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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Tiki VIP #8 Brian Rechenmacher

Brian Rechenmacher and his art
Brian Rechenmacher and his art

Most artists use brushes and paint to create their art, but Brian Rechenmacher does it differently. He uses his computer! Taking full advantage of the technology that we have today, Brian creates Tiki and Disney themed “paintings” that are truly stunning and very cool. On top of being a digital Tiki artist, Brian has spent time behind the bar mixing Tiki cocktails at Trader Sam’s at Disneyland and Forbidden Island in Alameda, CA. Sometimes, Brian takes off the Aloha shirt and slips on a shirt and tie to make craft cocktails at Five Points in San Jose.

I had a chance to ask Brian a couple questions…

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Tiki VIP Spotlight #7 Martin Cate

Rebecca and Martin Cate
Rebecca and Martin Cate

If there is anyone that should be considered a Tiki VIP, it has to be Martin Cate. Martin’s Tiki “resume” is just incredible! He has had his hand in several Tiki bars, including Forbidden Island, Hale Pele, Smuggler’s Cove, and San Diego’ False Island. Did I mention he also wrote one of the most important books on Tiki? It’s called Smuggler’s Cove, named after his bar. This book covers everything you want to know about Tiki and Tiki culture. It really is an essential read for anyone into the Tiki lifestyle.

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Tiki VIP #6 Rod Moore (The Shameful Tiki Room Canada)

Rod Moore with Tiki mugs
Rod Moore with Tiki mugs

The Shameful Tiki Room will always have a special place in my heart. It’s where I came up with the idea of starting this blog!

I heard there was a Tiki bar up in Vancouver, BC and I decided to take a little road trip up to check it out. When I finally made it through the border patrol into Vancouver, I arrived at the Shameful Tiki Room. As I walked up to the place, I noticed all the windows were covered up. My first thought was that the bar was closed or under construction. I figured I came this far, so I might as well try the door. It opened and I stepped inside to a very dark room. Once my eyes adjusted to lack of light, I realized I was in a really cool Tiki bar! I got a seat at the bar and started ordering drinks. They were good, like Tiki Ti good! The windows out front were covered on purpose to block out the realities of outside. Great idea!  I thought whoever owns this bar is in the know when it comes to Tiki. I was right! That guy is Rod Moore and I had a chance to ask him a couple questions.

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Tiki VIP #3 Peter Andrijeski (Seattlebars.org)

Pete owner of The Monkey Skull Voodoo Lounge
Pete, owner of the Monkey Skull Voodoo Lounge

What is the oldest bar in Seattle?

I’m finding out that the answer isn’t as simple as it might seem. I definitely got this sense as I’m talking with Peter Andrijeski of Seattlebars.org. “You have to think about a few things,” Peter said. How long has the bar been in business? How old is building? A bar may be in a building that’s really old, but that doesn’t mean the bar itself is that old as well. The correct answer is the Merchant’s Café, which is located in the oldest part of Seattle: Pioneer Square.

A few years ago, Peter had the grand idea to have a drink at every bar in Seattle. That’s right gang: every bar in Seattle. How would one go about doing this? Can this even be accomplished? Peter was going to find out!

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Tiki VIP #2 Dawn Frasier Sophista-Tiki

Dawn Frasier Sophista-Tiki breaking all the rules.
Dawn Frasier Sophista-Tiki: breaking all the rules.

David Bowie. We all loved him and his music. But why? What made him so special? I believe it was because Bowie always was two steps ahead of everyone else. He truly was a trendsetter. It takes guts to be into something no one else is doing and to break all the rules on how something is supposed to be done.

Bowie was a music trendsetter. Tiki has its own trendsetters. The Tiki revival started in the ’90s. Dawn Frasier was already ahead of the rest of us. She was living the Tiki lifestyle back in the ’80s.

Remember the ’80s? It was a decade of new wave and pop music, arcades and Atari, and bad clothing and hairstyle choices! Pastel pants and mullets: need I say more? While we were watching MTV, Dawn was painting Tiki landscapes and collecting Mid-Century furniture. When the ’90s finally came around and we started rediscovering Tiki culture, Dawn had already lived in Fiji for a few years.

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