Yani Begakis dies at 81

Five-time president of HFPA also a SAG member

Yani Begakis, a five-time president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., died Aug. 12 in Los Angeles. He was 81.

Begakis, a 48 year member of the HFPA, had been hospitalized since returning from a press junket in Athens at the beginning of July.

Born to Greek parents in Constantinople (Istanbul), he worked at the local movie theater where he learned English by watching American movies.

After serving in the army and working in a travel agency, he got a job organizing a press junket for the opening of the Istanbul Hilton in 1955, where he met two fellow Greeks, director Elia Kazan and 20th Century Fox prexy Spyros Skouras. He later began writing for a local newspaper, through which he met Hollywood journalists Hedda Hopper and John Cameron Swayze, as well as Louella Parsons and Cole Porter.

Skouras invited Begakis to Hollywood, finding him a job at Fox and helping him become a permanent resident of the U.S. While at Fox, Begakis began writing for foreign news outlets, and began a long association writing for Japan’s Screen magazine.

Also a member of the Screen Actors Guild, Begakis appeared in various small roles over the years and received the International Media Award from the Publicists Guild of America.

He is survived by his sister, Kleo Lee, a journalist.

Services will be held at Saint Sophia’s Cathedral, 1324 S. Normandie Ave., Los Angeles, at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, August 19.

Donations may be made to the Hellenic Society, 936 N. Crescent Heights Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, 90046.

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