Must-Visit Vegas: Q & A with Golden Tiki’s Branden Powers


It’s Disneyland for grownups at Chinatown’s throwback lounge…

Tucked away in charming Las Vegas Chinatown is a magical little place. Fairly hidden between a jewelry store and a Korean BBQ restaurant, the quaint little storefront is deceptively unobtrusive. But one step inside the heavy wooden doors leads you to a world of wonders. Welcome, explorers, to The Golden Tiki.

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Under a fiber-optic sky replete with shooting stars, a three-sided long bar serves visitors a vast array of specialty cocktails from a delightfully-endearing line-up. Bamboo, palm fronds and trickling water enhance the Caribbean-inspired stylings. Behind a team of costumed bartenders, video loops from vintage films will make you feel like you’ve embarked on a three-hour tour of the islands.

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Explore a little further into the dimly-lit corners, behind the giant seashell and beyond the cave-like private booths. There you’ll discover a stunning collection of curiosities, memorabilia…and a cabinet filled with the shrunken heads of numerous Vegas celebrities.

There’s never a cover charge at The Golden Tiki. Nightly live bands fill the air with frivolity like a Don Ho Tribute Happy Hour. Humorous themed events like Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving Dinner have fans returning time after time.

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   Powers (right) presenting the late Robin Leach with his own “shrunken head”…

How Branden Powers‘ salute to kitschy Vegas came to be is a story unto itself. He was more than willing to share the journey in a recent interview:

When did you first come up with the concept for Golden Tiki and how long did it take from inspiration until opening day?

One day in 1992 I stumbled upon a wonderful tiki paradise inside Islands Restaurant and Lounge at the old Hanalei Hotel in Mission Valley San Diego (now home to the yearly Tiki Oasis gathering). I immediately fell in love and began to promote two weekly events under the name “Taboo” and my production company Cocktail Nation. I had thousands of people each week, all dressed to the nines with aloha shirts, Fez hats, smoking jackets and cocktail dresses.

The events, some of the first in America, were instant hits. One day I’m called in for a meeting. I enter to the remnants of what was once paradise to find that all of the priceless artifacts were removed, the walls painted white and the fish that had been there for forty years gone! My heart sank.

Three years ago I was approached by Jeff Fine, Joe Cain and Seth Schorr. They owned a bar that needed help. I wasn’t even thinking tiki. That part of my life died in the 90’s. I was wanting to call it Madame Wongs and make it a punk rock bar. Jeff said “How about tiki?” I thought it was a brilliant idea but only if I could build it the right way.

It needed to have multiple layers and a strong back story. I wanted an “adult Disneyland”, so I hired a team of hardworking Tiki tradesmen and we went to work nonstop. Sixty days later we opened our doors to a packed house and a broken air conditioner.

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It was a success but not without the blood, sweat and tears of many GM’s, bartenders and servers who helped mold The Golden Tiki into what was recently awarded The Best Bar in all of Las Vegas. I owe all of them and my patient wonderful partners a debt of gratitude.

We’re celebrating our 3-year anniversary August 26th but we really opened in June 2015. Once we opened we’ve never closed. There are no locks on our doors.

Have you always been a collector of the curiosities that you proudly display there?

I have been. My love is collecting street art, outsider art. A few years ago I gave away over 100 pieces of art on the streets of Las Vegas in what was a city side scavenger hunt. I’m also a huge record collector, but I mostly collect interesting people. I have the most awesome group of friends.

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Did you deliberately model the atmosphere and service to replicate “old Vegas”?

Yes. I have been coming to Vegas since I was a kid in the 70’s. I loved that era. My star-filled ceiling at The Golden Tiki was inspired by my love for Benihana and their ceiling at the former Las Vegas Hilton (now Westgate).

I moved here in 1999 and was saddened that so many icons were shutting down only to be replaced by soulless glass boxes that looked like airports. Our company’s goal is to open many themed environments that bring back the early Vegas visionary magic of Jay Sarno and Steve Wynn.

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I am the creator and managing partner of The Golden Tiki. I have three partners in this venture (Jeff Fine, Seth Schorr and Joe Cain) and our main parent company is High Horse, which we’re changing to Food Fight Inc. 

Tell us about the specialty cocktails that make up your drink menu?

We’re very proud to announce that we just brought on an award-winning USBG mixologist Adam Rains who will be taking our cocktail program to the next level. We want to compete on the world stage. Adam is assembling a team to do just that.

