THRILLVILLE: Will "the Thrill" Viharo's weird, wild world of Pulp Fiction, B Movies, & the Lounge Lizard Lifestyle.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Oakland: Home of the Mai Tai (Not Just the Drive-By)

Mano, Andre, Will
Mano, Mike, Andre
"Oakland: Home of the Mai Tai, Not Just the Drive-By." I've been saying this for years. Why? Because it's true! Vic Bergeron invented the original Mai Tai recipe at his Oakland restaurant (Trader Vic's, formerly Hinky Dink's) in 1944, as he plainly states here. Now it's a grassroots movement, spearheaded by Mano Thanos, co-owner of The Conga Lounge in the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland (for which I do freelance PR, along with Forbidden Island of Alameda.) He's been trying to get the City of Oakland to officially proclaim the Mai Tai the Official Cocktail of Oakland - just like the Sazerac is now the Official Cocktail of another crime-plagued but colorful and cosmopolitan city, New Orleans - but to no avail. Enter the Thrill - and we got a meeting with Andre Jones, chief of staff for councilmember Rebecca Kaplan. Now the high ball is really rolling...

Recently Mano, his brother and business partner Molokai Mike, and myself met with Andre at my bayside condo in Alameda, AKA "Oakland's Own Hawaii" to discuss this prospect. Mike made everybody two different Mai Tai formulas - the original created by Vic, and the Conga Lounge's popular "re-mix" - both delicious, both made in Oakland. Perhaps abetted by this alcoholic inducer, Andre was wide open to the prospect of this proclamation. He agreed it's perfect PR: the popular image of the Mai Tai - exotic, alluring, relaxing - brilliantly counters all the negative imagery that the local and national press too often focus on vis a vis Oakland. It suits the multi-cultural nature of this much maligned town, too often dismissed as San Francisco's ugly little sister. Myself, I was raised in New Jersey so I know what it's like to live on the wrong side of a body of water. Oakland deserves a break. This could even make national news (I'd love it if Bay Area native Rachel Maddow mentioned it on the "Cocktail Moment" segment of her TV program!) Andre claims this should be an easy pitch to the rest of the city council, given its innate and accurate positive publicity. Andre said Ms. Kaplan would be equally receptive. The story right now is the right people got the message. Now it just has to go to a vote...

Between this and the new bid to take over the Parkway Theater by pals '0' mine, this has been a good week for Oakland, at least behind the scenes. I'll report back. Be here. Aloha.