Glory Days editor, Natasha Francois, interviewed the godfather of American tiki culture in our latest Exotica issue of Glory Days magazine. Their conversation continues on our latest Telegram!
In our 11th issue dedicated to the mysterious melodies of Exotica and its pop culture cousin Tiki, I had the pleasure of interviewing America tiki godfather Sven A Kirsten. The LA based urban archeologist spearheaded the second wave tiki revival in the 1990s and literally wrote the book of Tiki (and several more since).
I had so much fun chatting to him that I couldn't fit it all in the magazine so read on to find out more about Kirsten's own tiki collection and his passion for Polynesian pop.
Don the Beachcomber with starlets in 1946
WHEN DID YOU FIRST START SHOPPING FOR TIKI MEMORABILLIA?
I moved to California in 1982, and down to LA in 82 and started attending the American Film Institute as a student and I lived in the Hollywood Hills and I just lived up avenue from the original Don the Beachcomber ( legendary proto-tiki bar) – it was still there. I remember driving by it a lot but I didn't go inside (sheepish laugh) I didn't know what it was, I wish I could have gone into it then and I wouldn't have missed the opportunity but it's these experiences of loss that made me more inspired to find out everything.
HOW DID THE NINETIES TIKI REVIVAL COME ABOUT?
Pretty soon after I started really getting into it, I had friends that were into the lougne revival of the early 90s listening to lounge music and stuff. It just worked along those lines that people would tell me there's this guy who is also into tiki- you should meet him! I met people like Jeff (Beachbum) Berry and Mark Ryden very early on in the 1990s and we all shared our passion for the tiki remanents that we could find and collect. So this small group formed and I held these tiki symposiums one a month at one of our places and I would do this little slide lecture about a place or a certain style.
Then in 1994 I met Otto Von Stronheim and he had this idea about creating a fanzine called Tiki News and he saw that I had done all this research already so I became the editor of Tiki News and we started putting out the fan zine on a bi-monthly basis. It was just like any other fan zine that you could find at record stores and pretty soon we realised that in other cities across the United States, a sub culture was forming.
HOW EXTENSIVE IS YOUR OWN TIKI COLLECTION?
A museum- that's a good way to describe it. I don't have my own home tiki bar like a lot of my friends have- well there was just no room for it. I did have the big tahini Witco bar- it was at my show in Paris stacked with tiki mugs and collectables so there's not one space spare on anywhere on the wall or in a shelf in my house. If I get something new, something else has to be stored away.
My place is just a wooden shack from 1918 (pictured above) when the area was just a vacation spot for people from Hollywood to come and have cottages here. It's not too big but it's FULL of tiki- including the bathroom. There are 40 functioning lamps hanging on my porch and in my house.
I started collecting early when the stuff was not only affordable but a lot of it just isn't around anymore or you just can't find it.
Items from Sven's private collection.
DO YOU HAVE A TIKI TOOTHBRUSH?
Tiki toilet paper holder!
WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE PIECE IN THE COLLECTION?
There's this one mosaic in Tiki Modern that depicts these Easter Island heads. It came as a kitset in the 1950s and 60s. It's a home hobby mosaic – for fun, it's really big and really wide- several feet. 1950S mosaics are such a modernist aesthetic and then to have it used for this tiki scene- it's the perfect mix of modernism and primitive art. Then there's the tiki I collected from the tiki amusement park during one of the most expeditions of the 1990s that I took.
YOU'VE WRITTEN THREE BOOKS NOW ON THE TIKI POP PHENONMENON, WHAT WHAT DO YOU HAVE COMING UP NEXT?
My next book project is on the Aloha shirt – especially the non palm tree, hula girl ones- the ones that have abstract modernist patterns and tiki idol pattens. Shaheen is one of the greatest modernists. It's a subjct that has been dealt with quite a bit and there are a few books out there already but they're all this flowery hawaiiana stuff, I prefer the other stuff much better.
"Without my photography life would be boring. Photography adds an extra dimension to my life. Somehow it confirms my place in the world"
Rennie Ellis is an award winning photographer and writer with 17 books to his credit. His photographs have been widely exhibited in Australia and overseas and his work has been acquired by various collections around the world.
