Olympia Dukakis knows how to have a good time.
During the "It's All Greek To Me" gala at the Hyatt Regency Downtown Saturday night, the Oscar-winning actress jumped onto the dance floor with the Olympian Dancers of Houston, counseled a young man who wants to be an actor, posed for photos with anyone who asked and, during an onstage interview conducted by Carolyn Farb, spoke how, as the daughter of first generation Greek immigrants, she has achieved the American dream.
"My cousin, Michael, ran for president and I won an Academy Award," Dukakis said. "So (America) has to be a place with promise if you work really hard."
The Hellenic Cultural Center of the Southwest honored Dukakis and Houston philanthropists George and Angelina Kostas while Wilhelm Scholê International founder Marilyn Wilhelm presented Boston University president emeritus John Silber with the Cosmopolis Award for his educational efforts. (Silber was unable to attend due to health problems; his award was accepted by Herb Golder, editor-in-chief of the classics periodical Arion.)
The gala benefitted the Hellenic Cultural Center and the Wilhelm Scholê.
The hotel ballroom took on the aura of an Athens promenade as a large curtain of Ionic columns and blue sky covered the back of the large stage. Waiters wore island fishing caps while serving a Greek-themed dinner prepared by Hyatt chef Jean Moysan and Greek wines from Janco Foods. Alex Kalos strummed traditional Greek dance tunes.
Taking part in the festivities were Greek Consul General Alexandra Theodoropoulou and her husband, Konstantinos Kouzas, Hellenic Cultural Center president Nicholas Checkles, Demsey and Mary Prappas, Doug Harris and Jennifer Simmons, Elizabeth Pettit, Nancy Ames, Charles and Lily Foster, Eric Andell, who served as auction judge, and Bob Boudreaux, the evening's master of ceremonies.
Also on hand: Houston interior designer Perry Mavrelis, who as Dukakis' first cousin, was instrumental in bringing her to Houston for the gala.
At 79, Dukakis shows no signs of slowing down. In January, she has a guest spot on Law & Order SVU and will appear on Broadway in a revival of Tennessee Williams' The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore at the Roundabout Theater. She's also keen on an independent film that she co-produced and co-stars in, Montana Amazon, that is getting some good buzz on the festival circuit.
During a question-and-answer session after the conversation with Farb, one woman asked Dukakis what advice she should give her Greek-American daughter.
"I don't know that advice needs to go to the daughter. Maybe it should go to the parent. It's mothers of teenage daughters who need the help," Dukakis said, before offering a piece of advice to young people everywhere. "Find something that you're passionate about and pour your energies into something that matters to you."