Spectacular ruins tend to have an even more spectacular story behind them. Often a mix of political, economical, technical and social events stands as small beacons of lights along the path from boom to bust. Very true also in this case, where we’ve found the remains of an early venture of the founder of the Penthouse magazine, Bob Guccione.
Although Guccione was an American, the story of the Penthouse magazine began in England back in 1965, having a soft-porn and lifestyle content. Guccione must have been hell of an entrepreneur so apart from establishing Penthouse in the US in 1969, presumably very creative and high-rank discussions with the Yugoslavians lead to the construction of the Penthouse Adriatic resort and casino which opened in 1972. Officially, Yugoslavia was a strict communist state, but a pragmatic approach to business allowed some level of capitalist investments, particularly within the tourist sector, which secured a much needed inflow of hard currency. Some 45 million US dollars were invested in this particular venture and one can wonder how much of that ended up in the pockets of Tito and other members of the Politburo top-brass. Guccione himself presented the Penthouse Adriatic as "an antidote to cold war misunderstanding".
The Penthouse June 1972 issue boldly states "The Penthouse Adriatic is a more-than-rarefied rendezvous for the sophisticated and appreciative traveler who demands the kind of cosseting that only Penthouse understands and provides". A less elegant and circumventing phrase, but more straight-on is "Penthouse Pets are employed as hostesses and croupiers entertaining the guests". One can only imagine what was level of "service" was provided in this resort and how the presence of decadent westerners in this spectacular hotel was handled by the state. Presumably, the remote location at the beautiful island of Krk by the Adriatic Sea allowed some level of distant isolation to the locals. It furthermore seems plausible that a part of the idea behind establishing a decadent resort in a more or less closed country was to ensure some level of privacy for its guests, away from Paparazzis and gossip magazines. It is therefore no surprise celebreties like Saddam Hussein showed his appreciation by a legendary $2000 tip. One can furthermore try to imagine the scenes when it was discovered that one of his sons after departure had forgotten his very personal handgun, hidden under his pillow.
Although today in a severe stage of decay and looting, the resort still shows an absolutely extraordinary level of sleazy luxury anno the early 1970s, far from the typical meager Eastern Block style, but perfectly en par with the story of the Penthouse Empire. Guccione quickly climbed up and was during the 1980s one of worlds wealthiest and for years it appeared like all he touched became gold.
The first reaction is that it is a complete mystery that such a cool place in such an exceptional location is abandoned and looted and the only logical explanation to me was something related to the breakup of Yugoslavia back in 1992. With a bit of additional research, it appears like the place had more or less business as usual until around 1990. Where the red regimes fell one by one, it appears like the resort was sold as part of a state privatization program (just like with the Treuhandanstalt in former DDR) to some venture based in Liechtenstein with links to some local entrepreneur in Belgrade. Imagining the fierce war in 1992 and the turbulent years following it, presumably the legitimate ownership of the place became somewhat unclear as the resort is in Croatia and the only people prepared to buy it were the somewhat questionable ones (some very brutal welds and fences made of rebars seen in the building seconds that). Since around 1995, it appears like the place has been bouncing around a variety of shady "property development companies", all located in various tax heavens. Obviously, the current state of abandonment is not a result of lack of will or ignorance by the authorities, but rather an ongoing headache for everyone.
Sic transit Gloria mundi - things come and things go, or there are no Evergreens freely speaking. Where the zenith of the empire seems to have been in the early 1980s, new competition entered the scene and when distribution of porn found new channels the creative entrepreneurship that once created wild things like Penthouse Adriatic was fading. In an attempt to combat the new landscape, Penthouse went more hard-core during the 1990s and started its trajectory down the drain. After a series of unsuccessful investments, it became evident that what earlier appeared as gold had now reverted back to sand and the publishing company for Penthouse finally went bust in 2003. During the 2000s Guccione's empire gradually imploded in a series of failures and sell-outs, culminating when he had to abandon his spectacular and tacky 22,000 square feet Manhattan mansion in 2006. Mr Guccione finally passed away on October 20 2010, aged 79.