We were lucky enough to feature Ellis' image of Rosaleen Norton "The Witch of Kings Cross" in our Exotica issue, and we wanted to share more of his intriguing and evocative work on the Telegram.
Rennie Ellis saw his photographic excursions as a series of encounters with other people's lives. His photos can be as straight-forward and blatant as a head-butt or infused with enigmatic subtleties that draw on the nuance of gesture and the significance of ritual. Often his images ask more questions than they answer.
It's been said that the urge to preserve is the basis of all art. When pushed to make a value judgement on his own photography - is it art, social realism, photojournalism or slice-of-life indulgence? - Ellis replied with a quote from the pioneering American photographer Alfred Stieglitz: "Art or not art, that is immaterial - I continue on my own way, seeking my own truth, ever affirming today"
This evening in Melbourne, The Pass~Port and Rennie Ellis Archive will launch the collaboration celebrating the work of the iconic Australian photographer, and share it with a diverse audience of skateboarders, creatives and admirers.
When Trent Evans, founder of Pass~Port, first came across Rennie’s work, he felt an immediate connection to the people, places and moments documented. The youthfulness, playfulness, and unique Australianness of each image echoed the spirit Trent has channeled in Pass~Port since the brand’s inception. The collaboration of skateboards and apparel is intended as a reminder to a younger generation to go out and be daring, explore and push the envelope; just like Rennie.
We live in a time not unlike before. A moment where change is on our nose and solidarity is more important than ever. The freedom echoing in Rennie’s work should reflect our current spirit. Attitudes still need to change. It is still a time to pioneer and continue to define our cultural identity, with soul, honesty and, of course, the whole of community.
Find out more about the collaboration and the launch this evening by clicking here!
One of Frank Sinatra’s favourite toasts to make with glass in hand was ‘May you live to be 100 and may the last voice you hear be mine.' If Ol' Blue Eyes were still alive, he would be celebrating his 100th birthday this year and on Friday the 20th November, The Civic is hosting Sinatra - The Centenary Celebration to commomorate the life, times and songs of the legendary performer.
With the Auckland Jazz Orchestra accompanying Rick Michel who has performed with the likes of Bob Hope, Rich Little, Mickey Rooney and performed for Tony Curtis, Steve Allen and Frank Sinatra himself, and Liam Burrows, recently named Best Jazz Artist at the MusicOz Awards, this is sure to be one night not to miss!
VIP Premium Gold ticket holders will be treated to a truly lavish experience before the show and be transported back to 1963 at the Copa Room in The Sands Hotel in Vegas where the Rat Pack ruled. Guests are invited to dress for the occasion and enjoy live music, cocktails and canapés before taking their place at the best seats in the house for the Sinatra Centenary Celebration concert.
Woven together by a moving narrative, the concert not only features his iconic songs, but also paints a portrait of Sinatra that will provide the audience an intimate glimpse of the life he lived...his way.
With the man behind the myth in mind, we dug up five facts about Frank's life that you might be surprised to find out. Remember to read carefully, as one lucky reader will win two VIP Premium Gold Tickets worth $390.00 to the show by answering a simple question at the end of this Telegram!
We cannot wait to head along to the glorious surrounds of the Civic this Friday to catch the show and we want to offer you the chance to come along too.... for free!
The good people at Liberty Stage have given Glory Days two VIP Premium Gold Tickets to give away to one lucky reader worth $390.00! The Wintergarden in the Civic will be transformed into the Copa Room at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas circa 1963, where complimentary cocktails and canapés will be served from 6.30pm before the show begins at 8pm.
To enter the draw simply enter your details and answer the question below before 10pm Wednesday the 18th November.
And if you aren't lucky enough to win the VIP experience we still have an excellent deal on seats to the show...
PURCHASE YOUR 'A' RESERVE SEAT AT 'B' RESERVE PRICES AND SAVE YOURSELF $20 PER TICKET BY CLICKING ON THE LINK BELOW:
On the Telegram today, guest blogger and photographer, Stuart Atwood, reports on the Retro Fair that was...
On the Glory Days Telegram, the Auckland Retro Fair was described as iconic and this years fair lived up to its reputation. I got the chance to speak to a very tired Brian Mossong, who had been up for the better part of 24 hours setting up and coordinating the event. He was very pleased with both the turnout and quality of the vendors tables, some of whom had come from as far away as Otago to display their wares.
