You Can Find Paradise At The Tiki Oasis REVIEW: Tiki Oasis: South Seas Cinema August 8 - August 12, 2018
San Diego, CA – Every year fans of the Tiki Lifestyle flock to San Diego in hopes of experiencing a taste of Paradise. The Tiki Lifestyle (Polynesia culture of the islands of the South Pacific) was first introduced in the 1930s with popular movies such as Bird of Paradise (1932) and Honolulu (1939). These movies brought hope of a beautiful paradise to the United States that was suffering from the Great Depression. The embracement of the Tiki Culture grew even more after World War II, with many service men bringing back their experience in the South Pacific. Embracing the Tiki Lifestyle exploded with the introduction of Hawaii’s statehood 1959 and it was clear that everyone wanted to experience paradise in their life, whether with drinks, fashion, or home decor. Which now brings us to San Diego and how decades later the Tiki Lifestyle is stronger than ever.
Tiki Oasis first began in 2000 in Palm Springs, California. It has massively grown over the years and changed location to sunny San Diego. The 5 day convention is jammed packed with events to meet the taste of everyone’s needs. The convention has events from morning to midnight and even more events after midnight for those that want to drink Mai Tai until sunrise. There are educational lectures, rum tastings, bands playing, dancing, midnight burlesque shows, costume contests, book signings, a pageant and so many after parties where the rum is ever flowing.
Tickets can range from $499 to $30 to some events being free. A pass for $499 grants you full access to all the events included the cocktail symposiums Yes, that is correct, full cocktails in some of the symposiums you attend. Even if you don’t attend the cocktail theme symposium you are offered smaller cocktails in all the other lectures. Eduction and adult beverages for the win.
This year’s theme of South Seas Cinema embraced the influence of film and television of the early years. Many lectures revolved around World War II from learning swing dancing, doing a Rosie the Riveter hair do, to learning how some service men learned to make special cocktails overseas. Other lectures focused on the Tiki culture in general from collecting, to creating an at home bar, to learning about how the surf culture expanded thanks to Gidget. The list of lectures to attend was endless and it was difficult to decide but I did narrow it down to three lectures to attend. I was only attending the event for one day, but I made sure to pack in as many tickets events and free events as possible.
The First symposium I attended was Skipper Stories – True Tales from Disney Jungle Cruise David Marley (Sponsored by Brugual 1888) As a Disney fan it was a must on the list of lectures to attend. I found the lecture very informative and learned a few fun facts I never knew. Harper Goff, the Disney imaginer in charge of designing the Jungle Cruise used designs of some of his past movies Casablanca and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to ultimately create the look of the Jungle Cruise we know and love today. In fact the Jungle Cruise is home to one of the last remaining original orange trees of Anaheim nestled in the Cambodian Shrine. Sadly Walt Disney’s dream of having real animal on the cruise did not come to realization. I’ll take my chances with an animatronic tiger over a real tiger any day. The rest of the lecture was filled with funny stories all the skippers encountered with many guests while exploring the back side of water.
The next lecture was more hands on and entailed rum tasting. A Real Conversation about Rum with Baliey Pryor (Sponsor by the Real McCoy) was extremely informative and eye opening. Bailey Pryor ( famous works include the PBS documentary Probation) gave a detailed lecture about the history of rum making, the different types of distillation, the standards of advertisement ingredients in alcohol in the European Union versus the United States, and the importance of cooper in the making of rum. The symposium was extremely eye opening and one of the best parts was we got to taste different aged rums and enjoy a cocktail.
In between the second and third lectures I decided to take part in the free event activities open to the public Saturday and Sunday. One can explore the market place where you will find some fabulous tiki bars, floral head pieces, tiki dresses, tiki mugs, and art to make your home into Tiki Paradise. Some of my favorite vendors were at the show: Audrey K, Heart of Haute (which I actually was wearing at Tiki Oasis), and Match Accessories. These small business make many things by hand and in the US, which is definitely something to support. Now if shopping isn’t your thing don’t worry there is still plenty to do, you can check out some vintage cars in the Car Show, take a dip in the pool, or even listen to some djs and bands play. And let’s take a moment to appreciate all the wonderful fashion, so many lovely people dressed in their finest from head to toe. It’s a visual paradise.
It really was fun checking out all the merchandise and cars, but I had to stop and head to my last lecture of the day. The last symposium of the day was by far my favorite. “Accidental Icon: The REAL Gidget Story with Kathy Zuckerman and Director Brian Gillogly” introduced the audience to the real woman Kathy Kohner Zuckerman, the inspiration to the Gidget films and television series. Kathy Kohner Zuckerman first picked up a surf board in 1956 when she was 15 years old. The story goes that Kathy desperate to fit in with some surfer dudes decided to trade her lunch for use of their surf boards and bam she learned to surf. Who knew a peanut butter sandwhich with radishes could be so life changing?
The days spent in Malibu surfing and hanging out with the guys were all poured into her diary. Fredrick Kohner, Kathy’s father used her diary as an inspiration to write Gidget, the novel about a girl surfer. From that moment on history was made and surfing became introduced to the masses. Kathy mentioned how she never saw herself as a feminist at 15 years old, just a girl who to wanted to belong to a group and the group was a bunch of guys surfing. She wanted to be viewed as an equal who could surf just as well, if not better than them. This spunk and feistiness was embodied in countless movies and even a tv series with new comer, Sally Field. In many ways Kathy Kohner was a pioneer for female surfers. She was the only high schooler in her class surfing. The girl hanging ten with the boys would later inspire so many women to pick up the sport themselves. Now because of Kathy Kohner female pro surfers like Holly Beck, Carla Rowland, Layne Neachley, and countless others have worn the nickname “Gidget” as a badge of honor. Women pro surfing has been flourishing over the decades and in part it’s all thanks to Kathy Kohner Zuckerman, a spunky 15 year old who just wanted to belong to a group and learn to surf. She truly is an icon.
With all the symposiums done it was time to explore some more festivities at the main stage. From this point on all events require a wrist band to enter. First up was the costumes contest featuring 4 categories: kids, group, female, and males. In the Kids Contest the God of Thunder struck down his competition to take the trophy. In the Group competition the Ladies washing the man out of your hair took the prize. For female contestants Pipi Longstocking was the obvious choice of the South Seas for taking the prize and the dude dressed as a Tikidracula won the trophy in the men’s category. After the contest it was time to dance. First on stage Johnny Ramos and Jaalene “Queen of the Teens”, followed by Satin Dollz, and Johnathan Stout and his Campus Five featuring Hilary Alexander, and closing it out Lavay Smoth and her Red Hot Skillet Lickers. It was going to be a fun night for sure, but sadly I couldn’t stay for all the fun and the after parties that followed.
Overall all Tiki Oasis is an amazing event from rum tasting, learning about cinema history, fashion, checking out some vintage cars, doing some shopping, dancing the night away, and even seeing some burlesques, this event offers something for everyone.
I highly recommend you check out the event next year whether it’s just the events that are free and open to the public or the ticketed events such as the symposiums and main stage dances. And if Tiki Oasis may seem overwhelming to try first I highly recommend to go to a tiki bar, wear some tiki print clothes, order some rummy drinks and enjoy paradise for an evening. You won’t regret it.