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Benitses, the first tourists of the 60s and legendary ‘Spiros on the beach’

Last updated on 5th June, 2017 at 10:11 am

Early ’60s and 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.

Vivien Leigh at Benitses-1960
Vivien Leigh at Benitses-1960

Benitses were 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.
Most of them saw it as an escape from civilization and the paparazzi of the era, they used to spent their time on the beaches and in the two or three traditional taverns that existed then.

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 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.

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 he left.
We cannot forget Cat Stevens who, when out with a group of young friends, borrowed the guitar of the young Kostas Zochios , after a few months he sent a new guitar as a gift to Kostas, this guitar is still treasured.

Benitses cafe skaloma-1967
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.

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.
This may seem strange to today’s youngsters but it is part of our history, and is perhaps interesting for other people who are a bit older.

It was then that Benitses began to build the reputation which brought in the 70’s a big wave of organized tourism and especially young women who came to Corfu not only for the sea and sun, it was the golden era of the “Greek kamaki”.
It was a beautiful era, a time that today’s fifty years old remember with nostalgia.
Benitses then became the centre of Corfu nightlife, its name became synonymous with nightlife and it helped to bring more tourists in the following decade- the 1980s.

For over ten years Benitses 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 in a road only two kilometres long were over 100 bars, night clubs 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..

Then the problems began which 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 behaviour 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 companies, 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.
The large number of shops, bars etc. could not be sustained and closed one after another.

Spiros on the beach

Just saying it brings back memories
Saying Spiros on the beach means a small seaside restaurant which in very short time became the ultimate legend of Corfu nightlife during the 1970s and early 80s.

There was nothing remarkable, a small building a few square metres large,with an outdoor dancing area merging seamlessly with the beach.

This space was covered with the simplest material possible, with mats round 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 which formed the almost legendary Spiros on the beach, the most “in” place of the 70s, the night club, 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, gathered 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 costumers paid for the drinks with banknotes without getting any change back, there was no time, pressure was so great, but despite paying three or four times more than they expected to they still felt happy that they had managed to get a drink at Spiros on the beach.

It had such an impact on youth at the time that the music sounded from the loudspeakers help 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 alive the memories, His disco was a big part of the history of tourism for our village and made an enormous contribution to the tourist promotion of Benitses at the time.

This is what we found, direct of Spiros on the beach, September of 1974!!!
Certainly written on typewriter which did not write such straight and then came out on photocopies, computers did not exist then neither in our imagination, click on the picture to read…

Summer villa of the shipowner Pateras

Benitses 1960, villa Patera at Chontrakia area
villa Patera at Chontrakia area
stadium club from outside Potamaki hotel- Benitses 2010
outside Potamaki hotel- Benitses 2010

In the next photo you see the bay of koutsomaroula as it was in 1960, then there, there were only two or three houses with the biggest one in the centre.
It was the summer villa of the shipowner Pateras (Pateras is the Greek for father), 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 night club with a huge capacity and full of life until 1990.

Today STADIUM operates as a nightclub and in recent years has become a popular venue for weddings, christenings, banquets and other events …

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