New Year's News

By Frosene Phillips
Inside Bay Area

As I attempted to ease into the new year, I received some good news along the way. There's nothing like a little "warm and fuzzy" to kick off another beginning, so I'm happy to share this little slice of good fortune with you, dear readers.

Berkeley's Margaret Bezaitis, 26, had finally received the call she had been waiting for from "Fame Story" in Athens, Greece. So, before you could say "Happy New Year," she was singing to an international audience on New Year's Eve. "Fame Story" is Greece's answer to "American Idol" and "Big Brother" rolled into one, where contestants live in a house together and then compete weekly, hoping to win a grand prize that includes a recording contract.

To appreciate this story, we must go back to when my ears first came upon Margaret, now known in Greek circles as Margarita. She was just a teenager at Berkeley High School and while most kids were listening to the tunes of their generation, Margarita was drawn to the music of her ancestors. She would sing Greek songs on the guitar and eventually join the Greek band Kymata, playing local festivals, parties and special events.

During this time, she also studied and received her degree in music from San Francisco State where, during her recital, she proved that opera, musical theatre, or even cabaret style could suit her just fine. But, it was the Greek music, however, that filled her heart and soul.

Her ambition took her to Chicago for a stint headlining in a local club in the heart of Chicago's Greek town. She later moved to Los Angeles to tackle recording and performing her own music, but when she learned that auditions for "Fame Story" were taking place in New York, off she went to try her luck.

"Fame Story" airs nightly in Greece, and abroad on Antenna Satellite, showcasing the contestants who live 24/7 with each other in a house. Fans can even follow all day long on the Internet for a small fee. On Sunday nights, the singing competition takes place and the drama unfolds. The three worst people are selected by the judges each week, but they still could have a chance because the contestants in the house then pick one of those three to stay and the remaining two return the following week to sing a song of their choice. Greece then votes via phone and the Internet to determine who will stay and who will go. This all, of course, takes place over many weeks until the finals when everyone's vote chimes in. Are you still with me?

Margarita's lucky break came because, the show (already in progress) decided to throw a curve ball (a la Donald Trump and "The Apprentice" ) and they introduced four new contestants on New Year's Eve. She's already had a taste of her 15-minutes of fame. Sipping a little Greek coffee at a local kafenion (coffee house) with a fellow contestant, the Greek television paparazzi suddenly showed up. Before she could say "Hronia Polla" (expression for the new year) her smiling image was already on local TV.

So while Oakland rallied for La Toya London last year in "American Idol," the folks here at home are prepared to make calls or hit the Internet if and when the time comes for Margarita. I wouldn't be surprised if KTSF-Channel 26's Greek TV airs Margarita's performances. Greek TV is broadcasted each Saturday at 3 p.m.

For a little taste of authentic Greekness, you can visit or for weekly updates on our local girl. May she bring home the baklava!!!

WEEKEND SCENE: Benny Green/Russell Malone Duo at Yoshi's Oakland...Major Link with Terry and Mary Friday, Saturday at the Pleasanton Hotel Pleasanton...Frankye Kelly, Jason Martineau, Dan Feiszli, Michael O'Neill Friday, Margie Baker, John R. Burr, Jim Kerwin, Michael O'Neill Saturday at Cetrella Half Moon Bay...Amina Figarova International Band Sunday at the Jazzschool Berkeley.

Stanley Jordan at Kimball's East Emeryville...Dynamic Dyson Band, DJ Lash, DJ Juice Friday, Moonlight Saturdays Neo Soul with DJ Lash, DJ Juice Saturday at Mingles Oakland...Big Bang Beat Friday, The Sun Kings - A Musical Tribute to The Beatles Saturday at Little Fox Redwood City...Silicon Gulch Jazz Band Tuesday at Prince of Wales Pub San Mateo... Wesla Whitfield with Mike Greensill through Saturday, Rita Moreno opens Tuesday at the Plush Room in the York Hotel San Francisco.

COMEDY SCENE: Del Van Dyke at Tommy T's Concord...Jake Johannsen at Cobb's Comedy Club San Francisco...Robert Schimmel Friday, Saturday, SF Comedy Showcase Sunday at the Punch Line San Francisco... "Kool Komedy" Wednesday at Kimball's East Emeryville...Greg Behrendt, co-author of "He's Just Not That Into You" at the Improv San Jose.

Frosene Phillips can be reached at (510) 293-2603, fax (510) 293-2605 or E-mail at