Tony Pike: Ibiza legend who helped seal the island’s reputation for debauchery with the Pikes Hotel

A traumatic childhood left him desperate to leave Britain, and after joining the merchant navy he found his calling on the Mediterranean island

Phil Davison
Thursday 07 March 2019 19:21 GMT
Shooting ‘Club Tropicana’ with George Michael and Andrew Ridgley
Shooting ‘Club Tropicana’ with George Michael and Andrew Ridgley

When Freddie Mercury was working on duet album Barcelona with Spanish operatic soprano Montserrat Caballé in 1987, he stayed at what he called his “home away from home” – the famous Pikes Hotel in Ibiza.

The resort, now known as Pikes Ibiza, was built, founded and run by Mercury’s friend Tony Pike, an English-born Australian adventurer and playboy who had turned a ruined farmhouse into Spain’s beacon hotel for sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. Pike served as the unabashedly hedonistic master of ceremonies, claiming to have slept with more than 3,000 men and women.

Celebrity guests included Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, Nirvana singer-songwriter Kurt Cobain, models Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss, action-film star Jean-Claude Van Damme and pop singer Boy George. Pike died of cancer aged 85. He had long outlived the prognosis of five years when he was diagnosed with HIV in 1995.

Pike founded the hotel in 1980 with two rooms. Three years later, a video for Wham!’s “Club Tropicana” featured Pike in a cameo role as a bare-chested bartender sporting an impressive Burt Reynolds moustache.

The video turned the hotel into a magnet of debauchery for rockers, film stars, male and female escorts and simply wannabes from all over the world.

On his 41st birthday in 1987, Mercury, just diagnosed with HIV, asked Pike to organise “the biggest birthday bash of all time”, which it turned out to be, at least at the time. The 700 guests included actor Tony Curtis, rocker Jon Bon Jovi, entertainer Grace Jones (“the greatest lover I ever had”, Pike said), Naomi Campbell, Boy George, Julio Iglesias and Spandau Ballet.

Giant black and gold helium balloons and 350 bottles of champagne greeted the guests before they ate an ornate birthday cake Pike had ordered in the shape of Barcelona’s Gaudí-designed Sagrada Familia basilica. The fireworks display was visible on the bigger island of Mallorca, about 90 miles away.

Tony lived in the hotel and greeted guests by the swimming pool, until his death

The celebration lasted for three days. Tabloids reported that guests were offered free cocaine instead of sugar sprinkled on their breakfast cereals. “I never understood that,” Pike said. “Why... would you put coke on cornflakes?”

Pike always insisted he never provided drugs for his guests, using a “BYOD” – “bring your own dope” – policy. There was one exception, in 1990, when Mercury knew he was dying. Pike went to his friend, the local police chief, and said he had to get cocaine for the singer. The cop was reportedly a Queen fan. “I wasn’t arrested, let’s put it that way,” the hotel owner said.

Anthony John Pike was born in Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire, in 1932. He was six when his father died, and he soon had to leave his home as the Luftwaffe bombed London and children were moved to the countryside.

“I had a terrible childhood, I suffered a lot of abuse,” he told The Ibizan newspaper in 2014. “I had three brothers, and one brutalised me… I wanted to forget everything about Britain. I ran away, joined the merchant navy when I was 15 and went aboard a ship as a peggy.”

A peggy, or deck boy, was the dogsbody of the vessel headed for South Africa.

In a 2017 memoir, Mr Pikes: The Story Behind the Ibiza Legend, he told of how, still a teenager, he jumped ship in Sydney, Australia, married “a couple of times”, worked packing hats for a milliner, then made a fortune from custom-made stickers – such as “Please don’t slam the door” for taxis. He tried to buy a copper mine in Papua New Guinea, where he ran into a bunch of retired members of Britain’s special operations forces. “Tough guys who’d gone native but rode Harley-Davidsons and carried sidearms,” he recalled. “But they all had good hearts. Not like the drugged-up pipsqueaks you see around today.”

With Freddie Mercury, who called the resort a ‘home away from home’

According to his memoir, he barely survived the wreck of his 50ft schooner off Haiti. When he returned to England to see his family, “I saw these old faces who hadn’t got past the nearest haystack. I knew I’d done the right thing”.

Eventually, a friend suggested he try Ibiza, saying: “You’d like it, Tony, it’s your cup of tea, off the map, a simple life.”

When he arrived in 1978, Ibiza was a sleepy island of farmers and reclusive artists, mostly fleeing repression under Franco. Pike spotted a ruined and abandoned 500-year-old farmhouse with no electricity or running water. A sign on the building said that it was uninhabitable but, at a linguistic disadvantage, Pike took it to mean the opposite.

With the £60,000 in life savings of a lover called Lynn – “She was on holiday here and she wanted to get away from her idiot of a husband,” Pike said – he bought the property, rebuilt it with his bare hands, jackhammered an area that became a swimming pool and opened Pikes Hotel.

Behind the glamour and infamy, Pike endured personal tragedy later in life. In 1998, his son Anthony “Dale” Pike Jr was fatally shot in Miami in a business deal involving the possible sale of the hotel. An Italian producer and music promoter, Enrico “Chico” Forti, was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Tony Pike is believed to have married five times and had four children, including Dale.

Despite the hotel’s seasonal success, it was mostly empty for more than half the year, so Pike, with alimonies outweighing his income, sold it to a chain called Ibiza Rocks in 2008. He lived in the hotel until his death, still greeting guests by the pool.

Boy George once called Pike “the real Hugh Hefner” but the hotelier downplayed the comparison. “Hefner used women to make money,” he told the website Ibiza Spotlight in 2017. “I have always loved and respected women and treated them really well and never done anything wrong to them.

“Well, I haven’t been that faithful but that’s because I’m a sex addict. Some people are addicted to drugs and alcohol, for me it’s sex. I’ve actually done very few drugs in my life. I had my first line when I was 42, in bed with two girls and a German count. But I never got addicted.”

Tony Pike, hotelier, born 22 February 1934, died February 24 2019

© Washington Post

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