California Authors


California Tiki

A History of Polynesian Idols, Pineapple Cocktails & Coconut Palm Trees

By Jason Henderson and Adam Foshko, The History Press 

 Book Review by Craig MacDonald

"California Tiki" is meant to give you an idea of where the Tiki Culture came from and what it means. "It's an escape from the increasing technological complexities of modern day living….The harder we work, the more we need to escape," Adam Foshko wrote. He's right! The key word is "escape."

Chapters guide the reader through Tiki-land—from music and books, films and TV shows, to the new world of Tiki. Along the journey, you'll learn about the Tiki cultural influences of Dick Dale, "King of the Surf Guitar" and his classic song "Misirlou;" the soundtrack from "The Endless Summer" iconic Surf Documentary; Elvis' "Blue Hawaii," Hawaiian Eye, Gilligan's Island and even The Brady Bunch TV shows; Thor Heyerdahl's thrilling, gripping real-life book (and documentary) Kon-Tiki, about his amazing 5,000 mile sea voyage; famous drinks (and recipes) like Mai Tai, Zombie, Planter's Punch and Singapore Sling and Tiki events.

There's information on original Tiki Bars still in operation—The Bali Hai on San Diego's Shelter Island, Harbor Hut (Morro Bay), Minnie's (Modesto), Royal Hawaiian (Laguna Beach), Tonga Room (in San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel), Tracer Vic's (Emeryville), Tiki No (North Hollywood) and others.

"Tiki Culture went to sleep for a number of years," the authors write. "When it returned at the end of the cocktail revolution in the 1990s, Tiki offered a different promise and played a different role than its original (one). In the 1940s through 60s, Tiki had been about a promise of adventure. To build a Tiki paradise in your backyard was to escape from the ever-expanding American economy into a world of painless adventure…. In the 1970s and 80s, Tiki came to mean nothing at all….traded in for a more generic motif of the South Sea Islands, what Sven Kirsten calls ‘the Jimmy Buffet-ization' of culture. Old Tiki bars and restaurants were torn down."

"And then, Tiki returned as if it hadn't been gone. Now, Tiki represents the reclaiming of an American Birthright…It can be remembered by the contemporary American as the expression of America at a time very much to be admired and wished for……an escape to an optimistic time."

There are dozens of black & white as well as color photos documenting Tiki Culture, which make this an educational and enjoyable book to consume.

(The reviewer, who once lived near the famous Hawaiian Gardens in San Jose, has long admired the Fairmont Hotel's Tonga Room in San Francisco, the Bali Hai in San Diego and Don the Beachcomber, which recently closed in Huntington Beach.)

Subscribe to our newsletter!

More Info