When planning the Gabby Awards this year, my overall goal was to create an experience for people that would pay tribute to Greece and Greeks who have impacted Hollywood.
I didn’t want to organize yet another Greek dinner dance. I wanted a true cultural and educational experience that would showcase the real impact on Greece and Greeks in the film industry.
This wasn’t just about making a list of Greek names that have appeared in film credits… but more of how these people’s Greekness helped them do what they did and how Greece as a country also impacted the development of the industry.
We accomplished this a number of ways.
First, we organized a groundbreaking exhibition that was viewed by thousands of people throughout the day (it was open to the general public) in the foyer of the El Capitan Theater called “The Greeks of Hollywood.”
The exhibition was curated, mounted and installed by two amazing supporters– Voula Monoholias from Toronto and George Tsaoussis Carter from New York City.
Both Voula and George (photo) gave all of their time, energy and passion for this project as volunteers. The end result, an epic museum-quality exhibition that included things like historic photos, movie stills, posters and rich and detailed historic detail about people like Alexander Pantages, Spyros Skouras and other people from yesteryear who each impacted the industry in his/her own way.
The exhibition was made relevant to the contemporary crowd with items like a dress worn by Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex and the City that was designed and styled by Greek American (and Gabby honoree) Patricia Field and the shiny, sparkly Oscar and Gold Globe Statuettes won by Olympia Dukakis.
The exhibition also contained a never-before seen collection of photographs by Magnum photographer Costa Manos, shot on the set of the Elia Kazan film “America America” in 1962 in northern Greece. The film, celebrating the 50th year of its release this year, was nominated for three Academy Awards and won one. These photos were gifted to the Greek America Foundation by Manos, so that the public would have an opportunity to experience Kazan the way he did five decades ago– up close and personal.
Finally, when producing and writing the show– from the very moment the lights went down until the last moment of applause was heard by the crowd that had traveled from far and wide– I made it a point to include as much history as possible.
And we did this with the help of one of the most creative teams of people I’ve ever worked with– including research from Ilias Chrissochoidis from Stanford University, a recent Yale graduate named Andrew Sotirou who helped with writing; and, and two of the best creative directors someone could ask for: Chris Markos who created the opening monologue video that featured Alexander Pantages; and Lee McMullan who created all of the historic videos we ran during the course of the night and really “made” the entire awards show, in my opinion.
The Gabby Awards were about a lot of things– which I will be writing about over the next several weeks: the winners, the volunteers, the entertainers… But without those who came before us and paved the road for what we have and celebrate today, none of this would have been possible.
Therefore– to Spyros Skouras, Melina Mercouri, Alexander Pantages, John Cassavetes, Theoni Alderidge, Elia Kazan, Katina Paxinou and many others we honored on May 25th– this night was dedicated to you and your legacy.
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