Minimalist Tiki

The Week in Tiki (Aug. 24-Sept. 6, 2015): Lowbrow art icon The Pizz dies, September event previews and news, Tiki returns to South Beach fest

The Week in TikiSad news this week with the passing of artist Stephen Pizzurro, who will forever be known as The Pizz. The September calendar is chock full of Tiki events, from Chicago to Indianapolis to California. There’s also news on Tiki Kon, Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise and next year’s Tiki cocktail showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Our regular features spotlight artist of the week The Pizz; Milwaukee surf band The Revomatics; vintage Chicago-area restaurant Chef Shangri-La; and online magazine Punch. The rum of the week, Plantation 3 Stars, is featured in two cocktails: Blue Ricardo and the Allspicy Daiquiri.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Tiki bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

The Pizz, legend of lowbrow, dies at 57

Stephen Pizzurro, better known in the lowbrow art world as El Pizzo and The Pizz, has died at age 57. The Pizz is considered to be one of the pioneering creators of “cartoon expressionism,” and his influence is felt by an entire generation of artists.

The Pizz

The Pizz was part of a new breed of artists who came of age in the 1960s and ’70s, when cheeky hot-rod culture seeped out of the underground and into mainstream consciousness. Like many others, he was influenced by a wide array of counterculture styles (including Tiki, surf, beatnik, skateboarding, tattoo, underground comics, and Kustom Kulture). But only the most talented bridged the gap into fine art, and The Pizz was one of those rare talents.

His hardcore yet colorful and exotic work was embraced by galleries such as La Luz De Jesus in Los Angeles, where he was a fixture for more than 20 years. Yet The Pizz always kept himself grounded in the lowbrow underbelly, focusing his artwork on cartoonish depictions of hot rods, pinups, and all manner of ne’er-do-wells. He once described his work as “a tumultuous adrenaline-soaked hellride of a lifetime leaving a mountain of debris and unspeakable carnage in its wake. Yeah, it’ll scar your fragile psyche for miles into the hereafter.” The Pizz died Aug. 30 in the same hard and impetuous manner that he portrayed characters on canvas. Instead of pen and brush, his chosen tool was a .357 revolver.

The Pizz

The Pizz grew up in Orange County, Calif., learning to draw at an early age. A disciple of legendary cartoonist Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, he realized his dream by working for Roth’s Rat Fink comics. He graduated to punk-rock album covers, then became a key player in the lowbrow art movement. The Pizz was a popular and admired artist, showing his work at galleries around the country. He also appeared on television shows and in film documentaries, including Flake and Flames (2013) and The Treasures of Long Gone John (2006). Friends have created a GoFundMe page to aid his wife, Yuki. See more on The Pizz below in our Artist of the Week feature.
* A farewell to The Pizz, Long Beach’s ‘zeitgeistically poignant’ artist (Press-Telegram)
* ‘Lord of Lowbrow,’ artist The Pizz, 1958-2015 (Hi-Fructose)
* Video: Interview with The Pizz at Don the Beachcomber (YouTube)

EVENTS AT A GLANCE: Denver Modernism Show, California Rum Fest, Fong Fest, WMNF Birthday Luau, International Tiki Market Place, Makahiki: A Night of Tiki, Dapper Day Expo

Here’s a rundown of some of the events on a busy September calendar:

The Denver Modernism Show celebrates its 10th anniversary on Sept. 11-13 with dozens of vendors from around the U.S. selling a wide variety of vintage and contemporary furniture, artwork and objects. Held at the National Western Complex Expo Hall, the event will include a Tiki lounge, art gallery, car show, live bands and entertainment, lectures, home tours, and more. Special guest Charles Phoenix will be on hand all three days, serving up food from his kitchen, presenting a retro slideshow, hosting a bus tour, and judging the car show.

California Rum Fest

Making its debut on Saturday, Sept. 12, is the California Rum Fest, hoping to join the growing list of events worldwide dedicated to the burgeoning appreciation for cane spirits. If the lineup of VIPs is any indication, this spirits showcase is off to a fine start. Scheduled to appear at the Terra Gallery in San Francisco are international rum ambassador Ian Burrell, distiller Richard Seale (Foursquare, R.L. Seal), and mixologist Dean Serneel, among others. Organized by The Rum Lab, the event includes tastings of dozens of rums, plus industry and public seminars. Participating brands include Angostura, Bacardi, Koloa, Papa’s Pilar, Plantation, Pusser’s, The Real McCoy 3, and Ron Zacapa. There will also be pre-event parties, including a mixology contest Sept. 11 at Forbidden Island in Alameda.

Fong Fest

Fong Fest is an outdoor music event coming Saturday, Sept. 12, to Chef Shangri-La in North Riverside, Ill., just outside of Chicago (see Tiki bar of the week below). Chef Shangri-La, a classic ’70s Chinese restaurant featuring Tiki cocktails and vintage decor, was opened by chef Paul Fong in 1976 and is now run by daughter Betty Fong Hlavka. The fourth annual fest starts and noon and runs until 10 p.m. with surf, lounge, rockabilly, and exotica music plus charity raffles, a vintage marketplace and more. Bands include The Gin Palace Jesters, The Dyes, The Amazing Heeby Jeebies, Rumble Train, 13 Tikis, Alewife, and The Revomatics (see band of the week below). The post-party continues inside until 1 a.m. Admission is just $5 and so are the tropical drinks. Proceeds benefit aninal shelter CatNap from the Heart.
* Facebook event | Tiki Central thread
* Hear a preview, including music and interviews (WGN Radio)

Florida’s first community radio station, WMNF, is celebrating its 36th anniversary with its second annual Birthday Luau on Monday, Sept. 14, at Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe in Tampa. The event includes an extensive Polynesian buffet, tropical drinks, hula dancers, and live music from Stolen Idols. Also appearing are The Johnny Zoom Hi-Fi Show and WMNF’s Flee as special guest DJ.

International Tiki Market Place

Don the Beachcomber in Huntington Beach will host its latest International Tiki Market Place on Saturday, Sept. 12, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. featuring vendors, live Hawaiian entertainment and Don the Beachcomber’s famous food and cocktails. Conceived by late owner Arthur Snyder as a tribute to Don the Beachcomber and the original International Tiki Market Place in Waikiki, the event launched in 2012 and has become a favorite spot to buy and sell vintage wares in Southern California. Confirmed vendors include some of the top artists in Tiki: Bamboo Ben, Spike from The Hula Girls, Retro Ruthie, Tiki Diablo, Poly Hai, Tiki Tony, BigToe Art, Little Lost Tiki (Ken Ruzic), Doug Horne, Dirk Yates, Vintage Surf, Tiki Tonz Tikis, RhinoTiki, and many more.
* Facebook event | Instagram |

Charles Phoenix

There’s a full slate of Dapper Day events coming this fall to Disney parks around the world, plus the annual two-day expo at the Disneyland resort that includes a retro slideshow by Charles Phoenix. The biannual Dapper Day, which began in 2011, celebrates the tradition of stepping out in style and has included fashionable gatherings attended by thousands of well-dressed guests twice a year at the Disney resorts in Anaheim, Orlando and Paris. The highlight of the fall schedule is the Dapper Day Expo on Sept. 18-19, including the Fall Soirée in Disneyland, and a car show at the Disneyland Hotel. At noon Saturday, Phoenix will present his popular Retro Disneyland Slidehow at the AMC Theaters in Downtown Disney. He promises to share the flaming backstory of the Monorail, take you inside the Monsanto House of the Future, and launch you on a journey in the TWA Rocket to the Moon. Fall Soirées will also be held Sept. 26 at Disneyland Paris and Oct. 3 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando. Organizers stress that “dapper” doesn’t exclusively refer to vintage. “All sophisticated fashions from vintage classics to contemporary chic” are welcome at the events.
* | Facebook | Instagram

