at The Mai-Kai, The Wreck Bar mermaid show

Highlights and photos from the 15th annual The Hukilau Polynesian Pop weekender in Fort Lauderdale, the most authentic Tiki event in the world. The opening day included the Smuggler’s Cove book signing and kick-off party at The Mai-Kai, plus the first of three exclusive swimshows from Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid and her pod of aquaticats at The Wreck Bar.
On sale now: The Hukilau 2016 merchandise by Shag, inspired by The Mai-Kai

The Hukilau 2016 artwork by Shag

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 8, 2016
Click for photos and more below:
* 7:30-9:30 p.m. – Smuggler’s Cove book signing (The Mai-Kai gift shop)
* 8 p.m.-midnight – Pre-Party at The Mai-Kai (live music by Gold Dust Lounge)
* 10:30 p.m. – Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid’s Glamour Girl Swimshow (The Wreck Bar at the B Ocean Resort)
Bonus cocktail recipe: Spicy Hula Girl from The Mai-Kai

Smuggler’s Cove book signing in The Mai-Kai gift shop

A trio of newly installed tikis greets guests in The Mai-Kai's porte-cochèreA trio of newly installed tikis greets guests in The Mai-Kai’s porte-cochère, to the north side of the drive-up entrance. The tikis were carved by Florida’s Will Anders, Tom Fowner and Jeff Chouinard and installed May 28-29. (Photo by Kevin Upthegrove)
* More photos, full coverage of the installation

The Hukilau organizer Christie
The Hukilau organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White and spirits coordinator Dean Hurst visit the newly installed carving, King Kai, in The Mai-Kai’s outdoor gardens. (Photos by Go11Events.com)

The rains swept through South Florida, threatening a wet weekend but the skies suddenly cleared for the opening night festivities at The Mai-Kai. The hundreds of villagers, many coming straight from the airport, were swept up in the majesty of the Polynesian palace. Many made a pilgrimage to the garden to see King Kai, the new Tiki carved by South Florida artist Will Anders. Others made sure to check out the new Tiki trio in the porte-cochère.

Martin Cate and Rebecca Cate kick off their book tour at The Mai-Kai. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward / The Atomic Grog)
Martin Cate and Rebecca Cate kick off their book tour at The Mai-Kai. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward / The Atomic Grog)

The first order of business was to meet Martin Cate and Rebecca Cate, the power duo behind the new book Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum and the Cult of Tiki. The owners of the acclaimed San Francisco rum bar Smuggler’s Cove were signing copies of the book in The Mai-Kai gift shop, where they also had limited-edition mugs (a “Ports O’ Call” glaze on The Kuhiko) for sale that are exclusive for the book tour. And it’s indeed a tour. After two book signings at The Hukilau, the pair headed straight to Miami for a Sunday night event, then on to other events across the country.

Martin Cate and Rebecca Cate sign copies of their new book in The Mai-Kai gift shop. (Photos by Hurricane Hayward and Susan Hayward / The Atomic Grog)
Martin Cate and Rebecca Cate sign copies of their new book in The Mai-Kai gift shop. (Photos by Hurricane Hayward and Susan Hayward / The Atomic Grog)

Martin and Rebecca were thrilled to be at The Mai-Kai for the book’s release (it officially hit shelves and mailboxes the day before), and to meet their many friends and fans. As soon as you walked in The Mai-Kai Trading Post, you were greeted by a full display of the epic new book, which has the Tiki and cocktail scenes abuzz with its comprehensive look at the modern Polynesian Pop revival. I was one of the first in line to get my copy signed (and pick up a mug), and the authors made a special effort to personalize their signings and pose for photos. Their assistant, Peggy Williams, was also on hand to give out copies of the book’s accompanying trading cards, a novel way to promote the book and stir interest. Fans can collect the full set of 20 and discuss the recipes that appear on each on a special Facebook page.

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‘King Kai’ leads procession of new Tikis into The Mai-Kai

Thanks to a dedicated group of artists and supporters, The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale has been blessed with the arrival of a new clan of Tiki carvings, most notably the 10-foot “King Kai” that now holds court in the outdoor garden. It’s believed to be the most extensive infusion of large stylized carvings since the 1960s.
See below: Exclusive photo gallery of King Kai, new trio of Tikis | What else is new

King Kai was carved by Fort Lauderdale artist Will Anders from a 10-foot-tall Florida Black Olive tree trunk.

King Kai was carved by Fort Lauderdale artist Will Anders from a 10-foot-tall Florida Black Olive tree trunk. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, May 22, 2016)

King Kai, a Hawaiian Ku design carved by Fort Lauderdale artist Will Anders, was installed May 21 and christened during a special ceremony the next day. Anders had lots of help in realizing the project, which was the vision of The Hukilau’s Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White. She enlisted several key people to make the dream a reality: Securing two Florida Black Olive tree trunks and transporting them to South Florida, then erecting the finished carving at The Mai-Kai.
* See previous coverage

Those responsible are credited on a plaque that adorns King Kai’s base: White, Anders, Lonnie Dryden (who donated the heavy equipment used to transport the logs and helped install King Kai), Lee Cicchella of Paradise Found Landscaping (who donated the two trees), Pete Ginn (who also donated heavy equipment), plus Virginia Decker. That second giant log is sitting in Anders’ workshop, awaiting a future project. Stay tuned.

