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The Greek Island
MYKONOS

by Stuart Haggas


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To watch a video postcard of Mykonos from our friends Ken and Mario click here.

Said to be named after Mykons, the grandson of the god Apollo, the Greek island of Mykonos is a legend in its own right. The ancient Greek celebration of homosexuality and male beauty, and their penchant for decadence and debauchery, still flourish here during the midsummer heat. Famous for its idyllic clothing-optional beaches and hedonistic gay bars, this jewel in the Aegean Sea is the stuff of folklore.

Taking a water-taxi from Platis Yialos to Super Paradise last summer, our little vessel navigated around a vast yacht anchored in the bay of Paradise Beach. Painted a shadowy shade of black, it resembled a sinister military stealth boat. The group of young Italians beside me were nevertheless taking photos of it with their iPhones, adamant that it was in fact Main, the brand new mega-yacht of fashion superstar Giorgio Armani. Mykonos, however, is an island of many myths, not all of them true. The previous evening in Agia Kiriaki square in Mykonos Town, I had spotted Matthew Williamson, the British fashion designer who counts the likes of Kiera Knightley and Mischa Barton as fans, suggesting Mykonos might be back on the fashion radar. Then that night, outside famous gay bar Pierro’s, there was a sudden change in atmosphere: a collective intake of breath that heralded the arrival of signor Armani himself, immaculately dressed and accessorized by an impressive entourage. With other celebrity sightings last summer, including actress and hip-hop recording artist Queen Latifah and hunky Australian actor Hugh Jackman, it seems that Mykonos is once again in vogue.

Celebrity and Mykonos first became bedfellows in the early 1960s, when Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onasis would arrive from Athens on his luxury yacht with his guests, including opera legend Maria Callas and former First Lady and future Mrs. Onasis, Jackie Kennedy. Film stars like Sofia Loren, Grace Kelly, Gregory Peck, and Brigitte Bardot gave the island their celebrity endorsement, and Mykonos became a fixture on the international jet set circuit.

The island’s first gay bar was opened in 1973 by Italian-American artist Pierro Aversa and Mykonos native Andreas Koutsoukos. Called Pierro’s, this intimate little bar made a big impact on the island and beyond. While some gay bars are clandestine, hidden behind unmarked doors in dark alleyways, Pierro’s liked to put on a show: its small, chalk white terrace overlooking Matogianni Street and Agia Kiriaki square became the hottest place to be seen. It’s often said that Pierro’s was instrumental in defining the profile of Mykonos’ evolving nightlife scene, attracting as it did a stylish mix of elite European and American gays and handsome young Greeks, all making fashion statements with big Bee Gees-style hair, flamboyant mustaches, tight white designer jeans, and tons of silver jewelry to complement golden tans. Despite the throng of gorgeous models, actors, fashion designers, and drag queens, Pierro’s remained a friendly and welcoming place. In fact, I learned that Pierro himself would often cook and serve free food to his friends and customers on what became known as “Spaghetti Tuesdays.” With the opening of Manto next door and Icaros upstairs, this queer empire grew, Agia Kiriaki square earned the nickname “gay square,” and the legend of Mykonos as a gay destination gained momentum around the world.

Pierro’s remained the pulse of Mykonos’ gay scene throughout the eighties, nineties, and noughties—until the shocking news in 2007 that the lease on the building had expired and Pierro’s suddenly closed. This revelation was followed by a game of gay bar Tetris. Manto closed and was rebranded and reopened in 2008 as Pierro’s, just in time to celebrate its 35th anniversary (albeit next door to where it had all begun). Meanwhile, the site of the original Pierro’s was refurbished and reopened as a new gay venue called Coffee Cat. Opening early to serve breakfast, fresh brewed coffee, and organic snacks, it stays open late for cocktails.

Another long-established gay bar is Montparnasse Piano Bar in Little Venice, one of the island’s most photogenic locations. Little Venice is full of lovely little bars with wooden verandas hanging directly over the sea, and it’s a Mykonos tradition to gather around here at dusk to watch the sunset. Montparnasse is a friendly queer place to enjoy this tradition. Once the sun has set, guest entertainers take to the stage to belt out classic showtunes. Acclaimed New York-based cabaret diva Phyllis Pastore has been a regular performer here since 1993, accompanied by various other American expats including pianist David Dyer. Nearby Kastro Bar is a popular alternative for sunset cocktails. A new arrival on the gay scene in 2008 was Jackie O’. Picturesquely situated on the waterfront, it features lounge music accompanied by champagne and cocktails.

Meanwhile, the entertainment is more raucous at Ramrod Club, where a roster of outlandish drag acts and sexy go-go boys raises the temperature. Its upstairs terrace, overlooking Taxi Square, is a great vantage point.

CLICK FOR SLIDESHOW OF MYKONOS

Hidden away in the maze of narrow alleyways near the waterfront, Porta is a series of tiny interconnecting rooms that quickly fill up with friendly locals and tourists, and so the action inevitably spreads outdoors. More cruisy than other Mykonos gay bars, it soon became my favorite watering hole.

The surprising omission from Mykonos’ gay scene is that there isn’t a gay nightclub. If you can’t survive without dancing, then you could head to Cavo Paradiso, the famous megaclub on the rocks above Paradise Beach, where internationally renowned DJs play house music, and the youthful crowd parties beneath the stars until sunrise. Many gay men will find a nocturnal stroll around the island’s most famous church more rewarding. Panagia Paraportiani is a cluster of five chapels built during the 16th and 17th centuries. Of the 600+ churches on the island, this one is the most famous and most photographed. It’s also the scene of some serious, after hours gay cruising.

Founder of the Mr. Gay Greece and Mr. Gay Cyprus competitions, and publisher of the new Mykonos Gay Guide (www.mykonosgayguide.gr), Paul Sofianos told me his favorite times to visit the island are for Orthodox Easter and during June and September. “I never visit Mykonos in August,” he explained. “Too many people who love to gossip, and too many straight tourists.”

Daytimes are inevitably spent on one of the island’s idyllic beaches. One reason why Mykonos has such lovely beaches is that they require a modicum of effort to get to them. If you want to escape the hype and glamour that fuels Mykonos, there are isolated beaches on the north of the island where you’ll find blissful peace and solitude.

For most visitors, however, going to the beach is yet another excuse to see and be seen, which is why most head for the buzzy southern beaches. The most famous gay beach on the island (and one of the most famous gay beaches in the world) is the splendidly named Super Paradise. The traditional way of getting to Super Paradise is to first take a local bus from the terminal in Fabrica Square to the small resort of Platis Yialos; then from here take a caïque, a local fishing boat that’s been converted into a water-taxi. Super Paradise is usually the third stop, after Paraga and Paradise. Although gay men still favor the west half of this beach, it’s no longer the scene it used to be; voyeurs and exhibitionists will be disappointed to learn that nudity isn’t as prevalent. Situated just behind the gay half of the beach, Super Bar lounge and café serves cocktails, beer, snacks, and light lunches.

Continued
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Have been here in Mykonos for 2 months now and have met so many people from all over the world. The nightlife runs late, about 4am but the days are filled with rest, relaxation a nice dinner before watching the sunset, then off to the clubs again. FUN!
- Ken , Idyllwild, California USA

Perfect timing on this report! I am on the Atlantis cruise in August and one of the ports of call is Mykonos. Now I can use my limited time to get the most out of the visit. Thanks.
- Michael Jones , Simi Valley, CA

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