Like the imposing Tikis that he carved for more than 40 years, Cocoa Beach’s Wayne Coombs was a larger-than-life figure with a mischievous bent and a style all his own. Coombs, whose distinctive “Florida style” of carving became his trademark and made him one of the modern Tiki revival’s most well-known and beloved figures, passed away on Sept. 4 at age 62.
Wayne is believed to have suffered a heart attack at his studio. He is survived by his wife of 35 years, Beki. A celebration will be held in his honor on Sunday, Sept. 23, from 1 to 5 p.m. at his Mai Tiki Gallery in Cocoa Beach.
Originally from Miami, Wayne moved with his family to the Space Coast at age 14. He was a rambunctious artist and free spirit from an early age. His first gallery, Free and Creative, opened in the mid-’60s and he began carving Tikis in 1967. He and Beki founded Mai Tiki Studio and Gallery in 1973.
Over the years, Wayne became a fixture not only in Brevard County and throughout Florida, where his Tikis are ubiquitous, but also in the worldwide surfing and Tiki scenes. The studio and gallery became a local attraction, and his fame grew large enough to match his imposing figure and robust personalty.
Whatever (or whoever) started a fire in Walt Disney World’s Enchanted Tiki Room back in January may have inadvertently set off a chain of events that has corrected one of the biggest blunders in the history of theme park attraction renovations.
Closed for the past seven months, the iconic attraction is scheduled to reopen Aug. 15 with a new animatronic show that pays tribute to the original attraction, which was a pet project of Walt himself. To the delight of many hardcore fans, the oft-reviled “Under New Management” theme has been ditched (for good, hopefully). Iago from Aladdin and Zazu from The Lion King have been replaced by José, Fritz, Michael and Pierre – the four crooning parrot hosts who have been entertaining guests at California’s Disneyland since 1963.
The redesign of Disney World’s Enchanted Tiki Room was announced in May at Disney’s “D23 Destination D: Walt Disney World 40th Anniversary Conference,” a special event for members of Disney’s D23 fan club (D23 refers to Disney and 1923, the year the company was founded). The Aug. 15 date was officially announced by Disney World on Tuesday.