Saturday, June 22, 2024

Tales of the Piano Bar, Reprise: Don't Lose Your Head Over the Holidays


San Juan Bautista, Joan de Joanes (cir.1560)
Pentecost falls fifty days after Easter, and in Greece it is always a huge holiday weekend.  It will celebrated tomorrow and this year’s crowds on Mykonos are expected to pump up the number of tourists on the island, for Pentecost one of the three great feast days, along with Easter and Christmas.  But this isn’t about Pentecost.  Nor is it about Easter.  It’s a tale told by Jody Duncan who, together with Nikos Hristodulakis, once owned Mykonos’ Montparnasse Piano Bar.   
Jody would like you to THINK his story has something to do with those most holy of days to the Greek Orthodox faithful, but I prefer to consider it simply further evidence of the sorts of minds who once put the olive in your martini or umbrella in your mai-tai from behind the bar at the La Cage aux Folles of the Aegean.  Jody and Niko we miss you...but take it away with your tale.

Jeffrey, this story is entirely appropriate for the season as it begins on Easter and ends around Pentecost.

A few years back we decided to have friends over to our house for Easter dinner rather than following our usual practice of being guests in their homes.  But one friend insisted on contributing the lamb and he would not take no for an answer.   So, a day or two before Easter, Adonis the Greek appeared at our door bearing his gift of an entire lamb, complete with its head wrapped separately in newspaper.

Okay, I get it, if you’re hosting Easter dinner in Greece there must be lamb.  No ifs, no ands, no buts.  But heads?  Please.

I couldn't bring myself to cook that thing, and didn't even know how or where to begin getting a head ready for the oven.  I did the only thing I could think of.  I stuck it in the freezer.  A non frost-free one I might add.

A couple of months later, in June around the time of Pentecost, I thawed the freezer and came across a parcel wrapped in newspaper.  I’d forgotten all about it.  Inside I found what looked to be the frosted, frozen head of John the Baptist.

That was all that remained of that poor unlucky lamb.  And it was my fault it had ended up here rather than in its rightful place on the Easter table.  I had to find some way to redeem myself.  It was still early in the morning for Mykonos—around noon—and the performers crashing at our place from the night before were still asleep.

It was the perfect opportunity for my giving the little lamb a proper send off.  Phyllis Pastore, our headline singer and an institution on the island, was just starting to wake up.   I went to her bedroom and stood in the doorway, balancing the lamb’s head on my left shoulder.  She was ignoring me and so I started softly humming a tune.

I waited until she’d opened her eyes but had not yet grasped the meaning of my visit.  At that instant I stepped forward into her bedroom and in my best Paul Anka impression blared out the lyric I’d been humming, “Put your head on my shoulder…”

I was so proud of myself.

Phyllis had another view of things.  She leaped out of bed with a scream that nearly brought the poor lamb back to life.

I was laughing so hard I was beginning to think the other head on my shoulder was laughing too.

Phyllis drew a deep breath to compose herself, and in a perfectly blasé Ethel Merman sort of way said, “Jody, if I were you, I’d keep the new one.” 

[Ed. note:  I always liked Phyllis’ style.]

Time for a drink, I think.  Here’s what we at the Piano Bar call the Flirtini.  It's a lovely champagne cocktail, light in taste and perfect for warm summer evenings.

In a champagne flute, put one ounce elderflower liqueur (St. Germaine is the most well known brand) and 1/2 ounce lemon juice. Top with champagne and voilà you have a refreshing cocktail—and it’s gentle as a lamb.

On a more serious note, today is the memorial service for one of my long time closest friends on Mykonos, Michalis Apostolou.  He passed away some forty days ago, and today we celebrate his Mnimosino service  commemorating the completion of his journey to the afterlife. 
May your memory be a blessing for eternity.



  1. I feel a Thomas Harris type novel coming on...The Silence Of The ...Oh wait a mo...

    1. Caro, do you mean, by chance, The Silence of the Lambasted?

  2. Loved this! We will be on Mykonos Friday, our first time back since you introduced us to Jody and Nikos. It won't be the same without a stop at the bar!

    1. That's for sure. Don't forget to reach out to me when you arrive.

  3. I had a family friend who married a man from Lebanon more than 50 years ago. She went asking around the Washington, DC subrurban chain grocery stores for a sheep's head. She was upset at their reactions, ranging from laughter to about-to-call-the-police. It was funny to us, but she was not amused. (You could easily find one inthe area now,I am sure.)

    1. I'm sure. The food tastes and culinary cultures in the US are light years away from where they were back then.

    2. Great story and I, too, really miss the one and only Jody and Nikos Piano Bar. Xx