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Tales of the Piano Bar, Part 8: Guitar Blues, A Detective Story
Filed under: Tales of Montparnasse the Piano Bar of Mykonos
Posted by: Nikos @ 4:03 am

Tales of the Piano Bar, Part 8: Guitar Blues, A Detective Story

Telly Savalas as Kojak

Yes, it’s time for another story from Mykonos’ Montparnasse Piano Bar, the Greek Aegean’s own La Cage au Folles. For this one you need not lock up the children. It’s more on the order of a police procedural than bodice-ripper (so to speak). So, here’s a tale about how rowdy tourists can get to meet Mykonos’ finest, courtesy (in every way) of the Piano Bar’s creators, Nikos Hristodulakis and Jody Duncan. Go Jody.
Last month I wrote about the Piano Bar serving as the gathering place for many of the Shirley Valentine cast and crew during their 1988 filming on Mykonos. I also mentioned how when a less than organized props department forgot to bring along a guitar for Tom Conti’s seminal seduction scene with Pauline Collins we stepped into the breach and supplied what was necessary to get the job done.
The Famous Guitar
After the film was released, we proudly hung that guitar in the bar and told anyone who asked about it of its part in movie history.
One night a couple of young guys came into the bar with two attractive young women, grabbed the guitar off the wall, and started to play it. Nikos told them to put it back. He said the guitar was only for display, not use—especially when the pianist and singer were performing. The two were not happy, but they put it down, and the night went on as if everything were fine.
The next morning Nikos and I went to open the bar to prepare it for the evening and found the lock smashed and the door wide open. We went inside expecting to find the place looted and trashed. Oddly, everything seemed in place. Then I noticed the guitar was gone from the wall. We knew instantly what was up.
Nikos called the police and after telling them what had happened the night before they agreed the two guys must have broken in and taken the guitar. They told Nikos to keep an eye out for the suspects and to call the police station if he spotted them.
Not a suspect
That evening, after a long day with a carpenter and a locksmith, the bar was up and running again, sans one guitar. It was late into the night when the two girls from the night before came through the door acting just as bold as brass. They sat at the bar and before even ordering a drink said, “Where’s the guitar.”
Nikos told them, “Out for repair.”
The girls smiled and ordered two glasses of wine.
Nikos went into another room and called the police. They said to do nothing to raise the girls’ suspicions. Minutes later two cops in plainclothes came in and Nikos discreetly pointed out the girls. The cops sat at the bar nursing their beers until the women left. They followed them back to their pension, but decided to do nothing that night and to return in the morning.
The next day the police asked the owner of the pension if she’d seen a guitar in any of the rooms. She said that she hadn’t. The police described the two girls and the landlady recognized them, but when she showed the police their room there was no guitar to be found.
Then the landlady mentioned that the two girls had been in the company of two guys in another room who’d checked out that morning. When the police went to that room, bingo, there was the guitar. They’d left it behind, as if breaking and entering were just a prank one was free to do on holiday in a foreign country.
Checking Casablanca departures
The police returned the guitar to our bar and asked Nikos to come with them. They hoped he might be able to identify the two guys if they were trying to get off the island. First, Nikos and the cops went to the airport to check out passengers waiting for the morning’s only departing flight. No luck. From there it was off to the harbor and arranging for all passengers boarding a ferry bound to Pireaus to pass by Nikos one at a time. Still, no luck. The cops were discouraged but had one last suggestion: a drive along the harbor front cafés to see if Nikos might spot them there.
Sure enough, the two were sitting at a café calmly eating breakfast. The police stopped an inconspicuous distance away and returned to the café on foot. They stepped up to the guys’ table and told them to stay seated and make no sudden moves. The cops motioned for Nikos to come over, and as soon as he identified them they were arrested.
Nikos asked them what they thought they were doing breaking down a door, and they said they “only wanted to play the guitar.”
Midnight Express
One cop called it “A rather expensive gig, since now you have to pay for a new door and lock. That is, if you want to leave Greece instead of going to jail.” The two accepted the leave at once alternative, and after parting with virtually all their remaining drachmas, their passports were stamped persona non grata in Greece and they were turned over to the boat captain with instructions to release them only into the custody of the police who would be meeting the boat in Pireaus. No one seems to know what happened to the thieves after they got on that boat. Most likely they were met, taken to the airport, and put on a plane back to London. I wonder if Midnight Express was playing on their flight?
I still admire those Mykonos police of 1989 for their professional, quick, non-violent solution of a crime. I wonder what would happen today? Time for a drink.
For this month’s cocktail, let’s try our ever-popular Neon Twister. It’s perfect for a hot summer night. In a blender, add two scoops of ice. Add ¾ ounce each of Midori melon liqueur, peach schnapps, and white rum. Pour in two ounces each of orange Juice and pineapple juice. Pulse in a blender two or three times, just enough to mix and somewhat crack the ice cubes. Pour into a large glass and garnish with a pineapple wedge.
Thank you, Jody. I can’t wait for the movie.
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Tales of the Piano Bar, Part 7: The Silver Screen Comes to the Golden Island
Filed under: Tales of Montparnasse the Piano Bar of Mykonos
Posted by: Nikos @ 4:01 am

