San Francisco, CA.- On Saturday, Nov. 3rd, San Franciscoʼs Nob Hill turned into a veritable local Mount Olympus, as the Elios Societyʼs sixth Hellenic Charity Ball attracted some 750 prominent members of the Greek-American community, as well as Hollywood moguls and glitterati plus political notables and honorees both past and present to the historic Fairmont Hotel.
This yearʼs honorees were five distinguished and award-winning Greek-Americans from the entertainment industry: stage and film actor Michael Constantine, actress. director, producer, teacher and author Olympia Dukakis, President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Sid Ganis, entertainer Tony Orlando, and film and television producer Anne Thomopoulos.
On hand were political figures former Governor Gray Davis, former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, former San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzalez, and gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides. Lending glamour to the event the Greek Consul General, Xenia Stephanidou, Oscar winning director Alexander Payne, Head of MTM Entertainment Tony Thomopoulos, renowned actor John Aniston, and Helene Alexopoulos, former Prima Ballerina with New York City Ballet.
“On behalf of the Elios Society, I want to thank everyone involved in making this wonderful event such a success,” said Fanis Economidis, President of the Elios Society. “Heartfelt thanks in particular to the sponsors, who through their generous contributions, enable Elios to achieve our mutual goals of celebrating our culture and heritage.”
Widely regarded as one of the premiere Hellenic charitable events in the nation, the Hellenic Charity Ball began in 1997 and is presented biennially by the Elios Society. This yearʼs theme “Celebrating our Culture” provided an opportunity to formally celebrate Hellenic culture by honoring Greek-Americans for their professional and civic achievements, and who best exemplify the spirit, values and ideals of Hellenism.
Gala Dinner Chair, Gary M. Vrionis welcomed the guests, and the awards presentation was moved along smoothly by masters of ceremony, Ken Bastida and Juliette Goodrich of CBS 5 Eyewitness News. In her acceptance speech Anne Thomopoulos set the tone for the other four honorees by stating that after considerable thought, she felt that her “Greekness” began and ended around the dinner table. Food, family and community were mentioned by Michael Constantine, Olympia Dukakis, Sid Ganis and Tony Orlando as factors that added to their proud heritage. A special tribute was paid to Greek soprano Maria Callas on the 30th anniversary of her death.
Proceeds from this yearʼs Hellenic Charity Ball will provide financial support for select Bay Area organizations dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Hellenic culture and heritage. The Hellenic Charity Ball has enabled the Elios Society and its Elios Foundation to donate more than $450,000 to a variety of not-for-profit organizations. The beneficiary of this event is the Elios Charitable Foundation, which funds several cultural organizations among which are: The Nemea of Classical Archeology Studies Center operating under the auspices of UC Berkeley; Folk Dance and Choral Festival of Metropolis of San Francisco; Hellenic Heritage Institute of San Jose; and the Greek Independence Day and Cultural Parade.
The Elios Society was founded in 1994, and is comprised of 75 distinguished Greek-Americans from the San Francisco Bay Area. The mission of the organization is to preserve and promote the spirit, values and ideals of Hellenic culture and heritage for the benefit of the Societyʼs general membership, Greek-American youth, and the general Greek-American community of Northern California, through a process of mutual enlightenment and fellowship.