Cocaine, Orgies & Club Tropicana: Inside Freddie Mercury & George Michael’s Favourite Hotel
This infamous Ibiza hotspot spawned a million stories, each one more debauched than the last
Photo: Courtesy of Matt Trollope
This article originally appeared on VICE US.
If These Walls Could Talk… takes a look at the legendary stories behind some of the world’s most famous luxury hotels. This week, we're jumping right in to the wild, legendary Pikes Hotel in Ibiza: a hotel so debauched it made Studio 54 look like a convent.
Pikes Hotel: The Legend
In 1978, Tony Pike, a 43-year-old Australian playboy, arrived in Ibiza and stumbled across a 500-year-old finca for sale in San Antonio. He had no plans to open a hotel; he just had a feeling about the abandoned property – partly because he thought the name, Can Pep Tonieta (The Property of Little Tony in English) was a sign, and partly because he didn’t realise inhabitable is Spanish for uninhabitable.
Having spent all his money purchasing the dilapidated property, he had no choice but to restore it himself, literally by hand. There was no electricity, no running water, and the walls and ceilings were decaying. Somehow, Pikes Hotel was ready to open to the public a couple of years later and, over the next 30 years, Tony continued to build the hotel out, renovating and repairing over the winter when the hotel was closed.
“Grace Jones remembers Tony fondly: ‘He did have an enormous penis and I was happy to take care of it’”
He added a gym – which he says no one ever used - a tennis court, the now-iconic swimming pool with a sunken bar that he spent 3 months digging with a pickaxe, and a new bedroom for himself whenever he had a new wife or girlfriend who refused to sleep in the same room as his previous lovers.
The year he opened, a chance meeting with a location scout for the up-and-coming pop group Wham!’s new music video turned out to be a pivotal moment for the hotel. Club Tropicana debuted on MTV in 1983, immortalising both the hotel and Tony Pike himself, who featured in the video as a cocktail-shaking barman with a 1970s porn-star moustache.
“I couldn’t begin to dream how big and significant that video would be, both professionally and personally,” Pike reminisces in his recent memoir. “My cameo got me so much recognition. The weather was perfect and the hotel looked like paradise. It was really the best thing I could have done. After that video, the hotel was packed. I owe a lot to George Michael.”
The story of the Pikes Hotel is intrinsically linked to Tony himself – in both name and character. A consummate storyteller, Tony charmed all his guests telling stories of how he left a childhood of poverty and abuse behind in England, joined the Merchant Navy at 15, built a very successful business in Australia, travelled the world, survived being shipwrecked in the Caribbean, married five times, and slept with over 3000 women (and a few men).
After his hard start in life, he was dedicated to having – and showing others – a good time. He was also a serial womaniser and self-proclaimed sex addict; a disorder he put down to having a double aorta which was diagnosed at the age of 30. “I have an extra-strong heart,” Pike boasts. “A healthy man pumps five litres of blood around his body. I was pumping seven. Where do you think the extra two litres were going… that’s how I was able to service so many women.”
The hotel became his playground. Throughout the 80s and 90s, celebrities like Kylie Minogue, Boy George, and Naomi Campbell, as well as seasoned regulars, retreated to this hedonistic hideaway in the Ibizan hills season after season. Julio Iglesias was a regular. He charmed the local chief of police, who was coming down strong on Tony, and convinced him to lay off. Iglesias stayed so often, a room was named after him, which made Freddie Mercury – another regular – very jealous. The Queen frontman spent months at the hotel every year, partying, recording, and retreating from the public eye. He famously celebrated his 41st birthday at Pikes with a party so debauched it lives in Ibiza folklore.
“Freddie first sang Barcelona in May 1987 in the back bar at the Pikes,” remembers Tony. “It later became the Marrakesh suite and eventually, and fittingly, under the new owners, the hotel’s amazing Freddie’s Bar. He would have been overjoyed they named a nightclub after him.”
Grace Jones, who was in an open relationship with Tony for several years, also visited often, and remembers Tony fondly in her memoir: “He was very Hugh Hefner. He did have an enormous penis and I was happy to take care of it.” Stories of Tony’s furious girlfriend at the time chasing Jones around the pool at breakfast gives insight into the daily antics at a hotel where nothing was off limits.
The press caught on, but Tony alleges most of the outrageous stories weren’t true – like cocaine served for breakfast on the cornflakes (“What a waste!”). He does admit there were many more stories that were never reported, and there were lots you just couldn’t make up.