Makahiki: A Night of Tiki

Makahiki: A Night of Tiki returns to Indianapolis, Ind., on Saturday, Sept. 19, featuring performances by The Cocktail Preachers, Roland Remington, The Troubadours, Rocket Doll Revue, Mimi Le Yu, and DJ Johnny Yuma. Presented by the Pukapuka Chapter of the Fraternal Order Of Moai and held at the Time Out Lounge, the second annual charity event will raise money for the Southside Animal Shelter.
* Facebook event

QUICK HITS: Tiki Kon losing host hotel, Junge Cruise launching Sunrise Safari

Still basking in the success of the 13th annual Tiki Kon on July 12-13, organizers received some sad news in late August when it was announced that the host hotel, the Red Lion Hotel in Vancouver, Wash., will soon be closing. The 42-year-old vintage venue, site of many memorable Tiki Kon events over the past three years, will shut down on Oct. 31. Its future is unclear, but rumors indicate the waterfront property may be converted into shops and restaurants, according to a post on Tiki Kon’s Facebook page. There are hopes that the nautical-themed hotel’s Quay Bar will be spared. Stay tuned for news on a new host venue for Tiki Kon 2016 (July 8-10), and possible date change (depending on availability).

Jungle Cruise
The Jungle Cruise is one of Disneyland’s original attractions, opening in 1955. (Disney Parks Blog)

Following in the wake of the recent announcement of a Jungle Cruise themed restaurant at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, the skippers running the Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. have decided to give the beloved original attraction a little love (along with assorted breakfast meats). According to the Disney Parks Blog, the iconic 60-year-old Disneyland attraction will soon begin offering a Sunrise Safari featuring breakfast on the African veldt. After treating yourself to pastries, exotic fruits and juices, bacon and eggs, sausage, and a potato-onion hash, you’ll grab the wheel of your own boat for a crash course as a skipper-in-training. Upon completion, you’ll be initiated into the elite Fraternal League of Secret Skippers and receive an exclusive tribal mask inspired by original concept art for the Jungle Cruise. Beware that the experience isn’t cheap ($300) and runs before park hours, beginning at 6 a.m. Reservations are available 60 days in advance. Click here to reserve your spot now.

Tiki is back at the South Beach Food & Wine Festival

After the success of this year’s “The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown” hosted by Emeril Lagasse and featuring seven of the country’s most talented mixologists, the South Beach Wine & Food Festival is bringing back Tiki in 2016 at a new venue with a new host.

Brian Miller and his Pain Reliever.
Brian Miller and his Pain Reliever, winners of the Judge’s Choice award at The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival on Feb. 20. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The Art of Tiki 2016 is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 26, from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the Surfcomber Hotel, an historic 1948 property that was renovated in 2011. The boutique hotel appears to be more appropriate than this year’s venue, the Shore Club, which was a bit too glitzy for a Tiki event. The new host is ubiquitous Food Network personality Guy Fieri, who always helms a high-profile SBWFF party. While it may be distressing to Tiki purists, his inclusion indicates that the festival is taking the event seriously.

Billed as “an evening of Polynesian flare with Tiki-inspired cocktails from across the country,” the event appears to be pretty much the same format as this past February’s event (and also the upcoming The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the New York City Wine & Food Festival on Oct. 17). Guests can sample food and drinks from booths manned by bartenders and chefs from some of the country’s top bars and restaurants. A panel of judges will rate the cocktails and crown a winner. It appears that none of the competitors or judges have been announced yet, but quite a few chefs are already listed on the SBWFF event page.

