Saturday, August 20, 2011

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.



  1. Residents left goods to be shipped, with money for payment, by the roadside, to be picked up by truckers winding through the mountains. Tourists put a stop to that. So sad.

  2. I remember similar times growing up in my neighborhood in Pittsburgh. Liz. Though it seems so long ago maybe it was a horse and wagon coming through.

  3. Ahh, the good old days, when a broken door indicated a theft at hand, as opposed to simply vandalizing a nearly 150 year old door. That's what happened this week at the bar. Nothing taken, in fact nobody even entered. Just vandals out for a night of fun and destruction. Makes me long for the 80s again!

  4. During the 1980s I lived in Hollywood. I had my car broken into and some cash taken but it wasn't enough for the police to even come by to check the car.

    A few years later, still in Hollywood, I worked for a video rental store that was robbed at gunpoint. I wasn't there. But my boss hid in the back room and called the cops, as the poor clerk faced the gun and handed over the cash. The bad guys escaped. Fifteen minutes later the cops called and asked if the robbers were still there. They were never caught.

  5. Jody, I'm sorry you were disappointed by the behavior of last week's off hours visitors to the bar. Perhaps you'd like Michael to introduce you to his Hollywood types?

    As for cops, I think one's experience depends much as it does with almost any professional called upon in an emergency. That is, on the particular crackerjack box you're lucky enough to reach for, because not all yield a prize worth the trouble.