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Do you have a personal other favorite Tiki lounge, past or present

My heart will always be with the Islands Restaurant and Lounge. My giant clam waterfalls are an homage to that tiki bar. I honestly appreciate all tiki bars. I’m a lover of escapism. People try and pit Frankie’s Tiki Room against us but honestly I love them.

We’re two different experiences. They call us Disneyland and that’s okay by me. I think they’re small and dive-y but that’s equally as awesome. Their drinks are great and people should definitely explore them. Why limit yourself or the good times and adventures you can have?

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Who would be your dream celebrity to present with their own shrunken head?

If I could present anyone alive or dead. It would have been….

Click here to continue reading via BestOfVegas.com…

The Golden Tiki is located at 3939 Spring Mountain Road in Chinatown. It never closes. For more information call 702-222-3196.

All photos courtesy of The Golden Tiki

 

 

 

 

Hot Guys of Vegas: Heartbreakers and Dream Makers


Get a little closer with guys who sweep you off your feet, sometimes literally…

Last time in this series I took you to the world of bodybuilders…those superhuman, rock-hard specimens of manliness that gym-bunnies aspire to emulate. This month it’s time to get comfy with the kind of men who make your dreams and fantasies come true. From Prince Charming types to men behind the desk and behind the scenes, these are the Hot Guys of Vegas: Heartbreakers and Dream Makers.

Alexander Stabler – dancer/aerialist/stylist

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                                                   Alexander Stabler

Where you’ve seen himLe Reve The Dream at Wynn

Alexander Stabler (banner photo above) is one of those guys who looks like they stepped out of the cover of a romance novel. Strapping frame, carefully-mussed hair, billowing open shirt and a stature that says “hero”, Alexander will sweep you off your feet as the hearththrob of Le Reve – The Dream.

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Once part of the troupe of ballroom dancers that glided into and out of the water spectacular, Alexander is now front and center at the core of Wynn‘s signature production. As his role has increased, so has Alexander’s visibility throughout the city. From charity fundraisers to a boat on Lake Mead to hiking the rocky cliffs with his dog Samson, you never know where you’ll find this real-life Prince Charming.

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Not content to just lie in the sun, this Newport Beach native has dabbled in many varied projects throughout the city. His Axle Entertainment provided hot visuals for Liaison Nightclub and his studies through Paul Mitchell make him a well-respected stylist.  Alex was a principal dancer at Luminario Ballet of Los Angeles and is a former cast member of Zumanity by Cirque du Soleil. No wonder he’s a hot commodity on the stage.

Years of living in Macau and Hong Kong gave Alexander a unique humanitarian view that belies his young age. Although this avid traveler has been around the world, Alexander Stabler is now proud to call Las Vegas his home.

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Noteworthy traits – “ballet boo-tay”, heroic man-rack

 

Eric Roy – attorney

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                                                    Attorney Eric Roy       

Where you’ve seen him – billboards, television, community events                                       

Sometimes a guy is so absurdly handsome that he can stop traffic. When you see advertisements featuring Attorney Eric Roy, you’ll know precisely what I mean. If Eric wasn’t such an all-around good guy, I’d be tempted to accuse this personal-injury attorney of deliberately causing traffic accidents. Have you seen his stunning billboards? But personal injuries aren’t the only cases he handles, so I guess the Twin Falls, Idaho native has a solid alibi.

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Some people dislike attorneys in the same way that used-car salesmen get no respect. Eric Roy Esq. has been able to avoid that stigma by becoming a beloved member of the Las Vegas community (not to mention the recipient of numerous awards for achievement in his field). He’s a favorite at speaking engagements and on television segments, offering helpful legal advice to people across the Las Vegas Valley.

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Attorney Roy is tireless in his devotion to charities and advocacy for organizations that promote social positivity. From volunteering for Goodie Two Shoes Foundation, which provides shoes and socks for underprivileged youngsters…to sponsoring a girl’s soccer team…to delivering food for income-strapped locals via Hopelink of Southern Nevada, Eric never passes on an opportunity to help out those in need.

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Of course, all work and no play would make Eric a very dull boy. So in his free time, this white-collar hunk is an avid traveler who likes to ditch the suit and tie for rugged hiking and mountain biking. Doggies Big Boy and Lil Girl and lady-love Elizabeth keep him grounded…as does some obviously well-spent time in the gym.

