Tiki VIP #18 Kelly Merrell (Bartender, Trader Sam’s)

Kelly Merrell

When Disneyland opened it’s own Tiki bar, Trader Sam’s, it was a safe assumption that the décor would be dialed-in. Escapism is what Disney does best! But what about the drinks? Thankfully, Trader Sam’s has Kelly Merrell. Kelly was there at the beginning of Trader Sam’s and he brought his cocktail making skills with him. Here is Kelly’s story…

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Tiki VIP #17 Jason Alexander (Tacoma Cabana)

Jason Alexander

I’ll never the forget the first time I set foot in Tacoma Cabana.

Standing behind the bar was this dude wearing an Aloha shirt and fez on his head. I didn’t know anything about this guy, but he had a presence to him that made him really stand out. Without saying a word, the message was clear: I’m here to make Tiki cocktails and trust me, they will blow you away. This man was and is Jason Alexander. He is the owner of Tacoma Cabana. Let’s get to know Jason a little bit more…

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Tiki VIP #16 Clee Sobieski (Tiki Artist)

Clee Sobieski At The Tonga Hut Palm Springs

Clee Sobieski: pronounced SEE-lee SOH-bee-ES-kee

When I first saw Clee’s work at Tiki Kon 2016, I knew I wanted to do a post about this talented fellow. Clee’s art pulls from Tiki, Mid-Century, and everything in between. The thing I love most about Clee’s work is that it’s totally unique and timeless. When you see a painting by Clee, you know it’s his. And now you know how to pronounce his name correctly! Let’s get to know Clee a little better…

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Tiki VIP #15 Humuhumu (Critiki)


I do a fair amount of traveling for my blog. If I’m flying into a city, I want to know if there are any Tiki bars and I want to know if they are worth checking out. Doing a Google search or reading Yelp reviews isn’t going to tell me what I need to know. Does a place serve good Tiki drinks? How is the décor? What is the crowd like? Luckily there is Critiki. Critiki is a website dedicated to reviewing Tiki bars by Tikiphiles like myself. If a bar hasn’t been reviewed on Critiki, it’s probably not worth visiting. The woman behind Critiki is Humuhumu and she knows her Tiki! I got a chance to ask Humuhumu some questions…

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Tiki VIP #14 Wendy Cevola (Tiki Mug Artist)

Wendy Cevola

I read about Wendy in the Winter 2015/16 edition of Tiki Magazine and More and she seemed so cool…

Wendy's write up in Tiki Magazine and More
Wendy’s write up in Tiki Magazine and More

She makes Tiki mugs out of her home. Wendy lives in Elk Grove, CA, which is located on the outskirts of Sacramento. I’m not the only one who’s interested in Wendy. The Elk Grove Citizen newspaper ran not one, but two stories on Wendy! She mailed me a newspaper clipping…

Wendy in the Elk Grove Citizen newspaper clipping
Wendy in the Elk Grove Citizen newspaper clipping

Luckily, the article is online and it gives a great overview on Wendy and her art.

The Elk Grove Citizen photograph of Wendy
The Elk Grove Citizen photograph of Wendy

Here is another article on Wendy from the Elk Grove Citizen. This is from March 2011 and gives a great overview of Wendy and her interest in making Tiki mugs.

As I’m writing this post, ABC 10 is going to Wendy’s place to do a news story on her! Here is the video! I see big things happening for this talented lady. Here are some questions I wanted to ask Wendy before she gets too famous!

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Tiki VIP #13 Tiki Kiliki, aka Christie White

Kiliki with Dawn Wells aka Mary Ann

DIY: Do It Yourself!

When I was younger and playing in punk bands, I learned really quickly that if you wanted things to happen, you had to do it yourself. Want to play a show? Set one up yourself. Want to read about the bands you liked? Start a fanzine. Want to make record? Start your own label! DIY.

Back in the day, the only Tiki show in town was Tiki Oasis, which took place in California. That’s great, but what if you lived on the other side of the country? Well, if you’re Christie White, aka Tiki Kiliki, you set up your own Tiki celebration! That’s exactly what Christie did when she created Hukilau and it has grown bigger and bigger each year. This is Christie’s story…

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Tiki VIP #12 Michael Thanos (Forbidden Island)

Michael Thanos

The first Tiki revival started back in the early ’90s and it was very underground. Leading this revival was a handful of ex-punks and alternative types. The Tiki community was a subculture of a subculture! The Tiki bar options were limited to only the places that happened to be still around. I’m guessing most of the patrons of these Tiki bars went because the bar was close to their home, not because of a love of Tiki.

This was the Tiki reality back then, but it didn’t have to stay that way.

If Tiki was going to survive, let alone have a future, new bars needed to be opened. Michael Thanos was one of first few to open a new Tiki bar. He is the owner of Forbidden Island in Alameda, CA, which is incredible! It’s a must visit for anyone visiting the Bay Area who loves Tiki. Forbidden Island opened back in 2006 and decade later is going stronger than ever. Here is Michael’s story…

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Tiki VIP #11 Sierra Kirk (Hale Pele)

Hale Pele

Everyone has their favorite Tiki bar and mine is Hale Pele in Portland, OR. When you walk into the bar and take a seat, you honestly feel like you’re in a Tiki hut somewhere in the South Pacific. The décor is incredible. What also is incredible at Hale Pele is the drinks. One of the women behind the bar making these awesome Tiki drinks is Sierra Kirk.

Sierra is unbelievably talented. Her Tiki drinks are some of the best I’ve ever had. If you want a drink with fire and flames, she’s just the woman for the job! I consider her to be one of the great Tiki bartenders right now! Here is Sierra’s story…

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Tiki VIP #10 JoJo Feo (JoJo’s Tiki Hut)

JoJo Feo
JoJo Feo

I’m always excited to find cool stuff going on back where I grew up in PA. Outside of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, there isn’t much in between. Sometimes you have to create your own scene and JoJo Feo is doing just that with her own Tiki jewelry business: JoJo’s Tiki Hut! There’s a growing rockabilly and pin-up community happening in central PA and JoJo is adding Tiki into the mix. This is her story…

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Tiki VIP #9 Jonathan M. Chaffin (Horror In Clay)

Jonathan M. Chaffin Horror In Clay
Jonathan M. Chaffin Horror In Clay

The gateway into Tiki culture for many people is the Tiki mug. Some mugs are found used at an antique shop or acquired as a souvenir at a Tiki bar. They look cool and collectable. It’s art that you can drink out of! At the beginning, Tiki mugs were just that. Mugs were designed to look like Tiki statues and that’s about it. Fast-forward to present day: Tiki mugs can be designed as pretty much anything. Many different subcultures like rockabilly, punk, hot-rod, or even just a general interest in Mid-Century lead people into loving Tiki. Why not combine those subcultures with Tiki? Luckily someone has! If you go to Frankie’s Tiki Room in Las Vegas, you can drink out of Tiki mug that’s shaped like a slot machine!

One subculture that has been mixed with Tiki is horror. I’ve seen Tiki mugs that are crafted as zombies, skulls, shrunken heads, and even as Frankenstein’s monster. Horror In Clay is the master of the horror-Tiki mug. The mugs they create are so cool and intricate. Jonathan M. Chaffin started Horror In Clay and here is his story…

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