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NORTHBROOK, IL—Peter Skontos was recently hired by Northbrook-based Pine Tree Commercial Realty, LLC as Property Manager, announced Pine Tree’s Phil Spitz, EVP – Property Management & Accounting.

Skontos, 30, joins Pine Tree’s property management team overseeing the company’s portfolio of shopping centers across the United States.

“Peter’s professional experience in property management, mortgage brokerage, and real estate holdings make him a great asset to the Pine Tree team,” said Spitz.

Prior to joining Pine Tree, Skontos was most recently an Assistant Property Manager with Colliers International where he managed a portfolio of over 1.6 million SF of office, industrial, and retail assets. A member of Colliers’ Asset Transition Team focused on the management of receivership and troubled assets, Skontos was also awarded 2014 Operations Team Member of the Year.

Skontos graduated Magna Cum Laude from Northwestern University with a double major in political science and history. A resident of Glencoe, Skontos speaks fluent Greek, taught English in Peru for seven months where he met his wife, and is currently Director of Operations for The Greek Star, the longest continually published weekly Greek-American newspaper in the United States.

About Pine Tree Commercial Realty:

Pine Tree Commercial Realty, LLC is a full-service real estate development company based in Northbrook, Ill. Since its founding in 1995, Pine Tree has acquired and developed 73 properties with an aggregate value of over $755 million. The company’s projects are located across the United States.

Monday, 12 January 2015 10:20

Interview with Magician Criss Angel

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World renowned magician Criss Angel chatted about his upcoming "Mindfreak Live!" shows at The Paramount in Huntington, New York, on January 23 and 24.

These shows will be like a homecoming for Angel, since he was born at Hempstead General Hospital and raised in Elmont, Long Island, up until fourth grade, when his family moved to East Meadow. "This is amazing for me. I grew up on Long Island and that's where the dream began, and that's where everything started for me. It took me 18 years to become an overnight success. The last time I played in New York was on Broadway in 2001, so coming back there and living the dream is just amazing. All of my fondest memories of my family and my career and my trials and tribulations are from Long Island. That's where it all started. Being part of the Greek Orthodox Church, performing for the church, performing in GOYA, in the Sunday schools and being an altar boy and going to all the festivals and Greek churches. My family continues to be a part of that community," he said.

On the forthcoming shows at The Paramount, Angel said, "The Paramount is amazing. It is a fantastic venue. It is intimate, clean and state-of-the-art. I was offered to play larger venues, but I thought it would be much better to play a more intimate venue, that is next to venues that I would perform in growing up in Huntington. It is the perfect venue. People will see revolutionary, spectacular illusions performed on the stage and some close-up magic. It's going to be a night to remember, at least for me."

He added, "It is absolutely insane. You will see many illusions that you will never see any other magician perform on stage. This show is on a whole sophisticated level. It has comedy, excitement and a little bit of everything for the whole family. It is a crazy show. I am going to be performing the world record in an illusion called metamorphosis that Houdini made famous in the early 1900s. A lot of magicians have attempted it but nobody has ever performed it at the speed that I would perform it. The transformation takes place in literally one second."

When asked about his inspirations behind his illusions, he said, "I always had these crazy dreams and nightmares. They are just things that I always wanted to see. I worked backwards, and I thought about what I wanted to accomplish, and figuring out methods to bring them to fruition. Sometimes, those methods can take 15 years."

Throughout his career, the veteran magician has received many awards such as "Magician of the Year" an unprecedented six times, including from The Magic Castle; moreover, he is the youngest magician to be inducted into the prestigious International Magicians Society Hall of Fame.  "There are a lot of moments that I am very honored to have had: to be the most-watched magician in Internet history with 300 million views, is really crazy. My one walk on water clip has been viewed more times than the following magicians' best-viewed clips combined: David Blaine, Doug Henning, Siegfried and Roy, David Copperfield, Penn and Teller and Houdini. The fact that it has been viewed more times than all of those guys together is pretty mind-blowing," he said. "My International Magicians Society Hall of Fame induction was crazy!"

Angel is an esteemed magician, writer, director, musician and even television star. He is the

biggest name in the world of magic.His beloved series Mindfreak on A&E is the most successful magic show in television history, which has been viewed more than any other magic show ever. Each season is viewed regularly by over 100 million viewers, and it is broadcast in over 90 countries.

He shared that his inspiration to his Greek aunt, Stella, who had taught him a card trick in his early days, and the rest was history. "I became immediately obsessed with magic. That's all I could think about and that's all I wanted to do, so it started at a very young age," he said.

For Angel, magic is a job for him and it is something that he loves to do. "I work about 18 hours a day and I have been doing that for many, many years. To get to the top is one thing, but to remain at the top, is even harder and you need to work harder at it. I do what I do and I take each show one at a time, and do the best show that I am capable of. Hopefully, they will be talking about it and telling all of their friends about it and want to come back and see it again," he said.

