[Hellenic Society of Constantinople]

Call now for this year's annual gala!

Saturday, January 23, 2016 - Wilshire Country Club
Call Mary Morrison (818) 500-0904 or
Jeanette Benetatos (323) 660-5707

Adults $ 125.00
Students $ 75.00
Cocktails 5:30 pm
Dinner 6:30 pm

Yani Begakis: the Greek Behind the Golden Globes
by Tassos Papapostolou, published in 2006 in the weekly Greek newspaper Proto Thema

Yani Begakis

October 16, 1926 - August 12, 2008
Greek Obituary (launches new tab / window)

[Yani Begakis]
The "live history" of Golden Globe Awards could be also named "Yani Begakis". The genuine in manners and origin Constantinopolitan is one of the oldest members of Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), the organization that organizes the Golden Globes. He is the one that helps Greek reporters to get in touch with Hollywood and to receive invitations at the Golden Globe Awards celebration.

As an 8 year old child who had already lost his father, Yani started to work at the buffet of the cinemas of Constantinople, to help his family financially. Today he lives in West Hollywood, one of the prestigious areas of Los Angeles, California.

We met him in the ballroom of "Beverly Hills Hotel" where the Golden Globe Awards show was taking place and he talked to us about his adventurous life, the one that — as he says — one day he'll write a book about.

"Even when I was going to school and I was working, movies were my passion. In my life I have seen countless movies, not only American ones, but French, German and Turkish. By watching American movies and by buying an English self-learning teaching method, I was able, without attending any class, to write and speak English".

In 1946 he went to the army for 26 months and returned home to work in a tourist office. That company was giving us, as a bonus, free trips. I then came twice to Los Angeles as a tourist. I was working in the tourist office that was in the Hilton Hotel in Constantinople and there, between many famous people, I met a Greek American, Mr. Skouras, who was the president of the well known company 20th Century Fox that owned tens of movies at that time.

After the events of September (Turks against Greeks) he couldn't stay in Turkey any more. His destination was again Los Angeles. This time he decided to live permanently here. "I remember I had in my pocket $600, that was good money at that time. I went to meet Mr. Skouras and asked him to help me get a permanent visa, as I came with a tourist visa. He immediately sent me to his friend, a member of the Congress who helped me and I received the permanent visa and work permit". At that time he started to correspond with a Greek newspaper "Embros" of Constantinople. In a very short time he became their correspondent in Los Angeles. In 1959 while I was working with the newspaper "Embros" I became a member of HFPA. Today in order to become a member, you need to not only have certain qualifications, but also strong connections and 3 members of HFPA should propose and vote for you by all members. Every year the by-laws of this very powerful organization of Hollywood allows the entrance of only 5 members. For the Golden Globes, all members (they are no more than 100) have 1 vote. Beside that, being a member of this organization, you can meet and get connected with famous people that can change your life. And here is the example of Yani Begakis. "In one of the events I met a Japanese man who was the son of the publisher of "Screen" one of the biggest Japanese magazines. He asked me if I wanted to work for his magazine as a reporter (correspondent) because they needed one in Hollywood. I accepted the position. His father then visited us, and we signed a contract that remained valid until today — after tens of years".

[Yani Begakis] During this cooperation with HFPA he met all these people that we see them only in television and in the movies. He met Marilyn Monroe. In one trip to Colorado in the 1980s he was invited to a luxury suite of a hotel for a conversation with Bill Cosby that lasted all night. Many times he was invited to Steve McQueen's home, and he is friends with Clint Eastwood. He met Jennifer Aniston for the first time as a little girl, as he was friends with her parents, while he describes Tom Hanks (his wife Rita Wilson is of Greek descent) as a member of the Greek Orthodox Church.

All these years Mr. Begakis was elected and remained a member of the Board of HFPA. He was President 4 times and Vice President 8 times. His colleagues respect all his efforts so that HFPA has the recognition that remains up to now.

Yani, who looks like the papou (grandfather) at the movie "Politiki Kouzina" (he says this movie was one of the best he has ever seen) adores and never forgets to visit the place where he was born. He has an excellent relationship with the Greek Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, and he visits Constantinople as often as he can.

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