Robert Bogard contacted Formidable magazine after reading our article on Beatnik Ibiza. A writer, he was in all the right places at the right time. Paris in the 50s with all the jazz scene in the Quartier Latin, Edith Piaf, and the existentialists. Later in Ibiza’s golden era during the early 60s when the island had the perfect balance between hipsters and fishermen, vernacular and abstract, jazz and flamenco, peasants and artists. There he and his wife mingled with all the scene makers.
Before all that he served in the Pacific during the WWII, and in his retired days Robert sailed the Caribbean sea.
Definitely his life is “less ordinary,” and we could only find one adjective for it, Formidable!!
Robert Bogard: Dolores and I first went to Paris in the summer of 1956. We took a lot of stuff with us because we had no idea how long we would stay, and neither of us had been to Europe before. For that reason, we caught a freighter out of Houston, which is only 200 miles from San Antonio. My mother and stepfather drove us down there to see us off.
I had always been interested in writing and had just published in American Weekly, a magazine distributed with newspapers nationwide with several million circulation. I thought it was just a matter of time until I got the Nobel Prize! The freighter was going to Le Havre, France, via Hamburg, Germany, and it broke down in mid-Atlantic for a few days. When we got to the English Channel, it was smothered in fog, and since this was before most freighters had radar, we couldn’t move! There must have been 100 ships stranded in the fog and blowing their fog horns every few minutes. No sleep! The trip took 22 days!
We went to Paris, I guess, because all of the great American writers and painters, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, etc. had done it, and they all wrote of how much they loved it.I think we wanted to be as close to them in spirit as possible. My best friend at university had gone ahead of us and written us of how wonderful it was. And there were several famous living American writers and painters living there at the time. Also, art was Dolores lifelong interest, and, years after Ibiza, she got a doctorate in art history and taught it in several different universities
Some of the American expatriates in Paris had gone to Ibiza and then returned, and they all raved about how beautiful it was, how inexpensive it was to live there, and on and on. Paris was very uncomfortable then because France really hadn’t fully recovered from the war. There was almost no heat in apartments or hotels or cafes or restaurants. My wife and I were from a very warm climate, San Antonio, Texas, and weren’t used to that uncomfortable all the time.
We went to Torremolinos for a while and eventually wound up in Ibiza. We loved Ibiza at first sight. It was just getting warm there, tourists were starting to arrive, the weather was wonderful, and right away we began making friends. We seriously considered buying a house there, but the island was some sort of military preserve then and it was hard for foreigners to get permission to own a house. Also, after we had been there for about six months, my father died, and that changed things a lot. Also, Ibiza, simply because it is an island, had some disadvantages; getting to and from the mainland was sometimes a problem in winter; the boats didn’t come, the mail stopped, that kind of thing. No place is perfect!
Ibiza ca. 1959-60. I think the camera I had on Ibiza was an Argus C-4, an inexpensive American-made 35mm.
The town was pretty primitive compared to what it is like now. There was almost no pavement, and it was much smaller. There were two or three things that brought writers and artists there: the cost of living was incredibly low compared to any place else in Europe and maybe in the world; Ibiza was of course very beautiful; and the climate was relatively mild (although it did snow in the winter of 59-60).
The predominant nationality among the foreigners was German, but they were divided into two groups. About half of them were ex-Nazis, some of whom were war criminals who had served jail terms after the war, and the other half were German Jews. several of whom had suffered greatly at the hands of the Nazis during World War II. For example, Wolfgang Ebert had been in school in Switzerland when it started to get dangerous for Jews in Germany, so he just stayed in Switzerland throughout the war. When the war was over, he returned home, but all of his family and relatives were dead–killed by the Nazis. These two groups did NOT intermingle. The Nazis had their bars and nightclubs and so on, and the others had theirs. If my wife or I had been discovered in one of the Nazi bars by Katja or anyone else in her group, we would have been immediately ostracized. The hatred from the war was very deep.
There were, of course, a few people of other nationality. For example, there was a Romanian guy who had been assigned to his embassy in Madrid during the war. Romania became Communist shortly after the war was over, so he would have probably have been imprisoned if he had returned home. So he moved to Ibiza. He spoke about ten languages, all very badly. He never finished a sentence in the same language he started with, so nobody ever had any idea what he was talking about. Katja befriended him and let him sell her seascapes, all the artists there painted seascapes to sell to the tourists in the summer. It kept him alive, and the artists too!
