An overflow crowd of friends, colleagues, and fans packed the Actors Equity Audition Center on Monday, May 16th, 2009 to pay tribute to the late Broadway actor/singer George Best Costacos. The memorial, right in the heart of Broadway, was a moving, magical tribute to a multitalented artist who passed away a few months ago at the age of 44 of complications from a brain tumor.
His untimely death left a big void but George’s talent, passion and spirit filled the room as his friends and colleagues performed works they had collaborated on, as well as pieces dedicated specifically to him. Among these was Broadway cabaret legend Steve Ross, composer and pianist Seth Weinstein and singer Lynn Manuel. Noted actress/director Fotini Baxevani and novelist, author, screenwriter and Fulbright Scholar Gianni Scaraga, both from Greece, recited some of George’s poems and prose in Greek and in English. They were joined by actress Carina Gregorio. Video clips of George’s performances and life filled the screen and mesmerized those present.
The evening’s program was hosted by David Lotz, Director of Communications of the Actors’ Equity Association. The president of Actors’ Equity, Mr. Mark Zimmerman’s letter was read in which he remarked, “From the time that he joined in 2002, Mr. Costacos always demonstrated his union pride and artistic dedication, whether it was at an audition, a performance or by supporting numerous worthy causes. …. I know that one of his proudest moments was when he performed in the Opening Ceremony of the 2004 Summer Olympics, with the blessings of my good friend and our former President, Patrick Quinn. They both shared a passion for life, a respect for human values, and above all, a dedication to the theatre. I know that George will be sorely missed by his friends, but I know that his indomitable spirit will always fill the halls of Actors’ Equity.”
George’s many friends and fans from all over the world filled the room for this first time event at the Audition Center and they included Emmy-award winning actress Elaine Stritch, the author Russ Weatherford, Michael Katz, Barbara Andreadis, Russell Buss, George Michael, Dr. David Lyden, Assoc. Professor, Weill Cornell Medical Center and many others. Representatives of the Greek government included the Consul, Ms. Sophia Veve. Those who could not attend but sent letters to be read during the event include Martin Sherman who wrote of his friendship with George “the
open generosity of his spirit was impossible to ignore”. The president of the George Best Foundation (the world-famous soccer player) also sent a letter which relayed their great sadness at the loss. George was an international patron of the Foundation and they stated “George's generosity and kindness towards the charity which we set up in memory of my brother will never be forgotten”
Mr. Panayiotis Koukoulis, the mayor of Aegina, Greece, George’s ancestral home, sent a letter indicating how proud they were of his accomplishments and what a void his loss would leave. He also indicated that a street will be named after him on the island. In addition, the island will host an annual George Best Costacos Memorial Marathon with runners from Europe and the United States. This is the first time an Actors’ Equity member will be honored this way in Greece.
George’s family also sent a letter expressing their gratitude to Actors’ Equity for hosting this tribute to their beloved son, brother and uncle and thanking everyone who attended for their support during this very difficult time for them. “Your presence here this evening gives us the strength to continue and to accomplish all the actions we want to perform honoring his memory,” they wrote.
The program closed with comments from George’s good friends and co-organizers of the event, Nikos Floros and Dora Ziongas, who spoke about how George’s love of life, dedication to his work, and humanitarian spirit were memorable to all who met him. To honor his memory and in recognition of his talent and life’s work, they announced that a series of benefit concerts are being planned with renown artists from the United States and Europe. The proceeds will support the Actors’ Equity Foundation as well as brain cancer research.
Many representatives of the American and Greek press were also present and the entire event was covered by the Greek National Television (ERT) and excerpts will be broadcast around the world on satellite TV. It should also be noted that the President of the Hellenic Republic, Mr. Karolos Papoulias, is in the process of considering granting a posthumous award to George’s family recognizing his achievements in helping promote Greek culture and language through his work.
Seth Weinstein & Lynn Manuell