The result was the following article, which ran under the title, "The Enchanted Tiki Home," in the Aug. 2001 issue of Otto von Stroheim's trailblazing "'zine," Tiki News, (Issue #17). Today, the Seanoas live in Land O' Lakes, Florida, where Portia still teaches community classes in the ancient Kahiko style of hula and teaches about Polynesian and Hawaiian cultures. Their son, Nuufolau Joel "Samoa Joe" Seanoa, has followed the family showbusiness tradition as a professional wrestler.Sadly, the tikis in front of their old house are gone.
I have tweaked this article a bit for re-publication here, and it now has more color illustrations -- But it still remains largely as it appeared in print in 2001,...
Motorists on busy Slater Avenue in Huntington Beach may be puzzled by the large tikis and tropical foliage surrounding the Seanoa home. Few know Pete Seanoa's story -- A story that includes lions, Elvis Presley, Walt Disney and the preservation of Polynesian heritage.
"I came to this country from Samoa 40 years ago," said Seanoa. "I had no education, but I had a strong sense of who I was and what we were about. Polynesian culture and history isn't recorded, but it's passed down from generation to generation."
One of the traditions passed down in the Seanoa family was the carving of tikis. Sometimes five or six family members work together to carve a tiki from the corewood of palm trees. It's not something they do often, but they feel it is an important tradition to keep alive.
For Seanoa, tikis and tiki carving are deeply rooted in the spiritual world.
"The tiki signifies the spiritual force within.," he said. "Tikis tend to get chop-sueyed in with other cultures, like Alaskan totems, but they're totally different. They aren't gods, but they represent the spiritual world in general. Mostly, they represent the happy spiritual elements. The spiritual aspects of the carver go into the tiki. What he feels about his culture goes into it."
Each tiki he carves, said Seanoa, "symbolizes me, symbolizes protection and symbolizes our people."
"For us, it's a sense of security," he said.
Ironically, he points out that some of the tikis that provide this sense of security have been stolen from his yard. "What are [the thieves] going to do with them?," he asked. "What does it mean to them?"
Today, there are five large tikis in Seanoa's front yard, representing carving styles from numerous Polynesian islands. Four more stand guard over the back yard, amid fishing nets, starfish and other tropical decor. The tallest of the tikis, the Tahitian giant in the side yard, stands nine feet tall and has painted yellow highlights.
However, Seanoa feels the tikis he has sold are of limited significance. He has little interest in carving tikis for sale these days.
"If it sells, it's not spiritual anymore. A lot of people duplicate [tikis] and it's just a prop."
Originally, said Seanoa, the Tahitian Terrace and the Enchanted Tiki Room attraction "were supposed to work together," with diners being entertained by singing tikis and robotic birds while they ate. However, as the project evolved, the restaurant became a separate entity with its own live entertainment.
Seanoa attributes the closure of the Tahitian Terrace to changes in management.
"The Disney family used to have control, but everything changed in the 1980s," he said.
Currently, Tiare Productions' dancers perform frequently at Cafe Tu Tu Tango at The Block shopping center in Orange. Shows are usually on Friday or Saturday evenings.The dancers practice in the Seanoas' backyard on weekends.
"They play enjoyable Polynesian music on Saturdays," said one neighbor with a smile.