Remarkably, I had the pleasure this past week of being with three incredible men: my teenage idol, the still handsome sexy Robert Wagner; then the newly-appreciated former President George W. Bush; and finally my local hero, Jimmy Kaloidis, who (with George Makos) successfully operates the iconic Terrace on the Park in Queens.
Just over the city line in Great Neck, Regina Keller Gil founded and serves as executive director of the Gold Coast International Film Festival, an outgrowth of her Gold Coast Arts Center. We had met through mutual friend Hy Hochberg, a 35-year advertiser of his former Queens Wines and Liquor Store in Ridgewood, and Regina’s biggest fan.
I became a fan too after I visited her remarkable center off Middle Neck Road and saw her offering of acting, art and music classes open to everyone independent of their ability to pay for the professionally run classes.
Last year, she created an award and at the center’s annual gala recognizing an actor who has impacted the film industry. Last year, Princess Jasmine, the daughter of the late great Rita Hayworth, received the award on behalf of her mother, who had died of complications of Alzheimer’s disease. The princess has made Alzheimer’s awareness her lifetime cause.
Last week, Regina’s group honored one of the longest performing actors (70 years), my teenage idol Robert Wagner. He came with his wife Jill St. John, who was the first James Bond girl.
She still looks fabulous. She wore a purple silk suit with a huge pave diamond bow pin on her lapel and amethyst and diamond earrings. The colors perfectly complemented her red hair.
But for me, it was a night to touch and be touched by Robert Wagner. You can see him on my favorite TV show NCIS but if you go to Turner Classics you’ll also find him in films from the 1950s onward. In person, he looks as handsome as his pictures and was very warm, friendly and at ease with me as he talked about his being on the front cover of the November issue of the Long Island Press.
It was a truly magical night!
Then on Thursday I was honored to join the audience at the Tilles Center at LIU to hear former President Bush being interviewed by former Congressman Steve Israel.
He made the audience laugh multiple times when he made fun of himself about his wife, Laura who did not attend. He says his greatest pleasure is reading, and suggested that the audience read Churchill’s book about how the great British prime minister turned to painting as a hobby.
Bush read that book, and decided to take up painting in his post-presidential years. He now devotes two hours of each day as an artist, and his work has been showcased across the country.
The former president talked with great pride about his portraits of 98 veterans. He cherished the time he spent with each of them.
Of course, the talk focused on the current discord in the country, but Bush reminded us that we lived through tough times in the past — including the Civil War, the Vietnam War and the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert Kennedy. Bush boldly suggested that each of us can bring back civility and reason, and that our country is great because we vote and can change everything.
He also talked about recognizing Acts of Kindness because he has seen so much of it himself.
That reinvigorated me to begin a series about acts of kindness in our newspapers across Long Island, New York City and Westchester County. If you know anyone who has shown acts of kindness — from volunteering at local charities, to even something as simple as putting up the chairs every Sunday at church — please email me at email@example.com.
Each person makes a difference in our world. Let me know who you are!
To finish off the week, the wonderful Jimmy Kaloidis and his wife Georgia celebrated, as he has done for years, his “Name Day” with an over the top gala at Terrace on the Park.
The abundant, superb and overflowing food — from sushi, to pig, to steak, to seafood — filled us all. I was thrilled by the band and the spirited dancing with people throwing dollars on the dance floor for Jimmy’s wonderfully successful Greek school, the Dimitrios & Georgia Kaloidis Parochial School, in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
Kaloidis came to America penniless and got a job as a dishwasher in a Greek diner. He worked feverishly for years with little sleep to ensure his success. Today, he is deserving of the Horatio Alger award for achieving enormous success as part of a dining and real estate empire that includes Terrace on the Park and the Georgia Diner, while also giving back to his communities.
It was my honor to help such a powerful and kind man celebrate his Name Day. He shows Acts of Kindness everyday. Do you?