Hydra had its heyday, and people talk about it with an almost tragic nostalgia. Victoria Zevgolis now has a gravelly voice, but in the early 70s she was a young woman in Hydra, when the real decadence was just starting up. She came to the island on a whim and fell into the circle of Alexi Bolens, a superbly handsome retired diamond smuggler and mercenary whose fortune waned and waxed with his gambling luck. It was said he smuggled arms, but Zevgolis never believed it.
In his Hydra circle-an ever-changing mix of industrialists, artists, models, and assorted royalty-you lived a variation of the high life. Zevgolis remembers getting up shortly before noon, wandering down to the port with a dozen or so friends to hire a sea taxi to a deserted beach for the afternoon, away from the tourists. They rarely wore bathing suits. Back at the harbor by 4 p.m. to buy yogurt from the nuns who had hiked down from the mountain convent, Victoria et al would sit in a cafe, eat their yogurt, and drink ice tea. Then they’d take a swim in Alexi’s pool (which he won in a poker game) to wash off the salt water and go take a nap. In the evening there would be drinks, followed by dinner for at least a dozen around the table, “and then the big decision was, would we put in an appearance at the disco. You’d never dare to show your face before 2 a.m.” If you did go, the evening would wind down around 6 a.m. with warm milk in a port cafe.
There were orgies (“although we didn’t call them that; we called them ‘partout,'” says Zevgolis), and then there were weekly poker games with regular attendance by musician Leonard Cohen and artists Brice Marden.
Excerpted from Hydra’s Uncertain Turn from Cosmopolitanism to Solitude (Odyssey: Issue #43, September/October 2000) posted February 10, 2007 at Hydraecoloists:
Ira Nadel in Various Positions also reports Cohen (as well as George Johnston and other artists) playing in the “legendary poker games” organized by Alexis Bolens, “a wealthy Swiss bon vivant.”
Video: Victoria Zevgolis & Charmaine Dunn Visit Four Corners & Leonard Cohen’s House Hydra: September, 2005
Victoria Zevgolis is featured in the excerpt above. Charmaine Dunn is the daughter of Ann Dunn who founded Matador, the Toronto club where Leonard Cohen hung out and where the official video for “Closing Time” was filmed.
Note: Originally posted Aug 23, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric