High Life

The Days of White Linen Suits and Panama Hats

October 26, 2012

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The Days of White Linen Suits and Panama Hats

A Greek football team has been warned it will be kicked off the field if its players wear uniforms advertising its two new sponsors. The shirts have been bright pink since the team was founded and bear the names of local brothels, “Villa Erotica” and “Soula’s House of History.”

The hypocrisy involved is mind-boggling. Football in Greece has been as corrupt an institution as Greek politics, with referees known to have taken bribes still on the field, and owners of major teams who have offered such bribes still in the front office. Now a struggling team of amateurs manages to secure sponsorship and some fat guy in Athens gets on his high horse and threatens to disqualify the amateurs for advertising a brothel. What is the world coming to when the world’s oldest profession can’t sponsor a football team?

“What is the world coming to when the world’s oldest profession can’t sponsor a football team?”

I’ve never visited Villa Erotica but was a regular visitor of Chez Lapin, a wonderful old brothel of a nightclub in old Piraeus, which came to mind reading about Patrick Leigh Fermor and the “‘louche and delinquent’ dockside tavernas” two weeks ago in the Spectator. What memories! Piraeus back in the early fifties was pure Middle East, a Levantine port of roast peanut smells, souvlaki stands, and troubadours strumming their guitars along the docks. The louchest and most dangerous club of all was the Kit Kat, where sailors fought nightly with knives over women of ill repute, the cops not even bothering to break it up.

I discovered the Kit Kat in 1953, when at fifteen I was taken there by Mike Williamson, son of the American military attaché and brother of the beautiful Nancy, a girl that broke more hearts among Athenian swells than Zuleika managed to in Oxford. Mike was tall, tough, very good-looking, and drank like a true Texan. I was mad about Nancy but she was older than me and going out with my friend Karolos Fix. At the Kit Kat after some heavy drinking, Mike cooled some Russian sailor and his buddies stepped in. We fought them as best we could but eventually lost due to numbers. Mike had been knifed on both his arms and legs but had been so drunk he hardly noticed. I was spared because of my age and the fact I looked younger than my years. A black eye and a cut lip was a small price to pay for the honor of having fought all out at the Kit Kat. Sailors are good people, and knifing 15-year-olds is not their specialty. At least not back then. And we hadn’t even fought over a hooker. It was politics. Mike had called them filthy commies.