50 years of partying at the hottest beach bar in the Caribbean

Charles is now 75 and his eponymous bar will soon be 50. Life, which was never exactly hectic, has slowed down. “I’m more of a mascot,” he muses as he sits at one of the tables in the center of Basil’s, his voice slow, thoughtful, punctuated by roars of laughter. This role consists of sitting at the bar, eating quesadillas, chatting with guests and generally making his guests feel special. Later he will dance with the live blues band and play some backgammon.

It’s a dream life, but it all started with Mitchell playing Charles for a week. When the mail boat returned, Mitchell declared Charles indispensable. “I told her the boat was coming, and she said, ‘Oh my God, no, you can’t go.’ I said, “I don’t have any clean clothes,” and she said, “We can fix that!” He sits back and laughs heartily. Suddenly he jumps to his feet. “Look, sea turtles! I swim with it every morning.”

“David Bowie was a great friend”

It sounds simple and idyllic, but Charles’ life isn’t all barefoot dancing to live music and splashing around. He has three children (his two sons live in the US and his daughter in St. Vincent) and three grandchildren. He talks about various girlfriends over the years – also various business ventures including a bar in St Vincent and a general store and wine cellar here in Mustique. Charles has two houses on the island, summers in the Hamptons or Martha’s Vineyard, and is a regular at the Royal Box at Ascot. Next he wants to go to Morocco and Paris, maybe even to Bali.

“David Bowie introduced me to Bali,” says Charles. “We had lunch at his mansion and he told me he had all his shirts made there.” He pauses. “He was a great friend.”

I’ve been told that Charles is fabulously indiscreet with celebrity guests – and he recounts stories of getting “pretty friendly” with Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman, playing tennis with Pippa Middleton (“a strong player”) and with Princess Margaret has picnicked. But clearly a lot has happened that he doesn’t tell – the real attraction of Basil’s Bar and Mustique is the culture of discretion.

Colin Tennant, later Lord Glenconner, bought the 2.2 square mile Caribbean island from a Vincentian family for £45,000 in 1958 with plans to develop it into a cotton farm. His wife, Lady Anne, was a lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret, and Tennant’s brilliant idea was to give the princess a small plot of land on the unpromising, mosquito-infested islet as a wedding gift. She built Les Jolies Eaux, a five bedroom villa. And wherever Margaret went, rock stars, movie stars and tycoons soon followed.

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