Mustique, the St. Vincent and the Grenadines island that Colin Tennant, the Lord Glenconner, purchased in 1959 and later bestowed plots of on his elite pals (Princess Margaret’s piece was a wedding gift), saw its fair share of naughtiness, with a little help from the locals. After all, the Gilligan’s Island paradise was devoid of any obvious amenities.
“When we first arrived, there were just a few families, and we had one generator and one telephone that was on the main switchboard,” recalls Jade Jagger, who began going to her father Mick’s house there as a child in the seventies. “And the generator guy would sometimes drink too much rum, and we’d find him asleep in there, and we’d try to get it going ourselves.”
So to entertain themselves, Mustique’s denizens would throw house parties said to include boys wearing only coconut oil—except when Princess Margaret was present. For the sake of the royal’s modesty, Lord Glenconner made sure the village youth at the island’s infamous Golden Ball wore codpieces fashioned from coconut shells and painted gold. Not that Princess Margaret was a paragon of perfect behavior: When she retreated to Mustique after the failure of her marriage to Lord Snowdon, it was into the arms of Roddy Llewellyn, a gardener 17 years her junior—not exactly dynastic-nuptials material.
Perhaps the consequences of such fraternizing with the natives were that the eighties became all about showmanship and grand hostessing. On the southern part of the Spanish island Ibiza, a typical summer would have had George Hamilton, Princess Diana, Gianni Versace, and Claude Montana all partying in the nightclub Ku. (Princess Tessa of Bavaria and Countess Jacqueline de Ribes were just a few of the boldfacers who kept homes there.) Mica and Ahmet Ertegun’s mansion in Bodrum, Turkey, had 10 bedrooms and 15 bathrooms, and was occupied by a rotating group of friends like Chessy and Billy Rayner and Jerry Zipkin. And Marta Marzotto, the wife of the Italian finance titan Count Umberto Marzotto, who had a vacation place in Porto Rotondo, Sardinia (south of the Aga Khan’s resort complex Costa Smeralda), was known to head out for the night wearing Russian emeralds and a sequined top; she would jump into her silver Rolls-Royce, only to drive it to a destination a mere two minutes away. “I wear emeralds because I like mint,” she remarked rather cheekily in 1983.
Meanwhile, Yanna Avis, a French cabaret singer and the widow of Warren Avis, the founder of the rental car company, kept one of the liveliest houses in Acapulco, La Barranca, where the couple hosted Egon von Furstenberg, Cristina and Jerry Goldsmith, and Mary McFadden, among others. Avis would often throw luncheons by the ocean, with her staff carrying food down the steep cliff from the house. “Even the gardener was on duty, and they would all come down the steps with things on their head,” Avis says. “I always felt a little guilty about it, but they were good sports. They didn’t have much of a choice!” Avis recalls going to parties at an even grander manse nearby, the Villa Arabesque, owned by Houstonians Baron Ricky and Baroness Sandra di Portanova, which had 12 suites, 3 swimming pools, and a tower of guards with machine guns: “They had their own nightclub in the house that was used for a James Bond film, actually. It was so huge—they had the most amazing waterfalls coming down, and when they would turn them on, you’d really think you were in Disney World.”