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 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.
Day 2: Savage Jungle Swimshow, Tiki Tower Takeover, Kickoff Party and Tiki Treasures Bazaar, Shag’s SkyLounge, After Party at Kreepy Tiki

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-cochère
A 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.

Family man Jimi Gonzalez of the Straw Hat Barmen and The Hukilau bar team (left) arrives at The Mai-Kai. Meanwhile, Bill Dillard of Go11 Events enjoys cocktails with artists Tom Fowner (left) and Crazy Al Evans (right) during the book signing. (Photos by Go11Events.com)
Family man Jimi Gonzalez of the Straw Hat Barmen and The Hukilau bar team (left) arrives at The Mai-Kai. Meanwhile, Bill Dillard of Go11 Events enjoys cocktails with artists Tom Fowner (left) and Crazy Al Evans (right) during the book signing. (Photos by Go11Events.com)

Official photos: Browse the book signing gallery from Go11 Events

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Pre-Party at The Mai-Kai featuring Gold Dust Lounge

The Hukilau's opening-night villagers enjoy The Molokai lounge, which is styled after the legendary British merchant ship HMS Bounty. (Photo by Barron Elam)
The Hukilau’s opening-night villagers enjoy The Molokai lounge, which is styled after the legendary British merchant ship HMS Bounty. (Photo by Barron Elam)

With a 90 percent chance of rain forecast, the showers promised to at least cool off the festivities. But nothing could douse the aloha spirit on opening night. The sold-out Molokai lounge filled up quickly after happy hour, with Miami’s Gold Dust Lounge providing the jazzy, surfy soundtrack to the evening’s mellow vibe. VIPs flowed into the bar to sample The Mai-Kai’s famous cocktails.

Gold Dust Lounge performs in The Molokai lounge at The Mai-Kai during The Hukilau Pre-Party on June 8. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward / The Atomic Grog)
Gold Dust Lounge performs in The Molokai lounge at The Mai-Kai during The Hukilau Pre-Party on June 8. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward / The Atomic Grog)

We spotted Jeff “Beachbum” Berry and wife Annene Kaye, along with Brad Smith – head bartender from their acclaimed New Orleans Tiki bar Latitude 29. Next to them was Ed Hamilton, head honcho of the Hamilton Rum empire, who always has a new product to tout. We sampled a new 30-proof pimento liqueur that he’s about to launch. “It was great to meet so many rum lovers,” Hamilton later posted on the app.

Cocktails in The Molokai bar, served by The Mai-Kai's famous sarong-clad waitresses. (Photo by Barron Elam)
Cocktails in The Molokai bar, served by The Mai-Kai’s famous sarong-clad waitresses. (Photo by Barron Elam)

The many villagers who filled the bar were enthusiastic and, of course, very happy to be there. “It was a great first night! Gold Dust Lounge was off the charts awesome again,” Lei Patrick posted in the news feed of The Hukilau’s new event app.

Ayme Harrison and Demi Anne Natoli from nearby Kreepy Tiki Lounge in Fort Lauderdale, host of Thursday night’s After Party, were in the house, along with many out-of-town guests taking in The Mai-Kai for the first time. As a jaded local, it’s always fun to talk to the newbies and appreciate the awe they feel the first time they set foot in the 59-year-old landmark. I chatted with Smith from Latitude 29 as he soaked up the atmosphere (and cocktails) during happy hour. Later, I ran into Southern California surf guitarist Jason Lee at the bar as Gold Dust Lounge settled into a intoxicating groove during the Pre-Party. Both were looking forward to the weekend and taking in all The Mai-Kai (and The Hukilau) had to offer.

