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John Lennon, Brigitte Bardot and Gerald Brenan: the crazy years of Spain’s Costa del Sol | Culture

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Brigitte Bardot, in Torremolinos in 1957.
Brigitte Bardot, in Torremolinos in 1957.Colección La Térmica

There was a time in Spain’s Costa del Sol when you could see French actress Brigitte Bardot having a drink in a restaurant with a donkey by her side. You might spot John Lennon and The Beatles manager Brian Epstein at a café, or find notorious art forger Elmyr de Hory heading to the beach with a hamper. You could see Scottish actor Sean Connery in a public cinema watching one of his James Bond movies, French director Jean Cocteau making ceramics, or English crime bosses the Kray twins pulling out a gun at the slightest provocation.

With the southern Spanish city of Marbella starting to grow and the literary circle of British writer and hispanist Gerald Brenan and American poet Gamel Woolsey bringing life to the Malageñan town of Churriana, the municipality of Torremolinos became the epicenter of the golden years of the Costa del Sol – all at a time when the area was just a handful of villages with white-painted houses. Visitors from across the world traveled there to enjoy themselves away from prying eyes. They hung out at the beach, but also in watering holes such as Pedro’s Bar, The Blue Note and Betty’s Bar. The British owner of the latter, Betty Pope, remembers entertaining Frank Sinatra while his wife Ava Gardner was seen with bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguín.

Gerald Brenan, in Churriana.
Gerald Brenan, in Churriana.Col. Familia Pranger

The list of celebrities who visited the Costa del Sol in the second half of the last century seems endless, especially in the 1970s and 1980s. As many as 150 famous figures are named in the new book Excéntricos en la Costa de Sol (or, Eccentrics on the Costa del Sol), written by José Luis Cabrera and Carlos G. Pranger, with illustrations by Cintia Gutiérrez. The work, recently published in Spanish by La Térmica Cultural Center publishing house in Málaga, brings together real-life stories that are stranger than fiction. It is filled with anecdotes, surprising friendships and prints that offer a glimpse into this corner of freedom in Spain while the country was in the grip of the Franco dictatorship.

Torremolinos was the stage of an epoch that was a “vaudeville, a party that seemed to have no end and no beginning,” the authors write in the book, which took two years to complete.

The volume covers the stories of the famous visitors, but also includes historical details, such as the sale of contraceptives in a pharmacy in Torremolinos, where the streets smelled of hashish from the hippies and beatniks, who would mix with local women in mourning and the families of fishermen. At the time, however, alcohol – not hashish – was the drug of choice. Novelist and playwright William P. McGivern wrote that in this paradise “servants and liquor” were amazingly cheap.

Several writers from the influential group of poets known as the Generation of ‘27, as well as Spanish artist Salvador Dalí and muse Gala Éluard, who was reportedly the first woman to sunbathe topless in the Costa del Sol, also flocked to this corner of Spain before the Spanish Civil War. They stayed in the Santa Clara Hotel, which was bought by wealthy British heir George Langworthy.

But Torremolinos really took off in 1958, following the end of the Spanish protectorate of Morocco, when the inhabitants of the former Tangier International Zone decided to cross to the other side of the Mediterranean. The 1960 earthquake in the Moroccan city of Agadir pushed many others to do the same. Through word of mouth, Torremolinos ended up bringing together the paths of an eccentric group of people at a moment when the idea of rampant development along the Malagueñan coast was nothing but a bad dream.

George Langworthy at the Santa Clara Hotel in Torremolinos.
George Langworthy at the Santa Clara Hotel in Torremolinos.Col. Remi Fernández Campoy

“We used to sit at a café in Torremolinos looking at all the guys and I would ask him, ‘Do you like this one? What about that one?’,” John Lennon recounts of his experience visiting the town in 1963 with Brian Epstein. Epstein would return two years later to visit the famous flamenco tavern La Bodega Andaluz, where he saw legendary dancer Carrete perform. At the beginning of the 1970s, the first English pub opened up in Málaga: Shelagh’s Bar. Another popular joint was the Fat Black Pussy Cat, owned by singer John Mitchell, who was once seen entering a bank on the back of his horse, and Pedro’s Bar, where Henri Charrière, the author of Papillon, used to have an aperitif alongside the pet of the bar: a parrot named Captain Morgan. War veteran Dave Black also used to go to the Three Barrels Bar with a parrot on his shoulder. He would order a beer for himself and a rum and coke for the bird.

