I suspect that Kimo the Pineapple Mermaid, Sandy the Face of Exotica, and Rosie the Riveter would have best friends forever if they’d lived in the same time period.
Rosie the Riveter is the well-known image of a tough working woman from the American mid-century. With her red and white polka-dot scarf and navy blue shirt bicep curl, she symbolized the ingenuity and strength of women. Rosie got the tough work done. Sandy Warner is the recognizable face of Exotica. Sandy’s image graced the covers of Martin Denny’s Exotica, Primitiva, Quiet Village, Afro-Desia, and The Enchanted Sea along with eleven other recordings. Sandy had an alluring look ready for any hukilau that came her way.
Kimo, also known as the Pineapple Shagette, is quite comfortable in the garments of both these icons. You’ll find her decked out in high aloha fashion at a Tiki party one day and rolling up her sleeves to stain and varnish a cedar-planked bar top the next. Kimo was part of the LA Tiki scene pre-revival, back in the days of Baby Doe and Otto Von Stroheim at Tease-O-Rama. She grew up summering in a beach shack in Maui singing along with Don Ho songs. But, she’s also a do-it-yourself woman. As we talked, Kimo listed all of the Tiki-associated projects she’s completed over the past couple of years. I couldn’t help but feel a little exhausted just imagining all the work involved.
“If you know me, you know I’m crafty. I have more power tools than my guy friends.”
Kimo is a business manager for neo-swing bands by day, but channels her off-hours passion into projects at her home and Tiki bar. What she has accomplished is both fun and remarkable. The Casa de Piña, her home, and the Pineapple Mermaid Grotto, her open air home bar in the backyard, sit in the hills overlooking greater Los Angeles. Kimo acted as the general contractor for her house renovation. She tore out damaged wood on her front deck down to the studs and rebuilt it, herself. She split bamboo. She varnished cedar, stained and painted walls, made lamps, and more. The men at the lumber yard scoffed when the Pineapple Shagette rolled up in her Mercedes-Benz truck for another load of supplies. Kimo was also picky when it mattered. She and her best friend spent one day going to ten different home improvement stores to hand-select the panels of bamboo fencing.
As friends began to gather, music played, and drinks began to pour, Kimo stole a few quick minutes to show me the Pineapple Mermaid Grotto. Long-time friends have provided the finishing touches, including “Tiki Gene” (a Gene Simmons tiki) and “Pineapple Bob” – two large tikis carved by Big Ed, fabric panels from Kymm Bang, paintings from Sheryl Schroeder, as well as custom art pieces from Clee Sobieski, Ron Monster, Mischief Motu, and Anders Anderson. Breezeblock tiles give a mid-mod airy feel, and her eight coats of varnish on the bar top allow libations to slide down the length with ease.
As we joined the other Polynesiacs, Kim reminded me that pineapples symbolize hospitality, welcome, and aloha. They were placed at the front door of New England homes to welcome sailors back from a long journey at sea. I’m glad that Kim has carried this lovely tradition into yet another century. This sailor felt quite welcomed at the Pineapple Mermaid Grotto.