Freeman James

Over our thirty-five years in business at Christos Greek Restaurants, we entertained many celebrities: Musicians like Elvis Costello and Donny Osmond; moviemakers like Guillermo del Toro; actors like Telly Savalas, Max Von Sydow, Josh Hartnett, Sally Struthers, and Olympia Dukakis; athletes like Herschel Walker; artists like Dale Chihuly; and a plethora of mayors, governors, and US senators.

Freeman James was not such a known celebrity to me. After a friend introduced him to Christos, Freeman became a regular whenever he was in town. He fell in love with the food. Freeman claimed Greek ancestry, although I never found out why his name did not convey his ethnicity. Always underdressed, even shabby, he had a rocker’s hair which was perennially capped by a baseball-type hat, the kind suburban soccer moms often wear as they drive the kids to practice. He never made even the slightest attempt to be conspicuous. He was a low-key guy content to be seated in a quiet corner of the dining room. It’s not surprising that once, while waiting for the valet to bring his Ferrari around at a hotel in LA, another guest handed him keys to his car to park.

Freeman had a gravelly speaking voice that hurt one’s ears from close range, yet he was never loud. Whenever I sat down at his table to visit, he told “tall tales.” He related these stories in an understated tone, as if these were everyday occurrences. He did not appear to brag about any of it. I listened incredulously while trying to appear impressed as he made himself out to be someone important in the music world. He was a musician who played with several name bands over his career. He was master of many musical instruments but was best known as a bass guitar virtuoso. Back then he was a member of The Who! He owned a private plane that he used to fly to distant gigs. He told fantastic stories about A-List musical celebrities who were his friends. He had traveled all over the world and owned properties on three continents.

One day over Greek coffee, Freeman asked me what kind of music my wife, Carol liked. I didn’t know where to begin. I told him that Carol listened to music all the time. Her mother played Big Band music for her when she was in her crib. Later on, she listened to the tunes of the fifties’ and sixties’ crooners: Old Blue Eyes, Tony Bennet, Al Martino, Dean Martin. Along the way, she fell in love with everything Motown and knows every group and the names of their members. Her all-time favorite is still Smoky Robinson. She knows who wrote what tune, who first recorded it and with what label. She can recount the break-ups and the make-ups, the fights and the betrayals. She knows everything there is to know about the Beatles and the Stones and the myriad other bands of the sixties, seventies, and eighties. She has an uncanny ability to identify a tune after one, maybe two chords. She often comments that if she ever ends up on a musical quiz show, she’ll kill it. Neither I nor any of her friends doubt it.

“Does that answer your question, Freeman?”

“Yes, but I didn’t hear you say anything about Prince. Does she like Prince?”

Silly question, Freeman. Very silly question,” I responded. “Would someone from Minnesota who loves music as much as she does not like Prince? Of course she loves Prince and The Revolution, in fact the whole Minneapolis sound, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, all of it.”

Having gotten the answer he was apparently looking for, Freeman casually asked if Carol would like a private tour of Paisley Park. I was floored. Is this guy for real? I had listened to endless stories that were hard to believe, some of them downright laughable. Now I was supposed to believe that he had the run of Paisley Park? What kind of sucker does he think I am?

I realized at this point that it was a mistake not to question him earlier in this charade. I had obviously been far too polite.

Suddenly I started to suspect that this could be part of a plan to make my life miserable. I began imagining myself in the doghouse for months on end if I sent Carol and her closest friend, Jane, a music lover in her own right and an accomplished piano player to boot (who would without a doubt be included in this adventure at Paisley Park) all excited about a private tour of this Mecca of music only to have them turned away: “You are here to see who? We don’t know a Freeman James! Are you sure you have the name right?” What a nightmare! What did I ever do to Freeman that would cause him to want to hurt me like this?

But as I pondered this, a little voice in my head started to tempt me. What if there is no plan to ruin your life? What if you are just being paranoid? What if somehow this is going to work out and you’ll be the hero who set up Carol and Jane with this amazing experience? Freeman could very well be a friend who wants to make you look good. Have you thought about that?

I let that thought marinate for a moment. The temptation to be a hero far outweighed the potential embarrassment, even pain, that I would surely suffer if the worst happened. So I capitulated. “Oh my God, yes, Freeman, she would love that.”

On the following Saturday, the day of the tour, I was sweating bullets. I dreaded the inevitable phone call I would get if things went south. I had insinuated a little doubt about how “real” Freeman might or might not be, just to hedge my bet.

But Carol and Jane did not pick up on that. They were too excited to worry about such details. There was no turning back now.

To be prepared for the eventuality of a disaster, I made plans to take the ladies out for drinks and dinner the following night. I would keep this in my hip pocket in case Freeman made a fool out of me.
I took a deep breath and waited. Four o’clock, the time of the appointment at Paisley Park, came and went without a call. Luckily, I was very busy hosting at the Minnetonka Christos and didn’t have time to dwell on this.

At seven o’clock, with a full house on my hands, my cellphone buzzed; it was Carol. Should I answer it? Do I really want to face this right now? But I knew how relentless Carol could be, particularly if she was angry, so I braced myself and picked up.

“What a fabulous time, Gus. This was unbelievable. Thanks for arranging it.”

Hallelujah!

It went down something like this: At Paisley Park, they asked for Freeman James. The receptionist said she would page him. Freeman appeared promptly. He was warm and welcoming. He gave them a complete tour of the facility. Along the way, Freeman led them to a kitchen area to get them bottled water.

As they were doing that, Prince walked in. “Hey, Freeman.”

Apparently, Prince was on the premises composing the music for Batman, and Freeman was part of that project! He introduced Carol and Jane to Prince. They chatted for a few minutes. They found Prince incredibly short and, totally unlike his stage persona, very shy and soft-spoken. Nevertheless, they were starstruck. Shortly afterward, Prince excused himself and disappeared into the recording studio. Freeman was soon to follow.

What a relief! My man Freeman James came through for me. I was at once elated that Freeman was real, and remorseful that I ever doubted him.

Copyright @ 2023 Gus Parpas

“We can change the world”

Christos staff proudly posing with the painting (left to right) are Makayla, Celia, Chris & Laura

During the unrest of the summer of 2020, many businesses in South Minneapolis boarded up their windows to protect their property. Christos Greek Restaurant is located just a few blocks from what later became known as George Floyd Square. As the anger and frustration that followed the killing of George Floyd swept through the neighborhoods, we felt the need to board up as well.

Crowds of protesters marched down Nicollet Avenue in front of Christos on several occasions. During one of these protests, a young man entered the restaurant and asked to see the manager. When Carol came out to meet him, he asked if he could paint a message on the plywood boards covering the windows outside. The young man was very polite but also very determined. Carol gave him permission and off he went. Mohamed took a picture of him at work. After a while, he came back inside and asked Carol if she would come out to see his creation. Carol was very impressed. She chatted with him for a while, offered him a meal, and sent him on his way.

The protests on Nicollet Avenue were peaceful and no damage was done. Soon after, we took the boards down. Our contractor threw them in the back of our storage room, intending to repurpose them. In fact, one of the boards has since been used for another project and eventually put back, only in two pieces. Luckily, the artwork was not damaged in the process.

For the next year and a half, the boards collected dust until Gus came across them as he rummaged through looking for something else. He took them out, lined them up against a wall, and quietly admired them for a time. It appeared that the artist wanted to convey the anguish caused by the killing of George Floyd, but also hope for a better world. He got these feelings across ever so eloquently in this colorful, turbulent, compelling piece.

Rather than letting this astonishing work of art languish in a dark, dusty storage room, we agreed it would be only fair to share it with our customers. It now hangs on the back wall of our dining room, raw and unvarnished, a reminder of the issues unleashed by the killing of George Floyd and of our duty to continue to address them.

The Christos Team

April 2022

ADDITIONAL CHRISTOS PARKING POST

In addition to the lot on the North Side of our building
we now offer parking across the street
from 5:00pm on Friday night through Sunday Night

Additional Christos Parking Now Available

Additional Christos Parking Now Available

Remembering Jose

Remembering Jose Hernandez

Donate To Help Jose on GoFundMe

When he applied for a job at Christos Union Depot some seventeen years ago, we weren’t sure what to make of him. He giggled a lot, often for no apparent reason, and it was difficult to have a proper conversation with him. But he had a disarming demeanor, so we gave him a try. In no time, it became clear that this was no ordinary worker. Not only was he strong as an ox, which meant that he could move banquet furniture with great ease, he was always early and never complained about the work. In fact, he thrived on it. He had an amazing sense for the flow of the work, and during the rush he would slide effortlessly from salads to the line to dish. He loved to work, enjoyed being helpful, and thoroughly relished the interaction with co-workers.

But what made Jose special was his great sense of humor. He knew how to tease co-workers, just enough to get a smile out of them without offending them. For a man of few words, he had a superb understanding of the people around him. There was always laughter when Jose was at work.

Jose, the compassionate, funny, hardworking man who brought joy to those around him, was tragically injured by a hit and run driver as he rode his bike home from work two nights ago. The reaction amongst our employees, present and past, has been overwhelming. The outpouring of concern and support speaks volumes about the love felt for him. We pray that he recovers from his grave injuries, and truly hope that the guilty person Is brought to justice.

A link is provided below to a Go Fund Me site set up by Jose’s friends at Brasa where he last worked.

 

Donate To Jose’s GoFundMe.com Campaign Now

 

Readers Poll – Best Restaurant MSP Magazine

Come taste the best Rack of Lamb in town.

Best Restaurant MSP Magazine

Or the Hummus customers rave about…
Or the best Greek Salad in town…
Or the delicious Oregano Chicken people come from far and wide for
(broiled from raw, takes 50 minutes; call ahead)…
Or our fresh filet of Mediterranean Sea bass…
Whatever your choice, you can’t go wrong!

CHRISTOS SELECTED “BEST OF THE TWIN CITIES 2015”

best-greek-2015-WP-slide BY CITY PAGES.
CHRISTOS SELECTED “BEST GREEK RESTAURANT” IN MINNEAPOLIS / ST PAUL MAGAZINES 2015 READERS’ POLL. AGAIN!

A NOTE TO OUR CUSTOMERS