Greek American Skate King Rides in the Skies

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Photo Credit tcolla.comPhoto Credit tcolla.com

Andrew Kessler is not anymore with us. The Greek American Skateboarder died last week from complications due to an allergic reaction to a wasp sting he suffered near Montauk, New York, where he was spending summer time surfing and helping a friend get off drugs.

The Skateboard community is shocked for the loss of such a good “brother” as they call him in thousands of mesages that are posted on internet sites and message boards. A forum in which people have posted threads and pictures of Andy can be found here.

Kessler was born in Athens, Greece, adopted by an American family and raised on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, along with another infant orphan from Athens raised as his twin sister. He started skateboarding in the early 1970s in Central Park, on a short hill near to its West 69th Street entrance. He soon joined a group of inner city kids congregating around the bandshell inside the park at West 71st Street, the street he was raised on. The steep paths of nearby Riverside Park also became a favorite haunt of Kessler and other skateboarders.

He was a prominent member of The Soul Artists of Zoo York, which eventually broke up in 1980 and was featured in the documentary Deathbowl to Downtown.

As skateboard technology advanced through the introduction of urethane wheels and specially designed skateboard trucks replaced makeshift rollerskate trucks, Kessler joined other New York kids in developing new forms and styles of skating, including the use of ramps — often consisting of plywood billboard leaned against a park wall or building — to “go vertical” and improvise other acrobatic tricks. Emerging as a leading figure among city boarders, he helped found an associated group of the 1970s graffiti gang The Soul Artists — a splinter group which became known as the skateboard crew Soul Artists of Zoo York.

Featured in trade catalogues and articles in skateboard magazines such as “Thrasher” and “Transworld Skateboarding,” Kessler became a guiding force in the design, development, funding and building of “skateparks” citywide, nationwide and eventually worldwide. He was also a community youth activist who worked with city teens to better themselves, their circumstances, and their urban environment, often in conjunction with the creation of free skating facilities to expend their energies on.

Kessler headed up efforts to create a skatepark in Riverside Park, which was dedicated by New York City Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern on August 21, 1996. Built with the help of teenagers from Harlem and the Upper West Side, Riverside Skate Park became the city’s first municipal park facility designed and constructed solely for skateboarders and rollerbladers. One of the top five applications in the National Park Service’s “Innovation in Recreation” Grant Program, the project received a $50,000 grant, which was matched by the New York City Parks Department, the City Parks Foundation, and local lumber, pipe and paint suppliers. Kessler supervised twenty Manhattan teenagers who, after participating in a workshop conducted by the Alternatives to Violence Project, spent five weeks building Riverside Skate Park. The result is one of the most creative recreation facilities in New York City, which transformed an obsolete and disused playground, and provided thousands of city kids a place of their own to skate. He recently designed and hand built, with the help of two friends, a skatepark for the Youth Center on Rock City Road in Woodstock, New York.

In a 1999 interview conducted by Masha Falkov, a high school student, that was posted on the Internet, Mr. Kessler related what he would want God to say to him at the Pearly Gates: “You’ve done a good job, but you left a few things out, so we’re sending you back.”

Watch a Video about Andy Kessler:
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(With Information from Wikipedia)

The Other Way: A Greek-American Hellenisizes His American Name

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People of Greek descent used to change their names to sound more American. The history of Greg Asimakoupoulos is the other way around. Fort years ago he decided to take back his Greek last name.

By Greg Asimakoupoulos

Forty years ago today, my identity changed forever.
Aug. 13, 1969, was the day my parents Edwin and Star Smith of Wenatchee stood with me and my brother Marc before a Chelan County judge. As the sound of a gavel reverberated in the empty courtroom, the Smiths heard him declare that from that day forward they would be known as the Asimakoupoulos family.

After my paternal grandfather emigrated from Greece and became a naturalized U.S. citizen, he changed his name from Haralambos Asimakoupoulos to Harry Smith. Proud of his new country, my Papou chose the most typical American name he could imagine.

When my dad married and had two sons of his own, his personal pride in his ethnic ancestry was camouflaged by his alias. He regretted his father giving up that tangible part of his Greek heritage. On more than one occasion, he told my younger brother and me what our real name was. Repeatedly we encouraged him to reclaim that which was authentically (and uniquely) ours.

A few months before my senior year at Wenatchee High School, my dad decided to act on his inclination. He made an appointment at the law office of Robert Connor. The legal application to change our name was initiated.

A nervous excitement twisted in my gut. Weeks went by as endless paperwork was processed. And then on Aug. 13, with the bang of the gavel, it was official.

A month later, as I sat in Mrs. Valaas’ French class, I practiced my new signature wishing my grandfather (who died when I was only 5) had lived to appreciate our decision.

After 40 years, I can honestly say I have never regretted the decision to change our name. In spite of all the hassles and headaches associated with such a major change, the resulting sense of pride more than made up for the inconvenience.

I took joy in knowing my dad’s dream to reclaim his ancestral identity had been achieved. In years to come, I did my own dreaming — daydreaming about getting married and passing on that 14-letter surname to my sons.

