Inside the Elios Hellenic Charity Ball

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Debbie Matenopoulos
Debbie Matenopoulos

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

The Greek really know how to throw a party. This was apparent on Saturday night at the Fairmont Hotel at the Hellenic Charity Ball. The event, which happens every other year and dates back to 1997, was hosted by the Elios Charitable Foundation, an organization that promotes and preserves the Greek culture among the Greek-American community. At the ball, notable Greek Americans are honored for their contribution to the arts and entertainment industry. This year’s honorees were Michael Zagaris, Debbie Matenopoulos, and Evan Spiliotopoulos.

Marilu Henner
Marilu Henner

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

The evening started with a luxe cocktail reception at one of the best venues in the city: the Penthouse at the Fairmont. The line to take the special elevator to the eighth floor was long, but the crowd waited patiently in their finery. After champagne toasts, guests were invited into the ballroom downstairs for dinner and the program. Marilu Henner was the mistress of ceremonies and an honoree of the 2009 ball. A short video documenting the career of each of the tributes aired and then they took to the stage to share details about their lives.

Michael Zagaris and Evan Spiliotopoulos
Michael Zagaris and Evan Spiliotopoulos

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Zargaris is a photographer who witnessed Robert Kennedy’s assassination. During the 1970s, he shot rock musicians like the Grateful Dead, The Rolling Stones, and Eric Clapton, when they came on tour through San Francisco. He is also the team photographer for the 49ers and the Oakland A’s. He’s photographed 34 Super Bowls and 12 World Series. Matenopoulos is a television host and journalist. At the age of 21, Barbara Walters hired her to be one of the first five cohosts on The View. When she was meeting with executives to discuss the job, they encouraged her to shorten her last name to make it more palatable to the American public. She refused saying that she wanted to honor her Greek father and heritage by keeping her name as it was given to her. Spiliotopoulos is a Greek native who moved to the US after high school. He’s a screenwriter who has penned many films including the recent release of Beauty and the Beast, Snow White and the Huntsman, and Hercules.

The beautiful table setting
The beautiful table setting

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Although the Greek culture was being celebrated, Greek food was not on the menu. Instead it was a three-course meal that featured a Dungeness crab salad with whipped horseradish creme and crisp lettuce; melt-in-your-mouth beef short rib with mashed cauliflower; and delicious cinnamon apple parfait with vanilla bean custard and apple crumble. Notable attendees included the mayor Ed Lee, Kokkari’s owners George and Judy Marcus and Dr. Kenneth and Angie Frangadakis, Lt. Governor candidate Eleni Kounalakis, and actor Gilles Marini.

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