CP casino

The japanese périod (1973-1980)

Part 2: The japanese casino.



The second era therefore began in 1973 with the takeover of Lydia by the Japanese group Seïbu, which transformed it, under the rule of its flamboyant director Kuniko Tsutsumi, into a luxury casino.







The case was made a few weeks earlier at a meeting organized by DATAR, chaired at the time by Jacques Monot. During this meeting, it is a question of relaunching the “Racine Mission” for the development of Languedoc-Roussillon by attracting private investors.

This is where the flamboyant director of SEMETA, Senator Gaston Pams will, so to speak, impose Barcarès on the no less flamboyant Kuniko Tsutsumi, director of Groupe Seïbu in France. He shows her the Lydia and declares  “The French are too respectful of traditions, here we play the audacity”.

The case is settled, the Lydia is sold to the Japanese group for a pittance in exchange for the promise made to build a hotel and a leisure residence on the spot. This will be the Lydia-Playa Hotel and the Rising Sun Residence.

In the left the master of Barcarès Got, in the middle K.Tsutsumi, on the right G.Pams.

The project of Kuniko, daughter of one of the largest fortunes in Japan, is ambitious: to make Lydia a luxury casino that will operate in parallel with the hotel for accommodation. The Lydia becomes his toy, his darling, his hobby. Especially since “The Princess” has its entries. The Yéyés give way to Parisian VIPs. The navigator Alain Colas is chosen to be the godfather of the ship.

                          K.Tsustumi et Alain Colas aboard. Copyright photo: L’Indépendant

Major transformation work will then be undertaken to adapt the liner to its new mission, without the slightest discernment and the slightest regard for its past. The decoration will be entrusted to Michel Ambrogi and Yves Betin.

We don’t skimp on the price either, nearly 20 million francs are invested to transform the interiors. The silhouette of the ship undergoes a slight change at the level of the foredeck where a winter garden is created instead of the swimming pool and the bar. Against the hull and to materialize the entrance, a light structure is built. The funnel now bears the colors of the Seïbu company.

Inside, on the other hand, everything changes, an entire deck is cleared to make way for the casino.




On the ground floor, the nightclub “Trunk” then becomes the “Lydia-club” and remains in the same place but with a brand new decoration.




Still on the ground floor but at the back this time take place a ball room as well as the “Zig-zag” bar:

Above, on the first level, an entire bridge of cabins as well as the old “Trunk store” are demolished to make way for the actual casino, cash desks, games room and at the front a bar named “Le Crésus” in reference to the new destination of the place but also a nod to the well-known King of Lydia.

                                on the left the casino , to the right the snack “Crésus”

Finally, above the casino, takes place a new restaurant “Isadora” which extends on the front beach, making disappear the open-air bar as well as the swimming pool.

The restaurant “Isadora”

The Lydia then swims in luxury: artists, jet-set and “beautiful people” mingle with rich South Catalan industrialists. The costumes are designed by the couturier Karl Lagarfeld, the key ring is signed by Hermès. The cinema will also be interested in the Lydia casino, which will serve as the setting for the film “l’Alpagueur” by Michel Labro, starring the very popular French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo.

                                           To the left: K.Tsutsumi et le couturier Ted Lapidus

Golden era certainly, but above all a costly illusion that will last barely five years.

At the end of the 1970s, the reopening of casinos in Spain sounded the death knell for this costly illusion.

Worse still, the management of the casino is catastrophic and the casino is closed in 1978 following the forced and forced withdrawal of Kuniko to whom Tokyo has definitively cut off the financial taps.

The Lydia will be operated for another three years by the Seïbu group but as a simple annex to the hotel, a seminar and conference room. Only the very popular “Lydia-club”, holds the course for night cruising.

In 1980 the Seïbu group finally threw in the towel: The Lydia once again changed hands and the Lydia-playa hotel was sold, a new period began at the dawn of the 80’s…

…Nevertheless, the new layouts, however beautiful they may be at the time, are very 70s-style…

…Gone are the timelessness of a marine decor, the authenticity of a unique place…

In 1980, the only remaining elements are the almost intact bridge (only the compass is missing), the staircase, the social hall, the aft lounge (both at promenade deck level) as well as an entire deck of cabins which serve as offices.

This period is crucial for the future of Lydia, even if at the time nobody realizes it yet: by putting it in “fashion”, by yielding to “trends” in terms of decoration, we have doomed to grow old…

the Lydia has already lost part of its soul…

The rest of her story : HERE

                                          Olivier Alba

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