I guess the Almighty has a sense of humor. When I eventually got married, my wife blessed me with three daughters. Although none of them is yet married, I’m doubting that they will choose to hyphenate with their future husbands’ names. At least my brother Marc has a son who can keep the reclaimed name alive.

A year ago, as my dad’s 14-year battle with prostate cancer drew to a close, he and I reminisced about highlights that marked his 82 years of life.

Greg Asimakoupoulos with his wife

He never quit talking about being aboard the USS Missouri at the surrender ceremony that marked the conclusion of World War II. He also smiled as he recalled the day our family name was legally changed. Remembering both occasions, he was unabashedly patriotic. He had pride in the country from which his father had come and pride in the nation in which he was privileged to grow up.

Over the past four decades, that big fat Greek name has served our family well. It has been a conversation starter as well as the means by which people are more apt to recall having met us.

Once someone learns to pronounce it (awesome-ah-COPE-ah-less), they never forget it.

Peter Andre Shares His Greek Family’s Recipes in a Cookbook

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Peter Andre has reportedly landed a 1.5 million-pound cook book deal putting him on par with his estranged wife Katie Price, who has amassed great money publishing her own tome.

The singer’s progress may be envied by the hottie, say sources.

“This will really drive Katie round the bend – Pete’s empire just keeps on growing. Kate prized herself on having best-selling books, it was one of the things that made her more of a housewife than a party girl,” the Mirror quoted a source as saying.

The insider added: “But now Pete is riding high and more and more success is coming his way since their split.”

The book is supposed to be perfect as a single man’s guide to prepare easy meals for the family.

A source said: “It will start with barbecue food – which all men will love – and ways to spruce up a juicy piece of meat. Then it will have delicious pastas and soups. Trust Pete to keep it authentic with some old Greek family recipes that his fans won’t be able to resist.” Andre’s parents are both Greek. He loves the culture and speaks Greek fluently.

"Ainos" Foundation Makes Donation to Argostoli

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The municipality of Argostoli, Cephallonia island honoured on Thursday the Greek expatriates of the New York-based foundation “AINOS”.

During a special event held at the Napier Garden in Argostoli. the Foundation donated two enviroment-friendly vehicles to the municipality, while mayor George Tsilimidos on his part presented an honorary plaque to the president of the foundation Vassilis Kokossis.

The foundation has offered its assistance constantly to Cephallonia in the past years by supporting the Orphanage, the municipality hospital and the Senior Citizens home.

Expatriate Greeks in important posts

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Yet another expatriate Greek has undertaken an important position in the US state of Illinois. Mariana Spyropoulos has been appointed to the board of the Metropolitan Region Commission which oversees the quality of Chicago’s water, following a decision by state governor Pat Quinn.
As a commissioner, Spyropoulos will deal with the creation and maintenance of policies concerning floods, storm management, rivers and environment preservation. The new commissioner thanked Quinn and gave assurances that she would work towards safeguarding public health and a safe water supply for everyone.
source: ana-mpa

Angelo Tsarouchas on Showtime Network

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Acclaimed standup comedian and actor, Angelo Tsarouchas, brings his trademark self-mocking humor to tales of growing up Greek-American and encounters with other ethnic eccentrics in his travels around the world. His Show “Bigger Is Better” premieres on SHOWTIME NETWORK tonight (08/14) at 11pm PST.

Stelios Sells EasyCruise to Hellenic Seaways

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Four years after launching the budget cruise company, Stelios Haji-Ioannou admits defeat and offloads the struggling firm.

EasyCruise has been sold to Greek ferry operator Hellenic Seaways for a reported €9m. The deal includes both the brand and its 574-passenger ship easyCruise Life, which operates across the east Mediterranean.

Stelios launched EasyCruise to appeal to a younger cruise demographic. But industry rumours whisper that even hardy young travellers were unimpressed by the “no frills” operator, which charged for meals, drinks and entertainment.

Stelios has yet to comment on the deal.

(Source: Realbusiness.co.uk)

Greek Refugee Celebrates 100 Years of Life

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On Aug. 2, surrounded by family and friends, Fay Cromas of Weston, formerly of Brooklyn, celebrated her 100th birthday.

“That’s no mean feat in today’s environment,” said Barbara Gross, one of Ms. Cromas’s friends.

“Yia Yia,” as she is affectionately known, is of Greek descent, and was raised in Asia Minor before it became part of Turkey. As a refugee, her parents brought her to Brooklyn in 1922, where she eventually met and married Basil Cromas — he was from Ms. Cromas’s hometown in Asia Minor, but they did not meet until she traveled to America.

Ms. Cromas is well known for her expertise as a cook (including the old world cuisine specialty of lamb’s brains), as a seamstress (she worked at Bergdorf Goodman creating one-of-a-kind evening dresses), and as a pastry chef in her husband’s restaurant.

Ms. Gross pointed out that in her lifetime, Ms. Cromas has literally come from donkey and cart, to the Model T, to the moon landing, to personal computers, to cell phones, to Twitter (not that she Twitters, said Ms. Gross).

