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This Week in History: February 12 to 18

February 12, 2021

FEBRUARY 12TH:

On this day in 1954, Tzimis (‘Tzimakos’ as he was often called) Panousis, the Greek singer, songwriter, and stand-up comedian, was born to a refugee family from Asia Minor. He grew up in Holargos in northern Athens. Panoussis was known not only for his semi-raunchy comedy routines, but also for his rock albums, movie roles, and regular appearances on television and radio programs. According to EuroPopMusic, a famous court battle with the well-known Greek singer George Dalaras began in 1997. Panousis had frequently made fun of Dalaras in his live shows, showing money coming out of his mouth whenever he sang. The court ruled that Panousis would be charged with a 1 million Drachma fine (approximately $3,000) every time he mentioned Dalaras by name on stage. Panousis’ response to that was to call him “the unmentionable” in his show. His famous on stage quip became, “Ladies and gentlemen, I have 3 million Drachmas to spare: Dalaras, Dalaras, Dalaras!” In January of 2018, Panousis died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 64. He was rushed to the Erythros Stavros Hospital in Athens where doctors failed to resuscitate him.

FEBRUARY 13TH:

On this day in 1975, Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash proclaimed the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus. However, the newly formed ‘state’ was rejected by the Republic of Cyprus, the UN, and the international community. United Nations Security Council Resolution 367 stated regret for the declaration. Rauf Denktash hoped that the Greek Cypriots would treat them as equals and proceed to the establishment of their own federated state – which they did not do. After eight years of failed negotiations between the Greek and Cypriot Turkish community, the North then declared its independence on November 15, 1983 under the name of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. This unilateral declaration of independence was again rejected by the UN and the Republic of Cyprus.

FEBRUARY 15TH:

On this day in 1930, Nico Minardos, the Greek-American actor and TV producer, was born in Pangrati, Athens. Known for The Twilight Zone (1959), Assault on Agathon (1976), and Mission Impossible (1966), he was a household name during his prime. A few interesting facts about Minardos: (1) In 1966, he and Eric Fleming were shooting a scene on the Huallaga River in Peru for a TV movie called High Jungle. The canoe they were in tipped over and both Fleming and Minardos were thrown into the river. Minardos managed to swim to shore, but Fleming unfortunately drowned. (2) Minardos traded his home in Beverly Hills for a sailing yacht in Florida, which he subsequently sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to Greece with a crew that included his son George. (3) In 1986, Minardos was caught in an FBI sting operation in New York and was indicted by then-U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani on charges of conspiracy to illegally ship arms to Iran. Minardos was interviewed by Mike Wallace for a segment of the CBS show 60 Minutes regarding his role in the case. Although the indictment was eventually thrown out, the cost of his legal defense drove him to the point of bankruptcy and also ended his Hollywood career. Minardos was the subject of a 2010 documentary about his life titled Finding Nico, which was produced and directed by his godson, Owen Prell, whose father was a longtime friend of Minardos from their bachelor days in Los Angeles in the 1950s.

FEBRUARY 17TH:

On this day in 2012 approximately 70 ancient Olympic artifacts were stolen from the Ancient Olympia Museum by armed robbers. The museum is located next to the site where the ancient Olympic games were held – about 200 miles west of Athens. To this day, the museum houses many artifacts connected to the original Games. On the day in question, two robbers wearing hoods broke into the museum early in the morning (around 7:30 AM) before they tied up and gagged the one female employee on duty at the time. The robbers used hammers to smash display cases and took bronze and clay objects as well as a gold ring. The mayor of Olympia at the time, Thymios Kotzias, was quoted saying that the items that were taken were of “incalculable value.” In November of the same year, officials arrested three Greek nationals in association with the robbery. The three men were detained near the city of Patras as they attempted to sell the stolen gold rings to undercover police officers for over 1 million euros. Police eventually found the remainder of the artifacts buried three kilometers away from the museum in ancient Olympia.

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