TIKI DRINK TV, PART I

BUSTER

The Bum not only enjoys drinking tropical cocktails; he also enjoys watching them. And if you waste as much time as he does in front of the TV, eventually you encounter a surprising amount of movies in which exotic drinks play a supporting role. Here’s what the remote recently dragged in:

THE BLUE GARDENIA (1953): As Nat King Cole croons the title song, Raymond Burr seduces Anne Baxter in the Coral Room of the Blue Gardenia Supper Club by plying her with tropical drinks — served complete with ice cones and mint sprigs. Burr asks Baxter, “Ever see a Polynesian Pearl Diver before?” Baxter: “Not served as a drink.” Burr: “These aren’t really drinks. They’re trade winds across cool lagoons. They’re the Southern Cross above coral reefs. They’re a lovely maiden bathing at the foot of a waterfall.” This being a Fritz Lang film, she quaffs one too many of the “South Sea pile drivers” and wakes up the next morning as the prime suspect in Burr’s murder.

BLUE HAWAII (1961): Elvis Presley clashes with his wealthy parents when he forsakes them for a grass shack on the beach. It’s a nice beach, but we would have stayed with mom and dad, who mix impressively authentic-looking Mai Tais in their swingin’ Japanese moderne house.

BONE (1972): Suburban housewife Joyce Van Patten offers intruder Yaphett Koto a “Wahine’s Downfall,” which Yaphett dismisses as “diabetes on the rocks.” Later, repelling her drunken advances, he advises her to “Make yourself another one of them Polynesian drinks, maybe it’ll cool you off.” We still can’t figure out what his problem is, since a rich, sexually frustrated married woman who makes tropical drinks is our idea of a dream date.

THE FRIGHTENED CITY (1961): London’s “Taboo Club” features Tiki-shaped cocktail menus, Scorpion bowls with long straws, and a stiff-upper-lip customer actually dropping his monocle at the sight of hula girls in grass skirts. Sean Connery plays a gangster who’s hot for the one bit of crumpet in the floor show who could use a few more pounds, not to mention a few more acting lessons.

HELL’S HALF-ACRE (1954): More like Hell’s Hour-And-A-Half. We’d been trying to catch this one for years, because Don The Beachcomber was credited as “Technical Advisor.” Obviously no one followed his advice, since the Zombies served in this pokey potboiler come sans ice and garnish. Where was the drink-wrangler for The Blue Gardenia when they needed him?

HOW TO STUFF A WILD BIKINI (1965): The title sequence boasts acid-trip animation by “Gumby” creator Art Clokey, in which a gourd briefly morphs into an Easter Island moai. It’s all downhill from there, but stick around for the opening scene — featuring Buster Keaton as Bwana (pictured above), the witch-doctor of Goona Goona island, drinking “Torpedo Juice.”

LOVERBOY (1989): The less said about this Patrick Dempsey sex farce the better, except for one scene set in a Polynesian restaurant. The sign outside says “Tiki Joe’s,” but the building is unmistakably the Don The Beachcomber’s location in Marina Del Rey. If the interior is a set, it’s a well-dressed one, with lots of Oceanic Arts lamps and Tikis. Plus, this may be the only fight scene ever filmed in which blue drinks and flaming appetizers are used as weapons.

THE MAN WITH TWO BRAINS (1983): In his lab, Dr. Necessitor (David Warner) offers his guest Dr. Hfuhruhurr (Steve Martin) a drink: “What would you like?” Hfuhruhurr: “A Tahitian Lady.” Necessitor: “Flaming?” Hfuhruhurr: “Oh no, that’s strictly for tourists.”

O.C. AND STIGGS (1987): In his backyard, which he calls “Tahiti,” Martin Mull serves “brown liquor” in Trader Vic skull mugs; set decoration includes Trader Vic table lamps, palm-carved Tikis, and lots of vintage rattan furniture. Mull lives next door to the titular teenaged cut-ups, O.C. and Stiggs, who originated in the pages of National Lampoon magazine. Directed by Robert Altman. Yes, that Robert Altman.

TAPEHEADS (1988): if you’re into ’80s nostalgia, then you obviously didn’t live through them — and you might be amused by this LA music-biz satire, which features a scene in Kelbo’s Polynesian restaurant, “Home of the habit-forming spareribs.”

WHERE DANGER LIVES (1950): Mia Farrow’s dad John directed this noirish Robert Mitchum trifle, notable for the sight of manly Mitchum drinking a cocktail out of a coconut shell in a tropical-themed bar.

This is just the tip of the ice cone, but revisiting these films has made us thirsty. So stay tuned for part II…

SCENE FROM THE BLUE GARDENIA

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