Gerald Brenan had already been in Churriana for more than two decades, after buying a house in the area from the Heredia family in 1943. Today this district in Málaga is a residential area next to the airport, but back then, it was a lush meadow that was one of the most important literary hubs in the world. Brenan and his wife, Gamel Woolsey, invited several generations of writers to their home. These guests would also visit La Cónsula, a house bought by US couple Bill and Annie Davies. Literary critic Cyril Connolly, polymath Bertrand Russell, actor Laurence Olivier, director Orson Welles, actress Vivien Leigh, painter Lars Pranger and poet Lynda Nicholson were just some of the notable figures to pass through its doors. Writer Ernest Hemingway even celebrated his 60th birthday in the house. But Brenan was not overly impressed by Hemingway, describing him in his memoirs as “a kind of sea captain with a white beard who only talks about bullfighting.”

Freddy Wildman and Lars Pranger in Alhaurín el Grande.
Freddy Wildman and Lars Pranger in Alhaurín el Grande.Col. Familia Pranger

In his final years in Málaga, Brenan opened his home to youngsters from the beatnik generation who arrived in droves to Torremolinos. Those were also the days of gangsters Reginald and Ronald Kray, popularly known as the Kray Twins, who were celebrities of the London crime underworld in the 1970s. This was when hustler Donald Munson would come to town in his Ford Taurus with a Greek license plate and a bullet hole in the windshield; when New York photographer and filmmaker Ira Cohen would visit, and sex symbol Bob Reed would give swimming lessons. Those were the days when Torremolinos received visits from a diverse range of personalities: from LSD guru Timothy Leary and writer Thomas Bernhard to glam pioneer Arthur Brown and Hollywood stars Judy Garland and Kirk Douglas.

It was also a golden age for Marbella. This was the era that gave birth to the Marbella Club Hotel – which continues to drive tourism in the city to this day – and the residential estate La Virginia, which remains an oasis among the concrete jungle. La Virginia was designed by architects Donald Gray and Juan Manuel Figueras and was home to a colorful array of residents including the dukes of Windsor, Formula 1 driver James Hunt and Vic Grubby, who filmed advertisements in the mansions and, when finished with work, took advantage of the space to record porn movies. Spanish writer Ana de Pombo stirred the city’s social life at her tea salon La Maroma, which featured panels made by Jean Cocteau. Welsh actor Stanley Baker even bought a house in Marbella after appearing in the film The Guns of Navarone. Meanwhile, Northern Irish soccer player George Best was partying and drinking carajillo – a type of alcoholic coffee – with retired Spaniards to the dismay of his team Manchester United. No eccentric personality escaped the influence of the Costa del Sol.

English version by Melissa Kitson.



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Census 2022 – what difference does it make?

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Next Sunday, April 3rd, is Census night. Millions of people in homes countrywide will fill in page after page of questions, some of which are deeply personal and many of which might be unfamiliar.

But what it is it all about?

At a basic level, Census 2022 will be used to inform planning of public policy and services in the years ahead, according to the Central Statistics Office.

The questions will cover a range of environmental, employment and lifestyle issues, including the use of renewable energy sources in homes.

The questions will help inform policy development in the areas of energy and climate action, and the prevalence of internet access, to understand the availability of and need for internet connections and range of devices used to access the internet.

Questions also focus on changes in work patterns and will include the trend of working from home and childcare issues, while questions are also asked about the times individuals usually leave work, education or childcare, to help identify and plan for transport pattern needs locally and nationally.

Other topics covered include volunteering and the type of organisations volunteers choose to support, tobacco usage and the prevalence of smoke alarms in the home.

And of course there is a time capsule – the chance to write something which will be sealed for the next 100 years.

In this episode of In The News, the head of census administration Eileen Murphy and statistician Kevin Cunningham about what it all means for us.

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Oscars 2022: Will Smith makes Oscar history after slapping Chris Rock over joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith | Culture

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Will Smith took the Oscar for Best Actor at last night’s 94th Academy Awards, but he also became the protagonist of the ceremony for other reasons. The night was following the script, until Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on the stage after the latter made a joke about the shaved head of the former’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock had quipped that he was “looking forward to GI Jane 2,” in reference to her look. Pinkett Smith has revealed publicly that she has alopecia. It looked as if the moment had been planned, until Smith went back to his seat and shouted: “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”

The moment, which immediately became Oscar history but for all the wrong reasons, left the attendees with frozen smiles, and asking themselves whether it was possible that a veteran such as Smith could have lost his cool in front of tens of millions of people. After taking the prize for Best Actor, the superstar actor made a tearful apology, saying that he hoped the Academy “will invite me back.” Later on, actor Anthony Hopkins called for “peace and love,” but it was already too late. The incident overshadowed the success of CODA, which took the Oscar for Best Picture. Just like the time when Warren Beatty mistakenly named La La Land as the big winner of the night, no one will speak about anything else from last night’s awards.