There was something for everyone if retro or modernist design is within your sphere of interest, with some amazing mid-century pieces on offer. Vinyl was well represented for the music fans with plenty of records up for grabs from the good folks at Northland Auctions and from Matt who is the proprietor of Fly By Night Vintage. Matt also had a beautiful Bolex Super 8 camera for sale that came very close to coming home with me!
There was a fantastic array of glass and ceramics on offer. I spotted some wonderful examples of Kosta Boda and Orrefors glass from Scandinavia along with Murano from Italy, and some equally high standard West German Ceramics in all shapes and sizes all looking very ecclectic, beautifully glazed and so very retro!
Crown Lynn was available of course with some lovely pieces on the Rose and Crown table.
I had a conversation with Tasha and Mark from Retro Addiction. They are opening a new store in Mt Albert on the 2nd of December and a visit to their facebook page will give an idea of their great range of furniture and collectibles.
On the clothing front, there was a lot of choice as well, Cockspurs Vintage with Johnny and Labretta's American sourced gear. Gracie from Clevedon Costume and Vintage Apparel, Bronwyn and Amber from Viva La Vintage, as well as the cool ladies from the Art Deco Society who I spent a good long time discussing all things Deco.
It was great to see costume represented at the fair, thank you to Rowan and Annie for posing!
There really was so much to see and it was difficult to cover it all, but hopefully the images will give an indication of the variety of items on offer. This would be a 'must do' event if you are renovating and wish to be sympathetic to the age of your home if you have a period place.
I'd like to thank all of those who allowed me to get the photos of their stands, especially Graham Clark with the great record players...
Kurt Newby who supplied the taxidermy and cool scooter, and Raewyn of Ritzy Bits who brought in the German ceramics. I will certainly be back again next year for the fifth anniversary, and I can assure you it's well worth the wait.
The Retro Fair is held each year in November at Alexandra Park Raceway in Auckland. For further details about the fair please visit their Facebook page.
The showgirls of the Hot Box Photo Credit: Michael Smith
If you're brave like us at Glory Days HQ, you're not afraid to admit a deep love of musicals. One of the best has to be Guys and Dolls and Creative Director Rose Jackson recently ducked behind the scenes of the Auckland Theatre Company's production, to check out the fabulous vintage inspired costuming.
I'm not sure if you can call yourself a true vintage fan unless you have a towering back catalogue of 1950s musicals stashed away in your house somewhere. Having been a singing/dancing/acting gal in my youth and hiding away from the stage working behind the scenes in hair, makeup and costuming departments when I got all grown up and shy of the limelight, I have always loved musicals and the licence that they give to turn reality up a notch or 10.
Guys and Dolls is definitely on high rotation in my collection. It has everything that a great musical comedy film should have... love stories, great songs, big stars (Brando and Sinatra as the leading lotharios no less!), theatrical complications and great costumes. For those who haven't had the pleasure of seeing Guys and Dolls before, the story goes a little something like this...
Nathan Detroit needs a home for his permanent floating crap game. To raise cash, he bets professional high-roller Sky Masterson that he can't date the cute doll, Salvation Army sargent Sarah Brown. But when Sky and Sarah fall for each other the stakes are raised. Meanwhile Nathan is doing his darndest to stay out of the matrimonial clutches of his long-suffering fiancée of fourteen years, Miss Adelaide. Gambling with dice and love, will luck be a lady for our fabulous foursome?
In terms of costuming, the original play was based on gangsters from the 1920s and 30s getting up to gambling related hijinks in underworld New York, but when it came to outfitting the cast for the 1955 produced film, costumier Irene Sharaff only seemed to apply the plays reference era to the mens costumes.
Being a vintage fashion collector, I'm always thinking about the ways in which particular eras are represented in the visual arts. I am very interested in costuming particularly because, while the designers may be trying to represent the particular era that the play or show is based in, the era that they are designing in can't help but come through in their designs. This confusion is never more clear than the difference between the ladies and the gents looks in the film version of Guys and Dolls.
