MANHATTAN - September 7th at 7pm in the historic and magnificent West Lounge of the Metropolitan Club, billionaire John Catsimatidis celebrated his 70th birthday. The Greek-American entrepreneur, radio producer, owner, chairman and CEO of the Gristedes Foods food chain and Red Apple Group, is a genuine embodiment of the American dream.
Born in Nisyros in 1948, he arrived in the USA with his parents at just six months of age. His family originally moved to West Harlem, and his father, a former lighthouse keeper, had to work in restaurants to provide for his family. But John Catsimatidis' humble beginnings did not prevent him from building an empire from scratch.
"Twenty More Years," is what Catsimatidis wants for his future, clearly pleased with the course of his life. The evening, expectedly, was full of prominent and distinguished guests. Surrounded by his family, his wife Margo Vonderstaar-Catsimatidis and his children Andria Catsimatidis and John Catsimatidis,Jr., personalities such as Tom Constance, Michael Psaros, Peter Kakoyannis, John Calamos, Anthony Limberakis, Nick Katsoris and his wife Voula Tsoutsoplidis, George Pataki and Richard Silverman. Dr. George Korkos, Francine Lefrak, Steve Bellone, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Director of the National Economic Council, Larry Kudlow, were also present, as were many others.
"We wish you longevity and health and let us celebrate your birthday together next year too," said Tom Constance to his friend John Catsimatidis through TNH.
Lawyer Peter Cacoyannis said, "Yiannis, we all love you very much. Always excel, never change!”
"Yiannis, happy birthday! I love you and your family. You are really one of my heroes. You are a leader and titan of our community. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate and admire you," Michael Psaros told us.
In response to a question from TNH John Calamos said, "He has done a great job with all his businesses. He is a source of inspiration for the entire Greek community. He works very hard not only for his personal gain but also for the benefit of the community."
"John is a defender of the religious freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. He presides over the Committee of Religious Freedom, facing both national and international problems," said Anthony Limberakis.
Margo Vonderstaar Catsimatidis, clearly excited, said to TNH, "I have been with my husband for 45 years. Nevertheless, he never stops astonishing me and I believe that tonight's evening is an honor for him and for all our friends who were born in September. Our friends came from everywhere to help us celebrate his birthday. I want to thank them all. They are all like our family."
Similarly, his son, John Catsimatidis, Jr. told us, "It's my father's seventieth birthday. He has built incredible businesses that offer jobs to tens of thousands of people and throughout his life he has had meetings with presidents, CEOs and other important people, but he always finds time for his family. Whether I was twelve years old and I had minor problems, or twenty years old, and I needed business advice, he would always pick up the phone. He took me to basketball practice every single Saturday and,believe me I was a basketball player only a father could love. It’s really a fantastic evening and I appreciate everyone here who’s giving their love to him."
A live band played jazz, swing, Frank Sinatra's songs, music from classic cinema and Broadway hits, such as Breakfast at Tiffany's and the Fiddler on the Roof, entertaining the guests during their meal. Of course, from the birthday celebration of John Catsimatidis, Greek music could not be be missed. Bouzoukia, hasaposerviko, nisiotika and kalamatiana had their honor, while the singers chanted 'Long live Greece'.
Margo Catsimatidis, always pleasant and cheerful, pulled off her uncomfortable heels without hesitation, choosing comfort over style. As a true hostess who has everything under her control, she passed all the tables, talking and laughing with everyone.
One of the most important moments of the evening was when the cat-shaped birthday cake appeared on the stage and many friends of John Catsimatidis, who also had their birthday in September, went to the stage to put out the candles with him. Hesitantly, Mr. Catsimatidis cut a small piece of the cat's tail because, as he said, he loves animals way too much. Members of his family and friends took the chance to extend their wishes and share fun memories.
"70's a huge milestone. To a lot of people it means retirement, but those who know my dad know that this is happening anytime soon. Everyone is thinking about the number 70; to me I’m thinking about the number 7, which is a lucky number. I am the luckiest girl in the world to have John Catsimatidis as my father. He taught me to love this country and that everything in America is possible. When you work hard and you dream big you can be anyone that you want to be. And that's why I decided to become Manhattan’s GOP chairwoman. As a Manhattan’s GOP chairwoman I feel obligated to do this plug right now: my dad would make an amazing mayor for New York," said his daughter Andria, while the applause filled the room.