As if that weren’t enough, however, White also spearheaded a project to replace the three crumbling Tikis that greeted guests upon their arrival by car in the porte-cochère of the landmark restaurant, recently named to the National Register of Historic Places. In the first project of its kind at The Mai-Kai, three Florida artists joined forces to each carve a distinctive new Tiki.

Three new Tikis carved by Will Anders, Tom Fowner and Jeff Chouinard were installed on May 28-29 and now greet guests in The Mai-Kai's porte-cochère.

Three new Tikis carved by Will Anders, Tom Fowner and Jeff Chouinard were installed on May 28-29 and now greet guests in The Mai-Kai’s porte-cochère. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The Tikis carved by Anders, Fort Lauderdale’s Tom Fowner and Tampa’s Jeff Chouinard were installed on May 28-29, just in time for The Hukilau. The Hawaiian Lono (Anders), Marquesan (Chouinard) and Tangaroa-style (Fowner) Tikis were carved by the artists from Central Florida Cypress. The Tikis they replaced were historic, believed to date back to the restaurant’s inception in 1956, but were in a serious state of decay. We’re told that the remnants might find a place inside the restaurant amid the many other South Seas artifacts.

As Anders and Fowner installed the new Tiki trio on the morning of May 28, The Mai-Kai’s longtime owner Mireille Thornton (wife of late founder Bob Thornton and choreographer/costume designer of the beloved Polynesian Islander Revue, arrived to see the new additions. “You guys are doing a great job,” she exclaimed when she first saw the Tikis.

The Mai-Kai's owner, Dave Levy (third from left), is joined on May 22 by most of those responsible for making King Kai possible (from left): Pete Ginn, Lonnie Dryden, Christie "Tiki Kiliki" White, Will Anders, and Virginia Decker.

The Mai-Kai’s owner, Dave Levy (third from left), is joined on May 22 by most of those responsible for making King Kai possible (from left): Pete Ginn, Lonnie Dryden, Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White, Will Anders, and Virginia Decker. (Atomic Grog photo)

The addition of the Ku and Lono by Anders are distinctive at The Mai-Kai since there aren’t many Hawaiian-style Tikis on the property. Bob Thornton, who founded the restaurant with his brother Jack, preferred other styles, Mireille said. If Fowner’s Tangaroa-style Tiki seems familiar, it’s because it was based on the design of The Mai-Kai’s vintage decanter. Chouinard, known for his public “guerilla” Tikis in the Tampa Bay area, previously donated a Tiki to The Mai-Kai at The Hukilau 2014. You can find it behind the stage in the main dining room’s garden.

The work of Anders, though largely uncredited, is ubiquitous at the 59-year-old Polynesian palace. For years, he has re-cast many of the smaller Tikis that are found throughout the property. Bob Thornton was wise enough to have molds made for most of the original pieces, but they sat in storage for decades until Anders volunteered to put them to good use. [See photos of Anders’ work on Tiki Central] He also created a giant Tiki based on The Mai-Kai’s Mara-Amu mug that can be found in another prime sport the garden next to King Kai. [More info and photos, Mara-Amu recipe]

Lonnie Dryden helps a forklift operator position King Kai so the Tiki can be dropped into the garden at The Mai-Kai on May 21.

Lonnie Dryden helps a forklift operator position King Kai so the Tiki can be dropped into the garden at The Mai-Kai on May 21. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The hot, wet and humid Florida weather is not kind to outdoor Tikis, but luckily The Mai-Kai’s molds and the work of Anders will keep the restaurant’s many Tikis in good condition. His latest project, completed just before The Hukilau on June 7, was the replacement of the stylized Tiki ash trays that guard the main entrance. They were stolen, so Anders jokes that his new castings contain a GPS chip. They’re also fastidiously secured in place (as are all the new Tikis), and cast using Anders’ usual method. Known as Portland cement (also called 123), it’s 1 part cement, 2 parts coarse sand, and 3 parts rock. He also puts steel inside for strength.

The wooden Tikis are a different story, however. Anders says he and Fowner hope to maintain them so they don’t meet the same fate as many of the larger carvings that date back to the early days of the restaurant. Famed California carver Barney West created many massive Tikis that were added in the early 1960s. Only two remain, both on the exterior of the property facing Federal Highway: An imposing 20-foot Moai stands just outside the fence near King Kai on the south side, while a smaller though no less impressive carving stands guard north of the main entrance. After more than 50 years in the elements, some worry how long these historic carvings may last.

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