CULTURE

The gift of laughter and love

During his 50 years in the field of entertainment, Thanassis Veggos became the face of Greek comedy. He became a national symbol, the self-deprecating incarnation of the country. He also developed a gift for every single comedy genre, ranging from farce to Aristophanes and surrealism. His name, in other words, became synonymous with comedy itself.

Very few actors could get away with having their names in a film title without this being considered audacious. Veggos was one of them. His name, or versions of it, appeared in the name of several movies in which he starred. The popular term ?to pull a Veggos,? used when a person tries to make a quick getaway, became a part of the local vernacular when describing a funny situation of panic, a phrase which could only be identified with the name of the man who personified it more than anyone else.

Veggos, who died on Tuesday at the age of 84 following a long stay in hospital, was a particularly accessible popular icon and one could easily identify with the problems of his characters, even when they were exaggerated through comedy or when they pushed the boundaries of tragedy.

In the last 50-something years, the actor worked on developing a variety of characters, or rather, worked on perfecting his own: he became the poor guy, the small-time crook, the jack-of-all-trades and the clown who brings tears to your eyes, before turning into a grandfather with the wisdom of kindess, a Greek version of Charlie Chaplin?s Charlot, if not a revamped version of the traditional shadow puppet theater protagonist Karagiozis.

The mere citing of a few titles comprising his 125-film resume point to Veggos?s creative gamut: ?O Drakos? (L?Ogre d?Athenes), ?A Girl in Black,? ?Never on Sunday,? ?Liar Wanted,? ?Dr Zivengos,? ?Ulysses? Gaze? and ?Deep Soul.?

Beyond acting, Veggos was the creator of the character that made him so spectacularly popular. What is rarely mentioned, however, is his passion for doing comedy according to his own rules, something which led him to bankruptcy. Had he been willing to take on all that he was offered he would have been a very rich man. Another rarely mentioned fact is that he was a quality director with a perfect sense of timing when it came to surrealist humor.

Veggos despised talking about his work, he was eager for his work to speak for itself. He was also loyal to those who were close to him, building the kind of friendships that lasted a lifetime. Among his friends were directors Nikos Koundouros and Dinos Katsouridis and actor and art director Tasos Zografos.

In fact it was Koundouros who had paved the way for Veggos?s silver screen career. Their first encounter had been on the island of Makronissos.

?He turned my life upside down,? Veggos once said about his friend. ?I was making bags and wallets when he found me and then he turned me into an actor.?