Guests can stroll through The Mai-Kai's dark and exotic outdoor gardens, its winding paths illuminated by Tiki torches. (Photos by Barron Elam)
Guests can stroll through The Mai-Kai’s dark and exotic outdoor gardens, its winding paths illuminated by Tiki torches. (Photos by Barron Elam)

Tikis in The Mai-Kai's outdoor gardens can convey a variety of human emotions, from aggressive to bashful to brooding. (Photos by Kevin Upthegrove)Tikis in The Mai-Kai’s outdoor gardens can convey a variety of human emotions, from aggressive to bashful to brooding. (Photos by Kevin Upthegrove)

“My first Hukilau,” Hollywoodthrill posted on the app. “I believe I may have found my people.” Earlier, Jim Neumayer posted: “Just checked in for our first ever Hukilau, and who is the first person we run into? King Kukulele himself. And we were playing one of his CDs in the car as we pulled up to the hotel. The Tiki gods must be with us.” Villagers also used the app to share photos, post calls for extra tickets, and hook up with old friends. It was a great addition to this year’s event, another example of Tiki Kiliki’s dedication to her guests.

The Mai-Kai's dining rooms and indoor garden offer a Tiki paradise, with cocktails to match. (Photos by Barron Elam, Hurricane Hayward)
The Mai-Kai’s dining rooms and indoor garden offer a Tiki paradise, with cocktails to match. (Photos by Barron Elam, Hurricane Hayward / The Atomic Grog)

Many started using the app even before arriving. “UGH! At airport and we have a 40-minute flight delay,” Mary Wahl posted. Many lamented a similar fate as the storms across the country made travel difficult. Others shared useful tips: “The pool bartender has the greatest Pina Colada skills,” Kim Stacy posted. “Ask for the organic version for a hyped up boozy treat.” The app also included the official schedule, sponsor info, directions and venue locations, plus more. “Love having a mobile event schedule,” wrote Jim Masterson. “Can this app mix me a Mai Tai?”

From left: Paul Roe, Gina Santucci, Nicole Desmond, and Joe Desmond enjoy cocktails and dinner in the Tahiti dining room. (Photo by Go11Events.com)
From left: Paul Roe, Gina Santucci, Nicole Desmond, and Joe Desmond enjoy cocktails and dinner in the Tahiti dining room. (Photo by Go11Events.com)

Meanwhile, The Hukilau’s Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White (co-creator, co-founder, producer, and organizer) took over the Tahiti dining room for a kickoff dinner with many of her staff and special guests. Mrs. Hurricane and I took our seats next to The Mai-Kai’s director of sales and marketing, Pia Dahlquist, and watched an endless flow of Tiki movers and shakers from around the country file through the door: Shag, Baby Doe and Otto von Stroheim, Humuhumu, Crazy Al Evans, King Kukulele, Danny Gallardo (aka Tiki Diablo), Paul McGee and Shelby Allison of Lost Lake, plus many more. Artist Basement Kahuna shared a table with celebrity chef Jim Stacy and wife Kim.

The Mai-Kai's lush gardens contain a variety of Tiki carvings, new and old. In the area behind the stage for the Polynesian Islander Revue, a recent carving by <a href="http://www.slammie.com/atomicgrog/blog/2015/04/30/the-week-in-tiki-april-27-may-3-2015-trader-sams-grog-grotto-grand-opening/#artist">Dave "Basement Kahuna" Wolfe</a> (center) shares space with a historic carving (right) that inspired The Hukilau's <a href="http://www.slammie.com/atomicgrog/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/The-Hukilau-2016-official-mug-300x300.jpg" target="new">official 2016 event mug.</a> (Photos by Kevin Upthegrove)The Mai-Kai’s indoor gardens contain a variety of Tiki carvings, new and old. In the area behind the stage for the Polynesian Islander Revue, a recent carving by Dave “Basement Kahuna” Wolfe (center) shares space with a historic carving (right) that inspired The Hukilau’s official 2016 event mug. (Photos by Kevin Upthegrove)

New York City rum experts Joe and Nicole Desmond arrived straight from the airport, sitting near tattoo artist Paul Roe and partner Gina Santucci. Tiki Kiliki’s hard-working Hukilau staff – including Sherill Gross, James McDonald and Brian Crum (drummer of The Intoxicators) – found time to relax as the official photographers, Bill and Kat Dillard from Go11 Events, set up for a special video documentary filming. Don Q Rum global brand ambassador Alexx Mouzouris chatted with the Berrys, while South Florida artist Tom Fowner talked carving with Crazy Al. Impressed with the work done on the new Tikis at The Mai-Kai, Evans said he’s looking forward to seeing them in a year or two when they become sufficiently weathered. The South Florida elements will age them quickly, he predicted.