Each day, Angel is motivated simply by his desire to remain the No. 1 magician in the world. "My show plays in 103 countries currently and I have been very fortunate to have the most-watched magic show in Internet and television history, with more views than anyone. I just love what I do, and I want to be the best at it. I try to work really hard and I surround myself with an incredible team of people. It's the constant work ethic that allows me to continue to do what I do, at the level that I do," he said.

Angel's future is bright and he revealed that he has a long way to go. "I don't rest on what I did yesterday. I am looking forward to accomplish new goals that I set. The fans, the Loyals, as I call them, have globally, given me this amazing blessing."

The broadcast of his live "Building Implosion" episode drew a crowd police estimated at 50,000 to the venue in Clearwater, Florida, which is the largest crowd for any magician, thus rivaling the legendary Harry Houdini.

Regarding his plans for the future, he said, "I want to continue to perform. I am working on a new television series and many other projects. I also created and directed a new show that will come out in June. I am creating new shows that I am not even in. I have my live show and I have touring. I have too much work and not enough time in the day. I love being busy." 

NICOSIA (AP) — Capt. Adamos Marneros gazed with foreboding at the dots on the radar screen of his passenger jet as it prepared for landing on Cyprus.

It was before dawn on July 20, 1974, and the view of from his cockpit confirmed his suspicions: Turkish warships were approaching the Mediterranean island in an invasion triggered by a coup by Greek Cypriots aiming to unite with Greece.

"I couldn't allow myself to be frightened because I would be unable to do my job and land the plane safely,'' Marneros told The Associated Press.

Marneros was then a 27-year-old pilot with national carrier Cyprus Airways who had received his captain's stripes only two months earlier, the first Cypriot to win the post in the company's history.

Flight 317, taking off from London Heathrow with a brief stopover in Rome, would go down as the last to land at the country's transportation jewel, Nicosia airport, before it was shut down barely six years after its completion. The invasion that Marneros witnessed from the skies cleaved the island in two along ethnic lines with breakaway Turkish Cypriots in the north and internationally recognized Greek Cypriots in the south.

Once an emblem of the young republic's growing confidence just 14 years after independence from British colonial rule, the airport overnight became a symbol of a future hijacked by unresolved conflict.

Aboard the aircraft were only 10 passengers made up of two families — a Greek one and a Turkish Cypriot one.

Marneros says he had deep misgivings about making the flight to Nicosia. After a sleepless night in his London hotel room watching TV reports of the buildup to invasion, he pleaded on three separate occasions with the airline's boss to cancel the flight. The reply was unequivocal every time: You must bring the aircraft back to Nicosia.

Approaching the island in the darkness, Marneros got permission from Nicosia air traffic control to fly around the island at 14,000 feet (4,300 meters) for a look at what was happening. Below him the hulking silhouettes of warships were creeping toward Cypriot shores. His warnings to the airport control tower were met with what he said were half-hearted attempts to ease his concerns.

The Trident aircraft touched down just before daybreak, and Marneros was last to leave the airport in the ensuing evacuation. As he left in his car, Marneros caught sight of Turkish paratroopers just north of the airport drifting down from the skies.

"I could see the paratroopers' eyeballs,'' he said, ``and the guns strapped to their gear.''

His aircraft, one of the airline's four Tridents, was later wheeled to the head of the runway in a bid to prevent Turkish planes for landing. It was promptly blown to bits by Turkish bombs.

The rusting hulk of another Cyprus Airways Trident now sits on the airport's apron, gutted and stripped of everything from its flight deck and fuselage. Parts of its engines were used to allow a pair of other Tridents to eventually fly to the U.K.

The airport was the scene of intense fighting during the invasion as Turkish forces tried to seize it and effectively encircle the capital. Taking heavy losses, the attackers failed amid fierce resistance, prompting United Nations peacekeepers to take it over and declare it a U.N. protected zone.

The airport's grounds remain the headquarters of the U.N. peacekeeping force on the island and serve as the venue for U.N.-mediated reunification talks. Herders can sometimes be seen moving their goats across the airport tarmac, while a golf course used by U.N. staffers lies a few hundred meters (yards) from the once state-of-the-art terminal.

Past attempts to reopen the airport to help foster trust between the two communities have failed.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014 00:16

Travel blogger Joanna Kalafatis inspires others

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The weather is cold here in Chicago and visions of jetting off to someplace warm is only a dream for many. But for Joanna Kalafatis it is a life she has lived since childhood.

Kalafatis is a 25-year-old actress, writer, and frequent traveler. According to her website Go Road Trippin’ she explains she is trying to set up her ideal life, “namely, exploring the world and going on adventures while doing what I love.”

