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Following ‘magical’ 2014, Tiki Kiliki has big plans for The Hukilau in 2015 and beyond

After coming precariously close to saying aloha and goodbye to The Hukilau, the long-running Tiki event she has organized since 2002, Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White is sure glad things turned out differently. “For me, it was the best event in the history of The Hukilau,” she said of the five-day festival in June that not only marked the 13th annual gathering of vintage culture devotees from around the world, but also a new beginning.

The Hukilau's Christie "Tiki Kiliki" White introduces her new partners, Richard Oneslager (left) and Mike Zielinski, during Saturday night's Main Event at The Mai-Kai.
The Hukilau’s Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White introduces her new partners, Richard Oneslager (left) and Mike Zielinski, during Saturday night’s Main Event at The Mai-Kai.

Just months before she planned to close the books on The Hukilau for good, White was approached by two fans of the event who also happened to be experienced businessmen and event organizers who were eager to strike up a partnership. “I consider myself a very lucky person,” she said of the serendipity of the happenstance that led to The Hukilau not only surviving to see 2015, but becoming poised to thrive and reach new audiences across the country.

I sat down with Tiki Kiliki recently at The Mai-Kai, the beloved 57-year-old Polynesian restaurant that serves as the inspiration for the event, to get the lowdown on what she and her new partners, Richard Oneslager and Mike Zielinski, have in the works for The Hukilau and how their mutually beneficial partnership came about. But first, a look back at that memorable event in June that was expanded to five days in anticipation of a last hurrah. Instead, it turned into a celebration of what’s to come.

The Hukilau 2014 was held June 11-15 at the Bahia Mar Beach Resort and The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale.
See below: Gallery of 62 photos from The Atomic Grog. Click on bold links below for galleries by the official photographers at Go11 Media.
Related: The Hukilau offers a deep dive into the history of porthole cocktail lounges
The Hukilau 2015 will be held June 10-14. Get updates at TheHukilau.com and Facebook.

In the waning hours of The Hukilau on Sunday, artist Crazy Al Evans and author Jeff "Beachbum" Berry get one last chance to savor The Mai-Kai, its cocktails and its tropical garden.
In the waning hours of The Hukilau on Sunday, artist Crazy Al Evans and author Jeff “Beachbum” Berry get one last chance to savor The Mai-Kai, its cocktails and its tropical garden.

“This is going to sound really strange, but sort of like Disney, it was kind of like magic this year,” Tiki Kiliki told me. “You can’t really explain it, but everything just fell into place in a magical way. We talked about it afterwards. We don’t really know what the magic formula was, it just happened.”

The magic started on Wednesday, June 11, when what was formerly an informal night at The Mai-Kai became the Unofficial Official Pre-Party. South Florida roots/rockabilly band Slip and the Spinouts jammed in the sold-out Molokai bar while other attendees enjoyed many of the bar’s 47 classic Tiki cocktails and the restaurant’s extensive appetizer and dinner menu in the more sedate dining rooms. Logistical problems at the Sheraton Yankee Clipper forced the cancellation of Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid’s scheduled midnight swim show, but that just gave some attendees the opportunity to begin their room parties early. Disappointed guests were heartened by the fact that there was much more Marina to come.

Continue reading “Following ‘magical’ 2014, Tiki Kiliki has big plans for The Hukilau in 2015 and beyond”

Minimalist Tiki

Miami’s Gold Dust Lounge sets sail on adventurous journey with ‘Lost Sunset’

It’s been a memorable past few weeks for Russell Mofsky and his eclectic Miami combo Gold Dust Lounge.

Lost Sunset by Gold Dust Lounge

On June 12, the band was honored to be one of the few rock bands to ever perform on the show stage at the historic Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Then, on June 21, Mofsky celebrated the realization of years of hard work with the release party for the band’s Kickstarter-funded Lost Sunset album.

* Buy Lost Sunset now (download, vinyl and CD) | iTunes store

The band’s music, described as “a fusion of wailing ambient instrumentals stamped with retro surf rock and acid jazz,” defies classification. Mofsky’s roots go back to the heyday of Miami’s punk rock scene in the ’80s and ’90s (he was a member of the acclaimed band Quit). Perhaps it’s this anything-goes attitude that lets him approach his music with no preconceived notions.

