Last updated on January 19th, 2024 at 10:15 am
The First Tourists of the 60s in Benitses
When we try to bring memories from Corfu of the 60s, 70s, and ’80s the first place that comes to mind is Benitses.
In the early 60s, the first visitors began arriving in Benitses.
Many were wealthy and famous and were looking for beautiful traditional places such as Benitses.
Stage and screen designer Roger Furse and his actor and playwright friend Emlyn Williams had both bought land and built villas overlooking the sea, as had the publisher Hamish Hamilton.
Benitses was visited by famous actors and singers of the era, such as Peter Ustinov, Rex Harrison, Vivien Leigh, and Laurence Olivier.
Paul McCartney, Ava Gardner, Warren Beatty, Paul Newman, Doris Day, Gregory Peck, and Audrey Hepburn were among others who fell under the spell of the peaceful village.
Celebrities in Benitses of the 60s – With photos
Vivien Leigh planned to buy a home nearby and during the last years of her life, she visited her friends here in summer and winter.
George Harrison of the Beatles spent several days in Benitses water skiing.
Another regular visitor was John Lennon who stayed in Agios Ioannis, three kilometers south of Benitses in a room behind the restaurant of the Pachis family.
Inspired by the landscapes of Benitses in their songs were Moody Blues, they used to play their wooden guitars on the Kaizer’s bridge.
From a 1967 album, with paintings of the painter Giannis Migadis, is the old cafe “Skaloma”. The photo was found on a blog, unfortunately, it is of very low resolution.
The music producer of the Bee Gees, Saturday Night Fever, Jesus Christ Superstar, and other notable productions, Robert Stigwood made his appearance usually with his large yacht and used to organize big parties before leaving.
We can’t forget Cat Stevens who, when out with a group of young friends, borrowed the guitar of the young Kostas Zochios. A few months later he sent a new guitar as a gift to Kostas, this guitar is still treasured.
Although we have quite a rich collection of old photos, unfortunately, there is none with these people, but as we are sure that somewhere there are some we will continue looking.
All of these may seem strange to today’s youngsters but it is part of our history and perhaps interesting for other people who are a bit older.
It was the time that Benitses began to build their reputation which during the 70s brought a big wave of organized tourism especially young women who came to Corfu not only for the sea and sun, it was the golden era of the “Greek kamaki”.
A beautiful era, a time that today’s sixty-year-olds remember with nostalgia.
Spiros on the Beach
Just saying it brings back memories
Saying Spiros on the beach means a small seaside restaurant which in a very short time became the ultimate legend of Corfu nightlife during the 1970s and early 80s.
All following photos belong and were made public on Facebook by Chris Hayward who was DJ in Spiros on the Beach during the 80s
The glorious decade of the 70s
Spiros on the beach was nothing remarkable, a small building a few square meters large, with an outdoor dancing area merging seamlessly with the beach.
This space was covered with the simplest material possible, with mats around the side and forming a roof.
Loud music of the era was played, simple lighting effects were used, and in the middle was a primitive wooden dancing floor.
All these were the ingredients that formed the almost legendary Spiros on the beach, the most “in” place of the 70s, the nightclub, the disco as they called them then, which every tourist visiting the island of Corfu was bound to visit!
From 1975 until 1985 it was the undisputed king of the Corfiot nightlife, gathering more than 3000 people every night, some to drink, others to listen to music, dance, and have a good time, and some to engage in the informal “sport” which increased the Greek reputation for being great lovers, the famous harpoon!… Kamaki!
The small bar was not able to accommodate all patrons and at some point, the customers paid for the drinks with banknotes without getting any change back, there was no time, and the pressure was so great, but despite paying three or four times more than expected they still felt happy that they had managed to get a drink at Spiros on the beach.
Music Hits Of the 70s – Oldies in 20 minutes!
This mix was created in 1982 and digitized in 2008. Our purpose was to provide just a taste of the 70s by playing only a few seconds from the most popular hits of that era.
Spiros on the beach had such an impact on youth at the time that the music sounded from the loudspeakers helped shape the musical taste of youngsters of the 70s.
Its reputation had surpassed the confines of Corfu and especially in Great Britain was well known, “Spiros on the beach” was a place that many older people still remember.
Today the area looks deserted, apart from some old abandoned buildings there is nothing there, as the owner Spiros Poulis died young at the age of 50.
This article was written to keep the memories alive. This disco was a big part of the history of tourism for our village and made a tremendous contribution to the tourist promotion of Benitses at the time.
We found a Greek night barbeque ad of Spiros on the beach, it was September of 1974!!!… Certainly written on a typewriter and then came out on photocopies, computers did not exist then either in our imagination, click it to read.
What was the nightlife like in Benitses Corfu in the 80s?
Benitses then was the center of Corfu nightlife, its name became synonymous with nightlife and it helped to bring more tourists in the following decade- the 1980s.
For over twenty yearsBenitses was the holiday mecca for hordes of young British tourists, who were brought by major tour operators from the UK- although some were Greek-owned.
There was a time when on a road only two kilometers long were over 100 bars, nightclubs, and dozens of shops, Benitses had 10,000 people every night.
Those who lived here saw many tourists, some staying in the village but others coming from all over the island who came to party the night away.
Meanwhile, the locals continued their lives by fishing as usual, that’s a small video from that era.
Then the problems began and increased every year, and there was a reaction by local people who objected to the drunkenness, promiscuity, and vandalism of some of these young people.
The tourists themselves were also unhappy, even young ones often complaining that they did not like to go out at night because of the bad behavior of others.
Inevitably there were quarrels between local and foreign men over girls.
The party had stopped being fun.
In the early 90s, the local people began to react, many tourists were also complaining to the tour operators, some demanding refunds.
Tour companies began directing young people wanting to go crazy to go somewhere else.
For years later the number of visitors continued to decline as the village tried to live down its ‘party’ image.
A large number of shops, bars, etc. could not be sustained and closed one after another.
What is left today of those Benitses Clubs?
Get a glimpse of what is left from the photos below, and just consider that some buildings are missing, for instance, the club Babylon, who remembers it? We will add some photos soon!
If you are wondering what is this below? It was the entrance of Paradise Club, I mean what is left now, there isn’t any better angle to take a good shot as the place is surrounded by uncontrolled vegetation.
Summer Villa of the Shipowner Pateras
In the above photo, you see the bay of Koutsomaroula as it was in 1960, then, there were only two or three houses with the biggest one in the center.
It was the summer villa of the shipowner Pateras (Pateras is the Greek word for father), the father of the former(2011) President of the football club Panathinaikos.
Later, shortly after 1980 the villa was sold and demolished, and a nightclub called STADIUM was built there, a nightclub with a huge capacity and full of life.
Today STADIUM operates as a nightclub and in recent years has become a popular venue for weddings, christenings, banquets, and other events.
What happened to the STADIUM Club?
Well, here’s the scoop: it’s recently changed hands, now owned by the same folks who run the swanky yacht marina in Benitses. Whispers in the wind suggest there are plans for posh villas to grace the spot, but that’s the extent of our intel for now. Exciting times are ahead, right?