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The CockTales Of the Piano Bar
Filed under: Tales of Montparnasse the Piano Bar of Mykonos
Posted by: Nikos @ 6:55 pm

Our Tales are Published and Written with the Help And Creativity of our dear friend Jeffrey Siger in his Blog:

 For a reference to his Books

( Murder in Mykonos, Assassins of Athens and Prey on Patmos )

visit his Web-Site:

Our thanks to Jeffrey for giving life to our thoughts. He brings a coherence and a warm humor to our fuzzy memories of late.

Buy his books, he has grandchildren to spoil now!

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Don’t Lose Your Head Over the Holidays
Filed under: Tales of Montparnasse the Piano Bar of Mykonos
Posted by: Nikos @ 5:59 am

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Tales of the Piano Bar, Part 6: Don’t Lose Your Head Over the Holidays

San Juan Bautista, Joan de Joanes (cir.1560)
Pentecost falls fifty days after Easter, and in Greece it is always a huge holiday weekend. It was celebrated last Sunday and this year’s crowds on Mykonos were no exception. But this isn’t about Pentecost. Nor is it about Easter. It’s a tale told by Jody Duncan who, together with Nikos Hristodulakis, own Mykonos’ Montparnasse Piano Bar. Jody would like you to THINK his story has something to do with those most holy of days to the Greek Orthodox faithful, but I prefer to consider it simply further evidence of the sorts of minds putting the olive in your martini or umbrella in your mai-tai from behind the bar at the La Cage aux Folles of the Aegean. Jody, you’re on.

Jeffrey, this story is entirely appropriate for the season as it begins on Easter and ends around Pentecost.

A few years back we decided to have friends over to our house for Easter dinner rather than following our usual practice of being guests in their homes. But one friend insisted on contributing the lamb and he would not take no for an answer. So, a day or two before Easter, Adonis the Greek appeared at our door bearing his gift of an entire lamb, complete with its head wrapped separately in newspaper.

Okay, I get it, if you’re hosting Easter dinner in Greece there must be lamb. No ifs, no ands, no buts. But heads? Please.

I couldn’t bring myself to cook that thing, and didn’t even know how or where to begin getting a head ready for the oven. I did the only thing I could think of. I stuck it in the freezer. A non frost-free one I might add.

A couple of months later, in June around the time of Pentecost, I thawed the freezer and came across a parcel wrapped in newspaper. I’d forgotten all about it. Inside I found what looked to be the frosted, frozen head of John the Baptist.

That was all that remained of that poor unlucky lamb. And it was my fault it had ended up here rather than in its rightful place on the Easter table. I had to find some way to redeem myself. It was still early in the morning for Mykonos—around noon—and the performers crashing at our place from the night before were still asleep.

It was the perfect opportunity for my giving the little lamb a proper send off. Phyllis Pastore, our headline singer and an institution on the island, was just starting to wake up. I went to her bedroom and stood in the doorway, balancing the lamb’s head on my left shoulder. She was ignoring me and so I started softly humming a tune.

I waited until she’d opened her eyes but had not yet grasped the meaning of my visit. At that instant I stepped forward into her bedroom and in my best Paul Anka impression blared out the lyric I’d been humming, “Put your head on my shoulder…”

I was so proud of myself.

Phyllis had another view of things. She leaped out of bed with a scream that nearly brought the poor lamb back to life.

I was laughing so hard I was beginning to think the other head on my shoulder was laughing too.

Phyllis drew a deep breath to compose herself, and in a perfectly blasé Ethel Merman sort of way said, “Jody, if I were you, I’d keep the new one.”

[Ed. note: I always liked Phyllis’ style.]

Time for a drink, I think. Here’s what we at the Piano Bar call the Flirtini. It’s a lovely champagne cocktail, light in taste and perfect for warm summer evenings.

In a champagne flute, put one ounce elderflower liqueur (St. Germaine is the most well known brand) and 1/2 ounce lemon juice. Top with champagne and voilà you have a refreshing cocktail—and it’s gentle as a lamb.