Continue reading “Miami’s Gold Dust Lounge sets sail on adventurous journey with ‘Lost Sunset’”

The Hukilau offers a deep dive into the history of porthole cocktail lounges and their mysterious mermaids

Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid (Medusirena) and her pod of Aquaticats perform during The Hukilau in The Wreck Bar at the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel
Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid (Medusirena) and her pod of Aquaticats perform on Friday, June 13, during The Hukilau in The Wreck Bar at the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel, aka the Yankee Clipper. (Photo by Pat Duncan)

“Cocktails & Fishtails – The Untold Story of the Porthole Cocktail Lounge,” a symposium at The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, June 14. Held at the Bahia Mar Beach Resort, the presentation was hosted by Vintage Roadside and Medusirena, aka Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid.
* The Atomic Grog at The Hukilau 2014

Guest review by Tom Duncan (TikiTomD)

If you’ve ever wondered about the origins of the porthole lounge, or where you can still find one inhabited by live mermaids, then “Cocktails & Fishtails” was a must-see among The Hukilau’s 2014 symposiums.

Billy Rose's Aquacade

The audience was treated to an entertaining event, as might be expected anytime the effervescent Marina is part of the act. Underlying the fun of this presentation, however, was the serious work of Vintage Roadside’s Jeff Kunkle. He spent nearly a decade sifting through the flotsam and jetsam of history to make the connections with people, places and events that enlivened the story.

Jeff kicked things off by tracing the inspiration for the porthole lounge back to Billy Rose’s Aquacade, a music, dance and swimming show in the late 1930s. Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller, who also played Tarzan in the movies, was a star in the version of the show that played at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. [See video] The success of Aquacade at the World’s Fair spawned similar shows across the country over the next decade.

Continue reading “The Hukilau offers a deep dive into the history of porthole cocktail lounges and their mysterious mermaids”

Returning to The Hukilau, Jeff Berry proves he’s never too busy to be a ‘Beachbum’

In an ironic twist of fate, the man who built a career on his image as a carefree bum is now one of the busiest people in the cocktail world. Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, who will be making appearances Thursday through Saturday at The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale, is simultaneously promoting his sixth book, a new cocktail app, and an ingenious bar tool … all while planning the opening of his first bar this fall in New Orleans.

Beachbum Berry

See below: Potions of the Caribbean
Total Tiki app | Navy Grog Ice Cone Kit
Related: Navy Grog ice cone is revived by cocktail enthusiasts, handy gadget

Berry will also be a whirlwind of activity this week at The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale, where he’ll be making his ninth appearance at the annual Polynesian Pop extravaganza. His symposiums on cocktails and culture are always the hottest ticket at the event, and this year’s presentation (“Tiki’s Dark Ages: From Fern Bars To Rebirth”) was sold out months in advance.

The Hukilau: Wednesday through Sunday, June 11-15, at the Bahia Mar Beach Resort and The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets and info at TheHukilau.com and Facebook.
* Atomic Grog preview | Full coverage

Continue reading “Returning to The Hukilau, Jeff Berry proves he’s never too busy to be a ‘Beachbum’”

Missed The Hukilau and The Mai-Kai? Limited edition Tiki mugs are the next best thing

Updated June 21, 2014

The 13th edition of The Hukilau, the East Coast’s largest annual event dedicated to mid-century and Polynesian Pop culture, rolled into Fort Lauderdale last week for five days of “the most authentic Tiki event in the world.” But if you didn’t make it down to the beachside festivities or the historic Mai-Kai restaurant, you still have a limited-time opportunity to pick up some exclusive merchandise.
Related: Artists pay tribute to The Mai-Kai with one-of-a-kind mugs

The Hukilau was held June 11-15, at the Bahia Mar Beach Resort and The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale. Check the Facebook page for photos and recaps.
* The Atomic Grog at The Hukilau 2014

The Hukilau 2014 Commemorative Mug by Eekum Bookum
The Hukilau 2014 Commemorative Mug by Eekum Bookum comes with a choice of two different glazes. (Photo by Nomeus)

For many, the one piece of merchandise most closely associated with Tiki culture is, of course, the Tiki mug. Every year, The Hukilau has produced one of the most distinctive (and valuable) mugs on the market, designed by noted artists and produced in limited editions by the top mug manufacturers. [Click here to see some of the past designs]

First released only to ticket-holders and registered guests, The Hukilau 2014 Commemorative Mug is available (while supplies last) to the general public. Designed and produced by Oregon’s Eekum Bookum, the mug comes with two different glazes (Lava and Sunset) and features “The Final Aloha” on the back. In production before it was announced that the event will continue next year, this mug is likely to become a collector’s piece. [Check out the value of past mugs]

Continue reading “Missed The Hukilau and The Mai-Kai? Limited edition Tiki mugs are the next best thing”

The Hukilau says ‘Aloha’ but not goodbye, adds more entertainment to lineup for June 11-15 event

Updated June 13

In Hawaii, aloha can mean both hello and goodbye. For the annual Polynesian Pop gathering that returns to Fort Lauderdale in less than two weeks for its 13th annual celebration, both definitions are particularly apropos.

