A lovely line of Don Tiki Dancers.

‘Tiki’ includes
Arabian fantasy

The word "tiki" conjures up all sorts of images, but the most enduring are fantasy-related.

Exotica nights

"The Forbidden World of Don Tiki" with special guests Lopaka Colon, Willow Chang, Emi Hart and Sherry Shaoling Chock.

Where: Hawaiian Hut, Ala Moana Hotel.

When: 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Tickets: $30 in advance and $35 at the door.

Call: Ticketmaster at (877) 750-4400. Tickets available at the door, starting at 7:45 p.m., before each show.

There are tiki icons, tiki drinks, tiki lights, tiki girls, all part of the kitschy tiki culture which, in the United States, is generally accepted to have begun in 1934 when Don Beach, aka Don the Beachcomber, opened a Polynesian-themed eatery in Hollywood that was part tap house and part fun house.

His guests enjoyed tropical Asian cuisine and exotic rum punches while surrounded by flaming torches, rattan furniture, flower lei and brightly colored fabrics.

More than a decade later, a fellow named Victor Bergeron, better known as Trader Vic, adapted Beach's formula for success and opened his own chain of tropical taverns.

"It was around this time that soldiers were returning home from World War II, bringing with them stories and souvenirs from the South Pacific," exotica music pioneer Martin Denny told the Star-Bulletin a few months before he died this year.

Americans fell in love with their romanticized version of an exotic culture, and Polynesian design began to fill our visual aesthetic, from home accessories to architecture. Musicians like Denny, Les Baxter and Arthur Lyman blended the tiki idea through jazz augmented with Polynesian, Asian and Latin instruments and so-called "tropical" themes creating the exotica genre.

Denny said there were two main strains of exotica, "jungle and tiki."

"I did tiki exotica that used jungle noises like we did on 'Quiet Village,'" Denny said.

While the musical master may be gone, his legacy and tiki culture has been resurrected in Don Tiki, the new keeper of the exotica created by Lloyd Kandell and his partner, Kit Ebersbach, whose characters in the Don Tiki revue are Fluid Floyd and Perry Coma, respectively.

THE LATEST edition of "The Forbidden World of Don Tiki," with special guests Lopaka Colon, Willow Chang, Emi Hart and Sherry Shaoling Chock, hits the Hawaiian Hut stage Friday and Saturday nights.

Their "tikipalooza" extravaganza has a devout following and includes some of Hawaii's top musicians, the lovely and alluring Don Tiki Dancers, and elaborate costumes.

This weekend's shows includes a 20-minute Arabian fantasy segment which includes several new tunes, and five dancers and three guests singer/dancers in "harem girl" outfits, including local mainstay Chang, Ebersbach said.

"There are new tunes about forbidden drinks, a beautiful woman wanting to escape an oasis for the big city with the man of her dreams, and an elaborate processional musical number lead through a Baghdad labyrinth," Ebersbach said.

But why an Arabian fantasy?

"It's a natural outgrowth of where we want to go with exotica," he said. "Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman explored all different sides of fantasy lands."

But the idea also motivated Ebersbach to begin writing all new songs for the group's third CD which they plan on recording early next year. Ebersbach has been writing the new songs for about six months.

"We try to do a show once a year and revamp routines and add new things so Don Tiki doesn't get stagnant," he said. "This may be our most elaborate addition ever."

One of the primary attractions to exotica music is that "it's all positive energy."

"There's nothing nasty about it," Ebersbach said. "There's a lot of tease and flirty, good fun, and also enjoyable for kids."

Don Tiki's popularity rose dramatically last year when Jimmy Buffett had all eight musicians and six dancers perform with him in Las Vegas at his Margaritaville restaurant.

"The exotica fantasy is very alive and well," Ebersbach said.

"I loved Martin Denny," Buffett said earlier this year before performing at the Waikiki Shell. "I relive that music through Don Tiki."

| | |
E-mail to Features Desk


© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- https://archives.starbulletin.com