Top 10 Tiki stories of 2022 include legends lost, hope for the future

Top 10 Tiki stories of 2022 include legends lost, hope for the future

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse than 2020 or 2021, along came 2022. The past three years have been rough, any way you slice it. But for the Tiki community, things turned tragic last year with the devastating loss of multiple legendary figures. But rather than mourn their passing, let’s take the opportunity to remember and reflect on their great impact. And while we’re at it, let’s also give thanks for the positive news that made it into our annual list of the most impactful stories of the year.
Related: The Year in Tiki 2022 – Take a trip back to the year’s top events
Bonus recipes below: Harry Yee’s Tropical Itch | Stephen Remsberg’s Planter’s Punch


Oceanic Arts celebration and auction

The top story of 2021 – the retirement of Robert Van Oosting and LeRoy Schmaltz – continued into 2022 with the epic events that marked the true end of an era. Spread over three weekends in April, Aloha Oa! 65 years of Oceanic Arts Celebration took place at the Whittier, Calif., headquarters of the longtime purveyors of South Seas decor. Tikiphiles from around the world came to pay tribute to these two men and their legacy, which can be found in not only Tiki bars and restaurants but also in theme parks, hotels and motels, apartment complexes, and countless other venues built over the past half century. It’s heartening that both were able to be there to see the appreciation for their decades of work on behalf of an artistic style that often is overlooked. Thousands attended the events that featured live music and entertainment, presentations and history lessons, plus an array of tropical libations. And, of course, the opportunity to meet Bob and LeRoy and peruse their vast warehouse of historic Ocean Arts lamps, floats, carvings, and many more items that were cataloged for auction.

Part 2 of the extravaganza was The Oceanic Arts Vintage Tiki Collection Auction, held April 23-24 and featuring likely the most extensive collection of mid-century Polynesian inspired decor and artwork ever offered for sale at one event. Curated by Jordan Reichek, a longtime friend and owner of nearby Peekaboo Gallery, the auction drew bidders large and small seeking to take home a piece of Tiki history. A portion of the proceeds from the event were donated to humanitarian aid and relief for Tonga, which was hit by a volcanic eruption and tsunami in January.

The monthlong celebration proved to be a fitting farewell for Oceanic Arts, providing both great memories and a unique opportunity to pick up items that will never be made again. For those who couldn’t make it to Southern California, three was a gigantic 500-page book compiled by Reichek featuring artwork from the auction along with archival photos and insightful conversations with Van Oosting and Schmaltz. Oceanic Arts: The Godfathers of Tiki tells the story of not just the small studio that influenced generations of artists, but also the entire Polynesian Pop movement in America.


LeRoy Schmaltz, 1935-2022

Less than two months after the Oceanic Arts celebration, the Tiki world lost a legend when carver and artist LeRoy Earl Schmaltz passed away on June 17, not long after celebrating his 87th birthday. The amount of art and woodwork created by this one man was awe inspiring. The Paul Bunyan of Tiki will loom large for generations to come. Schmaltz joined with business partner Robert Van Oosting in 1956 to create Oceanic Arts – a bar, restaurant and entertainment design firm that continued to have an over-sized impact on the industry, even after the pair retired in late 2021.

While Van Oosting ran the business and guided its creative efforts, Schmaltz did the heavy lifting with the workmanlike precision of a lumberjack but the sensibilities of a fine artist. The men had a true affinity for authentic Polynesian art, traveling there often for inspiration in their youth. They also imported and sold the work of artists from across the Pacific Rim. But it was the original works created by Schmaltz (and the many other artists Oceanic Arts employed) that drove the company forward though lean times. Eventually, new fame (and business) arrived with the Polynesian Pop revival in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Beyond Tiki-carving, Schmaltz was proficient in many other disciplines: Mosaic work, watercolor, pastels, charcoals, assemblages, sculptures, architectural design, and much more. Always a humble artist, when Schmaltz was asked what his greatest accomplishment was, he answered without hesitation: “My family.” He was a devout and church-going family man who left not only an artistic legacy but also a vast clan including six children, 10 grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren.


