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Tales of an Original VIP Hostess for Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room


One of the forum members of Tiki Central finally convinced his stepmom, Diana Lai, to tell her story of how she became one of the original VIP Hostess’ for Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room. That’s Diane facing the camera in a postcard for Tiki Room (above).

I returned to be interviewed by Walt Disney himself! He told me all about his latest achievement, Audio-Animatronics, and said that he needed a VIP hostess to inform important visitors to the Magic Kingdom about the workings of the Tiki Room, his newest project “baby” in Adventureland. At the conclusion of the long interview, he said he liked two things about me: that I had background experience through hula that gave me understanding of the culture and Hawaiian language of the tikis in the Lanai patio behind the juice bar of the Tiki Room, and that I was educated and articulate enough for him to personally train to introduce his “baby” to special guests at his theme park. I was very flattered that he also thought me a “pretty little miss” suitable for his newest project. The show was originally planned to be walk-through in a restaurant setting, but the adjacent Tahitian Terrace was refurbished, and the Enchanted Tiki Room was developed as a separate attraction.

Needless to say for a 19-year old, I drove home floating on air about getting to talk to Walt Disney in person. I saw him on television every Sunday night. The next day I got a phone call asking me to report to Operations as soon as possible to sign a contract. I had been earning 95ยข an hour as hostess at 5 Lanterns, a Chinese restaurant, so I was thrilled to be offered $2.00 an hour, if I were to pay Teamster dues. That powerful union controlled the ride operators, and even after dues, that was a huge increase in wages for me.

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6 thoughts on “Tales of an Original VIP Hostess for Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room”

  1. Thanks to Diana Lai for this glimpse into history, both of Disney and her own personal history. It was a truly remarkable read.

    Thanks for sharing it with all of us John!

  2. I wish more rides at hosts and hostesses that could explain some of the background of the rides.

    There are times when I know more about the rides than the operators!

  3. This is a great story and thank you for sharing. I worked at the Tiki room for a year and it’s just not the same without the original show. You can see how guests respond to the “In The Tiki Room” song with smiles and claps and then once Iago comes out they get annoyed!

    But I would have loved to have seen the Tiki Room back in all its glory!

  4. John,

    Thanks for pointing us to that fabulous recounting by Diana Lai.

    After reading it, I started to wonder how many CMs would survive if instant terminations were still handed out for what may seem as minor infranctions of dress code or cleanliness

  5. I hear you, Elizabeth! I’ve only been back to WDW once since 12 years ago and was very perturbed by what they’d done to “The Enchanted Tiki Room”. The addition of the brash, loudmouth Iago seems completely indicative of the Michael Eisner mindset that was in full force at the time. Under Eisner’s direction, Disney seemed like a company not comfortable in its own skin, wanting desperately to distance itself from its more charming past by indulging in hip, ironic humour. I wish it could return to its gentler, more innocent original format.

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