Greek American Media Shines at Chrysanthemum Ball

NEW YORK – The dancing and fellowship carried on well past midnight, to the delight of guests who said the 60th annual Chrysanthemum Ball that was held in the warm Ballroom of Manhattan’ s Pierre Hotel and was one the community’s best events of the year.

This year’s event, which raised funds for the development of the facilities of the new St. Michael’s home in Uniondale, Long Island, was dedicated to the community’s standouts in American broadcast media, including Emmy Award-winning Fox 5 TV anchor Ernie Anastos, CBS new Business Correspondent/Anchor Alexis Christoforous, Fox News’ Chief Congressional Correspondent Mike Emanuel, Fox 5 News Chief Meteorologist Nick Gregory, CBS New York News Reporter and News Anchor John Metaxas, Fox 5 Business Anchor Nicole Petallides and TV Journalist and CBS News veteran Andrea Stassou.

With warmth and wit, Anthoula Katsimatides moved the program forward after His Grace Bishop Sevastianos of Zela offered the invocation, assisted by the Cathedral Dean, Fr. Anastasios Gounaris, who led the guests in reciting the Lord’s Prayer in Greek and English.

His Grace called down God’s blessings on the Philoptochos, “and on those who labor for those who are in need.” All the honorees, many of whom share longstanding personal and professional friendships, turned the speaking program into what the guests agreed was with justice a mutual admiration society.

Anastos said he was happy to have been able to use his full Greek last name from the start – Ernie is one of a number of Greek-American substitutes for Anastasios. He delighted guests when he asked Katsimatides “Shall We Dance “and took a turn with then ebullient MC before yielding her podium.

Christoforous, whose roots are in Cyprus, quipped that in honor of twitter going public this week all speakers would limit themselves to “140 characters or less.”

That was an ambitious goal, but the guests appreciated that all the remarks were short and sweet and hoped the honorees would prove role models for future community events. She gave a shout out to former and perhaps future mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis and thanked Philoptochos for its work.

Sportscaster Harry Cicma, whose roots are in Macedonia in Greece, said he was the new kid on the Greek-American broadcaster’s block in New York, and touchingly praised his grandmother, and his mother, who is from Olympia in Greece. He said he was honored to be present with people like Anastos, who along with Bob Costas and Pete Sampras – Cicma was a tennis pro – were his heroes, and thanked them for paving the way for him and other Greeks.

Gregory declared his Hellenic colleagues to be “one big family,” and congratulated them, noting “they would not be in the New York market if they were not outstanding.” As a young student, he revealed his broadcast dreams with Anastos, who prophetically told his current colleague of eight years, “maybe one day we will be working together.”

Between the risotto appetizer and the bronzini main entree, the remaining honorees received their awards. Katsimatides noted that were Metaxas – who, like her, is a popular MC at community events – might have manned podium that night if he were not receiving an award. He in turn congratulated and thanked her for her gracious turn as MC on behalf of all the honorees.

“It’s very special for me to come home tonight to the Cathedral, where I grew up, where my grandparents and parents were married, I was baptized, my wife and I met in Fr. Robert’s bible class” – he noted that Fr. Stephanopoulos likes to say they came to that one class and never came back – “and my children were baptized at that church.”

He also noted that his father, Taki Metaxas, spent 24 years on the Cathedral Board and his mother Mary worked on the Chrysanthemum Ball. He added , echoing Christoforous’ words on the importance of connection in the community, that “this night allows me to connect with my past, with my colleagues, especially my CBS colleagues Andrea and Alexis, my Holy Trinity of New Rochelle brothers, Ernie [Anastos] and Nick [Gregory]… and will all of you together, this is really family for me tonight, and very meaningful for me. Thank you all very much.”

With a wink to those who know her family, Petallides said that “I stumbled into this work.” Her mother, Fannie Petallides-Holiday, who was beaming with pride, as usual, was the publisher of the Proini newspaper for many years. “Yeah right,” she said, eliciting laughter. “We watched the news all the time.”

After acknowledging that she had a number of TV role models, she said, “My mother is my role model,” and also expressed appreciation for her father and stepfather. She said she’s also proud of her Hellenic and Cypriot heritage. “ I love being on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, but it’s really cool to work the Greek parade.”

“I am honored to be included with this group of journalists,” said Stassou, and noted that she once worked as an intern with Anastos. She said that while raising her two children gives her less time on the guests’ TV screens, she continues to experience the love the community has expressed to her in all the places her broadcast career has taken her.

The Chrysanthemum Ball has perfected the two-tier event formula the Philoptochos pioneered that adds a Young Professionals event to a formal dinner. While the guests enjoyed their three courses and four singers accompanied by the Power Station band, the ballroom lobby was jammed with young people served a buffet and the latest hits by DJ Andrea Pandelis.

Petalides said that “from the music we hear next door,” she knows the passion for Hellenism was being passed successfully to the next generation. When the youth later poured into the ballroom to join the dancing, the kefi quotient shot through the room’s venerable roof.

Also present were Dean Emeritus Fr. Robert Stephanopoulos and Presbytera Nikki Stephanopoulos, Michel Spinellis, Greece’s Ambassador to the UN, the Consul General of Greece, George Iliopoulos and his wife Anthousa and John and Margo Catsimatidis. Dean Poll, the President of the Cathedral’s Board of Trustees, was unable to attend.

The speakers thanked and congratulated the Ball’s Chairmen, Antonia Makkos and Stephanie Pantelidis, and the Chairman of the Young Professionals committee, Justin Bozonelis. Anthoula Katsimatides also acknowledged the representatives of the Greek-American media in attendance, including Antonis Diamataris, the Publisher of The National herald, for their work covering the community’s events and issues.

Iliopoulos lauded the venerable tradition of the Ball, and told TNH that he is always pleased to be part of events like Ball which have endured through the years, especially when they cause the community to gather together to honor the achievements of its members and to support a good cause, such as the work of the Philoptochos. John Catsimatidis told TNH “I’m always proud to be with our people. I love them, and I’m here because they are my people.”