Stills from the 1955 film production of Guys and Dolls
Note above left, those quintessential gangster staples from the 20s and 30s of pinstripe suits, pocket squares, and sharp hats. The ladies, however, have had a '50s makeover and grace the screen in a selection of capri pants, fitted bodysuits with nipped in waists so indicative of the 1950s (see above right nuzzling up to Brando), red lipstick and postwar suiting. And of course all movies of this era have that amazing hyper-real colour treatment to the film, so everything looks just a little more bright and lively than everyday life.
With this in mind, I was really excited to see how the Auckland Theatre Company was going to bring the characters to life through their choice of costuming in a live stage version. The ATC production is directed by Raymond Hawthorne and stars Shane Cortese, Sophia Hawthorne, David Aston and Roy Snow. To find out more and to get yourself tickets to the Auckland season of Guys and Dolls please visit the ATC website. I got to spend an hour before the season began, poking around behind the scenes at the Q Theatre and met Tracy Grant Lord - the talented costume and set designer to hear all about the creative process that she went through to develop the look for the show.
Tracy is a leading stage designer of theatre, opera and ballet. Based in Auckland, she has worked as a freelance designer with the major performance companies throughout Australasia. You can read more about her amazing career here.
I got to have a quick chat with Tracy in between dress rehearsals, hat deliveries and last minute requests and she took me on a whirlwind tour behind the stage and into the dressing rooms.
We covered all manner of things over coffee in the Q Theatre bar...
...her background and how she started out in costume design
I call myself a production designer and I did an apprenticeship at Mercury Theatre in Auckland in the 1980s. I did 10 years there. We got to do a whole variety of things - operas, musicals and there was a studio theatre upstairs so we got to do new work, New Zealand work, we ran the gamut. It was a very good place to train.
After that I began my freelance career. Because the work was limited in New Zealand, I went over to Australia. and the majority of my career has been based there, including working with the Australian Ballet, Melbourne Theatre Company, Opera Queensland, It's quite a busy life!
The organisation stations behind the scenes
... the production lead up to Guys and Dolls
I started working on Guys and Dolls at the beginning of this year with Raymond - nutting it out and organising the logistics of the show. There are lots of scene changes. It's quite a small theatre, but we have a big stage so we can put the revolver on stage and that's helped us with the transitions. But it's still technically quite complex.
Until the components are finished and ready to be on stage, not everything magically works together and slots into place. The progression of the show has to be sustained an hour or so before the first interval, so we have to make sure the whole journey of the sections is seamless and holds the audience's attention. so unlike the film version of Guys and Dolls, it's all live for us so the complexities are enormous.
Showgirls at the Hot Box Photo Credit: Michael Smith
... whether she took inspiration from the film version of Guys and Dolls
Yes I did. I haven't seen any stage productions of Guys and Dolls. For my reference I did watch the film and also it's such a revered classic that I wanted to keep true to that for everybody. Those actors really made those roles, and there really is only one way to play Sky Masterson. For me visually I need to create a sense of what that character looked like, to kind of give the Brando feel and the Sinatra feel and the Hot Box feel, so everyone can go "This is Guys and Dolls".
The Guys from Guys and Dolls Photo Credit: Michael Smith
... if it was intimidating costuming such an iconic show
I don't think it was intimidating but it was challenging because it's such a big show with so many costume changes. Lots of hats, shoes, suits, and so many big ticket priced items. So it was just trying to make sure we had enough money to do those properly. And putting the costuming money into the right places.
Behind the scenes costume details in the guys dressing room
We were able to afford to have some suits made so they are completely schmick (smart or stylish - Australian slang), but we also relied on some stock. We knew that we were going to have to make some generic looking suits, but the men in the company are fantastic actors and you can just give them a small element of character through the costuming and they completely make it their own. They love the shoes!
Mission doll (left) vs showgirl doll (right) Photo Credit: Michael Smith
.. characterising the two female leads through their costuming
It was quite easy as one was a mission doll with the uniform look, and one was a showgirl doll. I took my lead from the mission uniform and there is a lot of red in the set - red floor, big red Guys and Dolls on the stage so I chose a red for the mission band which is a deeper version that sits quite nicely inside the palette and then I used the idea that Sarah, when she goes to Havana, just has another schmicker version of that suit but in a mauve colour that compliments Sky's suit.
A vintage look for the showgirls, achieved with modern durable construction methods. Photo Credit (right): Michael Smith
... the decision to make costumes from scratch rather than use vintage clothing.