Gold Dust Lounge featured Rob Elba (bass), Pascal Robert (drums), and Russell Mofsky (guitar). (Photo by Hurricane Hayward / The Atomic Grog)
Gold Dust Lounge featured Rob Elba (bass), Pascal Robert (drums), and Russell Mofsky (guitar). (Photo by Hurricane Hayward / The Atomic Grog)

Meanwhile, Gold Dust Lounge blasted through its now-traditional opening-night sets with a revamped lineup featuring South Florida punk-rock stalwart Rob Elba on bass. Tropical cocktails flowed and dishes from The Mai-Kai’s new chef, Mark Rivera, drew rave reviews. The Hukilau was once again off to an intoxicating start, its villagers oblivious to the stormy weather outside. In The Molokai, where faux rain can always be seen streaming down the windows, it was business as usual.

Revelers gather around King Kai to celebrate the opening night of The Hukilau. (Photo by Go11Events.com)
Revelers gather around King Kai to celebrate the opening night of The Hukilau. (Photo by Go11Events.com)

Official photos: Browse the Pre-Party gallery from Go11 Events

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Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid’s Glamour Girl Swimshow at The Wreck Bar

Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid and her pod of aquaticats prepare to hit the pool for their Glamour Girl Swimshow. Marina's bodysuit features more than 5,000 crystals applied by hand. (Photos provided by MeduSirena)
Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid and her pod of aquaticats prepare to hit the pool for their Glamour Girl Swimshow. Marina’s bodysuit features more than 5,000 crystals applied by hand. (Photos provided by MeduSirena)

As dinner and drinks stretched into the evening at The Mai-Kai, many made a beeline for The Wreck Bar at Fort Lauderdale’s beachfront B Ocean Resort (formerly the Yankee Clipper) to catch Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid’s first exclusive (sold-out) swim show of the weekend, themed to glamour girls. We couldn’t make it over to the beach, but judging by the photos, it was a dazzling affair. “What a terrific crowd,” Marina posted on the app. She said it was a “historic swim event” and cited “all the rehearsals, equipment checks, costuming, and yes, rhinestones!”

Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid performs the opening number as a ringmaster introducing all of the performers. (Photo by Barron Elam)
Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid holds court in the opening number as a ringmaster introducing all of the performers. (Photo by Barron Elam)

The Glamour Girl Swimshow was a variety show in the style of what the historic bar was designed for, according to Marina. “It was meant to have stuff going on within the bar, then the water act,” she told me later. To realize the ambitious performance, Marina utilized all 10 of her aquaticats and employed special lighting effects.
* Past coverage: The Hukilau offers deep dive into history of porthole cocktail lounges

Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid's Glamour Girl Swimshow at The Wreck Bar at the B Ocean Resort
(Photos by Nicole Brauchler / Go11Events.com)

Marina’s ringmaster number was performed to She’s a Beauty by The Tubes. She said the costume was a tribute to the old shows that would take place in the Yankee Clipper and the Yankee Trader in the ’50s and ’60s. Most of the costumes worn by the aquaticats paid tribute to one of the icons of the Las Vegas Strip: The “Jubilee” show at Bally’s, which closed Feb. 11 after a 34-year run.

Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid's Glamour Girl Swimshow at The Wreck Bar at the B Ocean Resort
(Photo by Nicole Brauchler / Go11Events.com)

The opening number was followed by Eartha Kitt’s I Want to be Evil performed by aquaticat Sahara.

Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid's Glamour Girl Swimshow at The Wreck Bar at the B Ocean Resort
(Photos by Nicole Brauchler / Go11Events.com)

The next act in the show featured a send-up of Thunderball, complete with henchmen chasing Bond girl Domino (Claudine Auger). Two performers were dressed in the orange wetsuits popularized by Sean Connery in the 1965 film, while “Domino” was dressed in black. The Tom Jones version of Thunderball was featured during the performance, which was a hit with the crowd, Marina said. (She previously paid tribute to a Bond film with a memorable performance in 2013, themed to You Only Live Twice.)

Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid's Glamour Girl Swimshow at The Wreck Bar at the B Ocean Resort
(Photos by Nicole Brauchler / Go11Events.com)

Shifting gears, Can you Dig It? by The Monkees provided the soundtrack to the underwater belly dance that came next.

Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid's Glamour Girl Swimshow at The Wreck Bar at the B Ocean Resort
(Photos by Nicole Brauchler / Go11Events.com)

A tribute to Jayne Mansfield featured one of the performers assuming the role of the iconic mid-century sex symbol and mingling with the audience.

Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid's Glamour Girl Swimshow at The Wreck Bar at the B Ocean Resort
(Photos by Nicole Brauchler / Go11Events.com)

The finale featured Marina in her elaborate bodysuit, seemingly singing under water. The audience in The Wreck Bar was dazzled by the performance, which was unlike any other aquatic show seen in South Florida since the Yankee Clipper’s heyday.

Official photos: Browse the Glamour Girl Swimshow gallery from Go11 Events

By the end of the night, Tiki Kiliki was thankful and looking forward to the full slate of festivities to come. “What a day!,” she posted on the app. “Thanks to my staff and volunteers for steering the ship! There’s a rum storm coming tomorrow.”

The Atomic Grog’s recap of The Hukilau 2016 includes images from 18 different photographers, plus comments and stories from dozens of attendees on Facebook and the official app. Mahalo to everyone who contributed!

NEXT: Day 2 featuring the Savage Jungle Swimshow, the Tiki Tower Takeover, the Kickoff Party and Tiki Treasures Bazaar Grand Opening, Shag’s SkyLounge, and more!

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Bonus cocktail recipe:
SPICY HULA GIRL
(By Kern Mattei of The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale )

The Spicy Hula Girl was a special cocktail served during The Hukilau in June 2016 featuring sponsor Rhum Barbancourt. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward / The Atomic Grog)

The Spicy Hula Girl was a special cocktail served during The Hukilau in June 2016 featuring sponsor Rhum Barbancourt. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward / The Atomic Grog)

* 1/2 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
* 1 ounce fresh pineapple juice
* 1/2 ounce ginger syrup (see below)
* 1/2 ounce black pepper syrup (see below)
* 2 ounces Rhum Barbancourt 3 Star
Pulse blend with 6 ounces of crushed ice and pour unstrained into a small rocks glass. Add more ice and garnish with a pineapple leaf and spiced pineapple spear.

A creative, crafty cocktail from The Mai-Kai’s manager, Kern Mattei, that was served at the historic Polynesian restaurant throughout the five days of The Hukilau on June 8-12. The spice from the house-made black pepper syrup is subtle, but it becomes more prevalent as you sip. The Spicy Hula Girl is complex and well-balanced, yet also refreshing and easy to drink. It doesn’t stray too far from The Mai-Kai’s signature flavors, thanks to the flavorful rhum from Haiti, but it would also be right at home on any modern cocktail bar’s menu.