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Noteworthy traits – matinee-idol looks, action-hero physique

 

Michael Caprio –  publicist/marketing/management/media design

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          Michael Caprio                                

Where you’ve seen him – premieres, fundraisers, celebrity functions

The term “mover and shaker” was probably coined after Michael Caprio. Very little happens in Sin City entertainment without his involvement in one form or another. This master of Public Relations is a favorite of high-profile celebrities across the country.

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Las Vegas has Michael to thank for the triumphant residency of Olivia Newton-John at Flamingo. It was he who brought Richard Marx to the same hotel for a landmark series of performances this summer. And Michael is the Big Daddy behind the world-famous Chippendales. There’s also Leeza Gibbons, Jon SecadaJohn Tesh and Melody Sweets of Absinthe in his portfolio, if you don’t mind a little name-dropping.

Recently, the founder of Caprio Media Design has been traveling across the country for promotional appearances with Aussie group Human Nature (be sure to attend their annual holiday show at Venetian). And he’s also been behind the successful launch of the new WOW – World of Wonder at the Rio (see my review here).

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Fans of the Sharknado movie franchise have benefited from Michael’s expertise. He represents star Ian Ziering and was responsible for the huge premiere party at Stratosphere last summer for entry #4 in the wildly-successful series. No doubt their collaboration on those films yielded two successful guest-hosting stints of Ziering at Chippendales as well.

Each year, Caprio flies to Australia to join Olivia Newton-John for her annual ONJ Wellness Walk and Research Run.  The event is dear to his heart and he crusades to raise funds for the ONJ Cancer Wellness and Research Center. Olivia’s recent second bout with the disease made the trip even more poignant this year.

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Michael is constantly flying from Vegas to Los Angeles to New York City, so it’s rare that he gets to settle down with hubby Randy Slovacek and their adorable dogs for a quiet evening at home. But when they do, Michael’s culinary expertise yields some gloriously beautiful gourmet dishes.

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                                           Michael and hubby Randy

Notable traits – infectious grin, mile-long eye lashes, grace under pressure

 

Adam Barabáš – dancer/acrobat

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                                                      Adam Barabáš

Where you’ve seen him – Divas, Jubilee!, WOW – World of Wonder

The next dancer on our list is Adam Barabáš. If Adam’s profile photo looks a little (actually a lot) like Aquaman, the resemblance has served him well. This native of Slovakia is currently dancing on water in Rio‘s aquatic spectacular WOW – World of Wonder.

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                           Adam takes flight in WOW – World of Wonder…

Despite being only 27 years old, Adam may have already made some Las Vegas history. He’s the only performer to my knowledge to have ever been in two major re-enactments of the sinking of Titanic.

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First he played double-duty in Jubilee!, donning a tuxedo for the ballroom sequence before quick-changing into a shirtless laborer for the engine room scene. Now he gets to do it again, five nights a week, in WOW‘s high-tech variation on the dreaded event. How’s that for a little trivia?

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This graduate of The Private Conservatory of Arts in Nitra, Slovakia also appears regularly in Frank Marino’s DIVAS at Linq Hotel. Part of their sexy troupe of dancer boys, Adam provides back-up for the likenesses of Cher, Pink, Madonna and Celine Dion.

Being a cast member in two major productions doesn’t leave much time for leisure, especially when Barabáš has that chiseled body to maintain. He’ll hit one of the various Las Vegas Athletic Clubs around the valley for his workouts. If time is very tight he’ll even go through his fitness routines at the theaters between shows…or use his own home gym.

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                       Spending the day with Chipp at Red Rock Canyon…

When the great outdoors calls, Adam takes his four-footed pal Chipp for a round of fetch. Sometimes it’s hiking at Red Rock Canyon or Mt. Charleston. Growing up in the small village of Dubnica nad Váhom (population 26,000) gave Adam few opportunities for luxuries. Now that he calls Las Vegas his home, he enjoys the comforts of a great meal…and a day at the spa to soothe those amazing, hard-working muscles.

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Noteworthy traits – abs of steel, European mystique

 

Mike Hammer – magician/comedian/emcee

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Mike Hammer                   

Where you’ve seen him – self-titled comedy/magic show at Four Queens

Somewhere in Chicago, a retired school teacher is wondering “What ever happened to that class clown Michael Hammer?”. Well, I’d bet he or she would be surprised to know that little Mikey grew up…and became the biggest and best entertainer in Downtown Las Vegas.

