Every summer for the past five years, the American Cinematheque has hosted a Tiki Luau Night at the Egyptian Theatre with an alfresco dinner followed by a tiki-themed film. (Tickets are available for each part separately, but I’d definitely recommend going to both.)
Fun fact courtesy of Wikipedia: The Egyptian Theatre is the older sister of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and was the site of the first Hollywood premiere in 1922.
The food was dished out buffet-style in the theater, while the courtyard lent itself for seating, the luau performances, and some shopping opportunities from folks like Eric October.
Our plates were piled with Thai noodle salad with peanut dressing, cabbage/mandarin orange salad, somewhat stale Hawaiian roll, a big hunk of sweet glazed pulled pork, very tasty chicken pineapple sausage, and a big white chocolate macadamia nut cookie. Did I mention we each also got two glasses of rum punch?
The evening’s house band, King Kukulele and the Friki Tikis were great, and the Polynesian Paradise Dancers accompanied a few tunes. We especially enjoyed hearing “Hi’ilawe”—made us feel like we were in The Enchanted Tiki Room.
A series of short clips from some of the films they’ve shown in the past preceded the main event: a screening of “The Mighty Uke” followed by a Q&A with director Tony Coleman, who flew in from Canada for the occasion.
To be honest, I initially wasn’t all that jazzed about watching a documentary about ukuleles. But all that changed as soon as the film started with a recording of a live concert of virtuoso musician Jake Shimabukuro. He’s ridiculous!
“The Mighty Uke” follows the ukulele’s origins in Portugal and Hawaii to its popularity in America in the 1920s to its subsequent decline as the guitar became the stringed instrument of choice for many.
Now that I think about it, I shouldn’t have been so quick to write off the subject matter, especially considering “Some Like it Hot” is one of my favorite movies, and the most memorable moment from seeing Paul McCartney at the Hollywood Bowl was when he brought out a ukulele to play “Something” as a tribute to George Harrison.
Anyway, along the way we were introduced to musicians like James Hill, who composes classical-style concerti featuring the ukulele, music educators who make the case for replacing elementary schools’ recorders with ukes, and lots of folks who just love to jam. (A bunch of cinema-goers even brought their ukes to do so after the movie!)
Also making the much maligned instrument look cool was Uni & Her Ukelele, she struck me as an awesome mix of equal parts Lady Gaga and Rainbow Brite. I bet you that after watching “The Mighty Uke” you’ll be tempted to get a ukulele too. (Personally, I’d love this one.)