* Ingredient notes: Ginger syrup is a trendy ingredient in craft cocktails, but it also has some historic Tiki roots (see Don the Beachcomber’s Q.B. Cooler, circa 1937). It’s produced by B.G. Reynolds and other purveyors, or you could try making your own (check online or in the appendices of Beachbum Berry’s Remixed and Sippin’ Safari). Mattei made the black pepper syrup by lightly boiling freshly cracked black peppercorns in simple syrup, then steeping it for an hour. Go lightly on the pepper so the syrup isn’t overwhelming. Strain out the peppercorns, but it’s OK to leave some of the finer grains in the syrup. For the garnish, Mattei enlisted the help of The Mai-Kai’s new chef, Mark Rivera, who created a wildly inventive pineapple spear spiced up with li hing mui power and Japanese 7 spice. It was sweet and spicy and complemented the cocktail well. A great finishing touch.

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More recaps and photos on The Atomic Grog
Day 2: Savage Jungle Swimshow, Tiki Tower Takeover, Kickoff Party and Tiki Treasures Bazaar, Shag’s SkyLounge, After Party at Kreepy Tiki

More photos, coverage on the Web
* New Times: Video | Photo gallery | Story
* Photos: SouthFlorida.com | Straw Hat Barmen
Perfect Living Canvas of Amazing Events

The Hukilau: June 8-12, 2016, at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Featuring Shag, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Martin Cate, Paul McGee, Brian Miller, St. John Frizell, Jim Stacy, Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid, King Kukulele, Tikiyaki Orchestra, Jason Lee and the R.I.P. Tides, The Intoxicators, Skinny Jimmy Stingray, The Quiet Villagers, The Disasternauts, Gold Dust Lounge, Slip and the Spinouts, Otto von Stroheim, Paul Roe, Tim “Swanky” Glazner, Humuhumu, Crazy Al Evans, Tom Fowner, Will Anders, Jeff Chouinard, Angie Pontani, Kitten de Ville, Lila Starlet, James Teitelbaum, Stephen Remsberg, plus more.
* TheHukilau.com | Facebook: Page and Group | Twitter | Instagram
* Download the app | Leave a text or voicemail: (754) 900-TIKI

Past Atomic Grog recaps, special features
* Tiki Kiliki: 15 years of The Hukilau, 15 years of memories
* Video: A look back at The Hukilau’s first 14 years
* 2015: The Hukilau soars at mid-century marvel Pier 66 hotel
Photos: Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday/Sunday
* Previous years: 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009

2016 previews
* High Tide party announced, rum sponsor rundown, merchandise preview
* Tiki Road Trip announced, Pier 66 and The Mai-Kai sold out, new rum sponsors
* The Hukilau guests to take a Tiki Road Trip; new Shag merchandise in the works
* Raiders of the Lost Tiki Culture symposium, new sponsors, Pier 66 hotel news
* Entertainment, music and symposiums announced, full website launches
* First dinner show full, Shag event and hotel near sellout
* All Tiki Tower Takeover tickets are taken, 5th bartender announced
* The Hukilau: All five-day tickets are sold out
* Tiki Tower Takeover bartenders return, Marina to perform in expanded Wreck Bar
* The Hukilau 2016 passes on sale now at 2015 prices
* Passes, special event tickets and rooms available soon
* Shag to help toast The Hukilau’s 15th anniversary

About Hurricane Hayward

A professional journalist and Florida resident for more than 30 years, Jim "Hurricane" Hayward shares his obsession with Polynesian Pop and other retro styles on his blog, The Atomic Grog. Jim's roots in mid-century and reto culture go back to his childhood in the 1960s, when he tagged along with his parents to Tiki restaurants and his father's custom car shows. His experience in journalism, mixology, and more than 20 years as an independent concert promoter make him a jack-of-all-trades in the South Florida scene. A graduate of the University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications, Jim is a longtime web producer for The Palm Beach Post. In his spare time, he has promoted hundreds of rock, punk, and indie concerts under the Slammie Productions name since the early 1990s. In 2011, he launched The Atomic Grog to extensively cover events, music, art, cocktails, and culture with a retro slant. Jim earned his nickname by virtue of both his dangerous exotic drinks and his longtime position producing The Post's tropical weather website.
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