The stories you will read below, like many others, were told by the late impresario and organizer of high-level artistic events, Theodoros Kritas, in two books he had published under the title “As I met them” by Kastaniotis publications.
Of Joseph Abramoglou
In his first book, he refers to 35 personalities, including Ilias Kazan, Maria Kotopoulis, Alexis Minotis, Rudolf Nureyev and others. In his second book he mentions 25 other personalities, including Sofia Vebo, Montserrat Caballé, Maya Plisetskaya, Giorgio de Chirico, José Carreras, etc.
Once, during the years of PASOK and during her ministry, I had referred to a discussion with the Minister of Culture, Melina Merkouris, and someone who was involved at the time told me: “there is no “the” Minister of Culture, there is “the” Minister of Culture, who he is one and he is permanent!” and of course he meant my compatriot Theodoros Krita, with whom I had already collaborated for the Police concert in Sporting. Today this may sound somewhat paradoxical in relation to the personality of Melina Merkouris, but those who know things in depth, know that the entire Athens Festival was based on the great transfers of great artists by Theodoros Kritas.
In 1980 and while the concerts of foreign pop-rock groups have not yet started to be organized in Greece, from the post-colonial period onwards, I receive from the American record company CBS Records, which had also opened offices in Athens, a proposal to bring for concerts the Police band, where Sting started his career. Their pay then corresponded to 200,000 drachmas, but my finances could not support that amount. So, Theodoros Kritas, who was not very enthusiastic about doing this kind of “modern, Yejedic music” concerts, as he typically said, was proposed to do the calling and the organization of the concerts. But he agreed, after I assured him that I would help him organize those Police concerts, which seemed to be a separate group.
One of the most impressive things that the late Kritas had revealed to me in our discussions was when he showed me some documents which stated that he had purchased the right and the ability to travel into space when such travel would become a reality. . As it is now, if he were alive today, I imagine he would become a “client” of Jeff Bezos or Richard Branson or even Elon Musk.
Theodoros Kritas was born in Constantinople in 1914. After the Asia Minor disaster, he settled in Thessaloniki, with his mother and his older brother. In 1932 he came to Athens and enrolled in the Municipal School of the National Theatre. After graduating in 1934, he participated in various theater performances. Immediately after the war, he devoted himself to theater operations and to the transfer of foreign groups and famous artists to Greece. At the same time, he organizes tours of Greek troupes all over the world.
During the same period of time he also deals with journalism. He writes articles, responses and interviews important politicians worldwide, which are published in Greek newspapers. He married the protagonist of the Greek theater Vasso Manolidou. They lived together for about 50 years and had one daughter, Alina. Theodoros Kritas was the brother of the unforgettable protagonist Mary Aronis. The Krita – Manolidou couple worked for a significant period of time in New York, in the early 50s, where they had opened an art office under the name “Art Inc.”. Theodoros Kritas’ involvement with cultural exchanges spans half a century. Artistic groups, large orchestras, ballet and even circus, such as the Medrano circus and famous foreign folk groups are presented in our country.
From a young age, Theodoros Kritas was involved in the transfer of troupes and big names in the artistic field, helping in the best possible way the newly established Herodeion Festival in the 1940s, which later, in 1955, was renamed the Athens Festival. Some of the biggest names in the international artistic scene came to Greece – and indeed at the height of their careers – thanks to him.
Among them: Rudolf Nureyev, Margot Fontaine, Maria Callas, Gina Bachauer, Frank Sinatra, Bolshoi Ballet, Maurice Bézard, Montserrat Caballé and others. It is certain that Greek culture owes him a lot!
But let’s look at the adventurous call of Frank Sinatra by Theodoros Krita. It was in 1962, when the great singer visited Greece for the first time. And even then he made two consecutive visits. He first came to Athens, stayed a few days, then went to Israel to perform and then returned to Athens to perform at the Theater of Herodes Atticus. On May 18 and 19, 1962. The proceeds from those two concerts were offered for the construction of a new wing at the “Agia Sophia” Children’s Hospital and to the Municipality of Athens for the construction of a new kindergarten.
Theodoros Kritas had personally met Frank Sinatra two years earlier. When the Greek impresario was looking for a similar organizer in America, who would present the “Piraeus Theater” of Dimitris Rodiris to the American public. Among those he approached was James Doolittle, who at the time was considered the greatest impresario on the US West Coast. And this because since the 1950s he had rented the 6,000 seat capacity, famous Greek Theater in Los Angeles, from the owner Griffith J. Griffith, in order to renovate and utilize it.
