It’s a Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki World

July 30, 2007

The purpose of our “Lost in Paradise” vacation tour was Tiki! Tiki! Tiki! all the time, and we accomplished that goal – sometimes in unexpected places.

Our first tiki destination was the Tiki Village Motel in Vernon, BC. Successive owners have stripped it of its original tiki-ness and today it looks more Japanese than Polynesian-pop, but we did have the unexpected pleasure of finding this beaut of a Witco lamp in our room (with an ugly, non-original shade).

witco lamp

witco lamp

Our route into Vancouver took us past the Value Village on East Hastings where I found this vintage Orchids of Hawaii R-5 mug. According to locals, it is exceedingly rare to find vintage mugs in Vancouver thrift stores. As it turned out, it was the only vintage mug we would find in a thrift store on our trip.

tiki mug at value village

vintage mug

Several stops later, we were at Funhauser Decor, the store of our Tiki Central friends Pepe le Tiki and Atomic Al.

funhauser 1

bar necessities

funhauser 2

wall of contemporary mugs by tiki farm

Pepe (Peter) was one of the main organizers of Lost Paradise, the Tiki event/fundraiser at Vancouver’s Waldorf Hotel that inspired us to go on this little road adventure. The Waldorf Hotel has 3 wonderfully ornate Polynesian inspired rooms that opened in the mid-1950s and have somehow survived the decades relatively unscathed. The Menehune Room was closed to us, apparently by order of the fire marshal, but we got to party in the atmospheric upstairs Tahitian Lounge with its starlit ceiling and original Leeteg velvet paintings, and in the downstairs Polynesian Room with its stunning 30-foot long Hawaiian historical mural by Vancouver artist P. Hopkinson (shamelessly “based” on the work of Matson Cruise Lines artist Eugene Savage).


bar in the tahitian lounge

waldorf 3

drum shaped bar stools

waldorf 2


waldorf 4

hawaiian island relief map in stairwell from upstairs entrance to downstairs rooms

waldorf 5

details of mural in polynesian room

waldorf 7

waldorf 7

vancouver burlesque performer shaboobie boobarella and friend

In Seattle, we enjoyed the warm hospitality of our Tiki Central friends Elicia and Todd. There are no “old school” tiki establishments remaining in Seattle, but there are several fine contemporary locales carrying the tiki torch.

The Islander:

islander 1

casually elegant interior

islander 2

carved tiki

islander 3

mai tai

The Trader Vic’s in upscale Bellevue opened about a year ago:

trader vic’s 1

gary and elicia outside the entrance

trader vic’s 2

miles of tapa cloth line the walls

trader vic’s 3

art from papua new guinea

trader vic’s 4


trader vic’s 5

classic mai tai – invented by trader vic (if you don’t think so, you’re a dirty stinker)

trader vic’s 6

elegant table setting in the restaurant (riff-raff like us eat in the bar)

Hula Hula:

hula hula 1


hula hula 2

wall decor, woven matting, bamboo, fishing float lamps – essentials for any tiki establishment

hula hula 3

gary in leopard-print fez from archie mcphee’s

The Hawaiian General Store is not a bar or a restaurant but, as the name suggests, a generally Hawaiian store:

hawaiian general store 1

gary’s new tiki buddy

hawaiian general store 2

tiki babushka (russian-made nesting dolls)

I thought this was the most hilarious tiki thing I’ve seen – a perfect fusion of my tikimania and Slavic heritage. Maybe I should have bought it but I was trying to contain the spending.

Our Seattle hosts have an amazing tiki bar/rec room in their house – the Rongorongo Room – which I somehow neglected to photograph. Here’s a bit of their backyard patio:

moai in the garden

About an hour east of Seattle, we pulled into the town of Ellensburg, Washington, to check out Dick and Jane’s Spot, which we’d read about on Roadside America. We happened on this little A-frame building housing Tiki Tattoos and Body Piercing. Nothing too terribly tiki beyond the name, but the Hawaiian shave ice we got at the kiosk in the parking lot was a welcome treat on this hot day.

tiki tattoo

Breezing through Spokane, we spotted the sign for the Trade Winds Motor Inn from the I-90. We pulled off the road to investigate.

trade winds 1

The place has seen better days and the sign used to be way fancier in olden times. We stayed the night, but somewhere else.

trade winds 2

lobby display with black velvet painting

The Sip-n-Dip Lounge in the O’Haire Motor Inn in Great Falls, Montana was the perfect capper to our tiki adventure. We’ve been meaning to come to this place for a while. In 2003 GQ proclaimed it the number one bar on earth!!! I don’t know about that because I haven’t been to nearly enough bars in, say, Turkmenistan or Burkina Faso – but I do know that we had one heck of a great time there.

sip n dip 1

mural behind the bar

sip n dip 2

mai tai

sip n dip 3

We fell in love with our cocktail waitress (in a polite and respectful way, not in a sleazy, drunken lounge lizard way), seen here modeling the cat’s eye glasses she bought for 50¢.

sip n dip 4

velvet painting

sip n dip 6

booth (the seahorse-motif formica is original)

sip n dip 7

the only tiki in the joint

sip n dip 8

happy patrons enjoying a fishbowl (more than 9 oz. of rum and other alcohol)

sip n dip 10

“Piano Pat” Spoonheim has been playing and singing at the Sip-n-dip since it opened in 1962!! Her repertoire on this night included Tiny Bubbles, Fly Me To The Moon, Ring of Fire (twice), and Margaritaville. We loved her unique phrasing (though it’s tough to sing along with).

sip n dip 11

Behind the bar, two windows look into the deep end of the motel’s swimming pool, where every Friday and Saturday night a frolicsome mermaid swims and poses for pictures.

sip n dip 9

Can’t wait to do it again next year.


9 Responses to “It’s a Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki World”

  1. elicia Says:

    ok. so it looks like the trip all the way to montana was well worth the miles (or kilometers, for our international pals). the Sip n Dip’s decor and Piano Pat is snazzy. did you get video of the mermaid.

    we still missed both of you at Tiki Kon!

  2. david Says:

    Wheeeee! So glad that you enjoyed our humble Sip-n-Dip here in Great Falls – thanks for sharing your thoughts and the great pix!

  3. […] speaking of the Sip-n-Dip, check out what some true tiki-lovers had to say about it (scroll way down) as they capped their “It’s A Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki World” […]

  4. Meghan Says:

    WOW! those ‘drum stools’ are amazing. Looks like you had a great time.

  5. marlena Says:

    Hey, welcome back! It looks like you had a fabulous time. I love the mermaid. And Piano Pat looks pretty special. Are you a girl-drink-drunk now?

  6. please could you e-mail me a pic of that woman swimming on the velvet painting. It is amazing. Thanks Caren

  7. Monica Says:

    Tiki heaven!!!!! I love all of it the nesting tiki is so cool, I did not know it existed!!!!!

  8. Melanie Says:

    OMG! love the tiki adventure, guess I am going to have to make my way to Montana from Toronto! I have a question/ request. Two years ago I write you about the cocktail suggestions paper placemat you posted- scalloped edges. I can’t find an another just like it here and wondered if I could buy one from you. Please let me know so I can stop searching ebay and pouting like a child. i can pay by paypal if that suits. many thanks, Melanie

  9. […] Waldorf Hotel. I’ve been there a couple of times before for Tiki events (in 2005 and 2007) but stayed […]

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