the Piano Bar Blog
News and Stories from The Piano Bar

May 2011
« Feb   Jun »
Mykonos Was Different Then.
Filed under: General
Posted by: Nikos @ 6:35 am


This is a Post from :

Murder is Everywhere

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mykonos Was Different Then.

Mykonos wasn’t always like this. There were hard times, make that very hard times. The island once was among Greece’s most impoverished places. Mykonians literally starved to death during World War II. Then came the Greek Civil War.

In two weeks I’ll be back on Mykonos and promise to share with you as much as good taste will allow of present day life on that international jet set summer destination. But how did it came to pass that a community still guided by centuries-old church traditions and deeply held family values so effortlessly coexists amid the unstructured, freewheeling lifestyle of visiting summer hedonists?

I think the simplest way of telling the story of that transition is out of the archives of Dimitris Koutsoukos. As I described an earlier piece, Dimitri is a native Mykonian who has amassed a fascinating collection of photographs capturing the essence of the island, many of which are posted to music on YouTube videos available through this link.

Dimitris Koutsoukos amid the old and the new.

Dimitri, the photographs please…

These were the days that set the island’s modern day roots, when all Mykonians had was each other. It was the turn of the 20th Century.

Naturally, many lived off the sea and learned their skills from childhood.

Others survived as farmers.

Some depended on both.

Then came regular boat service linking the island to the mainland.

And with that tourists looking to experience traditional island life.

But one day a very famous visitor stepped ashore and forever changed the image of Mykonos.

International celebrity Petros the Pelican arrives with friend.

And glitz began to flock there.

Turning fishermen into guides.

Bringing energy to quiet beaches.

And, of course, making nice with the locals.

In the process each learned much from other.

Tourists how to dance…

…locals how to dress.

And they became friends.
It is a life to which I long to return.
Mykonians tolerating tourists
And for a musical understanding of the draw of Greece, check out this YouTube Video.

comments (0)
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.


comments (0)
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.
comments (0)
Tales of the Piano Bar, Part 3
Filed under: Tales of Montparnasse the Piano Bar of Mykonos
Posted by: Nikos @ 6:28 am

comments (0)