Saturday, April 16, 2011

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.



  1. But it is both true AND a good story, mon ami Asteroid--just to introduce another romance language into the mix:))