Brother Cleve made several apperances at The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale in recent years as a guest mixologist (2018) and DJ (2018, 2019). Credits (left to right): The Atomic Grog, Jim Neumayer, Vincent Minervino
Brother Cleve made several appearances at The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale in recent years as a guest mixologist (2018) and DJ (2018, 2019). Credits (left to right): The Atomic Grog, Jim Neumayer, Vincent Minervino.

The influence of Brother Cleve was as vast as his interests. When the craft cocktail pioneer died suddenly in September at age 67, the tributes poured in from across the entertainment world. As a testament to his importance and status as a fixture on the East Coast scene, he was eulogized by writers from the Boston Globe, New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal,.

According to The Journal, Cleve (born Robert Toomey) was in Los Angeles to appear at a Tiki-themed bartending event when he died of a heart attack. His first claim to fame was music as a keyboardist in the 1980s. He played in countless bands, including stints touring with the Del Fuegos and Combustible Edison. Then, he had a revelation. As the obituary tells it: “One day in the mid-1980s, at a diner in Cleveland, he noticed scores of cocktails listed on the menu. He began searching thrift shops for cocktail-recipe books and learned to mix and tweak classic drinks.”

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The Hukilau 2017: Updated schedule, drawing and silent auction announced with exclusive prizes

LIVE COVERAGE: Recap, news, photos and video UPDATED

The Hukilau: June 7-11, 2017, at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Buy tickets now.
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Previous story: Tiki Tower Takeover to feature Ian Burrell, international flair
Preview Sunday’s finale: The Atomic Grog to explore 60 years of Tiki cocktail history
The Tiki Times: Summer season heats up with The Hukilau, more events

Updated June 7, 2017

As The Hukilau’s organizers and villagers gear up for the 16th annual Tiki weekender in Fort Lauderdale on June 7-11, we have updated the schedule with a new late-night event and definitive band and DJ lineup. In addition, a special drawing and silent auction that will benefit two South Florida charities has just been announced.

The Hukilau 2017

The schedule now includes a late-night Blue Hawaii Party featuring DJ James Brown’s Sweat at the host Pier 66 hotel to give attendees another option on Thursday night. Also look for a showing of the classic Elvis movie of the same name near the pool on the hotel’s Royal Palm Lawn. The South Florida DJ, along with Tampa’s DJ Lounge Laura Taylor, have also been added to other events throughout the five days of festivities. Saturday’s final band lineup for The Mai-Kai is also posted.

We’ve also noted the sold-out events, which now include Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid’s Wednesday night swimshow, Will Anders’ craft symposium and the Three Dots and a Dash cocktail class on Saturday.
UPDATED Check the daily schedule below | Official website

The Hukilau has also launched a new initiative to give back to the Florida hospitality community and aid endangered coral reefs . It’s called “See Aloha,” according to organizers, “because we believe that in life you find what you’re looking for, and we choose to see the aloha that is around us everywhere.” The Hukilau is making an initial donation of $2,000 and asking villagers to help the cause and at the same time enter a drawing for some outstanding prizes.

After The Hukilau 2016, The Mai-Kai's Kern Mattei (left), Otto von Stroheim (Tiki Oasis) and artist Crazy Al Evans join Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid in an undersea adventure in Lauderdale By The Sea. (Photo by Roy Anderson)
After The Hukilau 2016, The Mai-Kai’s Kern Mattei (left), Otto von Stroheim (Tiki Oasis) and artist Crazy Al Evans join Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid in an undersea adventure in Lauderdale By The Sea. (Photo by Roy Anderson)

The prizes in the drawing include Mai-Kai gift certificates, bottles of sponsor rums, and passes to The Hukilau 2018. The grand prize is a collection of eight different Tiki mugs from some of The Hukilau’s guest pop-up bars, plus serial #1 of this year’s event mug from Tiki Tony and Eekum Bookum.

In addition, Crazy Al Evans is contributing an amazing collection of art pieces from his Tiki artist friends that will be up for bid at a silent auction. You can also bid to win a Mystery Drink presentation at The Mai-Kai from none other than “Mystery Guy” Crazy Al himself.