Remember, that tail is not shaken so if your tastes run to tales that are I suggest SHAKEN: Stories for Japan.

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A Twisted Tale from the Piano Bar
Filed under: Tales of Montparnasse the Piano Bar of Mykonos
Posted by: Nikos @ 6:25 pm

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Twisted Tale from the Piano Bar

In case you ever wondered about the risks run to one’s mental state of spending virtually every waking hour during a six-month frenzied tourist season chatting up customers from behind the bar of a La Cage aux Folles-style cabaret, this story is for you. It comes straight from Jody Duncan who, together with Nikos Hristodulakis, owns Montparnasse Piano Bar on the Aegean Greek island of Mykonos. Jody’s tale is not for the politically correct. In fact, to call it “warped” or “nuts” would be far too kind. You are hereby warned to put aside any notions of common human decency for the maestro of the sicko genre has a story to tell. Take it away, my friend…and while you’re at it do so as far away from me as possible, s’il vous plait.

A Twisted Tale:

Thank you for that thoughtful introduction. Okay, I admit that this story involves my devilish mind at work but one of our waiters from back around the turn of the century put me up to it. The Piano Bar and Malcolm were a match made in show tune heaven. We featured Broadway and West End tunes and Malcolm loved the shows.

One night during a lull in the action Malcolm was standing by the bar lamenting on the state of Broadway musical theater. “Stop with the complaining already,” I said. “Let’s put our heads together and come up with a better idea.” And sure enough, in a matter of minutes we hit upon an extravaganza that could change Broadway forever: a musical based on the life of the Schappell twins, born Lori and Dori.
For those of you who do not know, they are sisters conjoined at the head and facing in different directions. Before you pickup those pitchforks and start coming after me at the bar let me give you a bit of background on the twins. They were born in 1961 in Reading, Pennsylvania. When a court determined that their parents were unable to care for them they were placed in a home for the severely mentally disabled, though neither had that disability, and remained there until twenty-four when freed through the efforts of the wife of the then governor of Pennsylvania.
The sisters went on to college and Dori, who always wanted to be a country western singer, legally changed her name to Reba to honor her idol, Reba McIntyre. In 1997 the new Reba won the L.A. music award for best new country artist. Reba also designed specialized equipment for persons with disabilities, including her own wheelchair, and was a trophy-winning bowler. She now prefers to be called George and was introduced as such in 2007 when the sisters participated in the grand opening of “Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium” in New York City’s Times Square.
Lori, the more outspoken of the sisters, works part time in a hospital laundry…but takes time off to attend her sister’s concerts. They are advocates for what the handicapped can achieve and are widely interviewed.
Yes, the Schappell sisters are extraordinary people, persons to genuinely admire, but I promise you neither Malcolm nor I had any of that in mind while we flirted with songs for our musical masterpiece—and eternal damnation for the effort.
Here’s just a sampling of our proposed repertoire:
You Go to My Head (“And you linger like a haunting refrain, and I find you spinning round in my brain.”).
Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You (“You’re just too good to be true…You’d be like Heaven to touch.”).
Miss Celie’s Blues (Sister), from the film The Color Purple (“Sister, you’ve been on my mind, sister, we’re two of a kind, so, sister, I’m keepin’ my eye on you.”).
Together (“Wherever we go, whatever we do, we’re gonna go through it together.”).
I’m sure you get the idea, and by now are eying those pitchforks. But don’t you agree that sometimes the devil just won’t let you let go of whatever crazy idea’s got a hold of you? And the devil had me this time. Again.
The more Malcolm and I bantered back and forth the more we cried out in wicked, perverted joy over this evil, musical stroke of genius. Then I came up with the number for the finale destined to win us a Tony: You’ll Never Walk Alone!
Or perhaps the show should close with George’s performance (as Reba) singing Fear of Being Alone over the credits of the comedy Stuck on You starring Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear as conjoined twins?
Why do I sense I should just stop right here and get on to this month’s recipe for one of our world famous cocktails? I guess because you deserve a bit of good taste after enduring such a large dose of the other.
Here’s our Double Espresso Martini, guaranteed to both slap you in the face and make you turn the other cheek. In a cocktail shaker half filled with ice, add 1 ½ ounces vodka, ½ ounce espresso coffee liqueur, ¼ ounce creme de cocoa, ½ ounce Kahlua coffee liqueur, one shot espresso, one splash of simple syrup, and shake very well. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a cinnamon stick.
Thank you, Jody. I think.

