End of a lifetime’s devotion

He was a jumbo-sized man with an even bigger appetite for covering the fields he loved most: music, sports – and eating out. The long-serving journalist Panos Geramanis, who died suddenly of a heart attack last Saturday night at the age of 59, leaves behind a huge legacy, particularly in old-school popular Greek music, or laika, his life’s passion. For over three decades, Geramanis, a leading authority on the musical style’s golden era – the 1950s and ’60s – shared his vast knowledge with the public through radio and the press. The man knew his direction early on. After publishing a high school paper, Geramanis, while still at school, conducted his first interview with one of the country’s singing legends, the late Stelios Kazantzidis, in 1963. It marked the beginning of a lifelong friendship and a never-ending series of interviews, 56 in all during their 38-year association. The bond was disrupted by Kazantzidis’s death in 2001. A Geramanis-written biography on Kazantzidis was published that year, while the journalist was also planning to release a book based on his experiences with the singer. Geramanis also wrote a authorized biography on another Greek singing icon, Grigoris Bithikotsis, who passed away just weeks ago. Not long before that very first Kazantzidis interview, Geramanis had begun working as a sports writer, covering big-league soccer games in Athens. The youngster would leave his hometown of Vassiliko in Halkida aboard trucks transporting locally grown onions to the city, produce his match report, and then return aboard those same trucks the next day, barely in time for his school’s morning bell. His nostalgia for older music also extended to his latter-day sports stories. Athens daily Ta Nea, where Geramanis had worked for the past 18 years, ran a weekly column that looked back at Greek soccer in the ’50s and ’60s. Geramanis spent the last 15 years presenting old hits and rarities – and trivia – on a daily show aired by state radio’s Second Program. Renowned for his empathy among friends and colleagues, the veteran journalist stood as a pillar of support for newcomers in the field, often wanting to know whether «your boss is treating you all right.» An old school friend of his, sitting at the bar of one of their favorite downtown watering holes one night, once remarked, «Panos is a very fine person… but he eats too much.»