Old Mon Desir revisited

HAVEN: One of the public bars at the iconic Mon Desir Hotel.
HAVEN: One of the public bars at the iconic Mon Desir Hotel.

It's been almost two decades since teary-eyed regulars sipped their last glass of Lion beer at the iconic Mon Desir Hotel.

The beachfront Takapuna landmark had been around for 90 years, changing with the times but forever known as the North Shore's place to be and be seen.

Now only memories remain, and often hazy ones, former Mon regular Kathy Fray says, which is why she's organising a one night only Mon Desir Revisited reunion bash in Albany.

"It's time to relive your youth while you can still remember it," she says.

What began as a seaside resort in the 1920s soon became known as ‘party central' and by the 1980s the Mon had the biggest on-the-spot beer consumption in Auckland, Mrs Fray says.

Locals worried it was catering for the young rowdy monied crowd who would boisterously party to bands around the swimming pool which is all true, she says. Especially on those notorious Thursday nights.

The Mon's spectacular beachfront location and wild reputation attracted many showbiz personalities from rock stars and actors to international sports stars.

David Bowie famously stayed for four days of debauchery when he toured in 1978. His room was flanked on all sides with bodyguards but rumour has it a few Kiwi girls made it through the security.

The manager at that time, the colourful character Dick Jones, was quoted later as saying “I told the police that if ever I rang them, I was in deep trouble. I never cried wolf.”

It was a place of liberation and excess and who can forget the Mon's iconic parrot cage with the hotel's mascot, a lippy galah cockatoo named Joey, she says.

"Through successive building changes what always survived was its addictively refreshing indoor-outdoor quality and the feeling of walking to the seashore through the trees.

"The Mon felt good for the soul," she says.

But the dream began to fade in 1994 as plans were finalised to demolish the hotel and build beachfront apartments.

Kiwi band Hello Sailor played a gig at the Mon in the wake of the announcement with hundreds of adoring fans singing along to hits such as Blue Lady and Gutter Black. And later in its last couple of weeks the Mon went out with a bang, Mrs Fray says.

A stellar line-up of New Zealand's best musicians including Midge Marsden, the Al Grant Band, the Rockafellas, Dave Dobbyn and The Exponents helped Takapuna farewell its beloved Mon.

The hotel is still missed by locals and visitors alike almost two decades later, Mrs Fray says.

"On that finale night, while the beer flowed, the tears flowed too," she says.

The reunion party will kick off at 7.30pm on November 17 at Ferguson Bar in Albany.

Visit the website mondesirreunion.co.nz for more information. Tickets are $20 with $15 Early Bird tickets before September 15. Proceeds from the evening will go to Starship Hospital.

North Harbour News