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The Legend of Figaro

Among boats and shipyards, in the Old Harbour of Spetses, around 1980, Discotheque Figaro was born, destined to become a true landmark of the island’s nightlife, emblematic of Greek summer fun. Takis Karis met the mastermind of this disco and together they relived twenty-three years of non-stop partying. SUN-BRONZED BODIES RELAXED against white-washed walls, while the music would invited them to dance the night away at “Figaro,” the discotheque in the historic Old Port of Spetses. Through the three arches of the veranda, the Who Is Who of the international jet-set with a smile on their face, welcomed the latest at the club by the sea. It was an endless fashion parade of tender boats and all eyes were fixed on reading the name of the yacht whose tender was disembarking its rich-and-famous patrons at “Figaro.


” Seated among the tables were the newly arrived passengers of Dimitris Karellas’ “Big D” or “Katy – Ioanna,” the impressive sailing yacht of the Karageorghis family, which was permanently moored at Spetses harbor in front of the Poseidonion, or Niarchos’ “Creole,” on holiday at their nearby private island, Spetsopoula, or any of the “VarMar” fleet of yachts that belonged to the Vardinoyannis family. While we wandered among Figaro’s happy regulars, it was not unheard of to bump into Caroline of Monaco or Mick Jagger, who had slipped incognito into the craziest party ofthe Argosaronic Gulf. “‘Figaro’ opened on June 5, 1980, and at least five hundred vessels had sailed to Spetses for its inaugural party. In this spirit, with undiminished enthusiasm ‘Figaro’ continued for the next twenty-three years, every Easter and summer, until 2003, when the owners of the building claimed it for private use,» explains its owner, Vassilis Gousgounis. IN THE 70s, THE DISCO WITH its dance-till-dawn scene was at its peak. Like all other youngsters back then, Gousgounis frequented “Figaro” in Kolonaki’s Leventis Street and “Papagayo” in Patriarchou Ioakeim Street. It was inevitable to met Papagayo’s owner, Leonidas Ioannidis. Gousgounis developed a close friendship with Ioannidis, which would later lead to a professional collaboration. “I decided to deal with nightlife entertainment, actually. I did not know where to go with it, but the summers in Spetses in those days offered only one club, the ‘Apollo.’ I thought I could open one next door, in some old warehouses in the shipyards, which I called ‘Shipyard.’ That was in 1977. This immediately caught on, and in 1980, in collaboration with Leonidas Ioannidis, we created the famous ‘Figaro’ of Spetses, a Spetses-style version of the Athenian discotheque.” THE 80s WERE DEFINITELY THE landmark post-war decade with profound changes in both the global economy and geopolitics as well as in music, entertainment and trends. Those were the years when the “golden youth” of the 60s baby boomers came of age. They had grown up in an economically flourishing Greece, away from wars, civil wars and occupations. So the 70s disco “Apollo” immediately handed over the reins to the newfangled “Figaro” and the party rose to full tilt. Along with the descendants of historic Spetsiot families and international visitors, the offspring of the most important Greek ship-owning, business and political families were partying until the wee hours of the morning. “Every night was a surprise. The friends, the fun, the boat, a carefree summer … all these created a unique atmosphere. Among our most popular parties was the ‘Hawaiian Night,’ and then there was ‘Country Night,’ where patrons rode into the club on horses or donkeys. It was literally a pandemonium. We also organized a Miss Spetses beauty contest.” The program opened and closed with Gousgounis’ partner favourite song, a Stevie Wonder hit. Cutting-edge international hits, sourced from the famous Mario Tokatlidis of Tsakalof Street or Vasilis Lalos, were mixed for “Figaro” along with the eponymous aria from Rossini’s Barber of Seville. “Figaro, Figaro, Figaro.” He sings to the tunes softly,as the story of the Spetses night club unfolds in “Cafeccino,” the Psychiko café that Gousgounis owns with his daughter, Demetra. Gousgounis little had imagined where the “Figaro” adventure would lead; it began simply as a way to have fun with his friends every summer. A few years later, at the same discotheque, he met his future wife and mother of their daughter, Zoe Karantouli. VASSILIS GOUSGOUNIS nourished, and still nourishes, great sensitivity to the tradition and history of the island. Though Athenian in origin, from the age of four, he lived and studied on Spetses. “My father, Sotiris Gousgounis, had a workshop that made woven goods, throws and nautical t-shirts and supplied of the Spetses shops. So we settled in Spetses in a house in the Aghios Fanourios area, known for one of the best schools of the era, the Anargyrios- Korgialleneios.” Although Gousgounis later came to Athens to study Aeronautical Engineering, he could not forget the sea and especially the sea of Spetses. His alma mater eventually was nationalized and closed down and his hopes of hosting one last graduation party in the disco never materialized. But “Figaro” had “graduated” generation after generation of well-known Greek and international figures. “When I closed ‘Figaro,’ in 2003, Spyros Niarchos came to find me. ‘“Figaro” can’t close!’ he said, ‘It just can’t!’ He tried to negotiate three consecutive times with the owners, but to no avail. Today, a remnant of the building, two of the arches, have been purchased from the owners (the Stafilopatis family), and will be used in some dwelling.” Winters find Gousgounis between “Cafeccino” and “Papagayo” in Kolonaki. But since he no longer focuses on the nightlife business on Spetses, he merely enjoys vacationing there during summer. “The place went downhill. Now, however, it’s recovering again. And I’ve been thinking about reviving ‘Figaro’: perhaps as a very high quality, exclusive lounge, so the older crowd can remember and the younger generation can learn.

1 Comment @ "The Legend of Figaro"
  1. giannis says:

    ημουν κι εγω εκει απο το 98 εως και το 2000….το παρτυ για τα 20 χρονια του μαγαζιου μου εχει μεινει αξεχαστο…..το καλυτερο μαγαζι των σπετσων μαζι με το brachera….απιστευτη διασκεδαση