Theodore 'Ted' Nikas, Filmmaker, Music Label Owner, Coffeehouse Operator, Remembered
Friends who helped "save" a film co-created by Theodore "Ted" Nikas now hope to preserve the memory of the late co-owner of a music label, the Golden Bear nightclub in Huntington Beach and coffeehouses such as the Prison of Socrates in Balboa and Rouge et Noir and Cosmos in Seal Beach.
Nikas, who was living in Gardena when he was stricken by the illness that would take his life, passed away on March 21. He was 86.
Mike and Nick Campbell, Orange County brothers who worked with Nikas for four years transferring his 1965 film Dirty Feet to DVD, supplied the following biographical information via the late businessman's family:
He was born in Athens, Greece, on Feb. 25, 1925, to Nikolaos and Ekaterine Nikas. The second of five children (four boys and one girl), Nikas, his parents, his siblings and his grandmother Efthalia all lived and worked together during the difficult World War II years. During his third year studying law at college, Nikas was drafted into the Greek army, in which he became a sergeant in the military police.
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In 1952, Nikas emigrated to the United States, first living with his brother, Gerasimos "Jerry" Nikas, in New York City. Their grandmother, mother and brothers John and George Nikas soon followed.
In 1958, the brothers moved to California and ran several popular coffeehouses, including the Prison of Socrates in Balboa. That's where Nikas met his wife, Susan Renaker, who had come to the folk club to perform.
The Nikas brothers were the second owners of Golden Bear, which is still so beloved a reunion celebration was recently held at a Huntington Beach hotel, and there's always chatter around town about opening a new Golden Bear near the site of the long-gone club along PCH. The Nikas brothers went on to open Rouge et Noir and Cosmos coffeehouses in Seal Beach.
In the early 1960s, folk singer Tim Morgon was one of the most popular musicians to come out of Orange County. In 1963, the Nikas brothers signed Morgon to a contract with their Long Beach-based label, Fink Records. Two years later, the Nikas brothers wrote, produced and directed the film starring Morgon, Dirty Feet.
The documentary was meant to introduce the country to Morgon's amazing talent at a time one of his contemporaries, Dick Dale, was using his surf guitar to set the nearby Rendezvous Ballroom ablaze. Unfortunately, by the time Dirty Feet was released, the British invasion made folk music passé. Corky Carroll writes here that the film project was considered a bust.
Years later, Ted joined his brother Jerry in an import-export business that had them both traveling the world. After Jerry's death in an automobile accident in 1974, Ted carried on the business alone, helping to support Jerry's children. "Uncle Ted," as he was known, also helped his brother John and niece Athena during their respective battles with cancer. His nickname changed to "Papoulios" after the birth of his first grandchild in 1995.
Dirty Feet had been in storage for 40 years when Nikas decided to convert it to DVD. Shortly after its release in 2006, the disc version was available online. It's still on sale at Balboa Pharmacy. Footage Ted Nikas shot in Balboa in the late 1950s and early 1960s also turned up in the early Newport Beach surfing documentary Living It Forever, which made its world premiere at last year's Newport Beach Film Festival.
Nikas is survived by his wife, Susan; his brother, George; his sister, Aphrodite Kitrilacky; his daughter, Ekaterine Terlinden; and his grandchildren, Lizabeth and William Terlinden; and his dear friend DeEtte Lankford, with whom he lived in his later years.
His funeral was held March 30 at the Assumption Greek Othodox Churlch in Long Beach. His final resting place is at Westminster Memorial Park near his mother, grandmother, and brothers John and Jerry.
The Campbells report they will be meeting with surviving Nikas family members this summer to look at Dirty Feet and other available footage with the idea of making a documentary on the Nikas brothers. Interviews with former employees and performers at the Prison of Socrates and Golden Bear are also being discussed.
Recordings made at the clubs will be examined for possible use on the movie soundtrack. Here is the song "The Prison of Socrates" performed by John and His Bouzooki Band:
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