Modern Caribbean Rum

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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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:

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Minimalist Tiki

How big a punch can Tiki Month take?

Every February, Tiki cocktail bloggers gather for Tiki Month at The Pegu Blog to share cocktail recipes, tips, tricks and musings about the state of tropical mixology. Why February? It has something to do with an escape from Mother Nature’s frigid wrath, but I don’t really grasp that concept having been marooned in Fort Liquordale for more years than I can remember.

Martin Cate (right) supervises Rum Rat Pack members Wayne Curtis (left) and Stephen Remsberg as the punch begins to take shape at The 2011 Hukilau at The Mai-Kai
In go the mixers: Martin Cate (right) supervises Rum Rat Pack members Wayne Curtis (left) and Stephen Remsberg as the punch begins to take shape at The 2011 Hukilau at The Mai-Kai. (Photo by

Not a bad place to be marooned, however, especially when The Hukilau rolls into town every year. There’s also a little restaurant called The Mai-Kai. Both serve as a beacon, summoning the greatest minds in the Tiki world to an annual bacchanalia of rum and revelry.

The single event that perhaps reached the pinnacle of rum and revelry was the appearance of Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s “Rum Rat Pack” at The Mai-Kai during The Hukilau in June 2011, which brings us back to Tiki Month. This year’s blog contributions have been entertaining and informative, covering such esoteric topics as homemade ginger syrup, garnishes made from ground coconut and orange peel, and more drink recipes than you can shake a shaker at. There was also something about geeks who re-create recipes they’ve never actually tasted, if you can imagine that.

Lost in all these intricate tropical concoctions is a common conundrum: How do you handle a thirsty mob who can’t wait for you to carefully fillet an orange or toast coconut? The Rum Rat Pack’s Rumposium demonstrated how to solve that problem with style and flair. In one fell swoop, they whipped up a Tiki punch for 200, featuring 240 ounces of six different rums, a jaw-dropping bowl filled with 630 ounces of deliciousness.

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