Monday, 10 March 2014

Mario, Koh Phangan Veteran and Disco King

Disco King Mario @ Mer Ka Ba Beach Club

Statesman, Model's Mama, Model, Agent, Drag Queen, Disco King!

Our much loved Koh Phangan character may change his chameleon identity like the wind, but to us he is only one thing:

Mario, A Koh Phangan Veteran


Mario first arrived to Koh Phangan an amazing 27 years ago, in 1987. 

Literally, there was nothing in Haad Rin at that point: no electricity, no roads, no restaurants, no Haad Rin Queen, even.  Mario arrived on a fisherman's boat from Koh Samui, and stayed in fishermen's huts on Haad Rin beach for 50 baht for a night. 

'We came for full moon, a short 4-5 day trip.  We only stayed in Haad Rin, but we knew we'd discovered a really secluded, Robinson Crusoe island.

Everyone has forgotten now, but Haad Rin means 'beach of the sand flies'.  We were bitten by sandflies all the time we were lounging there.  There was no music - no electricity or generators - so we'd build bonfires, and guitar in hand, sing 'House of the Rising Sun'.  Real late hippy stuff.

Haad Rin at that time was famous for the possibility to run about fully naked, no-one had any problem; it was really tolerated, even by Thai people.  Back then, Koh Samui was capitalistic, chic & trendy, whereas Koh Phangan had an alluring hippy appeal. And the same is still true today.'

Mario came back to Koh Phangan five or six years later, and since '92-93 has been a regular seasonal visitor.  He's been here 18 times in 27 years.  He's travelled through S E Asia, and says of his daily life as model agent, PR director, spokesperson & public figure, that here on Koh Phangan, 'I can be just Mario, the core of my soul.'
'Basically Koh Phangan is the island where I feel most at home, not just the island itself, but meeting friends from all corners of the world here, from all continents...   I've bonded with many and developed prolonged Koh Phangan friendships, that have carried on since many decades. I can trust people here - Lynn, Alex, you, Pablo - touch wood, I know you'll be here, and if we meet in Europe it will be same same. Bottom line that once you connect on KPG you can connect anywhere in the world.'
A true Koh Phangan veteran who arrived on these shores before there even was a Full Moon Party, Mario remembers his first experience in the early '90's - 'OMG!', he says.

He also remembers the golden years of Full Moon Parties in '98' & '99 (so do I), before the FMP turned commercial with the arrival of 50,000 revellers for NYE 2000.

'I was here for the Millennium NYE Party.  I was so impressed, everyone I attended with dressed in white, so we could see each other.  I developed a 'tic', a habit to dress in white from then on.  I love colour, as you know I'm a very colourful person, but I love to dress in white - so I glow not just from the inner but from the outer as well.'

Mario started his infamous White Parties at Leela Beach in 2004 with Peter G. 'People dressed in white and they loved it; it was a big thing to me if people came in dress code, it was a huge show of respect to come in dress, even if only white.

I organised three White Parties at Leela Beach and the White Boat Party in 2008. At that time I was staying 3 months, living here, having the time of my life.  I was a regular, I was a citizen of this island…

"n my psy trance times, I used to be the Ban Sabaai After Party Man, from start to finish.  The years came and passed, but the Back Yard was always THE party not to be missed: Jan 1st, always so many good times and memories, you have to admit: it's the best party you can possibly attend...'

Smouldering Sex God Mario
What does Mario think of the Koh Phangan party scene nowadays?
'I haven't been here for 2yrs and so many things changed.  Lance, who I've known for 15yrs, and Sharon (I was the first person she met on Leela Beach) are doing the greatest thing ever! I love Mer Ka Ba, it's really a great venue, I've never seen it before: it has a complete Ibiza style appeal, but it's Koh Phangan.

First time I went to Eden, OMG!!  I love the music there!  I love Eden, what a venue I love Guys Bar, I love Mer Ka Ba, and Ban Sabaai is still great too.  The old lady who runs the restaurant calls me 'Big Mama', I love it.  I'm the director of a model agency called Mother Agency, so everything fits perfectly well calling me Mama!

I've developed a 2nd taste away from the Psy Trance and Goa Techno I've always loved, and I really love this electronic Koh Phangan happy soundPeter G and Anika count here as my brother and sister, the bond is so tight and still is.  I remember having the best time with Filippo, and I love Boy's music!  

Last weekend at Guys Bar I heard Marcus Meinhardt... My God, what a great party that was!!!'

Another morning of Meini magic

Can you describe your style and sarong accessories for us, darling?

'The thing is, of course I don't have the super, gorgeous, tanned body with no fat.  I'm obliged to cover my figure so I need some fluffy stuff around me.  I need to take the focus from body to head, and I have a new turban headband each season.  I love to dress in my white moroccan kaftan, it gives me the appeal of being different - and still mixing in with the crowd.

People will remember me because I'm the only one wearing a dress, many people remember me just because of my styling and I like that.

In my career world with thousand of models (I've done over 500 shows), fashion is part of my daily working living life.  Clothes are an expression of my inner self, and I like to be toned in yellow/orange Hawaai shirts for example, add a little colour co-ordinated hat and you have the perfect outfit.

I love to shop on Koh Phangan, it's cheap, good quality and I still have some shirts 10yrs later.  I want to make a real fashion show on the beach, maybe at Mer Ka Ba, and one day I'm going to do it, I'm sure.  I'm a photographer: I love to shoot people and bring their beauty to the picture.  I'm scouting here looking for new models all the time, I give them my card.'

Always scouting for new talent...

'Actually, I am a film director and I would love to introduce my work to the public, this is my VERY first movie. I filmed and produced it in 1992 - in Ibiza. You see me starring in it as Dame Galaxis.  Please have a look below, and watch it till the end!'

As smouldering sex goddess Dame Galaxis in

There's enough material to do a 'Mario, Koh Phangan Veteran and Disco King, Part 2', we haven't even touched on Mario's connection to Lighthouse & to Oi, and Karla & Dam.  But for now here's the eloquent Mario with the last words:

'I am of the crew who love Koh Phangan, who respect nature.  I love their attitude, habits, the way they are thinking, the way these people approach me.  I like the way they are Buddhist.  It doesn't matter if you are gay - or whatever label the outside world gives you - you can just be yourself.

You know that British comedy scene, 'The Only Gay in the Village'... of course I'm a very sexual person, but here on Koh Phangan, I feel the love.  They love, kiss, hug & talk to me.  Heterosexual guys hug me but not in a sexual way.  AJ is such a great person, and so gorgeous, but it's nothing to do with sexual context:  I feel the love on Koh Phangan for who I am, Mario, not based on my sexuality.'

New friends and disco divas
'Enjoy your holidays in Thailand:  Koh Tao, Koh Phayam, Koh Chang, Koh, Koh, Koh...

But I know why I come here: I know exactly what flight, plane, train, ferry to take and I'm here 18hrs later.  Home to Haad Rin, to my best friend Oi at Lighthouse.  You never get lost, it's like coming home… and still every year I discover something new: 
A beach, venue, location and, of course, new people!'

With huge thanks to Mario for 14 years of amazing friendship (we met at a Half Moon Party around 2000), and for his flamboyance, panache and his huge amount of true Koh Phangan spirit. Love you Mario!