Her blog is a creative and worthy read that she hopes “inspires and helps people to do the same — travel and live their dream!” Log on to her website at and her blog will inspire you to jet off to that next vacation destination you long to visit.

I recently caught up with Kalafatis to find out more about her recent trip to attend the international travel blogging conference (TBEX) in Athens and well—all things travel.

Owings Mills, Maryland—Vasiliki “Vasi” Argeroplos, Garrison Forest School sophomore, matched passion with purpose at an early age. When she was in the 6th grade, she and her older brother Niko founded the Okay to Play Foundation. The inspiration came when she was watching a TV documentary on children who were orphaned or in foster care and was struck by how few toys the children had. She and Niko talked about how they could help, and he suggested helping the environment at the same time.

Their concept is simple: They collect used cell phones and electronics at collection drives at their schools and church, and encourage relatives to collect as well. They sell the electronics to a recycling company and use the proceeds to purchase new toys for children in orphanages and foster homes. To date, Vasi and Niko have saved 1,200 electronics from landfills and raised $30,000.

Their distribution sites initially focused on Maryland, Ohio and New York (where they have family). Today, Okay to Play is helping children worldwide. The foundation has given toys to an all-girl’s orphanage in Lamia, Greece and an orphanage in Afghanistan. In December 2012, Okay to Play gave new Xboxes to the Johns Hopkins Hospital for children to play while in the hospital.

This year, during Thanksgiving week, Vasi delivered games and toys to the Children’s Guild in Baltimore for the Guild’s all-girl’s home. In December, an all-boys’ foster home in Baltimore will receive Xboxes and a game table from Okay to Play.

Creating a bona fide foundation from an idea was not daunting to Vasi. Her parents are entrepreneurs, and she used the financial literacy skills she’s learned at Garrison Forest and its James Center, which brings together the school’s financial literacy, hands-on learning, service outreach and STEM programs. In 7th grade, Vasi was recognized by Junior Achievement of Central Maryland for her social entrepreneurship and featured in their video (view the video at

Vasi is also very interested in other cultures. She takes Mandarin at Garrison Forest; last year, she won an Encouragement Award in the first Confucius Institute Cup International Competition for Chinese-Language Learners for an essay she wrote in Mandarin.

She and Niko have big plans to Okay to Play. They are working on expanding collections and distribution sites throughout the United States and continue to secure corporate sponsors. They hope to raise $100,000 dollars from recycling proceeds to build a playground or a play area for an orphanage or foster home in the Baltimore region. “I am trying to make an impact locally; however, I help whoever is in need,” Vasi explains. “My favorite part of this process is being able to make an impact. This experience has opened my eyes to a whole world of differences in people’s lives. I feel fortunate because I did enjoy my childhood and am still enjoying it and would love to be able to bring joy to others. Running this nonprofit has taught me that I am a compassionate and assertive leader. It’s helped to shape my college plans because it has allowed me to see what career path I would like to pursue, which is a business degree that involves helping others.”


Lowell, MAWhen Arthur Demoulas and his family emigrated from Greece to Ellis Island, their hope was to begin building a better life for generations to come. Arthur Demoulas went on to create a multi-billion dollar corporation that would position his eldest son, John Demoulas, as the direct beneficiary of the family’s fortune. Becoming entangled in a life of gluttony and disgrace, John Demoulas abandoned his mistress and their five children, including George Demoulas. George Demoulas’ new memoir, “Illegit” chronicles the loneliness, abandonment and addiction he faced as his father deserted the family and lived an unattached life with no interest in acknowledging him as a son.

Antwerp, Belgium (UK) —Quietly but steadily men's jewelry is moving into the mainstream. Men’s attitudes to jewelry are on the move. After perhaps 200 years (at least in the West) of confinement to cuff links, tiepins and timepieces, they are experimenting with the kind of adornment previously regarded as exclusively feminine. Nikolaos Theodoridis wants to explore that segment of the jewelry market which is considered a very difficult one.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014 21:25

Q & A with Dan Mihalopoulos

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Greek Star:   Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where did you grow up and go to school?

Dan Mihalopoulos: I was born on the North Side of Chicago, went to high school at Maine West in Des Plaines and graduated in 1996 from the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

Greek Star:  How long have you been a reporter?  

DM:  I’ve been a reporter since I was a child, first as editor of my elementary school and high school newspapers. I also wrote a column called “News from Maine West” for the Des Plaines Times as a high school senior. I began writing for daily newspapers in college, and my first full-time job after graduating was as a Metro section reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. I moved back home to become a reporter for the Chicago Tribune in 1999.

Greek Star:  What are some of the more memorable stories you have covered?