Tickets ($95) will go on sale to Mastercard holders during a special pre-sale Oct. 5-18 before they’re available to the public.
* Official event page | Buy tickets
* Atomic Grog recap: Photos, review of the 2015 Tiki event at SBWFF

***** Links of the week*****
* Great Tiki bars that take you far, far away (Travel + Leisure)
* Bring the Tiki party home with easy drink recipes (Chicago Tribune)
* Taking orgeat beyond the Tiki classic (The Washington Post)
* All fired up: Flaming Tiki drinks 101 (Robb Vices)
* What happened to fassionola, the Tiki world’s lost syrup? (Eater)
* The very best sipping rums to try (The Telegraph)
* Rum: Join the dark side (Drinks International)
* Dickens-style Plantation pineapple rum launch (The Drinks Report)
* St. Augustine Rum debuts in Florida (National Rum Examiner)

The Pizz

Channeling his two major influences – the Kustom Kulture cartoons of Big Daddy Roth and the colorful surrealism of Robert Williams – Southern Califorina artist The Pizz helped pioneer a new subgene in the lowbrow art world. Most commonly referred to as cartoon expressionism, this wild and wacky style was a perfect fit for the Tiki revival scene that fully embraced his work. The Pizz was featured on the cover of the Spring 2009 issue of Tiki Magazine, and an article within explores the vast influence mid-century and classic Polynesian Pop had on his work. While much of his comic art (he cut his teeth at Rat Fink) and punk-rock album covers (he was the art director for the Sympathy For The Record Industry label) tended to be dark and foreboding, his Tiki art displayed glimpses of harmless frivolity. In the 2009 article, he explained: “I imagine my Tikis are living, cognizant and ambulatory. They have fun … they get funky!” He wowed Tikiphiles with his brilliant mugs for Tiki Farm, but he was equally beloved in many lowbrow scenes, from tattoo and hot-rod culture to comics and underground rock ‘n’ roll. Sadly, the world lost The Pizz to his own demons on Aug. 30 (see news story above). He leaves the world a much less colorful place.
* Contribute to The Pizz Memorial Fund
* Remember The Pizz: Official website | Instagram
* Interviews: Color Ink Book | Last Gasp
* Buy his book: The Dizzy Dictionary: A Lowbrow Guide to Kustom Kulture (Amazon)
* Tiki mugs by The Pizz (Oooga-Mooga)
* See past artists of the week

The Revomatics

The Revomatics

Over the past five years, this Milwaukee-based foursome has established itself as one of the premiere instrumental surf bands in the Midwest. The band’s latest self-released album, We Come in Peace, was unleashed in June and features 13 powerful original tracks. The album is classic streetwise surf, a rough and tumble collection of dark and ominous songs that range from great Link Wray-style riffing to moody Spaghetti Western. The infectious rhythms carry the album, but select tracks also show off the band’s versatility with acoustic and flamenco guitar interludes. Previous releases include Live at Lucky Joe’s Tiki Room (2014) and Rev It Up! (2013). CDs and digital downloads are available on the band website and Amazon.
* | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube
* All past bands/music of the week

Don’t miss The Revomatics will be peforming at Fong Fest at Chef Shangri-La in the Chicago area on Saturday, Sept. 12. The event will mark the band’s 100th show. See more info above and below.

Chef Shangri-La

Chef Shangri-La

Affectionately known as “the Chef,” this Chicago area institution is a restaurant that describes itself as Hawaiian, Chinese and Asian fusion … which roughly translates into “Tiki” when you consider the vintage decor and tropical drinks. It was not uncommon in the 1970s for Chinese restaurants to adopt a Tiki theme in the waning years of the original Polynesian Pop movement, and Chef Shangri-la is one of the best remaining examples of this hybrid. The original owner, chef Paul Fong, came from the defunct Shangri-La restaurant, hence the name. He also worked in the kitchens at Don the Beachcomber and The Mai-Kai, and his wife Suzie was of Polynesian descent. Fong passed away in 2012, leaving the business to daughter Betty Fong Hlavka, who keeps all the traditions alive and well. Located in North Riverside, a small village about 12 miles west of Chicago, the establishment has steadfastly maintained its vintage vibe for nearly 40 years and contains some classic pieces by Witco, Orchids of Hawaii and Oceanic Arts. The signature drink (of course) is Dr. Fong, based roughly on the famous Tiki drink. The vast food menu is notable for its large vegetarian and gluten-free sections. Chef Shangri-La is a key stop on the Chicago Area Tiki Tour, home to many regular events, and is a favorite of Windy City Tikiphiles. It’s also a rare restaurant that showcases an authentic Polynesian stage show, presented by Aloha Chicago Entertainment on the first and third Fridays of every month.
* | Facebook page
* Critiki profile, photos | Tiki Central discussion
* See past Tiki bars of the week