The is a view from the terrace of our house. The Ses Sevines was further off to the left as I remember. San Antonio and bay are in the distance, and you can see how small the town was then.
The bodega, I can’t remember the name of it, but it was a favorite hangout. Dave MacDonald was a Canadian who had just published an article in, I think, the Saturday Evening Post about what was happening to the great English estates in the wake of World War II.
Journlist Wolfgang Ebert and artist Katja Meirowsky with me. I don’t remember where Los Caracoles was, but I suspect it was in Ibiza rather than San Antonio. Wolfgang was an old friend of Karl and Katja’s. He wrote a humorous column in one of the German newspapers, and even wrote a funny column about Dolores and me, two clueless Americans who had brought a refrigerator and all of their pots and pans and stuff from the States so they could live an American style life in Europe!
The people on the boat were Katja, my wife Dolores, Karl, Charlie Fox, and Shelly Jacknowitz. Also on board but not showing in this picture were Dan Levant and his wife Sarah. We were going to a beach on the extreme northwest corner of the island that in those days was inaccessible by land. We spent the day on the beach and the crew got drunk on the boat!
Here we are spitting watermelon seeds shows from left to right, Karl, Dan Levant, Shelly Jacknowitz, me, and Charlie Fox holding the pan. Stupid, but we were all pretty well stupid with drink by then! The one of me on the boat is on the way back to San Antonio, and there is one of a big rock island in the water.
Shelly Jackowitz, and his artist friend Till something, I can’t remember his last name. They were also friends of Karl and Katja’s from some time in the past. They lived together in menage a trois arrangement with a very beautiful young woman whose picture I regrettably do not have. I don’t know whatever happened to them.
Till in his house / studio.
Katja Meirowsky in her studio.
Hipster Charlie Fox with his wife.
Dolores and me with Ham MacFadden, who was a most interesting character. When Ham and his wife came to Ibiza, he said he represented some New York investors who wanted to build a hotel on Ibiza, and he went out looking at property. The money for the project was supposedly in Switzerland. It turned out to be very difficult for him to get any money, so he was always borrowing money. When I got back from driving my mother and her friend and her step granddaughter around Europe, MacFadden and his wife had become very friendly with Dolores. He was full of wonderful stories, he had been a producer on Broadway in the 1920s and then moved on to Hollywood as a director. He had a play he had sent to an American producer who was currently in Paris, and he needed 200 dollars to go to Paris to see this man. So he asked me for the money. I gave some excuse and told Dan Levant, who had lent him 300 dollars earlier. Dan went to the Guardia Civil, told them his story, and MacFadden and his wife were detained. However, Mrs. MacFadden gave one of the Guardia a diamond ring, and the MacFaddens got away. When I got back to the States a few months later, I discovered that everything he had told us about Broadway and Hollywood was true!
There was a French count living on the island who named himself honorary consul so he could import stuff from France without paying any duty. He had a big castle somewhere in southern France, Le Puy?, and his wife lived there. He and Hamilton became good friends and the count told Hamilton that if he and his wife were ever in that part of France they should stop by and she would give them a place to stay as long as they liked. So the MacFaddens went there when they left Ibiza. Through the count’s wife, the MacFaddens were introduced to some members of the famous Rothschild family, who got them into a suite in the Ritz Hotel in Paris. They stayed there for weeks until things began to get hot again and they took off!, owing the hotel thousands of dollars. Interpol was trying to find them for a long time, but they never did. I don’t know what happened after that except that many years later I tracked him down on the internet and learned that he had died in Queens, New York some time in the 1970s and that his wife was living in a nursing home, somewhere in Rhode Island, as I recall. She, by the way, was a hopeless alcoholic, probably owing to their life style! Hamilton was from a prominent family, he had gone to Harvard, and his mother had once run for governor of Massachusetts.
