After 85 incredible years, five wives, four children, a modelling career, a shipwreck off the Bermuda Triangle, countless love affairs, kindred friendships with some of the most iconic celebrities of our time, infinite crazy adventures and more parties than most of us will experience in a lifetime, Tony Pike has left the building. Physically that is, as the iconic and hedonistic hotelier passed away in his sleep here in Ibiza on February 24, 2019, leaving behind a legacy that will live forever.
The building in question is none other than Pikes, and while Tony Pike sadly won’t be propping up the poolside bar this summer – where he had been famously holding court for the last 39 years – his presence (and loss) will be felt throughout the hotel forever. As the sign says outside: You can check in, but you can never check out and in the case of Tony Pike, never a truer word has been spoken. Tony was one of the old guard in Ibiza; he’d been there, done that and written the book – literally; his autobiography Mr Pikes: The story behind the Ibiza legend was released in 2018.
If you were to pick up the book with no prior knowledge of Tony or Pikes, it’s quite possible you’d think it was a work of fiction. Each and every story – and there are so many of Tony’s tales squished within those pages – seems more outlandish and sometimes more scandalous than the next, but sure enough, they all took place in real time, in real life. As the old saying goes: you just can’t make this stuff up! I won’t go into detail here – buy the book! – but when you’ve read it, there is a fair chance that by the end of it, you’ll be shocked and surprised that Tony made it past the age of 50, let alone all the way to 85. What a life well-lived.
Like many of us who have lived (or spent time) in Ibiza for many years, I have a special connection to Pikes and feel forever indebted to Tony for this. You see, I think I may never have even moved to the white isle had I not been fortunate (or could it be clever?) enough to have spent my very first week on island soil at Pikes. This was back in the day when (GASP!) the island didn’t have such a huge presence on the internet. Social media wasn’t even invented. I lived on the other side of the world – Australia – so I had very little clue about where to stay in Ibiza – I wanted a boutique hotel and when I was Googling ‘ibiza boutique hotel’ to try and find somewhere appropriate, the only place that kept showing up was Pikes.
The website at the time was quite terrible I recall – the photos of the room were tiny and slow to load so you didn’t really know what you were getting yourself into – but there was a section that sang the praises of its founder and owner Tony Pike, in addition to mentioning his many famous friends and guests. When I discovered that Tony was Australian (which I later on found out was not his birth nationality, but where he’d declared citizenship) and that Kylie Minogue had spent time at Pikes, that cemented the decision for me. If there was an ‘Aussie done good’ in Ibiza, and one that our very own singing budgie had frequented his place, then I needed to get on the bandwagon immediately.
That very first night I arrived, I remember bouncing around in the back of a taxi as it went up that famously bumpy (but now smoothed out) camino, wondering what the hell I’d gotten myself into. It was pitch black, it felt like the taxi had been driving for about 40 minutes (the big highway wasn’t there back then and there was no such thing as GPS so perhaps he’d gotten lost – my Aussie twang pronouncing ‘Pikes’ is a far cry from the Spanish ‘Pee-kays’), there were no signs anywhere and the campo seemed like a horror movie waiting to happen.
And then, the magic happened. We raced up to reception to get out of the rain and at once I was greeted by that famous wall of goosebump-inducing photos and a friendly smiling face who said they’d kept the reception open while waiting for their Australian guests to arrive. Ahh, there’s my Kylie. Oh look! Bon Jovi! Freddie Mercury! George Michael! Julio! Grace Jones! Every superstar DJ from the 90s… We were led down to Room 1 and I instantly felt at home. I’d never seen architecture like this before. The quaint little mezzanine and the wooden stair railings, rickety tiled floors, the wood beam ceilings and a tiny private garden – it was all new to me. And I clearly remember the very first thought that came to mind: I needed go back to Australia, collect my cat, and come back because we could seriously LIVE here!
In the light of the next day, we could see the hotel was in much need of some love – this was many years before Tony went on to sell it to the Ibiza Rocks Group – but I was already in love. Every shabby surface, every broken window pane, every bathtub that didn’t have enough hot water to fill it up… I loved it! And when we got up for breakfast (far too late; at the time they only served breakfast till 8am, but smiley-faced barman Emil – who has now worked at Pikes for over 35 years – plonked us on a bar stool, made us one of the best Bloody Marys I’d ever had and went about finding someone to whip up a basic brekkie for us anyway because he was nice like that.
Right about that time, the sun had come out, that famous Club Tropicana pool was sparkling in all its glory, and as we surveyed the slightly crumbling empire around us we were greeted by the man himself, wearing a robe (if I remember rightly) as if he too had just swanned out of bed. “This is my hotel,” I remember him saying by way of introduction. “Where are you from girls?” Being fellow countrywomen (and in bikinis) meant we’d gotten Tony’s attention and we proceeded to chat about life in Australia, what brought us to Ibiza, what had brought him to Ibiza and so on and so forth. We thought he was charming (perhaps a little too forward given our age differences – though I would go on to learn that was simply his way with all women) and that was the start to a life-changing holiday, because true to my very first thought on checking in, I went back to Australia, collected my cat and moved to Ibiza. For obvious reasons living at Pikes wasn’t really an option so ultimately I found my own place with rickety tiled floors, wood beam ceilings, quaint little nooks and corners. And I never left…
Over the years I met and spoke with Tony again on many occasions; I was always amazed by his stamina, his charm and his ability to tell a story. I was of course saddened to hear that he had passed away but at the same time just so impressed that he lived – and boy did he live! – to be 85 years old. Pikes will always be a testament to Tony’s hard work and creativity; I imagine the team at the hotel are already planning to create a place where the many thousands of people whose lives he touched can pay their respects to him in years to come.
Speaking of paying respects, one part of me felt like I should be writing ‘rest in peace’ (I mean, after 85 years of being one of the most hard-partying people on the planet you certainly deserve some rest!) within this blog, but somehow I think you’d prefer to be getting up to no good somewhere alongside your dearly departed and debaucherous friends Freddie Mercury and George Michael. So instead I’ll just say this: Goodbye Mr Pike and thank you. I will be forever grateful to you for creating the place that ultimately changed the course of my life and your legend will never be forgotten.