Otto's Shrunken Head in New York

Great Moments in Otto’s Shrunken Head

Otto's Shrunken Head in New York
Otto’s Shrunken Head in New York

As you may have heard, Otto’s Shrunken Head in New York was hit by a fire a short time ago. The fire did some pretty serious damage to the back room, where live acts play. Great news! The back room has been cleaned up and is back to its old, gritty, wonderful, Otto-riffic self.

Otto's stage
Otto’s stage

Otto’s was the scene of one of my personal favorite tiki moments. Way back in January 2003, I was visiting NY on business during an unusual cold snap—so cold that Broadway even shut down. But the tiki must go on! Tiki hospitality being what it is, a complete stranger offered to have me over to her home tiki bar. Her name was Inky Louise, and she was amazing, and remains one of my favorite people to this day. We were met by another local named Leni, who had taken very good care of me a couple of nights before. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: tiki people are just the best.

Back to Otto’s… after enjoying a tasty beverage at Inky’s, we set out for Waikiki Wally’s, poked our heads into Lucky Chang’s, and eventually made our way to Otto’s Shrunken Head. Otto’s was still pretty new then, and Fisherman Trio had just started playing Exotica there on Monday nights.

Now, Mondays are slow nights anyway, but a newish bar, with a newish standing gig, on a night so freezing that Broadway has given up… Otto’s was dead. D-E-A-D dead. As we arrived, Fisherman was midway through their first set, played to an utterly empty back room. The only person in the entire place was the bartender up front. It must have been disheartening.

But then! Out of the cold come three strange women (that’s Inky, Leni and myself, if you’re slow on the uptake). These three women appeared out of nowhere, made a beeline for the back room, and didn’t turn around, they stayed! And they danced! And they KNEW THE WORDS! And they MADE REQUESTS!

Fisherman and his two bandmates played out the rest of their set, looking back and forth at each other with a definite “what the…??” look on their faces. At the break, we all shared our glee at spending such a cold, wintry night together, dancing and singing and reveling in tiki together. It was simply a magic night, and I hope they all remember it as fondly as I do.

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