It is afternoon and the heat in Kolonaki, although late May, is unbearable. Lakis Gavalas opens the door and welcomes me with a big smile. He is slim, tanned, with a teenage vitality that would make even 25-year-olds jealous. “Come to think of it in August I will turn 70”, he says laughing. For Gavalas, age is just a number. Nothing more. And since he likes numbers of all kinds, we go back to 1963, when he visited the island of Mykonos with his family for the first time. “Andreas Asimomytis from Ano Mera, was a distant relative of ours and he had invited us to attend a christening. I was only eleven years old back then. We went to the port with the boats. At some point, we lost sight of my father. He just disappeared for about two to three hours, but Andreas Asimomytis told us not to worry. My father returned to Ano Mera in time for the christening after which a reception was given by the family of Andreas Asimomytis for the relatives and friends. The truth is that because we had difficulties in reaching Mykonos because of the rough sea, I was not in the mood to go back again. Imagine that because of the endless hours on the boat and the ravaging winds, I threw up and I was a mess. So, as you can understand, this was not one of the first times one might want to remember.”
“What I want to make clear is that I went to Mykonos as a businessman and investor, I did not go there to have fun”.
The mysterious disappearance of his father from Ano Mera and the solution to the mystery years later
The second time he visited the island was with friends, at the age of 19. “We liked the island a lot. We frequented the bakeries and the kebab shops all day eating skewers and cheese pies. From Lakka, we used to take the bus for a swim in Platys Gialos. From there, we used go to Paradise by boat. It was fun. “Then I returned to Piraeus, and, after the end of the summer, I left for Italy”, he explains. He stayed in Italy for several years. He initially worked as a dancer on Raffaella Carra shows on the TV broadcasting company Rai. Then, he got involved in fashion and several years later, he returned to Greece, where he opened his first store in Rhodes. “At some point, at the age of 26, I returned to Mykonos again, as we had arranged with friends to have a vacation in the Cyclades. Before we reached the port, I had contacted my relatives from Ano Mera to find me a room in the hotel of Xenari, in Lakka. I started to like Mykonos a lot. So next year I decided to spend my vacation there, too. After that summer I went back to the island years later, at the age of 35. I already had my shops in Athens and Rhodes, so I started thinking about the business perspectives of the island and the possibility of doing something there. In addition, because I did windsurfing and I liked the beach of Ftelia, I started thinking about buying a piece of land there. More as an investment, not something I would immediately use. I went to a real estate agent who showed me the hill above the beach of Ftelia and told me that there is a very beautiful piece of land there with an unobstructed view. I went to see it. I really liked it a lot, so decided to buy it. When I went to the notary for the contract, I realized that except for my piece of land that I would own as Apostolos Dionysiou Gavalas, the adjacent piece of land already belonged to my father. In fact, it was the piece of land he bought back in1963, after he had he disappeared for a few hours from Ano Mera without telling us anything! We would become neighbors. I told him, however, that in order for us to become neighbors, he would have to buy me that piece of land. My father, however, gave me not only the piece of land but also the building as a gift. I remember that in 1988 we called the mayor Mathios Apostolou, who was also a constructor and assigned the construction of the house to him. The plans were made by the architect Giannis Chalkidis, an excellent connoisseur of the traditional Cycladic architecture”.
“I paid huge sums and everyone knows that. I had catering coming from Athens. I had fifty people catering for my guests”.
The parties in Ftelia and the huge effort to organize them
The construction of the villa in Ftelia was completed in 1989, while both the interior and exterior decoration was undertaken by Lakis Gavalas himself who, with his personal touch and aesthetics, created an iconic house which, since then, has been frequented by thousands of people. “While I was having the house built, I decided to do business on the island, so I opened my first furniture store across the street from the airport. In fact, I traded De Padova furniture, pieces of which were used to decorate two lounges at the airport. The VIP lounge and the office of the then manager of the airport. It was a present from me. A lot celebrities from abroad, such as Robert De Niro, Ryan O Neil, Farrah Fawcett, have been hosted in the VIP lounge, all of whom I knew personally”. In addition to the furniture store, in 1996 the Lakis Gavalas store was inaugurated next to Astra, while in 2000 the LAK store was inaugurated at Matogianni. “What I want to make clear is that I went to Mykonos as a businessman and investor, I did not go there to have fun. However, due to my foreign and local acquaintances because of my shops, I decided to invite friends and associates and treat them at my home. That’s how it all started.”Lakis Gavalas’ parties became a point of reference, as they were one of the most iconic and luxury events on the island. Everybody wanted to go to the parties because Lakis was an exceptional host. “I was the Scorpio of that time. There were parties attended by 3000 people. Liar Jets flooded the airport, as all my acquaintances from abroad came to participate. I got the best meats from Madoupas. I paid huge sums and everyone knows that. I had catering coming from Athens. I had fifty people catering for my guests.
“I had two trucks full of sound equipment coming from Athens too, just for the party.”
“I had my first party in 1991. Since then I organized two parties yearly. The first one was a Welcome Summer Party to welcome the summer. It was organized in mid-June.The second was a Goodbye Summer Party, organized around the end of August. I remember that Anna Veltsou, Karellas, and Ferre, among others, had come to my first party”. The parties were attended by numerous celebrities. Valentino, Jean-Paul Gaultier, and Dolce & Gabbana are just a few of the celebrities attending the parties at the Villa in Ftelia. However, Lakis was hospitable and a good host to all. He was not a faceless businessman. The last party he organized was in 2011. What does he remember from that party? “I remember Mykonos was empty and everyone was at my party” he says with disarming honesty and his characteristic humor.
“I witnessed the love affairs of other people, guests of mine, but I never had one on my own there. But, maybe, that was a mistake”.
The love he never had in Mykonos
On May 26, the Villa was auctioned off for the amount of 1.91 million euros, so after 32 years it now belongs to somebody else. “I now go to Mykonos with my foreign friends who invite me. My legacy nevertheless is that chic lifestyle that no one else had in Mykonos. Giannis Galatis, Zachos Zatzifotiou, and I are from three different generations. All of us gave this special prestige to the island. My parties were attended by the elite of the world. People, that is, who chose Saint Barth, Cortina, Saint Tropez for their holidays. People who do know what class means. This is my world. Beyond magazine will soon have a cover story on me and my life on the island of Mykonos. A project focusing on me, according to which eleven people in direct relationship with the island of Mykonos will talk about me”. All this time that he is describing these amazing things, I sense that there is something missing. Love. “At the parties, I felt responsible for my guests and the only thing I had in mind was to make them feel at ease and have fun. I felt like being the Island ambassador. In this idyllic house in Mykonos, I never really had what we call a big love affair. I witnessed the love affairs of other people, guests of mine, but I never had one on my own there. Back then I felt good about it and I did not want to have my own love affair involved with theirs. But, maybe, that was a mistake.”