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

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Five Easy Questions: OTTO VON STROHEIM

Otto at Forbidden Island, where he sometimes DJs
starting July 8

Otto with his lovely wife Baby Doe (Photo by Jim Ferreira)

OTTO VON STROHEIM is the Tiki God of the 21st Century. As a graphic artist, publisher, writer, impresario, producer, DJ, curator and mascot, Otto has established himself as the leading authority on All Things Tiki. His beautiful and talented wife Baby Doe (Dorinda) is founder and leader of the Devil-ettes go-go dance troupe as well as the world famous burlesque convention, Tease-o-rama. They are one swingin' couple, and they have two great kids as well, Vander and Dashiell. Cool people like this need to breed. I am proud to call them my good friends, too. As of this writing Otto is busy getting ready for his 9th successful international Tiki convention, Tiki Oasis, happening in San Diego this August 13-16.

Thrill: Tell us about the genesis of "Tiki News" and how it spearheaded the "tiki revival" of the early to mid '90s (which is still going strong today, thanks to people like you).

OVS: Tiki News is a zine I started as a newsletter to connect Tiki historians from various parts of the country and the world. I also intended to expand my mug collection by connecting Tiki Mug collectors. I hoped to use Tiki News to spur an exchange of knowledge and trading of mugs. It started in January 1995 in the days before the Worldwide Web really existed. I grew it organically by word of mouth and free classified ads. The first issue I published 150 copies and it almost doubled each issue after that.

Thrill: How/why did Tiki Oasis come about?

OVS: Tiki Oasis was started by Pete Morruzzi and Sven Kirsten to fund-raise for the Caliente Tropics hotel in Palm Springs. It had just been bought and was going to change its theme to Southwestern but Pete convinced them that if they kept it Tiki ,the Tiki fans would flock there. then he contacted me to throw an event and get all the Tiki people out there. So I did. The first year there were only about 50 people and the hotel was about half full but they were very happy. By the second year all 88 rooms of the hotel were sold out. After 5 years I had to move the event (to the Crowne Plaza Hotel in San Diego) because we just couldn't fit everyone in and around the hotel! The Tropics still exists to this day as a Tiki hotel.

Thrill: What are some of your favorite Exotica performers/tunes/LPs?

OVS: I'm a traditionalist. Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman are my favorite classic performers. I also like offbeat Exotica and Lounge performers like Ernie Menehune and Paul Page. Contemporary performers include the originators of the new Lounge movement, Combustible Edison. Most of my other new favorite bands are bands that have played Tiki Oasis: The Blue Hawaiians, Project: Pimento, Martini Kings, King Kukulele, WAITIKI, etc
Thrill: How do you explain the enduring appeal of Tiki, now well into the 21st Century, when so much of our culture seems so un-Tiki?

OVS: It is a friendly, non-competitive vibe. Tiki lifestyle is about relaxing, escapism, dressing up but being casual about it, having fun indoors and outdoors. It's also about showing off your creative side whether that is inventing a different cocktail, carving a Tiki, sewing a new muu muu, or playing a tune on your ukulele.

Thrill: The Tiki subculture seems to be riding one long wave of popularity - do you think it will eventually crest and crash on the shores of obscure nostalgia, or is Tiki eternal?

OVS: It might wane but it is definitely here to stay. Target and Wal-Mart might stop using the Tiki motif and selling bamboo wares. But all the Tiki Oasis party-goers are hooked for life and will continue to have Tiki parties even if it means taking it to their own backyard BBQ or indoor rumpus room basement lounge.