At first sight, Smith’s actions looked as if they were scripted. When he first heard Rock’s joke, he laughed. But his wife was seen on camera rolling her eyes, and it was then that the actor got up onto the stage and hit Rock. When he returned to his seat he raised his voice twice to shout “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth,” sending a wave of unease and shock through the attending audience. The fact that he used the f-word, which is prohibited on US television, set alarm bells ringing that this was real and not a planned moment. In fact, the curse word was censored by the broadcaster, ABC, in the United States.

During a break, Smith’s PR manager approached him to speak. In the press room, which the actor skipped after collecting his prize, instructions were given to the journalists not to ask questions about the incident, Luis Pablo Beauregard reports. The next presenter, Sean “Diddy” Combs, tried to calm the situation. “Will and Chris, we’re going to solve this – but right now we’re moving on with love,” the rapper said.

When Smith took to the stage to collect his Best Actor award for his role as Richard Williams – the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena – in King Richard, he referred to the character as “a fierce defender of his family.” He continued: “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do you’ve got to be able to take abuse, and have people talk crazy about you and have people disrespecting you and you’ve got to smile and pretend it’s OK.”

He explained that fellow actor Denzel Washington, who also spoke to Smith during a break, had told him: “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”

“I want to be a vessel for love,” Smith continued. “I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern. I want to apologize to the Academy and all my fellow nominees. […] I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams, but love will make you do crazy things,” he said. He then joked about his mother, who had not wanted to come to the ceremony because she had a date with her crochet group.

The Los Angeles Police Department released a statement last night saying that Chris Rock would not be filing any charges for assault against Smith. “LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” the statement read. “The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”

On December 28, Pinkett Smith spoke on social media about her problems with alopecia. She stated that she would be keeping her head shaved and would be dealing with the condition with humor. “Me and this alopecia are going to be friends… Period!” she wrote on Instagram.



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House-price inflation set to stay double digit for much of 2022

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House-price inflation is expected to remain at double-digit levels for much of 2022 as the mismatch between what is for sale and what buyers want continues.

Two new reports on the housing market paint a picture of a sector under strain due to a lack of supply and increased demand driven by Covid-related factors such as remote working.

The two quarterly reports, one each from rival property websites myhome.ie and daft.ie, suggest asking prices accelerated again in the first quarter of 2022 as the stock of homes available for sale slumped to a new record low.

Myhome, which is owned by The Irish Times, said annual asking-price inflation was now running at 12.3 per cent.

Price

This put the median or typical asking price for a home nationally at €295,000, and at €385,000 in Dublin.

MyHome said the number of available properties for sale on its website fell to a record low of 11,200 in March, down from a pre-pandemic level of 19,000. The squeeze on supply, it said, was most acute outside Dublin, with the number of properties listed for sale down almost 50 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.

It said impaired supply and robust demand meant double-digit inflation is likely until at least mid-2022.

“Housing market conditions have continued to tighten,” said author of the myhome report, Davy chief economist Conall Mac Coille.

“The broad picture of the market in early 2022 remains similar to last year: impaired supply coupled with robust demand due to Ireland’s strong labour market,” he said.

Soure: MyHome.ie

“One chink of light is that new instructions to sell of 7,500 in the first 11 weeks of 2022 are well up from 4,800 in 2021, albeit still below the 9,250 in 2019. The flow of new properties therefore remains impaired,” said Mr Mac Coille.

“Whatever new supply is emerging is being met by more than ample demand. Hence, transaction volumes in January and February were up 13 per cent on the year but pushed the market into ever tighter territory,” he said.

He said Davy was now predicting property-price inflation to average 7 per cent this year, up from a previous forecast of 4.5 per cent, buoyed strong employment growth.

Homes

Daft, meanwhile, said house asking prices indicated the average listed price nationwide in the first quarter of 2022 was €299,093, up 8.4 per cent on the same period in 2021 and and just 19 per cent below the Celtic Tiger peak, while noting increases remain smaller in urban areas, compared to rural.

Just 10,000 homes were listed for sale on its website as of March 1st, an all-time low. In Dublin, Cork and Galway cities, prices in the first quarter of 2022 were roughly 4 per cent higher on average than a year previously, while in Limerick and Waterford cities the increases were 7.6 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively.

The report’s author, Trinity College Dublin economist Ronan Lyons, said: “Inflation in housing prices remains stubbornly high – with Covid-19 disturbing an equilibrium of sorts that had emerged, with prices largely stable in 2019 but increasing since.

“As has been the case consistently over the last decade, increasing prices – initially in Dublin and then elsewhere – reflect a combination of strong demand and very weak supply.”


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