Don’t miss Chef Shangri-La will host the fourth annual Fong Fest on Saturday, Sept. 12, featuring live music, raffles, a vendor marketplace and more. The event runs from noon to 10 p.m. in the restaurant parking lot, with the party continuing inside until 1 a.m. See more info in the news section above, the Facebook event and the Tiki Central thread.


Few have consistently cranked out informative, in-depth stories about Tiki cocktails over the past several years like the crew at Punch. The online magazine is a collaborative effort with Crown Publishing imprint Ten Speed Press that features “narrative journalism” about wine, spirits and cocktails. As such, it’s an easy-to-use site that’s professionally researched and written, and the photography/presentation makes you want to immediately go whip up an exotic cocktail to enjoy while reading. Many of the best articles have been featured here as links of the week, covering such topics as “Diagnosing the Tiki Psyche” and DIY falernum. There are also plenty of classic and new recipes from Tiki’s masters and new generation of mixologists. And if you want to broaden your reading to the wider craft cocktail world, this is a great place to start.
* | Facebook | Twitter | Pintrest | Instagram
* See past websites of the week

For the third year in a row, Plantation 3 Star won a gold medal in the Premium White Rum category at the Miami Rum Festival in April. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
For the third year in a row, Plantation 3 Star won a gold medal in the Premium White Rum category at the Miami Rum Festival in April. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Plantation 3 Stars

It’s no secret that Plantation makes some of the world’s finest rums. This is already the fourth rum from this distinguished and award-winning brand that we’ve reviewed in this space. Sourcing the best the Caribbean has to offer, then blending and double-aging to perfection, Plantation can seemingly do no wrong. While aged rums from a specific island are Plantation’s bread and butter, these master blenders hit a home run with the 2012 launch of their first white rum, branded as 3 Star to signify the blend comes from the three islands where rum-producing excels: Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad. When sipped neat or mixed in a simple Daiquiri, it displays an amazing smooth yet funky flavor that stands head and shoulders above most white rums. Molasses and caramel stand out among a range of savory flavors that blend perfectly, making it equally adept as a sipper and mixer. If you think the best white rums should always be dry and clean ala the Spanish style, Plantation 3 Star will change your mind.
* Plantation Rum: Official site | Facebook | Twitter
* Previous Plantation rums of the week:
Barbados 5-year-old Grande Reserve | Original Dark | Jamaican
* See all past rums of the week

Don’t miss: Plantation will be showing off its rums at this week’s California Rum Fest. (see preview above).


Blue Ricardo featuring Plantation 3 Stars. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, September 2015)
Blue Ricardo featuring Plantation 3 Stars. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, September 2015)

Blue Ricardo
(From Fairweather in San Diego)

* 1 1/2 ounces white rum
* 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
* 1/2 ounce coconut syrup
* 1/2 ounce passion fruit syrup
* 1/2 ounce fresh pineapple juice
* 1/4 ounce blue curacao
Shake with a cup of crushed ice and strain into a tall glass filled with more crushed ice. Float blue curacao and garnish tropically. (Pictured: Pearl Diver Glass from Beachbum Berry and Cocktail Kingdom.)

The rum and curacao star in this sweet, tart and refreshing Trader Vic’s style tall cocktail. The bold Plantation 3 Stars rum manages to cut through the fruit and syrups to add a subtle edge to an otherwise straightforward tropical libation. Be sure to use fresh, quality ingredients such as a premium French curacao and gourmet (or homemade) syrups. Cheap ingredients will not do it justice.

