Alexis Mardas (Magic Alex)

Yanni ('John') Alexis Mardas, better known as Magic Alex, became a close friend of The Beatles in the mid 1960s.

...and then I brought in Magic Alex and it just went from bad to worse.
John Lennon

John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Magic Alex (Alexis Mardas), 1968

Alexis Mardas was born on 5 May 1942 in Athens, Greece. A former teenage science prodigy, he moved from Greece to England in the early 1960s, and met The Rolling Stones' Brian Jones in around 1963. The group went on to commission him to design a way to link sounds to lights for the group's live shows.

He befriended John Dunbar, owner of the Indica art gallery in London, and the pair shared a flat on Bentinck Street. It was there in 1966 that Mardas first met John Lennon.

Lennon nicknamed him Magic Alex because of his impressive technological and scientific knowledge. Lennon often called him his "guru", and he became part of The Beatles' extended entourage after they stopped touring.

Because John had introduced him as a guru, there was perhaps a little pressure on him to try and behave as a guru. I didn't treat him that way, I thought he was just some guy with interesting ideas.

In 1967 The Beatles briefly considered buying a Greek island to escape the pressures of fame, and as a place where they could take drugs undisturbed. They were seemingly unaware that Greece had recently been taken over by a military junta.

Mardas promised to use his family connections to help broker the deal with the Greek government. They chose an island - often cited as Leslo, although no island of that name appears to exist - which was to have a series of houses built for The Beatles and their close associates, linked together by a series of tunnels.

The group's assistant Alistair Taylor was given the task of purchasing the land from the Greek government. However, The Beatles soon lost interest in the notion of an island retreat, although they did make a profit on the failed deal, estimated at £11,400.

It was about the only time The Beatles ever made any money on a business venture. To make the purchase, we'd changed the money into international dollars or some currency. Then, when they changed the money back, the exchange rate had gone up and so we made about 20 shillings or so.
George Harrison

John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Magic Alex (Alexis Mardas), 1968

Magic Alex appeared briefly in the Magical Mystery Tour film, and went with The Beatles to India to study transcendental meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It has been claimed that this was because he saw his influence with the group waning in favour of the Maharishi.

It was Mardas whom allegedly told Lennon and Harrison that the Maharishi had been making advances towards Mia Farrow, the catalyst which led to their departure from India.

It was Magic Alex who made the original accusation and I think that it was completely untrue.
Paul McCartney

Following their return to England, Lennon's wife Cynthia went with Mardas, his flatmate Jenny Boyd (sister of Pattie Harrison) and the singer Donovan, on holiday to Greece. When Cynthia returned to the Lennons' house in Weybridge, she found John having breakfast with Yoko Ono, the pair clearly having begun a relationship.

Cynthia left the house with Mardas and Boyd. He is said to have got Cynthia drunk and tried to persuade her that they should run away together. Cynthia was sick in the bathroom and went to bed in the spare room, but Mardas joined her and attempted to kiss her until she pushed him away.

The following day Cynthia returned to her house, and Lennon appeared completely normal. Soon after he travelled to New York with Paul McCartney, and Cynthia went on holiday with her mother to Italy.

During the Italian holiday Mardas appeared unexpectedly and told Cynthia that Lennon was suing her for divorce on grounds of custody and seeking sole custody of their son Julian.

The mere fact that 'Magic Alex' arrived in Italy in the middle of the night without any prior knowledge of where I was staying made me extremely suspicious. I was being coerced into making it easy for Lennon and Yoko to accuse me of doing something that would make them not look so bad.
Cynthia Lennon

14 responses on “Alexis Mardas (Magic Alex)

  1. Aaron Thomason

    I read that Magic Alex spread the rumors about the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi hitting on women. John apparently later heard that from him. I don’t believe it, I’ve read the Science of Being and Art of Living and Maharishi seems like a real Guru in the Disciplic line he is in. It’s also a helpful read to delve in to the subconcious, I have yet to learn the TM method, I’m a bit scared of that, Lol.

    1. Aaron Thomason

      I wrote this before I read the article, Paul said about the same thing, Lol. Is this the same Yanni that is the easy listening musician, Lol. Joking of course.

  2. Andre

    Magic Alex also had this venture where he claimed to make cars bulletproof…he just opend up the upholstery and added bulletproof vests into it and closed it up..a pathetic job…
    He also claimed to be related to some Greek royal family…

  3. Bongo

    Never understood (from what I’ve read/heard) what Lennon saw in him, but of course I was never part of the inner circle, so what do I know! He was lucky to be there, I’ll give him that much!

  4. BWH

    I’ve just been researching the “Nothing Box.” Recently I received a print catalog from the Hammacher Schlemmer company. They included a little filler item saying that they introduced the “Nothing Box” in 1962 and that the Beatles purchased hundreds of them as gifts. There is a picture I found on a website of John holding this box, which looks exactly like the drawing of the box in the original ad. And John, in this picture, is definitely pre-Alex in appearance. SEVERAL YEARS earlier in appearance.

    There are several sources that cite the “Beatles bought hundreds” story. Some say the box was metal, some say wood. This article on this page says plastic. In the picture of John holding the box, it looks metal to me.

    According to one website, an abstract from a New Yorker article from 1962, a housewife whose husband was a retired engineer made the box for her, thinking it would amuse her. She brought it to the president of Hammacher Schlemmer thinking he’d like it, and he did, so he made it a catalog item.

    Several sources state that Dwight Eisenhower even bought one of these boxes!

    Perhaps this “Nothing Box” has become Lennon/Magic Alex folklore because Alex’s name got mixed up with it. Somehow, perhaps, because he was making similar types of things, and because John had one of these boxes, people just put his name with the “Nothing Box.” But it’s quite obvious to me that the “Nothing Box” was clearly out in the world, and John seems to have acquired one, according to the photo of him holding it, several years before Alex Mardas ever came into the Beatles circle. Also, in the link that Tony Sables provides above, Alex Mardas himself makes no mention of the “Nothing Box.”

  5. BWH

    Scroll to page 31 of this online catalog, and you’ll see the filler item for the “Nothing Box” at the bottom left of the page.

    You can zoom in to see it clearly. Although at some point there may be a different version of the catalog at this link after some time has passed from the date I’m posting this, so you might not see this item on page 31, if at all.

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