Yma Sumac pulled Alice around the side of her table at the Hukilau and told her she had a beautiful voice. The photographers noticed the moment, flashing bulbs commenced, and Formikahini’s status as a famous exotica singer was confirmed.
Her exotica career happened by chance. Alice went to hear Clouseaux, a fourteen piece exotica band complete with a firebreather in her hometown of Houston. After the concert, she casually mentioned that if they ever needed another singer, she’d love to be considered. Just so happened that there was an opening. That next Wednesday, Alice was performing exotica.
She’s sung at Tiki Oasis in Palm Springs. She’s a voice on Voodoo III. She was a member of Hillbilly Frankenstein. She was invited to do a live performance of Voodoo – Robert Drasnin’s classic exotica recording – with members of Waitiki, the Miami Symphony, and members of Gloria Estafan’s Miami Sound Machine.
Alice may be the only tiki person around who visited the Houston Trader Vic’s (sadly, long gone) in the Shamrock (the hotel built by Glenn McCarthy, the Texas legend that was the basis for James Dean’s character in the movie Giant). In fact, her grandparents attended the hotel’s opening night.
If you hang out long enough in Alice’s Almost Always Lounge, you might also get a chance to try on Albert Gee wife’s fancy white cowboy boots, complete with leather tikis on the side. What could be more Texas tiki than a pair of tiki boots? Albert Gee was the owner of Houston’s Poly-Asian restaurants, which served tiki cocktails. Visiting the Poly-Asian West is one of her earliest memories as a child.
At the end of “Chic Alors!”, a Clouseaux song in the style of Esquivel’s Mucha Muchacha, Tomás asks (in a good French accent) “Comment vous appellez-vous?”
“What is your name, ma cherie?”
“Oh, Formica Dinette!”
“Mademoiselle Dinette? Then you are French?!”
“Mais oui, monsieur; je suis French!”
Which Alice pronounces Fray-ench.