Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Baby Doe von Stroheim: Party Planning Mastermind

2011 was my very first time attending Tiki Oasis in San Diego.  I found out about the event initially through of all places.  I was in search of a Tiki Bar in San Diego and came across reviews for the annual gathering which, little did I know, took place right in my backyard.  The event has become a climax for each year for me and I look forward to the event all year long, count down the days, and outfit plan.  I can't tell you how many times I use the excuse "I could wear this to Tiki Oasis" when making vintage or thrift purchases.  I went on a whim, met some incredible gals, and had an amazing first experience.  I felt like I was at home and right where I needed to me with people who shared in my same passion!  It's an event I love to share and invite newcomers to join every year since first attending.  I volunteered for my first time last year and loved having a hand (as little as it was) to helping contribute to this amazing event.  The event is the brain child of Otto and Baby Doe von Stroheim.  They put so much time and effort into creating this spectacular tiki extravaganza.  Below is my interview with Baby Doe in which she shares some incredible insight and behind the scene stories about the formulation and producing efforts by both her and her husband.

Suz - When did your fascination for Tiki begin? Do you remember your first memory of being exposed to tiki?

Baby Doe - Growing up in Southern California I grew up with many tiki influences.  I have fond memories of the Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland and once a year for my cousin's birthday we would get to enjoy dinner at Kelbo's.  I loved the sweet fruity drinks and the mysterious atmosphere and we would all giggle as our Uncle Rocky would, without a doubt at some point in the evening, yell out "Who turned off the lights?".  My sister was the first in our family to start collecting Tiki stuff back in the 1980's.  I was a huge thrift store shopper and every time I would find something Tiki related I would save it to give to her.  By 1990 my sister said she had too much Tiki stuff and needed to make room for her other collections!  I kept finding more and more cheap Tiki items so if I found something Tiki that I liked I would just hang onto it.  Mostly it was mugs but I would also collect records, clothing, and other knick knacks.  I wasn't all that picky at the time.  When I started a website in 1994 I knew that I wanted to include an element of Tiki.  I called the website "Baby Doe's Obsessed" and featured people's Tiki mug collections.  Around that time I was a big zine nut and when Tiki News came out I flipped!  There were other people just like me?!  Little did I know the editor would become my husband just a few years later!

Suz - Do you have a vintage item or tiki item that you cherish the most? Favorite vintage outfit?

Baby Doe - I am a vintage hoarder!  I really love stuff from the 50's-60's and it is hard for me to not want to collect just about anything Tiki or non-Tiki from those era's.  As for my most cherished Tiki item hummmmm....I have so much Tiki stuff I adore so this is not an easy one for me to answer.  I guess from living in San Francisco for 21 years I would have to say that the Tiki Bob mug is a fave mug and I love the history of Tiki Bob's; they used to host daytime lingerie fashion shows!  To be honest, I am not such a hardcore vintage mug collector as I used to be.  I have a hard time paying top dollar for Tiki mugs after finding them for years for so cheap in thrift stores and estate sales so now I collect mostly non-mug items like clothing, paper items like napkins, art, etc.  When it comes to clothing I really love the 60's fashions the best and I have lot of dresses, pant suits, swimsuits, hats and purses for Tiki Oasis.  Even though our in-home Tiki bar is maxed out there is always something else to pick up and collect!

Suz - How did your event Tiki Oasis come about?

Baby Doe - The first Tiki Oasis was to give exposure to the Caliente Tropics in Palm Springs.  Pete Moruzzi convinced the owners to keep the hotel in a Tiki theme during a remodel.  To prove this was worth the risk he asked Otto and Sven and other top Tiki folks to get involved and help throw a big party at the motel.  Sven showed one of his brilliant slide shows, Otto provided the exotica soundtrack and Kevin Kidney projected an episode of Hawaiian Eye while everyone lounged in the pool because it was over 100 degrees; the first "Dive-in Movie" was born!  Since Otto and I had already been throwing Tiki events in San Francisco and love throwing events we decided to do it again the next year and just never stopped.

Suz - Did you ever imagine that it would become what it is today having only had 50 attendees at your very first gathering?

Baby Doe - We didn't expect for the event to expand and grow the way it did; truly it all happened organically.  At first, it just seemed like a good excuse for a yearly family vacation in Palm Springs and to stay at the Caliente Tropics!  Over time we added bands, Tiki carvers, and other elements we like and each year the event grew just a bit more and more!  Planning parties is addictive!  We plan it, people come out, enjoy it and we want you to do it again!