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Tales of the Piano Bar, Part 4
Filed under: Tales of Montparnasse the Piano Bar of Mykonos
Posted by: Nikos @ 6:30 am

Tales of the Piano Bar, Part 4

It’s the third Saturday of the month and time again for another story from Mykonos’ Montparnasse Piano Bar, the Greek Aegean’s own La Cage au Folles. For those who haven’t read the bar’s first three tales, over the past thirty years the Piano Bar is where tourists and locals go to see and be the characters making up Mykonos’ legendary 24/7 in-season lifestyle. The Piano Bar is the creation of Nikos Hristodulakis and Jody Duncan, and they’re behind the bar every night. This story is told by Jody, followed by a recipe for their classic Elizabeth Taylor’s Eyes cocktail, named in honor of the film legend who inspired what this tale is all about.

Tale Four: The Camel and the Movie Star.

The recent passing of the great Miss T reminded me of this story, and with her legendary sense of humor, I think she’d have laughed too.

In the early days of The Piano Bar we actually served as a library of sorts—emphasis on the “sorts.” Two friends of ours were the on-island representatives for what I’ll call Happy Time Tours and if any of the company’s vacationing clients wanted to swap one book for another, the Piano Bar was the place to do it. We were also the venue for the company’s nightly “duty hour,” when at least one of our friends had to be there to assist clients and listen to their complaints. Our friends euphemistically called it “the bitching hour.”

It was around my third or fourth season of eavesdropping on the bitching when I noticed the girls had become a bit bored by it all. They’d been fielding the same questions and complaints for almost as long as I’d been telling the same jokes. So, I decided to take it upon myself to lighten things up for them.

I suggested to one, let’s call her Brenda, “Why don’t we start a rumor and see how quickly it makes it around the island.” Obviously, Brenda was as devilishly mischievous as I because she leaped at the idea.

Now, it was the spring of 1989 and billionaire Malcolm Forbes (of Forbes Magazine) had just hosted a mega 70th birthday party for himself at his palatial residence in Tangier. He’d chartered a Boeing 747 to fly his guests to Morocco and enlisted the aid of his great friend, Elizabeth Taylor, as hostess for the party. The event was all over the news.

Eureka, inspiration for a far-fetched tall-tale to come.

But we needed the right person to get it rolling. Brenda wasn’t the sort to do this and no one would believe the story if it came from me. [Ed. You don’t say.] A little while later Brenda’s co-worker, let’s call her Susie, came in to cover duty hour.

BINGO! It sort of went like this.
Me: Susie, did you hear the news?

Susie: No, do tell!

Me: Elizabeth Taylor is on the island.

Susie: You’re joking!

Me: NO, she’s here, really. She was in Tangier for Malcolm Forbes’ 70th birthday party. Michael Jackson was there, too, and Michael gave Malcolm a camel for a present. Malcolm didn’t want to keep it, so he gave it to Elizabeth who had it shipped with her to Mykonos. She arrived here yesterday. Today, she was on Psarou [Ed. The chicest beach on Mykonos] riding the camel up and down the beach. It was hilarious!

Susie: Really? On a camel?
Me: Yes, really. From what my friends told me she was there most of the afternoon.

Susie: Well, I’ll have to see this for myself.

The next evening I’m behind the bar, Brenda is on a barstool, and in walks Susie.

Susie: Jody, I went to Psarou today and Liz Taylor was not on the beach, and neither was her camel!

Me: I know, with all the talk around town about her being here, Psarou was crawling with tourists. So, today she went to Plati Yialos. [Ed. A beach beyond Psarou] It’s a bigger beach and she could ride there without people taking too much notice.
Susie: Of course, that was a much better idea. I’m going to find her tomorrow if it’s the last thing I do. Brenda, we have flights to meet tomorrow, but after we get the clients settled into the hotels, I’m going to the beach to find Liz.

Needless to say, Brenda and I had to dig extraordinarily deeply into our professional pranksters’ pride not to lose it completely, but not even the glimmer of a smile crossed our faces.

The next day Brenda and Susie were with clients at the airport when an Irish fellow who considered himself the omniscient one when it came to what was happening on the island [Ed. There are many such sorts] literally ran over shouting, “Susie, do you know who’s on the island?”

“Elizabeth Taylor, and she’s got a camel with her,” said Susie.

He gave an all-knowing smile. “Yes, I know, and what’s more, I know which hotel she’s staying at! She’s at the Rochari in room 202!”

