When we arrived in Rhodes by Taxi, the river took us up the coastal road along the western side of the Island to our hotel which sat almost at the top of the peninsula. As I gazed out of the taxi window at the bars and restaurants that line the road, one caught my eye – Kojak bar. I am not sure whether it was the white stucco background to the huge black lettering or the reminiscence of my childhood days watching seventies cop dramas (Kojak was amongst my favourites alongside Ironside, Police Woman, Columbo and later Hill Street Blues) with my mum that intrigued me, but I wanted to find out more.
After we had our first day of sightseeing around Rhodes it was getting towards ‘beer o clock’ so we decided to head back towards the hotel and stop off for an afternoon beer at Kojak’s to see if it held its intrigue for us.
We peered in the door and the place looked deserted apart from one solitary soul at the bar and the bar tender behind. We wandered in anyway and ordered. The place is decorated in what can only be described as country pub kitsch. You have tourist tea towels from all parts of the UK adorning the walls mingled in with Greek ephemera of tools, trinkets and ceramics. It certainly will not win any design awards, but it made up for that in dusty charm.
It wasn’t long before the other solitary drinker introduced himself to us; a guy from London who had been visiting Rhodes for over twenty years of his 62 year life. He described Rhodes as his little secret place where he knew all the places that most of the tourist don’t stand a chance of finding on their one or two week holidays here. He was also gay, one of those wonderfully slightly camp older men who add the word “dear” at the end of sentences instead of full stops.
He was great company and we spent the next few hours chatting to him and the bar owner, Ali. Ali has run the bar for over thirty years and was a real charming man, completely gay friendly and had no trouble with us or our new found companion who had been visiting the bar for years and was now a family friend.
The place is quite popular with gay visitors to Rhodes although you won’t find it in any guidebooks. The reason is that the only gay bar on Rhodes (the Berlin Bar) is situated on the street behind and Kojak’s has become a firm favourite for the early drinks before that place gets going at around 11pm. Keep Kojak’s going for another thirty years by paying a visit while you are in Rhodes, the drinks are cheap and the warm welcome worth a visit alone.
Over the next few hours we learnt of Ali’s time building up the bar from it’s humble roots of a shack on the beach road, years before the four and five star hotels emerged from the earth surrounding it. We also finally discovered why the bar got its name.
In his youth Ali bore more than a passing resemblance to Telly Savalas, or Kojak as I knew him in my youth. The film, Escape to Athena was filmed in Rhodes in the late 1970’s, it starred Telly Savalas and Roger Moore . Ali got the chance to meet the great Telly Savalas as the proud pictures on display indicate. I may have heard claims during the conversation that Ali acted as his double during the shoot, I can’t confirm this, but looking at the pictures of him in his youth he could certainly have got away with it. Ali showed us pictures of himself in his younger days with women draped on his arms - he seemed to do very well with the ladies as a film star lookilikey, thankfully he has settled down now and has a wife, children and a host of rescue dogs.
Why did we choose that bar and meet one of the only tourist gays in Rhodes village? I dont’ know but travel does that to you sometimes and something just drew us there. I am glad we did, it was a real pleasure to meet Ali and hear his stories of the changes in the Island over the years.
The bar is on Akti Miaouli just north of the statue at the roundabout at the Place Archiepiskoppou Chrisanthou.