Suz - What is your role in Tiki Oasis and how is it working with your husband so closely?

Baby Doe - The first Tiki Oasis I was pregnant with our first son (we joke that he was one of the few to be at every Tiki Oasis!) and our second son was born in 2005  so in those early years, with such young kids, I was involved more behind the scenes and helping with the planning pre-event.  At the time I really had my hands full with chasing kids, my full-time day job, running my dance group and producing the huge international convention Tease-O-Rama.  When we moved Tiki Oasis to San Diego in 2006 we saw the potential to make the event much bigger and experiment with other ideas to expand the experience.  For example, we had wanted to add symposiums for years just like we did with Tease-O-Rama starting in 2001 but we didn't have the facility until we moved the event to San Diego.  It was with the move to San Diego that I took a much bigger role in the planning and execution of the event.  Today Otto and I blend over in most of our roles but overall he is the artistic visionary for the event.  He says "let's do a car show",  and I figure out how to make it happen.  We work on just about everything together but we each have our strengths and we each have our challenges and we try to balance it all out.  Every night we have our "Tiki Oasis Hours" which is after we do our day jobs and get our kids to bed so our usual working time is 9pm-Midnight seven days a week.  It is a lot of non-stop work for us all year long.

Suz - Do you have plans for expanding the event in the future? Adding more days, events, etc...

Baby Doe - We are always looking to expand the experience that people have at Tiki Oasis.  We are at our capacity for the location we are at but we are always constantly looking for ways to improve upon the event.  We are very happy with the current location at the Crowne Plaza as the staff is extremely easy to work with and very supportive.  We hope to keep the event at this location and just continue to experiment with new offerings.

Suz - What has been your favorite theme so far?  What are some of the other themes you hope to pursue for future events?

Baby Doe - People LOVE to give us a hard time about the themes.  It is actually a joke amongst all our friends who like to berate us with ridiculous themes to consider.  Of course, the theme of Tiki Oasis really is TIKI every year we just add a fun little something that we are interested in exploring.  Usually it is the music that helps to form a theme but sometimes it is just something that touches the genre of Tiki.  We have had so many great themes over the years that I can't really think of which one is my favorite!  A few of my favorite memories.....I loved the art show for South of the Border where we gave the artists unpainted ceramic burros and pigs to paint. For the spy year I enjoyed hosting a scavenger hunt starting out with 100 people and in the end only one person had found the key to unlock a box on stage and was awarded with a golden Tiki.  This year we plan to cover a lot of items in tin foil for our current theme "Yesterday's Future, Today", the themes overall keep an element of the unexpected at the event.

Suz - What has been your favorite performance in all the years you have been hosting this event?

Baby Doe - Preston Epps is by far one of my most favorite performances at Tiki Oasis.  Otto and I produced an event in 1999 in San Francisco called "Bongo's by the Bay" where Epps was the headliner.  It felt full circle to have him come and perform at Tiki Oasis and man oh man, can he still hit that bongo!

Suz - Are there any performers or bands that you hope to have play your event in the future?

Baby Doe - The list is a mile long! We will continue to book the top bands doing exotica and surf.  We especially enjoy booking legends from the past but we are always looking to add acts that are a bit unexpected.

(The Phantom Surfers)

Suz - What advice do you have for first time attendees?

Baby Doe - Dress colorfully, drink lots of water, browse the marketplace, check out the symposiums, dance, and say hello to others because people at Tiki Oasis are friendly!

(Me (SweetieSuz) getting my intake of a much needed water break at Tiki Oasis 2013)

Suz - What are your hopes or goals for the future of Tiki Oasis?

Baby Doe - My hope is for Otto and I to keep producing and event that we would like to attend.  If we want to be there and experience it and we are true to the core of what we like, we will continue to enjoy the event and our goal of happiness will be always realized!

Dave and I have already bought our tickets (which went on sale early April) and are finalizing our plans for our trip back to San Diego (since we moved in August 2014) for this year's gathering which takes place August 13th through the 16th of this year.  Hope to see you there!

Please make sure you check out their website here for more information about the event and a big thank you to Baby Doe and Otto for all that you do in creating this amazing event!

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