You need to get your Arizona tiki shit together.
That’s what Cathie, a tiki friend from California, told Richard when she introduced him to Verity – Veritiki – at the Kon Tiki’s 50th anniversary back in 2014. A few days later, they started the Tiki AZ facebook page, and people flocked to the site. Now with more than 1,200 members, it’s an active connector for tiki folks in Arizona.
The Atomic Lagoon is Richard and Steve’s courtyard tiki bar, a feature of their 1963 mid-century modern home designed by architect Al Beadle in Paradise Gardens, a mid century neighborhood in Phoenix. Six years ago, the courtyard had the ambience of an unfinished basement. Today, with loving labor from both, the Atomic Lagoon is mod-edge, swanky gathering space with a clean and comfortable vibe.
Both Richard and Steve have always loved mid-century modern. Their love for tiki developed later. Trader Vic’s Emoryville was Richard’s first experience. Once he met friends that more were into the scene, he started frequenting the San Francisco bars, and by mid 2000s, he had been bit by the tiki bug. Steve had exposure to Polynesian art as a kid. His family members had served in World War II, so he saw influences of art and design from artifacts they brought back.
Steve is quite proud of the bar he designed and built in the Atomic Lagoon. He should be. The form has no 90-degree angles in it. Although he admits it was a pain to build – he couldn’t use a square to assist – the result is stunning.
Richard is the mug collector of the two. His collection is beautifully displayed and lit in the guest room and includes vintage mugs from Phoenix bars of the past.
Perhaps the most unique feature is the Atomic Lagoon’s swinging booze shelf behind Steve’s bar. He converted an existing door frame into open, lit cabinet to hold all the alcohol. The shelf rotates and swings from a center point so that the alcohol faces outside during a tiki party and then rotates to face the inside of the house to protect it from the elements at all other times.
As Richard and Steve’s friends gathered, we sipped on Mai Tais and traded stories of our adventures. I kept admiring the volcano flames at the foot of the Lagoon. As the sun set across the Arizona skyline, I felt I’d been transported back to 1963.