That night Brenda came into the bar ahead of Susie and told me what happened at the airport. I laughed so hard I think that’s how I got my hernia. Our non-scientific, but none-the-less carefully planned and executed, experiment proved that it takes no more than two days for the most wild-ass, unbelievable rumor to become fact on Mykonos.

And yes, when Susie stopped in later we told her the truth. She wasn’t happy at being made the stooge—though I did buy her a drink, make that several—and she definitely saw the humor in our little test. But, to be honest, to this day I don’t think she believes a word I tell her. [Ed. And I’m sure you wonder why.]

There is no cocktail better suited to this tale than our own favorite Elizabeth Taylor’s Eyes. It’s a simple martini, delicate in flavor, and specific in color:

In a mixing glass, add two or three drops of Blue Curacao. Add two ounces of vodka, a healthy handful of ice cubes, and give it all a couple of stirs. Next, holding the glass at eye level, carefully add and stir in a bit of cranberry juice. The amount should be small, and you can gradually add more as necessary. This is the crucial point, for you want to add just enough to give the drink a pale violet color to match the color of Liz’s eyes. Mix well to chill, and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon and offer up a toast in tribute to the magnificent Miss T!

The proprietors.

Thanks, guys.


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Tales of the Piano Bar, Part 3
Filed under: Tales of Montparnasse the Piano Bar of Mykonos
Posted by: Nikos @ 6:28 am

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Tales of the Piano Bar, Part 3

It’s the third Saturday of the month and Mykonos’ Montparnasse Piano Bar, the Greek Aegean’s own La Cage aux Folles, is back again with another story. For those who may not have read the bar’s first two tales, over the past thirty years the Piano Bar is where tourists and locals go to see and be the characters making up Mykonos’ legendary 24/7 in-season lifestyle. In the off-season, the bar’s sole purpose is to provide stories for this blog.

The Piano Bar is the creation of Nikos Hristodulakis and Jody Duncan, and they’re behind the bar every night, but this story comes straight off the piano stool. David Dyer, pianist extraordinaire of Aspen and Mykonos fame, is truly a caring guy though you might not think so from this story. Nor may it put you in the mood for a cocktail, but as a new “tail” is promised with every Piano Bar old tale, in honor of St. Patrick’s day there is a suitably green Grasshopper chaser for the story.

Speaking of green…as seems to be more and more the case with Piano Bar tales a word of caution is in order. If you’re of the squeamish sort, not given to thoughts of the purpose for that little bag in the pocket of the airplane seat in front of you, then perhaps you should skip the story and go straight to the booze. Then again this story is all about booze. And music. Play on, David.

Montparnasse Piano Bar Tale #3: “The Mysterious Performer,” as told by David Dyer from behind his piano trying to ignore Jody and Nikos making faces at him from behind the bar.

Piano Man David Dyer
I’ve spent more than half my life performing in glitzy, resort area piano bars and like to think that I’ve developed a Zen-like acceptance of whatever might be going on about me as I play. Yes, there are those who come to hear me, but I do not work in Carnegie Hall, so accommodation must be made for those who come to find a good time in drink, or a still better one in true love (good luck).

But then there are those nights when everything goes so uncontrollably haywire you simply don’t know what’s going to happen next.

Kathy “Babe” Robinson
This past June I was accompanying the wonderful Kathy “Babe” Robinson at the Piano Bar. We were into the 1 AM set and Kathy was doing a quiet ballad when a ruckus broke out at a table diagonally across from her. She kept on singing but during my instrumental part leaned over and muttered, “Some woman’s puking in the middle of the table.”

I smiled and said, “Everyone’s a critic.”

Kathy laughs at the pop of a cork, so it was a miracle she held it to a giggle as she struggled to finish her song, now a duet of sorts with a bent over and retching lady. Frankly, I was surprised the entire room didn’t lose it to laughter. It was one of those helpless, beyond schadenfreude moments where no matter how sympathetic you may be to the sufferer (albeit self-induced), you just can’t keep it together.

At the end of Kathy’s ballad she leaned over to me and said, “Let’s do ‘Somewhere That’s Green’ from Little Shop of Horrors.”

Now, I take great pride in my warped sense of humor, but this was beyond the pale/pail. I said, “’Green,’ as in puke? Are you nuts? That’s just too tacky and obvious. We can’t do that.”

And since I wouldn’t go along with her, she had to sing a different number. Or rather Kathy and the still retching lady sang another.

I looked around the room. Everyone, including the waiters, was fighting not to laugh, except for Jody and Nikos who had given in completely and were rolling on the floor out of sight behind the bar. The only ones in the place not showing the slightest bit of giddiness were the retching lady and her friends. They kept handing her napkins as if nothing were wrong. The scene was so surreal I could hardly concentrate on the keys.

