“Nothing says class like a monkey with a fez.”
This axiom is Stephen’s creed. The quip has even been written on his birthday cake. But, the original utterance was a retort to Heidi’s question “why the hell are you buying all this monkey with fez stuff?” To Stephen, the answer was obvious. The fezzed primate is the perfect lowbrow ambassador for the Rockin’ Jellyfish Lounge, his Pan-Pacific Pop Surrealist home bar.
What is Pan-Pacific Pop Surrealism? I asked the same question. I was familiar with the concept of Polynesian Pop. I even had a sense of Surrealism in art, but this was my first saunter into a Pan-Pacific Pop Surrealist setting. What should I expect?
Stephen gladly explained. Although he loves the classic tiki style, Stephen wanted his home bar to include art and carvings from additional places that bordered the Pacific, including South America, the Pacific Northwest, Central America, as well as Asia. Hence, the scope of his collection is wider than Polynesian. It’s Pan-Pacific. This latitude, combined with his love of low-brow art and surrealism – inspired by the collections at La Luz de Jesus Gallery (where the Art of Tiki show was held in 1996) – defines the look and feel for his Rockin’ Jellyfish Lounge. Well, that, plus he’s got actual mid-mod rocking chairs to lend authenticity to lounge’s name.
Stephen is not the first to contemplate a Pan-Pacific view of art and culture. In fact, obtaining a limited-edition print of Miguel Covarrubias’ Pageant of the Pacific: Art and Culture mural inspired Stephen to become as knowledgeable as a docent on the artwork. Stephen owns a set of the original 1940s era prints and loves to encourage others to learn more about its influence and origin.
Miguel Covarrubias was commissioned in 1939 to create six large murals for the Golden Gate International Exposition to be held on the recently constructed Treasure Island in San Francisco. The six murals were oversized, finely-illustrated maps of the Pacific featuring art, flora, fauna, people, economy, dwellings, and transportation. Take one look, and you’ll see exquisite examples of how Covarrubias’ Art and Culture mural included images of tikis, totems, and other indigenous carvings from cultures throughout the Pacific. In addition to being an accomplished muralist, Covarrubias was an ethnographer known for his studies of pre-Columbian Mesoamerican art, Olmec culture, the Islands of Bali, as well as a caricature artist of jazz personalities during the Harlem Renaissance.
Speaking of renaissance men, it’s apparent that Stephen is one as well. An aerospace-lawyer-docent-journalist by day, Stephen also knows how to mix an expert cocktail and is a regular guru on Tiki with Ray episodes. I was happy to sample his “Cobra Got Punchy,” a combination of six rums including Rum Fire, Doctor Bird, Kiyomi Japanese rum (that he said tastes more like cachaça), as well as some funky step-children rums (that he didn’t know what to do with). The drink claims the ideal sweet/sour spot between a Cobra’s Fang and a POG (passionfruit-orange-guava). As I sipped on my tasty adult beverage, I also heard Stephen’s lore of the three poor drinks — trying to replicate the great Tiki Ti’s Ray’s Mistake — that, when combined, became his once-in-a-lifetime drink. Sadly, he didn’t write down the recipe as he was making it and has yet to successfully recreate that perfect mix. Happily, Stephen saved the recipe for his “Stripper’s Mistake” also a nod to Ray’s Mistake and to the Strip-and-Go-Naked (a tiki drink with beer), which Stephen considers a success.
By the way, it’s clear there is only one thing cooler than a monkey in a fez. It’s Joey, Stephen and Heidi’s Cavoodle. Check out the Nour Noir painting of Joey wearing a fez and pawing a tiki mug. It’s on display in the lounge. Joey’s a high-class, low-brow, up-in-your face, sweet-as-can-be canine with surrealist puppy dog eyes for days.
You can agree with me, right? Joey’s way cooler. It’s ok. I won’t tell the monkey.