The beneficiaries are the education foundation of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association and the Miami Dade Reef Guard Association. The education foundation works with more than 200 Florida high schools to prepare students for a career in hospitality. Reef Guard’s mooring buoy plan has aided the installation and maintenance of 42 mooring buoys to date, allowing divers and fisherman to enjoy the reefs without risking damage to them with an anchor. Villagers at Pier 66 should check the daily schedule, on-site signage and official announcements for more on the drawing and silent auction.

Here’s another official glassware sneak preview fromm Tiki Tony:

Recent press coverage
MeduSirena Marina to get The Hukilau off to a swimming start! (Tiki Trail)


Updated May 20, 2017:
New band added, sneak peek at official mug and glassware

A new band has been added to the entertainment lineup: The Hula Girls from Southern California. A veteran of The Hukilau 2013 and a fixture on the Tiki event circuit, this up-tempo “hulabilly” band mashes up hapa-haole, Tiki and surf music and filters it through a late 1950s and early ’60s rockabilly and rock ‘n roll soundscape. Unfortunately The Dead Rocks will not be able to make the trip from Brazil due to travel and visa issues. Look for the acclaimed instrumental surf trio at The Hukilau 2018.

The official event mug by Tiki Tony is based on the infamous shrunken skulls in The Mai-Kai’s Samoa dining room. It’s being produced by John Mulder and Eekum Bookum. Tony is also working on glassware and T-shirt designs.

Recent press coverage
The Hukilau returns to Fort Lauderdale’s Mai-Kai in June (Miami New Times)


Updated April 28, 2017:
New website launches, more bands and cocktail classes, full schedule released

King Kukulele is back for a 16th year as The Hukilau's emcee. (Artwork by Tiki Tony)
King Kukulele is back for a 16th year as The Hukilau’s emcee. (Artwork by Tiki Tony)

The Hukilau’s all-new website went live last week with full details on the 16th annual gathering of the Tiki tribe in Fort Lauderdale. Highlights include more music and entertainment, more Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy classes, the full lineup of bands and pop-up bars participating in Friday night’s High Tide party, more bars added to the Rum Island Pool Party, a new symposium, and a detailed daily schedule.

Here’s a rundown on everything new that we gleaned from the totally redesigned and updated website. Keep an eye out for even more info to be announced in the coming weeks.

ENTERTAINMENT: Several new bands and performers were announced. Returning for another year are four South Florida favorites: Roots rockers Slip and the Spinouts and classic surf guitarist Skinny Jimmy Stingray. Area DJ James Brown’s Sweat will also be back to spin some funky tunes. Of course, King Kukulele also returns for the 16th straight year as on-stage host and emcee.

The Surfrajettes from Canada will be performing at the High Tide party on June 9.
The Surfrajettes from Canada will be performing at the High Tide party on June 9.

HIGH TIDE PARTY: The full lineup and details on the Friday night main event were officially annouced. The music will include a new addition, Slip and the Spinouts, along with an outstanding bill of previously announced bands: Stolen Idols (Tampa), The Mermers (Gainesville), Surfrajettes (Canada), and a new addition, The Hula Girls. Also performing will be burlesque queen Angie Pontani. And the icing on the cake is the announcement of eight guest pop-up bars, giving the party even more bang for your buck: Flask & Cannon (Jacksonville), Hidden Harbor (Pittsburgh), Pagan Idol (San Francisco), the Sip ‘n Dip Tiki Lounge (Great Falls, Mont.), Slowly Shirley (New York City), S.O.S. Tiki Bar (Atlanta), Three Dots and a Dash (Chicago), and UnderTow (Phoenix). All are also participating in the Tiki Tower Takeover and/or Rum Island Pool Party (see below). In addition to full access for multi-day passholders, the party is also now available for day guests for $99 (including one cocktail from each bar). There’s also a new Surf’s Up Friday/Saturday Combo pass ($129) that includes the party, plus Saturday’s Tiki Treasures Bazaar (including rum tastings) and main event at The Mai-Kai. The combo pass also includes passholder prices for symposiums and cocktail classes.

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