Through Doolittle and his lawyer, who was also Frank Sinatra’s lawyer, Kritas met the great singer. Thus the Athens concerts were closed. In which Sinatra arrived from Tokyo on his private plane. Kritas had made sure to exclusively book the entire “Auberge” hotel, located in Varybompi, in order to please the artist and his entourage.
But completely coincidentally, on the day Sinatra would be staying at the hotel, King Paul and Queen Frederica wanted to visit it as well, because they would be hosting Princess Sofia’s suitor, Juan Carlos of Spain, and the parents that night of him, who had come to Athens especially for the engagements. The royal party had booked a single table that was on the roof of the hotel.
That night at the Auberge, Sinatra’s black butler was directing the kitchen to prepare dinner for the artist’s company of 22 people. Also in the group was Michael Romanoff, who Sinatra claimed (probably jokingly) to be a descendant of the Czar of Russia. Actually this Romanoff’s real name was Hershel Geguzin, he was an actor born in Lithuania and he had opened a very successful restaurant in Beverly Hills where all the Hollywood stars gathered during the 40’s and 50’s. He was the originator of the recipe for the famous “fillet ala Romanov”.
When the royal party arrived, Sinatra’s entourage were in the living room, most of them standing and drinking aperitifs. The blue-blooded had to pass through there to climb the ladder that led to the roof. Introductions were made and the then young, later Queen of Spain, Sofia asked Sinatra for an autograph.
In the band that accompanied Frank Sinatra was the drummer Irv Cottler, one of the most important of that time. Sinatra paid a lot of attention to the drummers because they gave him the rhythm and he wanted them to be consistent with it. In the second video below you can hear Irv Cottler accompanying Sinatra through Nelson Riddle’s magnificent orchestra.
After dinner, Frank Sinatra complained to Krita that he was suffering from a severe headache. He asked him to take him the next day by…helicopter to a good doctor! Kritas agreed with the then director of “Evangelismos” Thomas Doxiadis to take Sinatra there to be examined. As it happened but without a helicopter, since Kritas explained to the American singer that helicopters were only used by the army in Greece at that time.
In fact, the artist found himself the other day in the morning in the X-ray department of “Evangelismo”, where coincidentally they were once again face to face with Princess Sofia and Juan Carlos, who had also been there because he had fallen from his horse and had to x-rays on his left arm. Sinatra was particularly stressed because after the “Evangelism” he had to leave straight for Israel, where he had to go to sing. Upon hearing this, Princess Sofia asked Juan Carlos to give way to Sinatra so he could quickly take the X-ray and leave. As it happened! There Theodoros Kritas realized who the real royalty was after all…!
Then Kritas and Sinatra leave for Elliniko, where the singer’s plane was waiting for him to take him to Tel Aviv. The singer asked the impresario to get on the plane so they could eat together before takeoff and then Kritas was supposed to get off to stay in Athens.
But during the meal inside the aircraft, the singer instructed the pilot to start the take-off. Surprised, Theodoros Kritas asked Sinatra “where are you taking me now?” I don’t even have a passport with me.” The artist had put into practice one more prank he used to play on his friends… laughing he instructed the pilot to land again in Elliniko to let Krita go. While at the airport of Tel Aviv there were already 10,000 of his fans, who gave him a divine reception!
At the end of the week Frank Sinatra came back to Athens to give his two concerts at the Herodeion, which was literally packed both nights. At the first concert, the then king and queen of Greece, as well as the entire cabinet, sat in the first row. After all, Frank Sinatra’s two events at the Herodion were already “held under the protection of A.M. of Vasilissa Frederiki”.
In the presence of all this, another sample of Sinatra’s hard-to-understand humor took place during his concert… when as he lazily turned the spoon in a cup of tea he was drinking on stage and while looking at the ancient arches of Herod he suddenly said as usual style… “How much money did you take from the Marshall Plan and leave the theater in this mess?”. The audience of course laughed a lot and applauded him!
During his stay in Athens, Frank Sinatra asked to go to a bar. Theodoros Kritas took him to one of the best of that time, which today is historic. Au Revoir at 136 Patision Street, which first opened in November 1957. The singer had a drink at the bar in question, which still exists today, but from… his own bottle, which his entourage carried along and which it was the classic Tennessee whiskey, Jack Daniels.
(Every Saturday and Sunday night, for three hours, from 10 pm to 1 am, Iosif Avramoglou presents from Real FM on 97.8, the show “Round Midnight, as Ella Fitzgerald used to say” , with a lot of good music).