Greek-American celebrities Melina Kanakarides, Nia Vardalos, Michael Chiklis at the event. Photo thanks to Nia
By Alex Mizan*
Last week in a typical Los Angeles fashion, Hollywood met Washington at the fundraiser Chairman of Fox Studios Jim Gianopulos and his wife Ann hosted for Alexi Giannoulias, the 33-year old Greek-American who is running for US Senate in the state of Illinois.
Alexi Giannoulias, the youngest State Treasurer in the country, son of Greek immigrants and President Obama’s protégé announced his bid for his mentor vacated seat in the US Senate only last July and is already on the campaign trail in his effort to get a head start from the opposition and win the Democratic Party’s nomination.
The event was co-hosted by several Greek-American Hollywood celebrities, including actress, writer and director Nia Vardalos and Melina Kanakarides, starlet of CSI New York. Ms. Vardalos, who was attending the event with her husband Ian, was excited to see a young Greek-American run for the world’s most exclusive club of 100 and she said she is ready to support him without hesitation. Also present were Aris Anagnos, Vice President of the American Hellenic Council and famous for his liberal political action over the years and the new Consul General of Greece in Los Angeles, Mrs. Elisavet Fotiadou. Mr. Anagnos expressed his satisfaction that Mr. Giannoulias is a healthcare-reform supporter and has a very good shot at a US Senate seat. Despite the presence of high-profile members of the local Greek-American community and of the entertainment world, the event was relatively quaint, allowing everyone to get a chance to speak to both the hosts and the candidate.
Located in the posh suburb of Brentwood, the Gianopulos home was marked by simplicity, yet tasteful design, jiving with the low-profile family lifestyle the Chairman of Fox Studios maintains. The cool back yard provided shelter from the hot summer California sun and made a perfect setting for the visitors who flocked in to meet the rising star in American politics, exchange ideas and socialize with the celebrities.
After the attendees got a chance to taste the Greek-cuisine hoer d’oeuvres, Mr. Gianopulos warmly greeted Mr. Giannoulias with a short, sincere introduction. He stressed that he sees in Alexi a new generation that is needed in the Senate in order to bring meaningful change in the way business is done in Washington. It’s notable that even though Mr. Gianopoulos is generally not involved in political activities, he chose Mr. Giannoulias and opened his home to him.
The passion to make America a better place and motivation to do it that Mr. Gianopulos saw in Alexi becomes obvious when you speak to the candidate or when you hear him speak. Mr.Giannoulias thanked his Greek immigrant parents for teaching him to be a fighter in life and how they instilled on him the belief that in the United States anything is possible if you set your mind on it and work hard at it. He mentioned he was excited to be in Hollywood and joked that if he hadn’t had “other obligations” he would be totally content living at Mr. Gianopulos’ guest house.
The event winded down a little before sunset but not before almost everybody had a chance to speak one-to-one with the promising new star of Greek-American politics. Overall, it was a quiet event, yet one marked by the ever-increasing connection between the show business and the political arena. The catalyst this time: Greek ancestors.
*Alex Mizan is the director of American Hellenic Council