About the Book
In 1956 a few brash young men created the Mai-Kai by way of a coup at Don the Beachcomber’s and went on to eclipse the old guard restaurants. The Mai-Kai became the playground of celebrities and playboys, and the beautiful women working there used it as a jumping-off point for adventure and fame. Through first-hand stories, images, and ephemera, this book documents the history and enduring legacy of the pinnacle of the Mid-Century Tiki era. This is the story of how the Mai-Kai and its iconic elements came to exist, and the tales of the men and women who shaped it and went on to shape the world.
Hundreds of rare and unseen images
Tales from those who lived them
New insights into the father of Tiki
Adventures of the Mai-Kai maidens
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Latest Blog entries
I’ll be sharing the incredible history of the Mai-Kai Mystery Drink February 16th at Inuhele, the Atlanta Tiki Tour Weekender. The creation of the iconic Mystery Drink involves many now-famous people such as Johnny Carson, Bettie Page, Bunny Yeager, Kui Lee, and Mariano Licudine. The story of its invention, evolution, and promotion is a fascinating Read more about Atlanta Tiki Weekender[…]
We had a great time at Tiki Oasis in 2017. This interview with Sassy Stiletto was much fun. I love all the colorful and famous people walking past behind us. Especially Judd Finklestien of the Mai-Kai Gents as I had just mentioned him! Also look for Charles Phoenix.
Leonce Picot 1932 – 2018 When I began researching the Mai-Kai book in earnest, the first person I tracked down to interview was Leonce Picot. At the time I thought he was the first general manager, but he informed me otherwise. He was an assistant manager from 1957 to 1967. He had been involved with Read more about Leonce Picot 1932-2018[…]
First general manager of the Mai-Kai Bob Van Dorpe was friends with Herb Kane since their time together at the Chicago Institute of Art. They shared a love of Polynesia and when Herb left the advertising world to live in Hawaii, It was Bob whom he lived with, and later, it was Bob living on Read more about Herb Kane and Bob Van Dorpe[…]
I had never heard of the Fiji dining room at the Mai-Kai. No one I talked to ever mentioned it. I had never thought to name the 5 dining rooms that the articles said were in the original restaurant, but even if I did I might have assumed they included Garden as a dining room Read more about Mystery of the Fiji Room[…]
The original bar at the Mai-Kai was not the Molokai Bar, but the Surfboard Bar. It was made from real, 30 foot long wooden surfboards from Hawaii. It featured a diorama behind it that was animated. The sun rose and set as did the moon. There was a little village and a fire would start. Read more about Remembering the Surfboard Bar[…]
Girl of the month was none other than Carol Sparkman, who was good friends with Johnny Carson and was on the Tonight Show as a Mystery Girl twice. She was also our guest at Hukilau last year and entertained the crowd with her memories. Carol, Swanky and her daughter at Hukilau 2017. We hope to Read more about Happy Talk Winter 1967[…]
Reserve your place for my presentation at the Hukilau HERE. We all know today’s Molokai Bar with it’s nautical theme of a galley ship, but until 1971, it was a different place. After the huge success of the opening, they realized they needed a bigger bar to seat waiting guests (and get money out of Read more about 2018 Molokai Bar 60th Anniversary[…]
Join Swanky for an afternoon of Mai-Kai history with ephemera, images, video, Mai-Kai veterans and stories free at The Hukilau! June 8th noon to 4PM at the Pier 66.
“The $100,000 drink” managed a bit of advertisement amazingness by having the Mai-Kai mentioned in the ads by Rums of Puerto Rico. Here are a few.