When Kathy finished her song I said, “What the hell, let’s do it, we’ve lost the audience anyway.”

A word about the audience: the Piano Bar is where Broadway and West End performers hang out on the island with others into show tunes. So, when I started to play the lead-in to “Somewhere That’s Green,” there was a sudden hush followed by a fit of laughter from those who knew what was coming.

Call it coincidence, but at that precise moment the woman’s friends decided the time had come to leave the bar. Two men helped her up. I’d only seen her bowed over at the table and when she stood, or rather was lifted, she was not as I had imagined. She was in her late sixties, elegantly dressed, and sophisticated in appearance—except for the wobbliest pair of legs I’d ever seen. The men desperately tried to keep her from falling as they steered her toward the door.

They’d just reached Kathy when she sang the line, “Somewhere that’s green.” The woman made the men pause, and stared at Kathy, as if daring her to sing on, which of course she did: “There’s plastic on the furniture to keep it neat and clean in the pine sol scented air.”

With that perfectly placed lyrical observation on the evening so far, the woman’s face lit up in the widest ear-to-ear grin you could imagine. I’d never seen a happier looking person in all my life.

I lost it, Kathy lost it, the whole place lost it. But that was not the woman’s exit line. That moment came at the front door where she’d paused again, waiting for Kathy to laugh her way into the big finish, final lyric, “A picture out of Better Homes and Gardens magazine far from Skid Row…”

At that instant the “far from skid row” lady punctuated her farewell with a broad wave to a now utterly hysterical crowd and disappeared into the night. Dead drunk or not, the lady hadn’t lost her timing. As for who she was…

STOP!!! Sorry folks, but this is Jody interrupting to say, “What happens on Mykonos, stays on Mykonos.” As a consolation, though, here’s Nikos’ Montparnasse Grasshopper recipe:
Use a cocktail shaker or a blender. Both produce fantastic cocktails, but the blender version is larger, thicker, frothier, and not as strong in taste as the shaker version. For both methods the ingredients are the same: 1 ½ ounces green creme de menthe, 1 ½ ounces white creme de cocoa, and 1 ½ ounces milk or half and half.
For the shaker version fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice cubes, add the ingredients, shake well, and strain into a cocktail glass (a large martini glass looks great). Garnish with a green maraschino cherry on the side of the glass, but a red one will do nicely. For the blender version, add the ingredients to a half-cup of ice cubes, blend until smooth, and pour into a large margarita or daiquiri-style glass. And don’t forget the cherry.
Thanks, guys–I think.
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Tales of the Piano Bar, Part 3
Filed under: Tales of Montparnasse the Piano Bar of Mykonos
Posted by: Nikos @ 6:28 am

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Back to Our Home Page
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Posted by: Nikos @ 6:40 pm


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Mykonos CockTales
Filed under: Tales of Montparnasse the Piano Bar of Mykonos
Posted by: Nikos @ 6:24 pm

