The Mai-Kai

Don’t let the cheesy music fool you. The Mai-Kai is a high church of tiki culture (and one of my favorite restaurants in the world).

From Wikipedia:

The Mai Kai was opened by Bob and Jack Thornton in a time when many attractions of this sort were spreading throughout Florida. They spent a million dollars to build the restaurant in 1956, and earned a million dollars the first year of operations. When it opened, it was in a rather open field. Fort Lauderdale was a seasonal place and at that time they were only open durng the tourist season. For many years it sold more rum than any location in the United States.

Several signature creations of the Mai Kai are: the Mystery Drink which features a silent dancer giving a lei and a kiss along with a huge flaming cocktail accompanied by gong; the Derby Daiquiri which was invented by Don the Beachcomber trained head bartender Mariano Licudine.

The Mai Kai became rather expansive in time; it includes eight dining rooms, a bar, tropical gardens with walking paths and waterfalls, a stage in the center to showcase the Polynesian Islander Revue floor show, and a gift shop.

Today, the Mai Kai is much like it was in the 1960s. A wooden slat bridge is crossed to reach the porte cochere and valets. A maître d’ greets visitors, and in the beautiful restrooms there is an attendant, which the restaurant says is “a luxury missing from too many places today”.

Here’s a video of the ritual that goes along with ordering the Mystery Drink:

The Hawaiian Good Luck Sign

The crew of the USS Pueblo was captured by North Korea in 1968 and used in propaganda films and photographs but found an interesting way to protest their forced involvement.

The film about the soccer team began with the North Korean team arriving in London and driving through the streets in a bus festooned with flags of the DPRK. As the bus drove down the street one proper English gentlemen complete with derby and umbrella spotted the bus and flipped it off. The man must have been a Korean War vet and he was giving the bus the finger. Whoever was taking the pictures zoomed in on it. A murmur went through the crew, the KORCOMs didn’t know what the finger meant.

This was further demonstrated in the second film in which a US Navy Officer flipped off the cameraman. They left it in. We now had a weapon! Back in our rooms we were elated, this was one more thing we could use to discredit the propaganda we were being forced to grind out. Several crew members expressed caution, but the general attitude was use it. We had been captured, but we never surrendered. Damn the Koreans, full fingers ahead!

The finger became an integral part of our anti-propaganda campaign. Any time a camera appeared, so did the fingers. A concern grew among us that sooner or later the Koreans would notice this and ask questions. It was decided that if the question was raised, the answer was to be that the finger was a gesture known as the Hawaiian Good Luck sign, a variation of the Hang Loose gesture. In late August one of the duty officers asked about the finger and seemed to be accepting of the explanation, but most of us realized that our zeal to ruin their propaganda would come back to haunt us.

Damn Interesting has a great article on the specifics of the incident.