Rudy Panucci On Pop Culture

Confessions of a Tiki Poser

The PopCulteer
July 21 , 2017

I love Tiki Culture.

I love the design, the mythologies, the blending of Polynesian and Easter Island influences with Mid Century American aesthetics. I dig the music. The Hula girls, the Tiki idols, the thatched huts, the tropical look and feel, they all add up to an exciting and attractive environment.

I’ve even subscribed to Tiki Magazine (And More). That’s the cover of the latest issue that you see at the head of this post.

Not being a person who really has any room to collect any new items, I am sorely tempted to start collecting Tiki mugs. They just look so freaking cool! It’s hard to resist the call of the Tiki. I’ve even done Monday Morning Art pieces based on Tiki design. I am really taken with how cool Tiki mugs look.

This is not a nostalgic feeling for me. I did grow up in the heyday of the first wave of Tiki culture, when it was simply an unironic fascination with an exciting new culture, one brought back to America by WWII GIs returning from the Pacific Theater.

Even though I grew up in those times, my parents did not exactly want to cart the three (and then four) of us kids out to the local Tiki Hut for food that we were too picky to eat. We all wanted to go to the BBF. They had the satellite out front. I had no exposure to Tiki as a kid, except for what I saw on TV.

It is a genuine appreciation of the look, design, mythology and just the entire milieu that I have come to as an adult. I think this stuff is really, really cool. Amidst the polyglot of post-modern imagery that decorates my home, you’ll find more than a few Tiki-inspired items.

So you’d think that would make me a major-league Tiki aficionado, right?


See, I have a secret about my Tiki obsession…I am but a poser.

Sure, I love the decor and the Hula girls and the bright colors, and the mugs…especially the mugs. But there’s more to Tiki than that, and I’m afraid I fall short in many areas.

First and foremost, I don’t drink alcohol. I don’t drink anything alcoholic. I don’t even use mouthwash with alcohol. I can’t stand the taste of it. The stuff that’s supposed to be odorless and flavorless burns and makes everything it touches taste awful to me. I hate beer and our society’s obsession with all things beer. And as such…I don’t drink rum.

Rum is key to most Tiki drinks. In fact, most of those mugs, which beckon to me to start a collection, exist for the sole purpose of enticing people to imbibe drinks that are usually twelve parts rum to three parts fruit juice.

And I’m not that big a fan of fruit juice, either.

Most of Tiki culture is centered around Tiki Bars. I don’t drink. The only reason I go to bars in Charleston is to see bands.

I’m planning a trip to Chicago in a few weeks, and we plan to visit a Tiki Bar. Only we have to find one with a full restaurant because it’s sort of pointless to go to a Tiki Bar when you don’t drink.

That brings us to another problem that keeps me from fully immersing myself in Tiki Culture: I don’t eat pork. A big part of Polynesian cuisine is pork. Pork and pineapple, something else I don’t eat. So we’re going to head off to a Tiki restaurant that will most likely present a challenge to our dietary quirks. I don’t refrain from pork for health or religious reasons. I just absolutely hate the taste of it (yes, even bacon, the most over-rated food on the planet).

So I say I love Tiki culture, but I hate the food and drink part of it.

But there’s more. I also hate the beach. Actually, I don’t really hate the beach. It’s just that I hate the water, and I’m not too crazy about the sand. While I really like Tiki decor, I prefer to see it indoors, in a dimly-lit room with plenty of air conditioning. I like the nautical elements of Tiki design, but I don’t actually ever want to have anything to do with anything nautical in the real world.

A few years ago I had my living room decorated with MEGA BLOKS Pirate Ships. Friends came over and said, “Wow, you really must love the sea!” I was a bit taken aback. I hate the sea. I have a severe fear of drowning that I have no interest in losing. I consider it a survival instinct. I never want to go on a boat. I just liked the way the toy Pirate ships looked and had fun building them. Seriously, the sea can go screw itself. I got no use for it.

There is yet one more thing that pretty effectively destroys my Tiki cred. I do not now, nor do I ever plan to own or wear a Hawaiian shirt. At least not until I drop a hundred pounds or so. I absolutely refuse to be the stereotypical fat guy in a Hawaiian shirt. Sorry. I don’t play that way. That stuff looks good on other people, not on me.

So there you have it…I absolutely love Tiki, except for the drinks, the food, the beach, the ocean and the idea of me wearing any of the fashion.

Except for that, everything else about it is really, really cool. I mean, have you seen the mugs?

I am a Tiki poser.


  1. mike

    you can enjoy all the decor and music without the food and drinks. But your article seems miserble.

    • rudy panucci

      Sorry you didn’t get any of the jokes. I was basically poking fun at myself. No misery intended.

      Since this was written, I’ve been to Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago. It’s fantastic!

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