             Tails of the Piano Bar

Montparnasse Piano Bar, Mykonos, Greece
Plus Tales.
During tourist season it seems at times that the entire world is on holiday on Mykonos.  Age, race, gender, ethnicity, national origin, or sexual preference makes no difference; that Aegean Greek island is popping for everyone.  But of all the nightspots catering to the myriad sorts contributing to Mykonos’ 24/7 in season lifestyle, just one brings everyone together.  For thirty years, tourists, locals, yachters, Broadway and West End performers, have flocked to the Piano Bar, now located amid the narrow lanes of Little Venice as the Quartier Latin-style Montparnasse Piano Bar sitting at the edge of the sea across a bay from Mykonos’ signature windmills.
Little Venice at sunset
Steve Allen and Jane Meadows
It is the Aegean’s “La Cage au Folles,” sans dancers, for here it’s all about cabaret.  And if you think that guest from the audience who did a song or two seemed familiar, you may be right, for between sunset and two in the morning—when everyone’s off to continue the night in the island’s ‘til sunrise clubs and discos—the Piano Bar is a must stop for visiting musical theater folk.
Nikos and Jody, Proprietors
The Piano Bar is the creation of Nikos Hristodulakis and Jody Duncan, and they’re behind the bar every night, amassing more stories than O’Henry.  I’ve been trying for a while to persuade them to share some tales, hopefully the juicier ones.  They’ve agreed to test the waters, so here’s their first one, chased with a recipe for one of their most popular cocktails.
Montparnasse Piano Bar Tale #1:  “The Red Hot Mama,” as told by a blond Jody leaning over the bar and ignoring the dark-haired Niko making faces behind him.
Mykonos’ Grand Diva, Phyllis Pastore
The place was dead.  It emptied out right after Phyllis’ midnight set.  That happens sometimes.  No matter, it will fill up for her one o’clock gig.  Everybody loves her here.  Some say they come to Mykonos “just to see Phyllis.”  And she believes them.  She should, she’s the Grand Diva of the island when it comes to cabaret and loves to accessorize her songs with props­–none more famous than her bright-yellow foam rubber, McGuire sisters’-style wig and trumpet-shape, silver kazoo.  The kazoo is reserved for her nonpareil performance of “Dr. Jazz,” the Dixieland staple written by Joe “King” Oliver in 1926 and covered by such other notables as Jelly Roll Morton and Harry Connick, Jr.—but none with quite the style of our Phyllis.
So, there I am talking to one of the waiters, and thinking about what kind of mischief I could get into to kill time, when he asks if Phyllis is going to do Dr. Jazz in her next set.   That got me to thinking about Dixieland, which led to thoughts of New Orleans, and on to the subject of…Tabasco!
The scene of the crime
Phyllis was outside the front door talking to some fans, so I told the waiter to grab the kazoo from her basket of props in front of the piano.  With one eye on the door I soaked the mouthpiece in Tabasco and had it back in the basket before she was back inside the bar.  Now it was only a matter of time.  I couldn’t wait to see her face.
But as the set wore on no one shouted up a request for Dr. Jazz and Phyllis hadn’t even glanced at the kazoo.  This was not looking good.  How could I get her to sing?  I used the old standby.  Cash.  An anonymous written request accompanied by 500 drachmas to the piano player for Phyllis to perform Dr. Jazz guaranteed that kazoo would soon be heading toward her lips.
By now I couldn’t restrain myself and had shared my brilliant plan with several regulars sitting at the bar [“With me too,” says Niko waving from behind].  To be honest, most were horrified and thought it childish…but if the shoe fits… Besides, even the most critical were fascinated at how Phyllis would respond.  After all, she was Italian.  And not a word of warning went out from the crowd.
So, on went the wig, and out came the lyrics for Dr. Jazz, “Hello Central give me Dr. Jazz…” At the point where the lyrics took a break and the piano player took over, Phyllis did as she always did, told the audience that she wanted to be part of the band and picked up her kazoo.
I’m in stitches, almost convulsions.  Here it comes.  The eruption is about to blow, we’re all going to be dead for sure, but what a way to go….  You guessed it, absolutely nothing happened.  Tepotah.  Phyllis played her kazoo as she always did with not even a twitch of discomfort across her angelic face.
“Curses, foiled again!”
When she’d finished, she calmly and deliberately put the wig and kazoo away, picked up the microphone and said to the packed house, “When I’m in Mykonos I stay with Jody and Niko.  Well, one of my roommates, no doubt the nasty blond one, must have thought it would be funny to pepper up my kazoo.”  She cleared her throat.  “Would someone please tell him that, yes, it did burn my lips, but there was no way I was going to give him the satisfaction of a reaction.  At least not now.  Please tell the convulsing gentleman behind the bar that, payback will be hell, and he’d best sleep with one eye open for the rest of his practical joking life!”
Good conquers evil
That took place more sleepless years back than I care to remember and I’ve matured since then [please take notice of Niko in the background rolling his eyes], so I wish to make a (Tabasco free) peace offering to our still dear friend and performing star.  For the first time anywhere Niko and I are revealing our “ultra-secret” recipe for Phyllis’ favorite cocktail, the Montparnasse Piano Bar Chocolate Martini.  Ours is clear—not one of those dark and creamy concoctions you find elsewhere—so it passes as a regular martini, but one taste and you’ll never go back to the others.
Montparnasse Piano Bar Tail #1, the Chocolate Martini:
Start with a chilled martini glass and roll the lip in powdered cocoa or chocolate.
Fill a martini pitcher or mixing glass halfway with ice.
Add 3 ounces of Vodka, along with 1 ounce of White Crème de Cacao (both clear spirits).
Stir well and strain into the rimmed martini glass.
Drop in a chocolate covered almond as a final treat at the end, but no fingers allowed, you must drink your way to the bottom.
Thanks, fellas, see you next month.
Jeff — Saturday
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Mykonos CockTales, Part 2
Filed under: Tales of Montparnasse the Piano Bar of Mykonos
Posted by: Nikos @ 4:22 pm


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Tales of the Piano Bar, Part 2

