“Lock the doors, lower the blinds, fire up the smoke machine, and put on your heels, cause I know exactly what we need…let’s have a tiki.” — Scissor Sisters-ish
ALOHANA is upon us and that means it is tiki time in Palm Springs. Of course, tiki culture lives all year long in Palm Springs, but this is a celebration of all things tiki.
So, what is tiki? I’d love to tell you, thanks for asking. A tiki is a carved statue, and the Maori name for the first human male. Tiki culture is a celebration of all things Polynesian, and became huge in America when a bootlegger named Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt opened Hollywood’s Don the Beachcomber in 1933 (after prohibition was repealed).
Twice a year, in spring and autumn, the Palm Springs Cultural Center celebrates ALOHANA (a combination of the words “aloha” (hello/goodbye) and “ohana” (family), a fantastically fun event that’s coming up on November 13 from noon to 5 p.m.
This year, there’s a tiki artisan marketplace featuring Smokin’ Tikis’ tiki carvings, signs, and masks; Volcano Designs’ original caftans, playsuits, dresses, and cabana wear for both sexes; Ms Formaldehyde’s tropical tiki couture; and TeeKi Togs’ one-of-a-kind, must-have jewelry designs.
On the entertainment side, expect several returning favorites, including Kūhai Palm Springs performing hula, drag performer Miss Bea Haven, and DJ Modgirl. There will also be food and tikitails (made it up, and I like it).
“ALOHANA was created to experience the welcome of aloha and the spirit of ohana,” ALOHANA co-producer Maureen Thompson says. “This time we look forward to introducing some new vendors to our marketplace with their original creations and we welcome Slack Key ‘Ohana, an award-winning musical group whose music has a way of transporting you to the Polynesian islands.”
Want more tiki after 5? We currently have four tiki bars where you can Mai Tai one on: Bootlegger Tiki, which is in the old Palm Springs Don the Beachcomber space; Tonga Hut (since 1958); The Reef (I love this place); and Toucan’s Tiki Lounge, all tiki and drag!
You should also check out Shag, a local artist who does wonderfully kitschy pieces (not cheap, but worth it), and the Sunny Dunes Antique Mall located at 507 E. Sunny Dunes, which has a huge selection of tiki items.
For the tiki aficionado, there is the new Tiki Hotel, originally built in 1961 and recently restored by Tracy and Jerry Turco. It’s an 11-room boutique hotel with tiki memorabilia throughout the entire property, and ukuleles in every room.
If you decide to do a hike up in Indian Canyons (and you should), do a drive-by of Royal Hawaiian Estates, Donald Wexler and Richard Harrison’s Polynesia-meets-mid-century-modern condos on South Palm Canyon. You can’t actually visit the interior, but you could buy one and live in tiki town year-round.
This concludes your tiki tour of Palm Springs. Don’t forget to check around for personal items, watch your step as you exit, and shop and stay local. Aloha hoa! (I’m not calling you names, Google says that means “goodbye friend” in Hawaiian, so it must be true…)