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                           “A boy’s best friend is his mother” – Norman Bates

Mike Hammer can be seen onstage five nights a week at Mike Hammer Comedy Magic, a fast-paced gas that will have you returning time and again. His hyperkinetic energy, lightning-fast improvisations and dazzling illusions make Mike a standout on the entertainment scene.

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                Offering fashion advice to Robin Leach at a charity event… 

Naturally, this quick-witted guy is known for charitable functions (are we seeing a pattern here?). Hammer has hosted numerous events for other organizations when not preparing for his own. Just a few weeks ago, Mike and his famous friends came together for the 3rd Annual Mike Hammer Celebrity Go Kart Race to benefit Wounded Warrior Project. This year, proceeds were shared with Las Vegas Victims’ Fund.

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             Sharing fitness tips with Chippendales performer Ryan Worley…

The success of Mike’s own show gave him the clout to produce a second one at Four Queens. Spirit of the King, starring Elvis tribute artist Steve Connolly, draws in a line of fans that stretches across the casino floor each evening. Then there are the TV appearances, emceeing MMA matches, corporate events, and his own weekly radio program The Vegas Take with Brian Shapiro.

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Keeping such a busy schedule was starting to wear the Hammer down – he was literally forgetting to eat. After getting way too thin, the over-40 sports enthusiast decided to consult a nutritionist for a personalized program, then combined it with intense late-night workouts. He quickly began to fill out his slender frame. “I don’t actually look different in my suit”, he said “but I have more muscle. Getting there!”.

Notable traits – sarcasm, hair of epic proportions, chiseled cheekbones

 

Steve Kim – entrepreneur/dancer

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                                                              Steve Kim

Where you’ve seen him – Chippendales/American Storm/Mr. Olympia/magazines

Our final Hot Guy of this chapter is Steve Kim. I first met Steve on the opening night of Men of the Strip this summer. Despite the fact that the venue was filled with hundreds of celebs, male strippers and their fans, this hunky former Oregonian managed to stand out in the crowd.

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Naturally I had to find out who this dude was. We struck up a conversation and I learned that his home town is Portland, just north of where I currently live. The more we talked, the more fascinated I became.

Kim owns and operates Wild Entertainment, which provides sexy guys and gals for a wide variety of corporate functions and private parties. You need some hot shirtless bartenders or sexy golf caddies? Steve’s got them. Some voluptuous product reps for a convention? No problem. Discerning ladies of taste can even find a reputable and proper male escort for a safe evening out. And they’re completely LGBTQ-friendly, too.

My company is proud to be #LGBTQ friendly. We don’t discriminate based on age, sex, race, religion, whatever.. as long as you’re a decent human being, you deserve to have as much fun as anyone else in Las Vegas!

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Steve calls his talent agency “experiential”, a cutting-edge form of marketing that invites consumers to participate in a brand evolution. While that concept might go over your head (it did for me, but there was an open bar that evening), it’s clear that he was paying attention when studying marketing at Santa Clara University.

You can be sure that Wild Entertainment guarantees the highest level of professionalism…and discretion. Of course, a product is only as good as the person supplying it, and Steve is hot hot hot. This former Chippendale dancer has graced the cover of fitness magazines, competed in physique contests and even worked as a software developer for Microsoft. Brains plus brawn? A lethal combination to be sure.

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There isn’t a lot of free time in Steve Kim’s life, but he enjoys it to the fullest. Hanging out with friends, de-stressing on a yoga mat or tossing treats to brother-and-sister dogs Hachi and Yumi are the things that make him smile.

Steve has some major plans in the works for Wild Entertainment, and soon we’ll be sitting down to discuss them for a future article. Until that happens, he offers this teaser:

Big things are coming and soon the world will know about my company and my ambitions. We’re taking over exotic entertainment in Vegas. It’s gonna change everything!

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Notable traits – flawless golden skin, electromagnetic aura

Photos: Ashley Kacvinsky, Ashley Kemp, Michael Caprio via Facebook, Eric Roy via Facebook, John Ganun, Patrick Rivera, Luis Raphael, Adam Barabáš via Facebook, Mike Hammer via Facebook, Steve Kim via Facebook. Banner photo courtesy of Armando Farfan Jr.