The vintage pieces that I would have been attracted to I probably wouldn't be able to afford and I had to think a little more about creating our "show look". And also I just don't have the time to spend looking for pieces. I'm on these jobs for a limited amount of time so we just try to do the costuming within the means of the show. Certainly if I had more time and resources I would absolutely have loved to do the perfect vintage rendition of Guys and Dolls! It's also about durability, we don't want anything that's delicate or fragile.
...creating both the costumes and set design.
Yes, I get to make a whole world. Sometimes the costumes have more focus and energy than the set and some times it's the other way around, depending upon the nature of the show. Often with contemporary shows, there is not so much theatricality in the clothes it's just reflecting life but the scenic world might become more important. But this show has to be both.
Glory Days was lucky enough to head along to the premiere of the ATC season of Guys and Dolls and we are pleased to report that they have done a fabulous job of bringing just the right amount of showy Broadway influence and escapism that musical comedy excels at, to the production. We particularly loved Andrew Grainger (playing Nicely-Nicely Johnson) and Sophie Hawthorne as Miss Adelaide, but the whole cast worked together beautifully to tell this iconic story.
This Friday the 13th November, Q Theatre is hosting a Girls Night Out session of Guys and Dolls. Included in the ticket price, guests receive a glass of bubbly, ice cream at interval and a goodie bag! Tickets are selling fast so book your tickets today.
In 1901, New Zealand took a bold step by establishing the world’s first government tourist department; a landmark decision in the history of New Zealand’s tourism industry and wider economic prosperity.
Peter Alsop, a keen collector of New Zealand art and early advertising and the lead author of Selling the Dream: The Art of Early New Zealand Tourism, continues the story he started in our Exotica issue, of how the humble travel poster helped build the industry and a national identity along the way.
While the Department of Tourist and Health Resorts was central to galvanising an organised tourism effort, there were pivotal publicity events before. New Zealand’s earliest promotion was publicity about Cook’s voyages and, in a related but more commercial sense, the efforts from 1837 of the London-based New Zealand Company to promote emigration to New Zealand. Amongst the effort were prints – kauri trees and all – by Company draughtsman Charles Heaphy; amongst the best known of all 19th century New Zealand images.
The word was out that New Zealand had plenty to offer, something Prince Alfred’s visit to the Pink and White Terraces in 1870 would also broadcast to the world. Ironically, the loss of the Terraces to the Tarawera Eruption in 1886 would also build interest, including 12 years later – such was their potent mystique – when they took centre on the world’s first pictorial stamps in 1898. Spectacular and unpredictable geothermal activity, epitomised by the eruption, would be New Zealand’s start in adventure tourism and great fodder for early tourism publicity.
With that backdrop, it’s no surprise that the Department’s efforts were initially focused on Rotorua, ‘the metropolis of geyserland’. It was also the epicentre of Maori culture, reflected by the choice of “Maoriland” as the Department’s first cable address (think Twitter handle today). In the Department’s first year, the Duke and Duchess of York would visit and be gifted a 3 metre model of the Te Arawa ancestral canoe, piled high with Maori artefacts.
Maoridom was a huge asset – New Zealand’s exotica – with a public line of ‘no racial problem in these happy isles’. In reality, it was a time of significant poverty for Maori and cultural appropriateness was also not part of the publicity brief. Images, for example, of Maori wearing ceremonial garb for daily duties were culturally wrong, and tourists discovering most Maori didn’t routinely wear flax skirts or feather cloaks came as a real surprise. Even today, New Zealanders’ enjoy a ‘tiki tour’ – a wandering exploration – despite trivialisation of ‘Hei Tiki’, a significant cultural artefact. Plump and comical warriors on official publicity, and straw hats on important cultural architecture, probably top the cringe.
Rotorua’s pull would increase in 1908 with the completion of the Tudor-style Bathhouse, the largest building of its style outside England. The Government wanted to compete with the sophistication of international spas and felt a world-famous spa-town would attract thousands more visitors each year. The Government was right but, like all good investment strategies, ‘taking the waters’ in Rotorua was far from the full picture. For diversification, the Department’s first leader Thomas Donne, a keen outdoorsman himself, was well-attuned to the potential of the ‘Sportsman’s Paradise’ – skiing, hunting, trout fishing, climbing and deep-sea fishing. This would quickly become an alluring tourism proposition and a very striking theme for poster artists wanting to make their mark.
