The clip above is a fab girls-with-guitars sequence from the 1967 Greek musical comedy Oi thalassies oi hadres (Οι θαλασσιές οι χάντρες, "The Blue Beads"). A group of men have been lured to the modern club Crazy Girls, hearing rock refrains drifting into their own club, situated nearby in the Plaka, where they play traditional bazouki music. Sitting in on the rehearsal of the house band, the men appreciatively gawk at lead singer Mary, played by Zoe Laskari (Ζωή Λάσκαρη), who cuts a stunning figure in her red sweater and gorgeous knee-high red boots. Toward the end of the clip, we see the band perform to a packed, groovy dancefloor that night. Mary will soon fall for one of the bazouki players, setting up a theme of modern versus traditional values and how a traditional place handles the influence of modernity.
The entire movie can be watched
here.;Though it has no English subtitles, you may still find it enjoyable, as I did. It can be vaguely followed, particularly at the beginning when the American character says quite a few basic pieces of dialogue in English. The musical numbers alone, especially the gloriously choreographed fantasy sequences, are worth watching it for. 'Crazy Girl' is the only rock song, but the more traditional music is beautiful.
That said, I do hope to see a subtitled version one day, because the film has more to offer than being a light romp with optional dialogue. Greek blog Zalmoxis discusses viewing the film with a fresh perspective after reading an academic article by Michael Kokkoni which credits Oi thalassies oi hadres as representing an important turning point in Greek cinema. It was an unusually high quality production for the time, no easy feat considering the film industry faced "indifference from the state [and] heavy taxation".
Until I watched the video above and the Zoe Kouroukli clips posted in the last entry (all originally posted by balubashake), I thought Zoe Kouroukli and Zoe Laskari were the same person and was about to print Laskari's life story as Kouroukli's. You see, Laskari was also born Zoe Kouroukli, and between attempting to read poorly translated Greek and coming across sites understandably confusing the two women, I came to the wrong conclusion. The excellent Vangelis Movements site, for example, has a page on Zoe Kouroukli which states singer Kouroukli competed for Greece in Miss Universe in 1959, which was actually Laskari. Another article mentions Laskari in a blurb on Zoe & The Stormies, and with auto-translators not providing any clarity, I guessed the name was mentioned as an alias or stage name.
Discover they look like entirely different people (and at around the same time) dispelled that theory. But the mention of Laskari in the section on Kouroukli remained a mystery and I wondered what was the possible connection between the two women born with the same name in the same place. A word that offered a vital clue ('eftaxi') escaped the auto-translators but fortunately, my Mum came to the rescue and translated it: 'cousin'! Mystery solved! A little further digging and I found some pictures of the two cousins together:
In the first pic, Laskari is second from the left and Kouroukli furthest to the right. In the second, they are on either side of the rather happy looking chap in the hat. The guy in the rolled up pants in each photo is a journalist, clearly enjoying the perks of his job!
So finally, onto that biography, this time for the right person...
Zoe Laskari was born Dec 12, 1944 in Thessaloniki and was raised by her grandparents, having lost both her parents at a young age. "Being naturally rebellious, curious about the unknown and always ready for adventure, the teenage Zoe stubbornly refused the social norms of her time and the strict discipline her grandfather tried to impose" (ZoeLaskari.gr).
Striving for independence, 15-year-old Zoe lied about her age to enter the Star Hellas (Miss Greece) pageant, and won. She then travelled to California to compete in Miss Universe, where she became a semi-finalist. But after word was received from Greece that she was not 18, Zoe was stripped of her Miss Greece title and told to return to Greece. Instead, the strong-willed Zoe went to New York and lived alone there for a couple of years before eventually going home.
In 1961, she was offered the starring role in Giannis Dalianidis' racy film Katiforos. The film's success catapulted her to fame and a label of Greek cinema's 'bad girl'. She soon became one of the three biggest female film stars in Greece (the other two being Tzeni Karezi and Aliki Vougiouklaki).
Throughout the sixties, she starred in a broad range of films, many of which were among Greece's most popular films of the day, and some which even found success outside Greece. Katiforos was a huge hit in Mexico, 1966's I stefania (also by Dalianidis) had a very successful run in 18 European countries, and Oi thalassies oi hadres (again, a Dalianidis film) gained her attention in France. The latter's screening at Cannes (though not in contention) made her a constant target for paparazzi that year.
In 1966, she made her theatre debut and, as she had in film, performed in a broad variety of genres, including musicals. Laskari "concentrated on theater after the decline of the Greek commercial cinema in the mid-1970s" (Wikipedia). She had a much publicised affair with singer Tolis Voskopoulos (Τόλης Βοσκόπουλος), with whom she co-starred in the 1972 play Oi erastes tou oneirou (Οι εραστές του ονείρου, "Dream Lovers"). Zoe married twice: in 1967 to a businessman, which lasted four years, and in 1976 to a penologist (which turns out to be to do with 'penitentiary science' and not what you may think), to whom she's been happily married for nearly 32 years.
Though she left film acting in 1982, Laskari continued to be a major star of theatre and in 2003, founded the Zoe Laskari Theatre.
Though she gives a compelling performance as a 60s rock singer, it turns out the vocals are not actually by Laskari. She was dubbed by Aleka Kanellidou (Αλέκα Κανελλίδου), a young singer who released jazz and pop songs in the 60s with minor success, including 'The More I See You', a collaboration with Vangelis. Aleka was born in 1945 in Plaka, Athens and began performing at age 17 and recording at 19. Her popularity took off in 1974 after she competed in the Thessaloniki Song Festival with the song 'Ase me na figo' ('Άσε με να φύγω', "Let Me Go"). The song won third prize, and Aleka's distinctive voice saw her awarded the prize for best interpretation. An album, 12 erotikes stigmes (12 ερωτικές στιγμές, "12 Erotic Moments"), soon followed and was a smash hit. She remained successful throughout the 70s and 80s, and has recently returned to recording.
Oddly, it is not Aleka's version that appears on the soundtrack release, but one by Nelli Manou (Νέλλη Μάνου). I'd love to know the story behind the two versions being recorded by different singers. Mimis Plessas (Μίμης Πλέσσας) wrote the entire soundtrack, showing his versatility by writing traditional and rock music equally well.
I had no luck finding out anything about Nelli Manou. She seems to have recorded scantly and then disappeared. Her version of 'Crazy Girl' has appeared on a few Greek garage bootlegs, and the 60s Greek pop comp Ta Yie-Yiedakia.