I have long held a fascination with all things Tiki (food, drink, dress, etc) and have been wanting to visit Don the Beachcomber in Huntington Beach for a while now. This summer I finally had my chance to when Charles Phoenix hosted a special event called Alohaland at this restaurant dating back to 1933. The evening consisted of a Tiki Party with Mai Tai cocktails and Pineapple PUDcano cake and an hour-long Retro Slide Show. What? Who the heck is this Charles Phoenix and what is a PUDcano Cake? Let me start from the beginning. Several years ago when I was having dinner at Clifton’s Cafeteria prior to catching a movie with Last Remaining Seats, a friend first mentioned Charles Phoenix. His name always stuck with me. He is known as a pop culture humorist, speaker, author, chef, tour guide and historian who has built a brand around showcasing 50’s and 60’s Americana kitsch. He also runs a test-kitchen where he makes fun and bizarre-o recipes. If you’ve heard of the Turducken or maybe the Cherpumple, that’s because Charles Phoenix created them in his kitchen.
Then several years later another friend through the Junior League of Los Angeles mentioned she wanted to see one of the Retro Slide Shows that Charles Phoenix offers and we made it happen. We trekked to the Natural History Museum near USC and among all the stuffed (taxidermy stuffed not cuddly stuffed) wild animals we howled with laughter as this hilarious man talked thru an hour of slides that showcased a variety of interesting and kitschy architecture around Los Angeles. The slides were fun, but it’s really his commentary, voice, costume and his posturing that brings it all together. It was such an entertaining evening and the place was packed with hundreds of his fans.
I mentioned my love of Tiki stuff, and so when I saw Alohaland offered by Charles Phoenix, of course I wanted to go. But this event sells out fast. It took me over a year to get tickets, and it was worth the wait. Matt and I along with friend Paula (who had attended the first slide show with me) made our way to the legendary Don the Beachcomber where we were greeted with colorful Hawaiian leis and a complimentary (first one only) Mai Tai. There were hula girls dancing to Hawaiian music right next to the evening’s showcase: the Pineapple Upside Down PUDcano. Made with 25 pounds of pineapple and 1,000 maraschino cherries, this oversized pineapple cake was shaped like a volcano and oozed “lava” after the show while everyone stood around and cheered. And then we all got a taste. It was kind of silly. But it was Charles Phoenix at his finest.
By Trish Procetto