The Greek Island
by Stuart Haggas
To watch a video postcard
of Mykonos from our friends Ken and Mario click
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
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 Pierros, 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 islands first gay bar was
opened in 1973 by Italian-American artist Pierro Aversa
and Mykonos native Andreas Koutsoukos. Called Pierros,
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, Pierros
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. Its often
said that Pierros 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, Pierros 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.
Pierros remained the pulse of
Mykonos gay scene throughout the eighties, nineties,
and noughtiesuntil the shocking news in 2007 that
the lease on the building had expired and Pierros
suddenly closed. This revelation was followed by a game
of gay bar Tetris. Manto closed and was rebranded and
reopened in 2008 as Pierros, just in time to celebrate
its 35th anniversary (albeit next door to where it had
all begun). Meanwhile, the site of the original Pierros
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 islands most photogenic locations. Little
Venice is full of lovely little bars with wooden verandas
hanging directly over the sea, and its 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.
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 isnt a gay nightclub.
If you cant 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 islands
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. Its
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
Daytimes are inevitably spent on one
of the islands 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 youll
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 thats 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, its no longer the
scene it used to be; voyeurs and exhibitionists will
be disappointed to learn that nudity isnt as prevalent.
Situated just behind the gay half of the beach, Super
Bar lounge and café serves cocktails, beer,
snacks, and light lunches.