For the 100th birthday celebration, grandchildren Fay and Michael Tritchonis put together a PowerPoint presentation of Ms. Cromas’s life – not a dry eye in the house, Ms. Gross reported.

Although Ms. Cromas has recently started to slow down a tad, her sense of humor is in full force and she continues to make herself breakfast every morning.

She has lived in Weston with her daughter Christine Tritchonis of Stonehenge Road since 2002.

“You and I can only hope to live such a full and eventful life as Yia Yia has, and come out as centenarians with such an ongoing zest for life,” Ms. Gross said.

(Source: www.acorn-online.com)

Harry Markopolos Explains How He Uncovered the Madoff Scandal

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“No one paid us, a four man team to uncover Bernard Madoff. We paid out of our pockets. We had to stand up and do this for free, for patriotism,” said Harry Markopolos (in Greek Markopoulos) at the 2009 Sophocles and Louisa Zoullas Memorial Hellenic Lecture on the grounds of the Kimisis Tis Theotokou Greek Orthodox Church of the Hamptons. He is known as the whistleblower of the securities fraud by Bernard Madoff. The unique event was held on Saturday evening, August 8th. Over four hundred persons attended from the tri-state area, including former Senator Alphonse D’Amato, Judge Nicholas Garaufis, Margo and John Catsimatidis and other prominent persons. A reception followed the event. A lavish buffet cocktail hour preceded the lecture. Program moderator was Dr. Peter Michalos. Mr. Dimitrios Hatgistavrou is the Parish Council president. Rev. Alexander Karloutsos is the protopresbyter
Dr. Peter Michalos introduced the Zoullas Lecture series. “It is always an academic and religious event held twice a year,” said Dr. Michalos, Program Moderator. “We have heard from prominent speakers such as: Supreme Court Justice Kennedy; leading space scientist Prof. Krimigis, who sent spaceships to Mars and Saturn and Dr. Col. Neimyer who spoke of America’s foreign war in 1805 with the Barbary pirates and the major role that Greeks played as the first Marines for the United States.”
“Tonight, this event is about Democracy and Justice,” said Dr. Michalos. “Mr. Markopoulos, who is of Chian background, is a teacher and educator. He explained to the United States Congress and the entire world what financial transparency is all about. The Ancient Greek Philosopher Isocrates said “the roots of education are often bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”
Bernard Madoff cost thousands of investors $65 billion, according to a recent report by Larry Neumeister. “Many people were negligent in the Madoff fraud, including the government’s watchdog agencies. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Mary Shapiro has said the agency has been revamping itself, buttressing enforcement efforts and taking initiatives to protect investors following the Madoff scandal.” In his lecture, Mr. Markopolos explained that his “documentation was buried in the SEC and ignored. SEC had a negative attitude towards his findings. The Hedge Fund industry must be more diligent to customers, revealing exactly what they are doing, and not in secret. This is a global tragedy. Research, Non-profit Institutions, Endowments are now gone. The banking and security regulators were asleep, destroying the United States’ credibility.” His dry sense of humor kept everyone’s attention during the lecture. He described complex events in simple terms understandable to the average person.
“I know I am not a hero,” said Markopolos. “Nor am I brave. We were four men of four faiths who worked against an Army of Bernard Madoff. We tried going to the Press. The Press thought we were crazy and did not print our findings. One may ask where did the Ponzi money go? Twelve percent went to victims and individual investments. Feeder funds and marketing agencies received four percent. Madoff received one percent.” A Ponzi scheme uses money from new clients to pay off old ones. According to a recent interview with Bernard Madoff in Neumeister’s article, “it might be in many different venues …because money was paid out to Feeders.”
Markopoulos believes the Feeder Agencies helped Madoff to succeed. “Greeks are tactless. I tell it like it is. Madoff did not allow outside audits, taking money from organized crime and nations. Forty-nine nations were affected by this Ponzi scheme. We are now less trusting of financial institutions. What frightened our team of four persons was that the Press could not take Madoff down. He was the President of Nasdag. We were really worried about ourselves. I believed that if Madoff found out I turned him in, I would not be long for this world.”
Mr. Harry Markopoulos was born in Erie, Pennsylvania in a tight knit Greek-American family. Mrs. Mary Karas, who attended the lecture, was the goddaughter of his grandmother, Mrs. Pappas. “We were good friends with his parents. Harry has a great personality, like the rest of his family.” His seventeen year military background in the Army National Guard and Reserve, where he served as a lieutenant to major, was revealed in his lecture by describing his strategy against Madoff in military terms. His brilliance as a mathematician is legendary.

(Source: hellenicnews.com / Catherine Tsounis)

John Stamos Performs in Bryant Park

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Stars of hit shows on and off Broadway take the stage in Bryant Park for one last time this summer. Numbers performed by the casts of Billy Elliot, South Pacific, Mamma Mia!, and Altar Boyz, along with special appearances by Matthew Morrison, star of Glee, the new musical comedy TV show on Fox, and John Stamos of Bye Bye Birdie.

Broadway in Bryant Park Season Finale
Thursday, August 13
12:30pm – 1:30pm
Lawn

Learn More at bryantpark.org.