“At that time, if you were buying a drink at the bar, there was a good chance a line of coke would be in front of you. Does that mean we were selling coke? Not at all… but maybe the odd one came free with your drink.”
But, as is often the case, with every high comes a crushing low. In 1995, at the age of 61, Tony was diagnosed with AIDS. Luckily, it was a time when medication was being developed to control the virus, and it has remained dormant ever since.
A few years later, while negotiating a deal to potentially sell the hotel to a filmmaker in Miami, Tony’s son Dale, who wasn’t convinced by the offer, flew over to discuss it further. The filmmaker offered to pick him up from the airport, and a few hours later he was found shot dead on the beach in Key Biscayne.
The details are murky with talk of coverups and scapegoats but Tony was devastated. Part of his son’s ashes are scattered in the roots of the 700-year-old olive tree at the front of the hotel, with a plaque dedicated to his memory.
By 2011, both Tony and the hotel were in a bad way. He was getting old and separating from his fifth wife, who was effectively running Pikes. The hotel itself had become run down, and with more luxury villas available and five-star hotels opening on the island, it was no longer offering anything unique.
Ibiza aficionados Dawn Hindle and her husband Andy McKay, joint founders of Manumission and now owners of Ibiza Rocks – an events company that brings live music to clubs on the island – initially rented the hotel to house their bands.
A few years later they bought the property from an ageing Tony Pike and gave it a much-needed refurb – although besides turning the gym into a recording studio, painting the tennis court bright pink, and turning the largest suite into a nightclub, they tried to stayed true to the original vision and ethos, aiming to give guests that home-from-home hospitality that Tony was famous for.
“What Pikes offers now is an authentic piece of the island in an old school bohemian way,” explains Hindle. “It represents what the island stood for when I first arrived 20 years ago – freedom, openness, acceptance. The hotel always had an understated luxury; it was accessible and friendly. History literally oozes from the walls. In fact, part of the legacy of Ibiza lives within those walls.”
But Ibiza itself has shifted. It now has to comply with European legislation, so you can no longer throw illegal 2-day parties and pay off the local police. While Tony would often drive guests around the island himself showing them a good time, the hotel now offers a formalised version of this – a concierge service that will assist with restaurant reservations and table bookings.
They still throw parties – DJ Harvey has a Monday night residency, Primal Scream held an after-party there (attended by Kate Moss), and Jade Jagger, Lily Allen, and Mark Ronson have stayed – but these days there are tickets, guest lists, and closing times. They also attract a new clientele, looking for experiences like live music or even literary festivals. There’s a yoga tent, and a possible wellness retreat on the horizon.
Part of the deal when they bought the hotel was that for as long as Tony, now 84, was of sound body and mind, he would have a room at the hotel. Sadly, last year, the owners had to pull the plug on their agreement, and Tony now lives elsewhere with round-the-clock-care.
“It just got to a point where, if left in a room in the hotel on his own, he was going to fall down the steps or drown in the swimming pool,” says Hindle. “Or in true Tony fashion, take loads of drugs with a 20-year-old and have a heart attack.”
We’re pretty sure he wouldn’t want it any other way.
Pikes Hotel: The Location
San Antonio, a short drive down the hills from Pikes Hotel, was once a favourite destination for Brits-gone-wild. The area has somewhat reinvented itself as a foodie destination. Wild Beets, a vegan restaurant nearby, is run by a chef from New York; Taller De Tapas is run by ex-Noma chef Boris Buono; and Aubergine, a farm-to-table restaurant, is owned by Atzaro Hotel.
As far as beaches go, Cala Conta is one of the island’s famous sunset spots and Cala Bassa, a 15-minute drive is a lively and popular beach with turquoise water and soft, pale sand.
Pikes Hotel: The Lowdown
The hotel is open from April to October. Room rates range from €150-900 a night. There are 25 rooms and junior suites, as well as a large, self-contained apartment with a terrace, kitchen, and lounge. The award-winning restaurant, Room 39 at Pikes, offers traditional British cooking made with local and seasonal produce. The pool bar, now called Club Tropicana, opens daily from noon-1am serving snacks and cocktails, while Freddie’s nightclub is open until 6am.
Malika Dalamal is a freelance writer based in London.
'Mr Pikes: The Story Behind the Ibiza Legend' by Tony Pike & Matt Trollope is available on Amazon.