Tiki OasisTiki Oasis —A Blast from the Past
By Dean Lee and Naughty Mickie
Photos by Dean Lee

From old '30s model A hot rods, surf music to pin-up girls and updo hairstyles, this year’s Tiki Oasis - dubbed ‘Monster Island’ - combined Polynesian pop art … and, well… creatures of the night-- think the Addams Family donning aloha wear.

An annual event held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in San Diego, Tiki Oasis is, to island style culture, what Steam Punk is to the Victorian era. With that said, the four day affair had a strong divide between the sexes. While the gals learned Big Hair B-Movie Style with Lola Demure, the guys learned how to get that '60s surf guitar shrill with Jason Lee’s (of the Rip Tides), Monster Au Go Go guitar class. The event offered over 30 seminars on various other topics.

As for Jason Lee’s class, this was a must for anyone wanting to learn or play surf guitar. Jason swore he would teach everyone three original, scary guitar tunes and ended up doing way more than that. Right from the beginning of the two hour session he was interrupted, in a very good way, by one of the bass players and another member of the San Diego band Deadbolt. How can you not learn creepy guitar licks from a band that describe themselves as "The Scariest Band in the World?"

It was obvious Jason likes to build stuff and very proud of his equipment. His passion made you feel you could have left, knowing how to completely build a Vintage Fender '60s Showman Amp Head (the go to for any surf guitarist). If he had the time, he might have gone over schematics and layout diagrams. He also had guitars to play and share, plenty of Stratocasters for that surf sound.

To go with the monster theme, another fun symposium featured Howie Pyro host of Intoxica Radio. He brought a record collection of 45s with monster songs so rare that when asked how to get into collecting, he said, “marry someone.” He talked a lot about how the craze swept the country, through movies and TV. Every town in the '50s and '60s pressed independent records and every one of them had at least one monster song he said. This makes for thousands of records; he said his collection is something like, 30,000 and growing. He also said many big artists in the '60s produced monster songs as part of their contracts, including actors such as Vincent Price who did a version of "Monster Mash."

When asked his favorite, he did not hesitate, saying a collection of full length albums called "Ghoul Music" by unnamed performers. Howie said he never plays "Monster Mash," but "Graveyard Rock" is a classic. 

You can listen to his radio show at luxuriamusic.com/djprofiles/howie-pyro.  

Tiki OasisThe symposia were open to any gender, although the makeup and hair sessions drew only female attendees, but the fun they had! Nikki Napalm geared her Monster Mavens Pin-up Make-up course to students of all levels and took her time imparting the tips and techniques for a perfect smoky eye and the correct cosmetics for the rest of the face to glam it up. The best tip Nikki gave was that smoky eye refers not to the colors of the shadow as you might think, but rather to the application technique. Yes, you can have a perky pink smoky eye. 

The other all-women powered session was Big Hair B-Movie Style with Lola Demure. Demure was very clear as she directed her students through the process of creating an updo step-by-step. She had her work cut out for her, as there were no mirrors available. Attendees had to rely on whatever type of mirror they had with them or a neighbor willing to share, as well as make new friends by helping each other out. Demure supplied everything needed, including bobby pins, hair spray and a teasing comb, in a free kit that students could take home so they would be able to replicate what they had learned. By the end of the session the class was full of high-reaching hairdos and smiling faces... well, of course, as isn't it true, the higher the hair, the closer to God? Now, where's my cocktail??

Speaking of cocktails, almost every symposia offered an opportunity to sample a different rum drink perfect for your next tiki party. The drinks were doled out in decent sized cups and with a generous amount of rum.

Tiki Oasis offered a lot more to do than just go to lectures and workshops, there was a car show, shopping, an art exhibit and tons of music. On Saturday the car show and shopping is a free event open to anyone. There wasn't a huge collection of hot rods and classic vehicles, but the ones on show were definitely worth dropping by to see, plus there was a stage with different bands throughout the day. The vendors' wares ranged from trinkets, like tiki necklaces and island jewelry to vintage and retro aloha wear, surf and Polynesian albums and the most sought-after goodie-- tiki mugs. You could find a mug for almost any occasion. There were the traditional tiki mugs, as well as collectible ones, including a clutch from long-gone tiki bars. There were also themed mugs, like volcano and coconut shaped ones. The prices at all the vendors were as varied as their items allowing you to find a little souvenir or invest in your collection.

The art show was terrific. There was a special section devoted to Shag and the other work was just as wonderful. Many of the artists embraced the Monster Island theme and displayed work that blended a creepy creature with the tiki vibe. There was also surf-themed and more traditional Polynesian art as well.

Lastly, the music. A stage in the courtyard of the hotel featured plenty of room for the bands, along with two smaller stages dedicated for the go-go dancers. Emcee King Kukulele kept the show going. He entertained with his ukulele and novelty songs in between acts, along with guest artists, such as the accordion-playing vampire of Pasadena Occasional Doo Dah Parade fame, Count Smokula, and a lovely fire dancer who entranced the crowd. The band lineup included acts, such as Black Magic Beach Party, Donna Loren & the Shindiggers and the Creepy Creeps. 

Tiki OasisFriday night's highlight was The Messer Chups. From Russia, this trio puts out a talented surf sound. They have excellent musicianship and well-written material. Saturday it was all about Deadbolt. A rawer act, but a big audience favorite. 

The stage closed at 10 p.m. every night, but the show continued with room parties. You could really get a good look at the Tiki Oasis crowd as they lined up along the halls of the hotel waiting for the rooms to open. Guests were met with a cocktail, food and other treats as they crossed the threshold of each space and were stuffed into a room rumbling with a band. It was warm, loud and a bit overwhelming, but also fun. As you finally stumbled out for fresh air, others in line were ready to take your place.

Tiki Oasis is mainly an adult event, a huge four-day party, but it is also welcoming to families and there were activities for children and teens. Overall the vibe was friendly and everyone got along. Once you arrived, you were part of the Tiki Oasis family and, when it was time to go home, you were a little saddened.... but there's always next year!

To keep up on Tiki Oasis, go to www.tikioasis.com  and join the Tiki Oasis group on Facebook.

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