Greek-Cypriot-American promoter and nightlife organizer of just about everything Hellenic in the San Francisco Bay Area Tony Kutulas, offered an account of his initiatives, inspirations and hard work.
Maria Athens: Can you tell us about your background?
Tony Kutulas: I am a Greek-Cypriot-American, born and raised in San Francisco, CA. I have spent many long summers as a child in both Greece and Cyprus, and many winters and summers spending time in both nations, as an adult. I attended the University of San Francisco and studied Business, Real Estate, Marketing and Social Media. I have worked on many challenging projects in the Bay Area, including promoting small and large scale events, and have set up a network of Greek initiatives across North America.
Maria Athens: What inspired you to promote Greek events in the Bay Area?
Tony Kutulas: I began working in the event production sector during college and seemed to do well with it. I would always attend and be involved with various Church and Hellenic society functions and conventions. I liked the way people came together and it was all Greek. I saw this and wanted more.
I visited friends in Los Angeles and attended the city's Greek Nights since they didn't exist in the San Francisco Bay Area. I started my own and built them to be a staple on the West Coast. I worked with local Greek DJs throughout my career, Greek DJs from Greece, and also a Greek band from New York, along with producing Greek concerts.
All this stems from growing up Greek and being exposed to Greece. The connection to the Greek scene in Greece is what inspires a promoter. Greece was always the best place for nightlife and entertainment, so seeing and feeling that energy was key.
Maria Athens: When did you begin this initiative?
Tony Kutulas: I began producing Greek events in 1995. Greek Nights were started and then Hellenikozmo (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hellenikozmo/365783910196917) followed, with one of the first online Hellenic portals for the Greek community. The old site is still up: www.hellenikozmo.com, which shows the depth it had and the concept of how to bring Greek people together and inform them on what is going on in the cities they live, visit or study in, etc.
Maria Athens: How long have you been organizing Hellenic events in California and beyond? What does this specifically entail?
Tony Kutulas: Wow, it is a complicated business to be involved with out here in San Francisco. There are no Greek owned clubs, bouzoukia or venues that Greeks frequent. We are not like Chicago, Boston or the huge New York Greek scene and population. I had to build my own database, find a venue every time I want to produce a Greek event with only Greek music, and promote it from scratch each and every time. Now a days, we have Facebook and social media tools which makes this so much simpler.
Maria Athens: What exactly is Hellenikozmo?
Tony Kutulas: Hellenikozmo=Hellenic People, it was a vision to unite all Greeks across Northern America and beyond. It was a rough ride since every promoter was focused on protecting their own territory, so I ran it for a while and then started focusing on local promotions.
Maria Athens: Where are you from in Greece?
Tony Kutulas: I am a first generation Greek-American. My father is from the village of Kandila, just outside Tripoli. My mother is from Agios Amvrosios, Kyrenia, Cyprus, which is now illegally occupied by Turkey as we all know.
Maria Athens: Do you receive substantial support from the Greek-American community in California?
Tony Kutulas: This is the question of the day ;). It seems like people don't understand how difficult it is to produce anything Greek for people to attend and enjoy, especially here in San Francisco. Many people take it for granted. I have met people that want Greek every week and a place to socialize during the week for their coffees...I also met Greeks that don't know or care about what is going on in the Greek community, but that is life and everyone is different.
Support is not only showing up when a landmark Greek Night is happening or a function, it is supporting all you can in anyway that you can. Support is the thing that builds a community and I am not talking about a Greek DJ night, I am talking about a connection to Greeks and being Greek.
Maria Athens: What is the most rewarding aspect of promoting Hellenism in the United States?
Tony Kutulas: I love bringing people together and keeping the Greek torch lit. It is very fulfilling to produce a Greek Night or Greek concert. We should all support everything Greek because we will look back someday and see that we lost the connection and it will be too late.