Podcast hosts Roy Clark and Ben Hoeb visit Austin, Texas’s Tiki Tatsu-Ya.
Photo courtesy Ben Hoeb.
There’s an underground tiki bar in Daphne that’s so exclusive only a few dozen people even know about it. Inside, some of the area’s biggest tiki lovers gather over mugs of Painkillers to talk about surf movies, vintage cocktail recipes and the fascinating history of tiki culture right here in Mobile.
Soon, however, these tiki experts will open the door of their Polynesian pop haven to the public with the release of their new podcast, “Sea Stories from the Coast Watchers’ Club.”
Ben Hoeb, aka “Hobie,” is the proprietor of the podcast and tiki bar, dubbed the Coast Watchers’ Club, which he operates for friends and family out of the basement of his Baldwin County home. He is joined on the show by his friend Roy Clark, aka “Trader Roy,” who is the founder of Mobile Tiki Week and the general manager of The Haberdasher cocktail bar in downtown Mobile.
“Roy is the person to go to when it comes to tiki in Mobile,” Hoeb said. “His knowledge of making and creating cocktails made him a no-brainer for a podcast partner. I don’t think I would be putting this together if it wasn’t for him.”
The first episode of the podcast will be released next week. In it — recorded in Hoeb’s basement bar — the duo discusses how they got interested in American tiki culture. A rockabilly surf band in California called the Hula Girls gave them special permission to use their songs in the show.
“I got interested initially from a cocktail/mixology standpoint around 2012, but then Jeff Berry’s book ‘Potions of the Caribbean’ came out and I quickly was drawn to the history, imagery, escapism … everything,” Clark said. “It was off to the races from there.”
In the series, they plan on discussing a range of topics with each other and guests including tiki bars around the country, tiki drink recipes, reviews of South Pacific movies, custom tiki mugs, Pacific Island rugby (one of Hoeb’s unique interests) and more. They hope to release two episodes a month.
“It gives me a chance to use my home bar for something more than a hangout,” Hoeb said. “If it does become bigger, traveling and doing recordings at tiki bars and national conventions would be a blast.”
From being in the bar business, Clark has an extensive network of people they can reach out to, regionally, nationally and internationally, if they decide to expand that far, he said.
Hoeb got interested in tiki culture and building a home bar a few years ago after he was injured playing rugby and unable to continue the sport. He was drawn to the Pacific Islands because rugby is a popular pastime there and became fascinated with tiki bars of the 1950s and 1960s. The pandemic made him hyper-focused on his pursuit.
“I guess it was nostalgia for a place and time I wasn’t alive for,” he said. “I think that is why these bars are so popular today.”
He was particularly interested in “coast watchers,” the Allied military scouts who were positioned in the South Pacific during World War II. Perhaps most notably, in 1943, coast watchers rescued John F. Kennedy and his U.S. Navy crew after their craft, PT-109, wrecked near the Solomon Islands. When they weren’t on duty, coast watchers often bellied up to clubs where they drank rum, played music and tried to escape from the war.
Hoeb said he wanted to maintain that tradition of escape with his home bar, which he named in honor of the scouts. Clark helped him source décor, which includes WWII memorabilia and vintage tiki gear from estate sales and eBay, and Hoeb stocked the shelves with bottles of rum and brightly colored tiki mugs and wooden masks he’d collected from his travels.
“I had known Roy for a while and would pick his brain for any knowledge and wisdom I could get out of him,” Hoeb said. “I am sure he got annoyed with me trying to get tidbits of info from him on how he made some drinks while I was at The Hab.”
While doing research, Hoeb listened to some tiki podcasts recorded in California, but felt like the topics and places they discussed were inaccessible for those living in the South. He thought there was an opportunity for a podcast that focused on home bars and the Gulf Coast, which is rich in its own naval history.
Clark jumped on board.
“Obviously, I like the subject matter, we have a good rapport and he’s a good salesman,” Clark said. “He’s really motivated to get it done, which is great because I can be a bit of a slacker when it comes to non-work-related activities.”
Clark’s expertise in local tiki lore has been invaluable for the project. Mobile once housed a Tiki Supper Club, he revealed, and Traders on Battleship Parkway used to be a tiki bar, located where Felix’s is now. Hopefully, he said, some people who actually visited these retro spots will join them on the podcast to talk about the experience.
“We want to have conversations more than anything,” Hoeb said. “Our main goal is to have fun.”
To stay abreast of episode releases, follow @coastwatchersclub on Instagram or visit their website, coastwatchersclub.com.
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