By popular demand, here is another cabaret story (and cocktail) from Mykonos’ Montparnasse Piano Bar, the Greek Aegean’s own La Cage au Folles, sans dancers.  This is where the ages, races, genders, ethnicities, national origins, and sexual preferences that make up Mykonos’ legendary 24/7 in season lifestyle gather amid other tourists, locals, yachters, Broadway and West End performers, for one hell of a good time—as they have for thirty years.
Ancient archival photograph
The Piano Bar is the creation of Nikos Hristodulakis and Jody Duncan, and they’re behind the bar every night, amassing more stories than O’Henry.  They shared one with us here about a month ago and, as death threats stayed to a minimum, they’re daring to venture out with a second accompanied, of course, by another of their dynamite cocktail recipes.
One word—so to speak—of caution.  There is a punch line word to this story that I never use in my writing.  Not because I dislike it by any means, but because to some its use is offensive and I respect that.  Still, this is not my story and its use is seminal to another’s tale, therefore I cannot bring myself to serve as censor.  However, in fairness to the sensitivity of others, I feel compelled to alert those who may not chose to go further, WARNING “FELINE” AHEAD.
Montparnasse Piano Bar Tale #2:  “The Sneaky Snake,” as told by a blond Jody leaning over the bar and ignoring the dark-haired Niko (still) making faces behind him.
Mykonos’ Little Venice
Each season very talented, some might say offbeat, entertainers stop by the Piano Bar for a surprise guest appearance or two.  And we love it when they do, especially Niko.  It makes him feel normal.  A few years back, we decided to book a duo of “unique” professional entertainers as headliners for a September gig.  George Sanders, the vocalist of the duo, specializes in comedy and most of his songs revolve around characters he created and intricate costumes to match.  His partner, Shawn Curran, can best be described as George’s “accompanist,” but theirs is not a children’s party act and Shawn is not the traditional sort of accompanist.
Their most famous routine, Sneaky Snake, involves a costume capable of concealing Shawn beneath and behind George, for in the midst of George’s delightful vocal performance, Sneaky Snake makes his unexpected appearance through George’s until then decidedly open but unnoticed fly—manipulated by none other than Shawn the skillful.  Need I say more?  Of course I must.  Shawn’s Sneaky Snake puppetry involves certain creative hand manipulations in George’s nether regions that still have me laughing every time I think of them.
George, Shawn, and Sneaky
George and Shawn quickly became an established hit on Mykonos.  One night they arrived about an hour before scheduled to go on.  Shawn went to spend the time sitting outside, while George sat at the bar exchanging stories with Niko.  Unbeknownst to any of us, in that brief interlude away from George Shawn found true love, in the angelic form of a three-month old cuddle-bunny of a neighborhood kitten (if you can say that for a kitten).  It was a mutual love affair; so much so that by the time for Shawn to prepare George to go on, kitty was draped across his shoulder sound asleep.
Scene of the assignation
Not wanting to disturb his new amore, sleepy-on-the-shoulder stayed on Shawn as he went inside and set up George in his Sneaky Snake costume.  Now it was time for the act to begin but still kitty snoozed.  Shawn did the only thing he could, he went on with the show, carefully keeping kitty hidden from the audience behind George’s backside.  Once again they brought down the house.
A star is born
At the conclusion of their act, George and Shawn dismantle their costume in front of the audience to reveal the “secret” of Sneaky Snake’s masterful manipulations.  This time Shawn’s shoulder unexpectedly fell under a spotlight, catching an irresistible, golden kitten draped across it.  At that precise moment kitty chose to rouse, yawn, stretch, and return to her place on Shawn’s shoulder.
The applause and cheers for George and Shawn quickly turned to love-smitten awwwwwws for the newest member of their troupe.
Timing being one of George’s strong suits, he waited until miss kitty and the crowd had reached a state of shared karmic bliss before quipping, “First time I’ve ever been upstaged by a pussy! And, my God, I actually enjoyed it!”
That’s all folks, but for those still reading, here’s the Sneaky Snake’s favorite Montparnasse Piano Bar cocktail, The Hypnotic Martini:  Mix 1 ½  ounces vodka, 1 ounce Hpnotiq liqueur, and 1 ounce lemon sour mix or sweetened lemon juice together in an ice filled cocktail shaker.   Shake well and strain into a chilled martini glass.  Garnish with a twist of lemon.
And by the way, here’s the link to George’s and Shawn’s Sneaky Snake Films website…if you dare…
Thanks, guys—and I’ll forward the emails to you.
Jeff — Saturday
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