Regarding my writing, I did sell an article about Ibiza while I was living there. I continued to publish things now and again, but it was pretty obvious I wasn’t going to be able to make a living at it. I tried getting into the antique business, exporting Spanish antiques for auction in New York, and that worked out fairly well, but I didn’t enjoy it much. Meanwhile, my American college friend who lived in Paris had got a job with the University of Maryland, which offered classes all over the world to American servicemen stationed abroad. He and his wife had a month off, August 1962, and they had us rent a house for them at Castelldefels on the beach for that month. We saw each other frequently, and I told him I was not particularly happy about what I was doing. He said, “Why don’t you get a job with the University of Maryland?” I said, “How do I do that?” He said, “I’ll call them, tell them about you, and we’ll see what they say.” I spent the next five years teaching English and American literature to American military stationed all over Europe and the Middle East! I published very little in those five years, mainly in the University of Maryland quarterly.
In the summer of 1964, I bought a ruin of a house in Vejer de la Frontera, down near Cape Trafalgar, and had it rebuilt. It is a very beautiful white town. I sold it in the summer of 1990 to an Englishman who bought two other houses on either side of mine and converted the whole thing into a hotel. I was back in Spain in 2010 and stayed in my old house!
Also lived in Madrid for about five years, 1970-75.
These pictures have to do with a joke my wife and I and a few other non artists played on the serious painters. Dolores,as you see, moves from location to location outdoors painting a still life that has nothing to do with her location and eventually goes into a bar and then takes a shower.
I did have a record player [in Ibiza] and all of my records, 78 rpm. Like most people, I think, my taste in popular music was formed when I was at a certain age, say between 14 and 18. Since that was in the big-band era, there was a lot of Glenn Miller, Harry James, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Ink Spots, etc. I was on a battleship in the Navy towards the end of World War II, and we had a band that could really play that stuff! Of course, it made everybody very homesick! Popular music changed so much in the years just after the war that I lost all interest and developed a taste for the classics. The night clubs on the island had live music, and it was pretty much the popular music of the day as I remember.
I think there were some people who were getting drugs, but it was not the big deal it became much later. I should think it would have been very easy to smuggle drugs into Ibiza then, but I didn’t know anybody who was really hooked. There was never any talk about drugs that I can remember.
I didn’t have a car when we first landed on the island, but we quickly got very tired of walking everywhere, so we went back to Paris and bought a second-hand Volkswagen after just a week or so on the island.
As for the locals, we were certainly good friends with many, but we didn’t socialize with them to any degree. In those days a lot of them spoke only Catalan, so that was a barrier.
Playing a satire of the abstract expressionists. Chris Fisher showing his masterpiece.
This one was on Dan Levant’s roof. The party was in honor of a couple of ballet dancers who were had come to Ibiza. The little boy on Dan Levant’s roof had a birthday while he and his family were there, and Dolores asked him what he most wanted as a birthday gift. He immediately replied, “A jar of peanut butter!” You couldn’t get peanut butter on Ibiza then, or anywhere else in Europe that I know of. We had a blender, so Dolores bought a lot of peanuts and we started shelling them. I never realized how many peanuts it takes to make one jar of peanut butter! It took forever, but we finally had enough for one jar. The kid said it was the best birthday present he had ever had!
I was in the Navy when World War II ended. I enclose a picture of me and my friend Glen Schimmel on the USS South Dakota. In the background you can see a little pickup truck that some of the crew stole in Japan. I don’t know what they wanted with it, and it disappeared shortly after we got back to the States.
My own boat, which I bought shortly after I retired in 1991. Dolores and I had planned to buy a condominium in San Antonio and spend half the year there and half on the boat. We bought this boat in St. Petersburg, Florida and sailed it around there for a few weeks getting used to it. However, Dolores decided she didn’t want to take any trips on it, so she drove back to San Antonio alone. Meanwhile, I had met a guy in the marina who wanted to do more or less the same thing I did, and we took off, each in our own boat but sailing together. We did this for about six years. We would spend about three months or so on the boats and then leave them in a marina and go home for about three months. We sailed all the way down through the Bahamas and finally wound up in Venezuela. Then he went back to Florida via Cuba, and I came back to Texas. I felt I had done everything I wanted to do with the boat, so I sold it. But I do have regrets now and then!
Text by Robert Bogart. Photographs by Robert Bogart *
*Except American freight circa 50s, John Lewis and Sacha Distel album cover photo, and dancers by the Senna river circa 50s.