The Hukilau: Wednesday, June 11, through Sunday, June 15, at the Bahia Mar Beach Resort and The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale. Get tickets and more info at TheHukilau.com and Facebook. | See all of The Atomic Grog’s coverage

The Hukilau

For the many devotees who will be traveling from around the world to attend the retro-themed festivities on June 11-15, aloha has quickly gone from meaning a lamented last fling to a promising new beginning. After regretfully deciding late last year that 2014 would be the “Final Aloha,” organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White announced in April that The Hukilau will continue in 2015 with new partners and new energy. Look for more details at this year’s event.

But the focus now is on the expanded five-day bash that’s rapidly approaching. Featuring live music, symposiums, artists, vendors, special events and performances, The Hukilau is the East Coast’s largest Tiki-themed event. Thousands of mid-century and retro culture enthusiasts have made the annual pilgrimage since 2002 in search of the most authentic Tiki experience.

Continue reading “The Hukilau says ‘Aloha’ but not goodbye, adds more entertainment to lineup for June 11-15 event”

Never-say-die Tiki event The Hukilau announces return for 14th year in 2015

The Hukilau, the East Coast’s flagship event celebrating mid-century Polynesian Pop culture, delighted its Facebook fans with an announcement Friday that this year’s event will not be its last after all.

The Hukilau: June 11-15, 2014, at the Bahia Mar Beach Resort and The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale. Get tickets and make hotel reservations now at TheHukilau.com. Get updates on the Facebook page.
UPDATE: The Hukilau says ‘Aloha’ but not goodbye, adds more entertainment
* See all of The Atomic Grog’s coverage

Artwork for The Hukilau by noted Disney and mid-century revival artist Kevin Kidney
Artwork for The Hukilau by noted Disney and mid-century revival artist Kevin Kidney.

In late 2013, The Hukilau’s co-founder and longtime organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White announced that this year’s event would be the “Final Aloha.” The annual gathering of Tiki culture fans began in 2002 in Atlanta and has been based in Fort Lauderdale and the historic Mai-Kai since 2003. But as has happened before, fate (or perhaps the Tiki gods) once again intervened.

“While the Final Aloha was a very difficult decision to make, it was necessary by a series of factors at that time,” White posted on The Hukilau’s official Facebook page. “I’m relieved and thankful that we may be able to overcome them. I’m happy to announce due to recent events that The Hukilau will continue!”

The Hukilau has returned from the brink at least once before, and it has overcome many hurdles. It survived a direct hit from Hurricane Jeanne in 2004, then the potential closing of The Mai-Kai in 2008. That year was thought to be the last, until an 11th-hour announcement that The Mai-Kai has secured loans to repair long-standing damage from the hurricane, ensuring both the survival of the iconic Polynesian restaurant (est. in 1956) and The Hukilau.

Continue reading “Never-say-die Tiki event The Hukilau announces return for 14th year in 2015”

The Hukilau adds new band, symposium to lineup for June’s ‘final aloha’

UPDATES: The Hukilau says ‘Aloha’ but not goodbye, adds more entertainment (May)
The Hukilau announces return for 14th year in 2015 (April)

With tickets rapidly selling out and Tikiphiles flocking from around the world for the 13th and final edition of The Hukilau, organizers could certainly rest on their laurels. Instead, the annual Tiki event in Fort Lauderdale is getting an injection of new entertainment to add even more value (and fun) to the festivities.