Fairweather may not be on the radar of Tikiphiles outside of San Diego, but this new rooftop bar features a great rum/cocktail selection and gained some notoriety at Tiki Oasis in August when co-owner/mixologist Anthony Schmidt won the San Diego Bartenders’ Battle (see past coverage). I wasn’t satisfied with one cocktail representing Plantation 3 Stars, so I came up with something a bit less Tiki and more craft-oriented to show off the rum’s versatility:

Allspicy Daiquiri featuring Plantation 3 Stars. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, September 2015)
Allspicy Daiquiri featuring Plantation 3 Stars. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, September 2015)

Allspicy Daiquiri
(By Hurricane Hayward, The Atomic Grog)

* 2 ounces Plantation 3 Stars white rum
* 1 ounce fresh lime juice
* 3/4 ounce simple syrup
* 2 dashes Angostura bitters
* 2 dashes Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Aromatic Bitters
Shake with cubed ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

The big and bold Plantation 3 Stars rum holds up against the bitters like few white rums could, resulting in a nicely balanced, rich, sweet and spicy daiquiri. The combination of the two bitters creates a great classic Tiki flavor. I highly recommend the new handcrafted bitters from “King Cocktail,” which combines allspice berry with anise and other herbs. (You could substitute allspice liqueur (aka pimento dram), but don’t use more than a splash.) As a sweeter yet drier alternative, try 1/2 ounce of honey mix (1:1 honey to water) instead of simple syrup. The honey tempers the spice a bit, allowing the rum to shine.
* See all past cocktails of the week

SAVE THE DATE: Upcoming events

Ohana: Luau by the Sea

***** In Florida *****
* Oct. 1-3 – Ohana: Luau by the Sea, Fort Lauderdale. [Atomic Grog coverage]
* April 15-17, 2016 – Miami Rum Renaissance Festival. [Atomic Grog coverage]
* June 8-12 – The Hukilau, Fort Lauderdale. [Atomic Grog coverage]

***** On the Eastern Seaboard *****
* Oct. 17 – The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the New York City Wine & Food Festival.
* June 23-26, 2016 – Ohana: Luau At The Lake at The Tiki Resort, Lake George, N.Y. [Atomic Grog coverage]

Thee Hot Rod Luau

***** Across the U.S. *****
* Sept. 11-13 – Denver Modernism Show
* Sept. 12 – California Rum Fest, San Francisco.
* Sept. 12 – Fong Fest at Chef Shangri-La, Chicago.
* Sept. 18-19 – Dapper Day Expo, Disneyland Hotel, Anaheim.
* Sept. 19 – Makahiki: A Night of Tiki, Indianapolis, Ind.
* Sept. 23 – Tonga Room 70th anniversary, San Francisco.
* Sept. 26 – Thee Hot Rod Luau at Don the Beachcomber, Huntington Beach, Calif.
* Oct. 8-11 – Mod Palm Springs, Palm Springs, Calif. [Atomic Grog coverage]
* Dec. 4 – Midwest Rum Fest, Louisville, Ky.
* April 14-17, 2016 – Viva Las Vegas
* May 12-15 – Tiki Caliente, Palm Springs, Calif. [Atomic Grog coverage]
* July 8-10 – Tiki Kon, Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Wash. [Atomic Grog coverage]
* Aug. 18-21 – Tiki Oasis, San Diego, Calif. [Atomic Grog coverage]

***** Worldwide *****
* Sept. 26-28 – Rome Rumfest, Italy.
* Oct. 3-4 – German Rum Festival,, Berlin.
* Oct. 17-18 –
UK RumFest, London.
* Nov. 6-7 – Caribbean Rum & Beer Festival, St. Maarten.

Keep us informed: If you have news or events to report, simply e-mail [email protected] and let us know what’s happening, along with any appropriate links. Feel free to send photos and flyers. You can also send a message via the Facebook page. If you post news or updates on a regular basis, let us know how to follow you (website, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

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