Minimalist Tiki

PBS stations say aloha this week to long-awaited documentary on Tiki culture

We got a sneak peek at The Hukilau in April 2012, then an exclusive premiere at The Mai-Kai during the 2013 edition of the Tiki event in Fort Lauderdale. Now, the rest of the world will be exposed to Plastic Paradise: A Swingin’ Trip Through America’s Polynesian Obsession, a documentary that traces the history of America’s love affair with exotic style and tells a fascinating story of pop culture.

Plastic Paradise: A Swingin' Trip Through America's Polynesian Obsession

Filmed at Tiki events, bars and restaurants across the country and produced by Miami’s award-winning commercial and documentary filmmakers Common Machine, Plastic Paradise has finally been released to PBS affiliates. It was commissioned by Miami affiliate WLRN, where it premieres this Wednesday (Sept. 18) at 8 p.m. It will air again on WLRN on Thursday at 2 a.m., Friday at 7 p.m., and Monday (Sept. 23) at 11 p.m. It will also be carried by WXEL in Palm Beach County beginning on Saturday (Sept. 21) at 8 p.m. WLRN’s Plastic Paradise page also lists air times on PBS stations in Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois and Washington. It also encourages you to call your local PBS station if you want to see the documentary in your area.

Featuring interviews with a who’s who of the modern Tiki revival (Sven Kirsten, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Shag, Kevin Kidney, Otto Von Stroheim, Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White, King Kukulele, Marina the Mermaid, and many others) and action-packed footage filmed at The Hukilau and The Mai-Kai, the movie gives viewers one of the most in-depth looks at what makes the current scene so vibrant. The Plastic Paradise site has many clips of interviews and footage used in the film.

Modern Caribbean Rum
The 'Plastic Paradise' premiere at The Hukilau in June 2013
The ‘Plastic Paradise’ premiere at The Hukilau in June 2013.

The most poignant footage is interviews with several members of the Tiki community who recently passed away. Carver Wayne Coombs was a huge presence in the Florida scene and one of the most distinctive artists of the past half century. And Ron Licudine, son of famed Mai-Kai mixologist Mariano Licudine, was a longtime booster of the current scene and guardian of his father’s legacy. Both are featured in fun scenes that keep their memory alive.

The experience and talent of Gaspar González, Brett O’Bourke and their Common Machine team give the entire production a high level of professionalism. On top of the vast coverage of the state of Tiki today, the filmmakers include a comprehensive and entertaining look back in time that explains the depth and breath of the first wave of Tiki in mid-20th century. It’s a great guide for the uninitiated. Look for more upcoming films from this talented crew. Click on the Miami Herald link below for more on Common Machine.

Recent press coverage
* The Miami Herald: Mai-Kai anyone? Documentary explores tiki culture
* Sun-Sentinel: Mai-Kai stars in WLRN film on tiki culture

Official sites
* Plastic Paradise | Common Machine | WLRN | The Hukilau | The Mai-Kai

Past Atomic Grog coverage
* The Hukilau | The Mai-Kai | Beachbum Berry | Shag | Kevin Kidney | Tiki culture

Atomic Grog special features
* Mai-Kai Cocktail Guide | Tropical drink family tree
* Heeeeeeere’s the rich history and lost stories of The Mai-Kai

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