The story

When young Londoner Louie O’Brien touched down in Mallorca in 1967 it was his first ever trip abroad. But, unlike most of the millions of teens tasting fun in the sun for the first time, Louie jacked in his window-cleaning round and stayed for the next 30 years.

Louie started at the bottom, selling tickets for the wild all-day boat trips and beach parties on the beaches around Palma. By the mid-70s, he was MC and part owner of Alexandra’s, the legendary club in Plaza Gomila, at that time the pumping heart of Palma’s club scene and a magnet for tourists from the UK, Scandinavia, Germany and Spain.

On any one night of those long ago magical summers, around 2,000 party-hungry kids would pack into a square kilometre of clubs, bars and restaurants. And Louie the Lip was royalty.

Everything seemed possible.

For the first ten years, life in Mallorca for Louie was as sweet as it gets. He lived the dream. But, in 1978, Louie was kicked out of Mallorca – stitched up by rival club owners who allegedly duped the authorities into deporting him back to the UK.

Louie was Alexandra’s not so secret weapon and his partner, a fiery-tempered character named Curly, and His Nibs, Louie’s Mallorquin boss, needed him back – badly. So they hatched up a scheme to marry Louie to a Spanish woman. At that time, any husband of a Spanish woman was legally obliged to support her, which meant he had to be back in Spain.

Unfortunately for Louie, the woman his partners paid to come over to the UK and marry him, a beautiful Palma hooker by the name of Mariana, managed to get herself arrested for shoplifting on London’s Oxford Street with her friend the night before the wedding.

The wedding went ahead. But it was a waste of time because, even though Louie now had the correct legal documents, he still couldn’t get back into Spain.

Two years later, in 1980, the marriage was annulled, which made every big UK newspaper and Louie the Lip was able to return to Spain and Alexandra’s.

A lot had changed in the time Louie was away. From the mid-80s onward, all-inclusive holidays had really started to bite into the traditional tourist trade. Also, there were no decent beaches close to Palma and the hotels were tired of bussing tourists from the beaches to the island’s capital for a night out. Muggings and other street crime were also on the increase. Island resorts, like Alcudia and the notorious Magaluf were thriving.

So, competition for the shrinking number of tourists prepared to come to Palma and Plaza Gomila was tougher than ever.

Louie’s schemes to bring in the punters included launching the first ever wet t-shirt contests in Spain, impersonating an official dignitary to invite sailors from the US navy to the club – nearly getting himself shot into the bargain – and countless other smart ideas.

For example, every ten days was the 15th anniversary of Alexandra’s opening.

But, by 1992, the punters had totally disappeared from Plaza Gomila and Alexandra’s closed its doors for the last time. It was the end of a golden era of tourism and of Louie’s time in the sun and the limelight.

Hasta La Flip-Flops! is not just a hilarious, often bitter-sweet true-life story of a young man’s adventures in Spanish clubland, mixing with larger than life characters, beautiful birds and celebrities. It’s also the story of a time in the history of Spain and of tourism that has never been told and which, in its own loud, gaudy but strangely innocent way, was truly revolutionary.

One Response to “The story”

  1. Roberto March 16, 2011 at 11:27 am #

    I’ve had a couple of enjoyable trips to Mallorca and I really liked Palma. It would be great to see more photos of the Island and characters from those days….like you’ve got on the homepage…they’re interesting and give a real flavour of what it was like.
    They say everyone’s got a story to tell….some are more interesting than others….can’t wait to read more.

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