The Sweet Hollywaiians perform at the Bahia Mar during The Hukilau in June 2010
The Sweet Hollywaiians perform at the Bahia Mar during The Hukilau in June 2010. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The Hukilau: June 11-15, 2014, at the Bahia Mar Beach Resort and The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale. Get tickets and make hotel reservations now at TheHukilau.com. Get updates on the Facebook page.
Previous post: Schedule announced for The Hukilau’s ‘Final Aloha’ in June

The Sweet Hollywaiians, one of the most memorable bands in the history of the event, will be making the trek from Osaka, Japan, to perform for the second time. The ensemble, formed in 2002 by a group of street musicians, carries on the 1920s and ’30s string band tradition with their all-instrumental arrangements. They seamlessly combine a smorgasbord of vintage styles such as Hawaiian, Swing, Ragtime, Blues, Calypso and Italian. The foursome plays an array of string instruments, such as lap steel guitar, banjo, tipple, ukulele, mandolin, and bass.

The band first wowed The Hukilau faithful in 2010, when they performed at the Bahia Mar and The Mai-Kai. They will return to both venues in 2014, headlining the Friday night Main Event at the hotel and making a special Mai-Kai appearance on Saturday. Previously announced entertainment includes The Left Arm of Buddha from Belgium, The Smokin’ Menehunes from California, and Florida bands The Intoxicators, Skinny Jimmy & The Stingrays, Slip and the Spinouts, and Gold Dust Lounge. Click here for more info on the bands and special guests.

Continue reading “The Hukilau adds new band, symposium to lineup for June’s ‘final aloha’”

Schedule announced for The Hukilau’s ‘Final Aloha’ in June, tickets selling fast

UPDATES: The Hukilau says ‘Aloha’ but not goodbye, adds more entertainment (May)
The Hukilau announces return for 14th year in 2015 (April)
The Hukilau adds new band, symposium to lineup for June’s ‘final aloha’ (March)

In just over four months, tikiphiles from around the world will flock to Fort Lauderdale for The Hukilau’s 13th and final celebration of authentic mid-century Polynesian Pop culture. If you want to join the party, you might want to act fast. All-access tickets and one special event have already sold out.

The Intoxicators at The Mai-Kai during The Hukilau in June 2013
The Intoxicators at The Mai-Kai during The Hukilau in June 2013. The Tallahassee surf band has performed every year since 2005. (Photo by Go11Events.com)

The Hukilau: June 11-15, 2014, at the Bahia Mar Beach Resort and The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale. Get tickets and make hotel reservations now at TheHukilau.com. Get updates on the Facebook page.
Previous post: The Hukilau announces entertainment lineup for ‘final aloha’

The tentative full schedule was just posted on the official website, providing the first day-by-day rundown of all the festivities. Also recently announced was the sellout of author and historian Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s symposium on the Tiki cocktail de-evolution and revival. “Tiki’s Dark Ages: From Fern Bars To Rebirth” is scheduled for Thursday, June 12, at 1 p.m. in the dining room at The Mai-Kai restaurant.

But you’re not entirely out of luck if you missed out on tickets to Berry’s final symposium at The Hukilau, and perhaps his last for quite a while as he turns his attention to his upcoming Tiki bar in New Orleans. He will be meeting guests and signing books, including his new Potions of the Caribbean, at the Cocktail Kingdom vendor booth in the Tiki Treasures Bazaar at the host hotel, the Bahia Mar Beach Resort.

Continue reading “Schedule announced for The Hukilau’s ‘Final Aloha’ in June, tickets selling fast”

The Hukilau announces entertainment lineup for ‘final aloha’ in Fort Lauderdale this June

UPDATES: The Hukilau says ‘Aloha’ but not goodbye, adds more entertainment (May)
The Hukilau announces return for 14th year in 2015 (April)
The Hukilau adds new band, symposium to lineup for June’s ‘final aloha’ (March)
Schedule announced for The Hukilau’s ‘Final Aloha,’ tickets selling fast (February)

The Hukilau: June 11-15, 2014

The Hukilau: June 11-15, 2014, at the Bahia Mar Beach Resort and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Get tickets and make hotel reservations now at TheHukilau.com. Click the links below for more info.

When Tikphiles from around the world gather in Fort Lauderdale in June for the 13th and final edition of The Hukilau, they’ll be treated to an eclectic assortment of bands, speakers and entertainers that the event has been known for, from an “exotic” orchestra from Belgium to Tiki’s most famous cocktail author.

The official website launched early today with full details on the five-day festival that honors authentic mid-century Polynesian Pop culture like no other. The entertainment lineup includes seven bands, two special guest performers, four symposium speakers, and a cruise through Fort Lauderdale’s famous waterways.

Continue reading “The Hukilau announces entertainment lineup for ‘final aloha’ in Fort Lauderdale this June”