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  • Writer's pictureedwardianjackal

"Tiki Pop" Taschen

Picked up a copy of Tiki Pop at the Bower's right before the pandemic - and what great Taschen book to pore over and again. Like most Taschen books, the graphics are handled lovingly, placed with expert eye...and infinitely readable.

In Tiki Pop, Sven Kirsten, explores the culture of Polynesian pop in America, several of the images are either direct, or directly reminiscent of Southern California in the mid-century.

When I was very young, tiki was (once) haute couture, winding down at the time. My father would almost always order a flaming zombie, and I would be fascinated watching him drink, awaiting the handfuls of fruit that, now in retrospect, were there to add inexpensive bulk to the drink. He swore by a zombie, and I also remember his disappointment as his favorite drink disappeared from menus - making way for very diner-esque restaurants that start to take over by the late 70s. Cocktail culture was dying and light beers were dominating.

Canned music would fill the restaurant from such notable artists of the time like Cal Tjader, Martin Denny, The Out-Islanders and Arthur Lyman would float through the air, with Hawaiian shirts and leis adorned on the servers. 'Poo-poo' platters would be a definite way to start the night, along with multi-colored cocktails. It was a fascinating display - then include the intoxicating aroma and show of dozens of cigarettes. It is all true.

There are still signs of tiki left in Orange County, but they have dwindled quite a bit from their mid-century heyday. (I'll collect what I see, but it's like catching unicorns by the tail.)

Having worked for several years at Tahitian Terrace at Disneyland before it made way to Aladdin's Oasis, and now back to that (somewhat) South Pacific bent with the Tropical Hideaway- I have tiki in my veins.

The book explores history, applauds it, and, yes, as is the nature of our times, apologizes for tiki and all of its hyper-chroma glory and weird (or celebrated - hard to tell these days) of cultural 'adjacency'. I'm being friendly.

If you are a fan of anything tiki, pick this book up and keep it near by when you want a nice heaping helping of a bygone era. My favorite sections are the old drinks, their wacky names. The book explores menus and all of the decorative bric-a-brac that has gone the way of the dodo. In comparison, tiki decorations today have been relegated to hideous and cheap throw-away decorations, not the somewhat hand-crafted googie of the past.

To highlight a few notable features of this book:

- Rejoice in wall to wall graphics from the era.

- The very best of drinks menus - drinks like the Mai Tai and mint cocktails are mainstays today.

- Restaurant supply (!) with a rogue's gallery of different types of drink containers - faux coconuts, long necked tiki, etc. - someone had to sell them right?

- Full food menus captured - along with such notable items like shrimp appetizers and egg rolls, definite food novelties at the time - introducing American palates with sweet and sours, pineapples, lemongrass and other savory and sweet to both entrees and appetizers.

- Some architecture of the time - but wish there was a bit more. I want more interiors, can't get enough.

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