Keep an eye on the Glory Days Telegram for part two of Peter's fascinating tale of how New Zealand was marketed to the world,
Keen to find out more about these amazing New Zealand art treasures? Visit Peter's website to purchase the book and receive a 10% discount!
Mathilda Wrexham riffs on the special sound of Glenn Miller and enjoys a special afternoon listening to The Glenn Miller Orchestra on their second tour of New Zealand.
Despite having listened fairly endlessly as a child to my father's big blue double album of Glenn Miller's Greatest Hits, playing In the Mood until everyone else was distinctly out of the mood, I hadn't bothered to find out much about him and had no idea quite how successful he and his orchestra were during their time together but the sheer scale of the success bears noting. In 1939 alone they recorded 17 Top 10 Hits, 31 in 1940, and 11 each in 1941 and 1942. These songs included classic swing sensations many of us will recognise such as In the Mood, A String of Pearls, Little Brown Jug and Moonlight Serenade. They had a radio series titled Moonlight Serenade, airing on CBS three times a week and worked on movies, introducing hits like Chattanooga Choo Choo in Sun Valley Serenade (1941) and Kalamazoo in Orchestra Wives (1942).
By uniquely combining the sounds of the clarinet and saxophone, Miller gave his band a distinctive sound and while jazz aficionados disapproved of his favouring of orchestration over improvisation, this particular style set the orchestra apart. From the gently hypnotic Moonlight Serenade, through the slinkyTuxedo Junction to the energetic In The Mood, this is music like no other.
And that special sound is back in town, thanks to The Glenn Miller Orchestra. All the way from California, this group of 17 musicians and two primary vocalists, is touring New Zealand again, after first visiting in 2013. The players have all sorts of fantastic associations with such famous orchestras as Count Basie, Woody Herman, Henry Mancini, have toured with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Barbara Streisand, Tony Bennett and have played with Michael Jackson and Ray Charles. And it shows.
Ably led by the sardonic Rick Gerber, the trombonist band leader who includes on his resume performing with original members of the Glenn Miller Army Air Force Orchestra at a reunion gig he organised, the group perform many of Miller's stand out tunes pitch-perfectly. Starting slowly with a mix of mid-tempo numbers they hit their stride soon enough and we heard classics like Little Brown Jug and In the Mood before half-time. Many of the renditions were greeted by the predominantly silver-haired audience with gasps of delighted recognition but this enthusiasm failed to transform into raucous involvement when Gerber encouraged everyone to join in on Pennsylvania 65000, a telephone number for the Pennsylvania Hotel that, he assured us, still works when dialed in New York City.
The band was well complemented, at least in the second half when they really got going, by the vocal accompaniment of Wendy Smith-Brune, Mark Kopitske and The Swing Kittens, an upbeat swing vocal trio reprising songs sung by the Andrews sisters. The singers covered a good number of Miller's hits with stand-outs for me being Kopitske's version of At Last, the ensemble Chattanooga Choo Choo and The Swing Kittens' superb rendering of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. So energetic was their version that even the relatively sterile Aotea Centre couldn't keep an enthusiastic couple in their seats and they began dancing in the aisles.
It was a shame more didn't join in but the venue doesn't really lend itself to such spontaneous expressions of enthusiasm. And that's perhaps where this show fell down a little for me. Miller's music is hugely catchy, difficult to dislike and utterly danceable. It would have been great to have the orchestra perform at a venue which encouraged dancing. Perhaps, if New Zealand hosts the orchestra again, the promoters could consider presenting this type of entertainment as it was originally enjoyed, with dancers. This might make it more appealing to the young, who were, unfortunately, conspicuously absent at the matinee.
That said, it was a very entertaining afternoon, a foot-tapping tour of the Miller era, that moved at a great pace. In a clever nod to local sensibilities, the band included a number of tunes recognising the hundred year commemoration of the Anzac contribution to WW1 and finished strongly with a beautifully delivered version of Pokarekare Ana by The Swing Kittens.
The shows continue in the South Island until the 8th of November and, if you have ever enjoyed the recorded music of Glenn Miller, this is a great opportunity to get out and see it performed live, in great style. Check Eventfinda for the itinerary.