Caren – aka Atomic Chick – bribed Bosko with an offer of shrimp tacos in hopes he might do a consult to turn her bare room into a tiki bar. Bosko agreed, came to her home in Upland, gave clear and decisive ideas, all while Fabio, her husband, took furious notes. Not too long after, Caren and Fabio’s first home tiki bar was established.
Eight years ago, Caren and Fabio moved from Upland to Riverside. So they dismantled the bar, split it in half, and reconstructed it as the Chi Chi Lounge. One might be tempted to believe that Chi Chi Lounge is named after the popular macadamia nut tiki concoction, but Chi Chi is actually a reference to Caren and Fabio’s little ones – their chihuauas Ruby, Billy, and Sadie. Sadie was the social one during my visit. She even posed for a pinup.
Caren collects tiki mugs with a serious passion and extensive knowledge.
The Chi Chi Lounge currently houses more that 800 tiki mugs, down from a high of 1,200. How does someone end up with so many mugs? When Caren decides she will add a mug to her collection, she doesn’t buy just one. She buys that mug in every available glaze. At one point, her extensive collection included everything that Muntiki had ever made.
Caren also has a definitive collection of Joniece Frank War God mugs. For those who may not know this history of this mug, Joniece Frank, a ceramicist, was the daughter of John and Grace Frank of Frankoma Pottery. She later became the president of the company when her dad passed and assumed copyright of the Frankoma War God mugs, which are now quite rare. In fact, it took Caren twenty years of searching to find one of the most rare mugs, only to end up lucking into a second one of that same glaze only six months later.
As Caren talked about her collection – protected with wires given the potential for earthquakes – she took a Flame War God (glazed in red) from her shelf to show me that the mug had been made for luau in 1965. This mug is significant due to two factors. Only a few exist due to the small number that were made for the event so many years ago. But the mug’s red glaze is particularly rare because red often cracks in the kiln, making it even harder to find.
Fabio is equally passionate about the Chi Chi Lounge. He constructed the many mug shelves. When he decided he wanted to attempt to carve a giant tiki, he asked the local gardener to give him a section of palm if there was ever one cut one down. His wish came true, but in a large way. Fabio came home to huge section of palm – three plus feet in width – sitting in his yard. Fabio was not dismayed. That giant palm section became his tiki carving.
Speaking of behemoth tikis and moving houses, it’s time for a quiz:
You’ve decided to move houses, and your massive outdoor tiki – you know, the one you carved yourself – needs to move with you. What’s a more effective way to move the beast? Should you: a) ask five of your burliest friends, cross your fingers, hope they will accept, and offer them lots of cocktails in exchange? or b), simply mention the problem to your dad?
Clearly, the answer is b. Fabio was getting concerned about how to get the tiki he lovingly carved to his and Caren’s new house, so he mentioned the idea to his dad. He’d moved it once before. It took five guys, and it wasn’t easy. His dad’s response? I’ve got this. Let’s do it – now. Within hours, Fabio’s dad had concocted the levers and rollers needed for the two of them to successfully move the tiki.
I guess fathers do know best.