Entrance to Ron Farrell’s 20- by-15-foot backyard bar requires passage across a 30-foot Koi pond complete with a five-foot waterfall. Inside is a tiki collection decades in the making.
“I grew up with tiki in the background,” says Farrell, who grew up in the Los Angeles area, and lives nearby, in Ventura. When tiki was new and popular in California, his father often entertained clients at now-iconic haunts like the The Luau and Trader Vic’s. And as a child, Farrell’s memories of going to the Bahooka, the famed tiki- and shipwreck-themed restaurant in Rosemead, and Disneyland’s Adventureland, with its shrunken heads and tiki statues, laid the foundation for a life-long pursuit of Polynesian pop. But it wasn’t until his wife gifted him a copy of Sven Kirsten’s Book of Tiki, in 2000, that it became a full-blown obsession.
“I saw that these places all over the country were mostly gone,” he says of the decline of tiki, which occurred in the latter part of the 20th century. “So I started getting into it from there, and it’s kinda taken over everything else.”
Farrell’s tiki memorabilia extends beyond the backyard bar to a 14-foot tiki that guards the front door to the house. Inside, amid the hundreds of tiki mugs, statues, ashtrays and restaurant menus of yore, Farrell says his collection of Polynesian black velvet paintings are among his most prized possessions, especially those by American expat artist Edgar Leeteg. (Leeteg, who lived in Tahiti from 1933 until his death in 1953, has long remained popular with tiki fans.) “I wish we had room for more,” he says. “The house, the bar, the yard—everything is tropical-tiki-Polynesian-surf-nautical themed.”
At the bar, which includes another 12-foot tiki and a full bathroom, the Farrells serve Mai Tais, Jet Pilots and Farrell’s own signature cocktail, the Drifter’s Reef, a combination of rum, orgeat, Curaçao, lemon, orange and bitters. While the Farrells do have friends over to belly up to the backyard bar, Farrell admits that, more often than not, it remains something of a personal passion project.
“98 percent of the time,” he says, “it’s just me and my wife.”
Ron Farrell's At-Home Tiki Bar