You can easily dismiss ‘The Port’ as full of the wannabies, the It girls, and the has-beens as well as the brash, blinged, blasted and frequently botoxed, but it has been an integral part of my life for decades.
Although the anniversary was lost in the lockdown, Puerto Banús celebrated its fiftieth birthday in May.
I started to visit Puerto Banús on family holidays and, when we moved to Nueva Andalucía in 1985 the Jet-Set marina became my regular haunt. Being a 17-year-old cashless student at the time meant that I was hardly rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous at Menchu’s, so we used to buy beers at the small supermarket and hang out on two benches behind the Hollywood Bar that we christened ‘The Slabs’. Imagine a prototype botellon, with 80s fashions and 125cc motorcycles – I drove a Mobylette that I painted reggae colours – and you will get the general idea.
Puerto Banús was a completely different in the 80s. Before the advent of mobile phones, meeting up with friends was a hit and miss affair, but as The Port was less developed, you knew the places your crowd would be. Salduba, Sinatra, Zelius, Mel’s, the Russian Bar or the legendary Joe’s Bar – where grabbing a space on a sofa was like finding gold dust – and Comedia. Late nights turned into early mornings at Webster’s bar with its legendary lock ins.
With no Social Media, any passing celebrity was more likely to be friendly too – apart from Sean Connery who famously told us where to go in the old cinema in Puerto Banús, after we all hummed the James Bond theme tune as he walked in. I spent an (admittedly hazy) evening with actor John Hurt in Sinatra’s, had an even more hazy night with Danny Dyer and Tamer Hassan when we celebrated the end of filming of their movie “The Business”, frequently spotted Rod Stewart enjoying a hassle free dinner at a front line restaurant, and was famously with my friend who was dating Ronnie Corbett’s daughter. She had broken her curfew and was dancing with us in Joe’s Bar when the curtain by the front door flew open and a very, VERY angry five foot nothing comedian burst in and grabbed his daughter. When we foolishly tried to interject, we were greeted with a stream of invective that owed more to Quentin Tarantino than ’The Two Ronnies’.
The Puerto Banús of my ‘terrible teens’ may be long gone, and most of the characters too, but every time I find myself walking past the old Hollywood Bar – now a restaurant – I always duck down the narrow walkway to the place where ‘The Slabs’ once stood, pause, and allow myself a little smile.