Here is a familiar sight: a 1985 photograph of the Tiki Room lanai, with Tongaroa, father of all gods and goddesses, proudly holding court between performances of the show that take place inside the doors to the left.
The Tiki Room show has actually changed considerably since 1985. A large chunk of the middle section of the show was removed in order to appeal to modern audiences and keep the show's cycle time down closer to 15-minute intervals.
Thankfully, the cast member costumes have also been updated---from the orange and white polyster number of the 1980s to a somewhat more subdued hawaiian print shirt and khaki pants in vogue today.
I remember working a few summer nights at Tiki in 1987. The torches at the entrance lit up the area and the drums from the Tahitian Terrace show next door boomed in the distance. The smell of pineapple and teriyaki wafted through the area.
When I returned to Tiki this past year for a few shifts, it was very much like I'd never left, though I deeply missed the Tahitian Terrace teriyaki smell, drums and dancers.
Tiki's back room shared a door with the Tahitian Terrace kitchen and backstage area. On my way to break, I would walk through and occasionally catch a glimpse of the show in progress. It was always great to see the tables full of guests, hear the clank of silverware against plates and watch the Samoans twirl burning torches on the stage.
Anyhow, running the Tiki Room show as an attraction host was always relaxing. If you were the only one stationed at the attraction (usually when your partner had to go to lunch), you would be in charge of opening the turnstile, letting in the guests, closing off the turnstile, updating the "time until next show" clock, noting the guest count, opening the show doors, introducing the show and, of course, waking up Jose. After all this, you could stand or sit in the theater and enjoy the show along with the guests, keeping an eye on things to make sure everyone was seated and enjoying themselves.
In my day, the middle of the show included an Offenbach piece ("Bacarole") that was very relaxing and almost hypnotic, especially when coupled with the dancing waters of the "Magic Fountain" at the center of the show.
The Dole Tiki Juice Bar at the entrance to the Tiki Room lanai is one of only two places on the planet where you can obtain an authentic "Dole Whip." If you don't know what I'm talking about...try one the next time you're in Adventureland (you'll thank me).
I loved working the turnstile at Tiki. It was just one big guest interaction experience.
Hello! Where're you from?
The next show will be in 10 minutes.
Have you tried a Dole Whip?
I see you're a Cubs fan---are you from Chicago, nice shirt?
No, I can't give you my name tag.
What is this attraction? It is a show with singing birds, flowers and tikis---you'll love it. Your little one may get a bit wound up at the end when the thunder and lightning starts, so keep that in mind...etc., etc.
Once guests seated themselves in the lanai, I would walk around with the pan and broom, pick up trash and chat before getting them to line up at the bottom of the steps for the next show.
Other cast members would walk by and wave to me while I was stationed at the turnstile. Friends from Jungle Cruise heading to their shift; area managers; sweepers; Outdoor Vending folks; you name it.
Even today, Tiki Room is a cherished attraction location for cast members. Only people with a good amount of seniority are able to get the coveted Tiki shifts.
The theming, the show, the ambience---the Enchanted Tiki Room is a timeless masterpiece. Thank goodness for Walt and all of his creative team. They really did a fabulous job.
Well...it looks like the gods have been angered by all my jibberish, so I better shove off for now before the thunderbolts start flying.