DM: Since 2012, I have been an investigative reporter on the Chicago Sun-Times “Watchdogs” team, and last year I began writing a weekly political column for the Sun-Times’ “Early & Often” political portal, which you can access at I also appear frequently as a news commentator on broadcast media, including WTTW-Channel 11’s “Chicago Tonight,” WBEZ-91.5 FM’s “Afternoon Shift” and my koumbaro John Kass’ morning talk show on WLS-890 AM.

I’ll certainly never forget covering the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York.  It was very meaningful as a Greek-American —and a lot of fun —to cover the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. But I’m perhaps most proud of covering local government and politics in my home state for the past 16 years, including the Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel administrations. One of the most memorable stories I covered on the City Hall beat was the federal corruption investigation and 2006 trial of Daley’s patronage chief. More recently, it was interesting to report on how a politically connected Chicago charter-school operator had spent a record state grant of $98 million. 

Greek Star:  Can you tell us a little about your Greek roots? Do you speak the language?  Have you visited the country?

DM:   My parents are both Greek immigrants --  father Vasilios is originally from Tripoli, Arcadia and mother Despina (Tziforos) is from Achladokambos, Argolida. I speak Greek thanks to them as well as my grandparents, uncles, aunts and Greek school teachers. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Greece numerous times, to see relatives in Athens, Tripoli and Kranidi, Argolida. I’m very proud of not only my Greek roots but also the ethnic and religious community that I grew up in here in the Chicago area, many of whom have given me strong and greatly appreciated encouragement in my career. 

Having said that, you have to cover everyone— yes, even my fellow Greeks— in the same manner. I hope Hellenes are pleased to see my byline above stories that have value for all Chicagoans and Illinoisans, of every ethnicity, race and creed.

Greek Star:  What do you think about the political system here? 

DM:  The political system in this country is certainly one of the greatest manifestations yet of the democratic ideal that the ancient Greeks invented. There are many aspects of our system that are the envy of much of the world. The freedom of the press and other innovations such as open-records and open-meetings laws are vital to the functioning of our democracy.

Yet here in Chicago we are especially mindful of the system’s deep flaws, revealed in the frequent corruptions cases at our local federal courthouse and by the “watchdog” investigative reporting in the local media. Transparency in government is the greatest deterrent to actions that might benefit special, clouted interests at the public’s expense. Despite the economic challenges facing our industry, the owners of the Sun-Times and our journalists and lawyers have litigated cases under the state’s “Sunshine Law,” aka Freedom of Information Act, to help ensure accountability for every taxpayer dollar and for every decision carried out in the public’s name. I am a party in one such pending case against a major private, charter school operator that’s funded almost entirely by taxpayers.

Greek Star:    What do you think about the media business today? Will the Internet entirely replace newspapers?

DM: There’s no doubt that the media industry is facing profound economic challenges and rapid technological changes. Every day now, I and most news consumers get the latest stories on handheld phones or other electronic devices as soon as we awaken, before we go down to the driveway or lobby to get our newspapers. So there no longer is one, daily deadline, because stories break continuously on the web sites of large media organizations and lone-wolf bloggers. This is a dramatic shift compared to how things were 20, or even 10 years ago.

Regardless of how the news is delivered, there are universal principles of journalism that transcend technology, time, place and language. The most important thing is that fair, aggressive journalists continue to do their jobs— no matter how our reporting gets transmitted.

Greek Star:  Is there anything else you would like to say that we haven’t asked?

DM: I think that about covers it, although I’m happy to try to answer any other, follow-up questions you might have.

CHICAGO—The Department of Classics and Mediterranean Studies will host Professor Thanos Veremis, well known historian of Modern Greece and Vice Mayor of Athens Oct. 15-Nov.15. The visit is sponsored by the University Seminars Program of the Onassis Foundation (USA). Professor Thanos Veremis is the best known historian of Modern Greece and so popular that he was recently elected Vice Mayor of Athens.

Below is the schedule of events:

Cultural History of Modern Greece, Class/GKM 285

Every Tuesday, R  11:00- 12:15

Lecture Center  A 105, 

Oct, 15-Nov, 15, 2014

Friday Oct. 17, 4:30: University of Chicago, Classics Building, 

Room 21 

The Years of Ottoman Rule, European Influences and National Ideologies

Oct. 22. 12: 12:50. Department of History, UIC, room 950

The role of populism in post-Andreas Papandreou Greek politics

Oct. 30. 3:00-5:00 pm. Department of Classics and MS, Daley Library, 

 Conversation  between Thanos Veremis (Athens), Stathis Kalyvas (Yale) and Leon Fink (UIC): 

“History  between the Academic and the Public Domain”

Nov. 11. Time TBA. U of I, Urbana/ Champaign . Modern Greek Studies

Greek Economic Crisis and the City of Athens: A Discussion with the Deputy Mayor of Athens, Prof. Thanos Veremis

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