LONDON, May 28, 2009 -- Move over Susan Boyle, there's a new act in town.
Just when the world thought they had already seen the most surprising act in the reality program "Britain's Got Talent" along came Stavros Flatley-- a dance act by a Greek-Cypriot father-son duo wearing nothing but red fez hats and white skirts.
The Stavros Flatley comedy dance act was propelled into stardom after winning Tuesday's semi-final on "Britain's Got Talent." The show reportedly garnered an audience of 14 million and an audience share of as much as 50 percent. The duo parodied the syrtaki, the hugely popular Greek dance made famous by Anthony Quinn in the Academy Award winning 1964 film 'Zorba the Greek.' The first performance by the duo was a play on Michael Flatley's dance extravaganza 'Riverdance.'
This time, the large bellied Dimitri appeared on stage with a Cyprus tattoo on his chest, a red fez over a blonde wig and black dancing shoes tipped with red pompons. He then called the younger version of himself on stage, his 12 year old son Lagi. The boy's moves lifted the audience off their chairs to join in on the dancing and the arena filled with howls, laughter and clapping.
Even master of sarcasm Simon Cowell, judging 'Britain's Got Talent' along with Amanda Holden and Pierce Morgan, said of the act: "It is rubbish but brilliant. It is incredibly infectious. The final would be a worse place without you." Amanda agreed: "I just love, love, love, love, love you. It is everything that this show should be about."
But the duo didn't just uplift viewers. The stage chemistry between father and son and endearing comments by the father afterwards moved both judges and viewers. Dimitri interrupted the show's two presenters and millions of viewers witnessed a very private family moment. A breathless Dimitri looked at his son and said: "I just want to thank you so much for dancing with me." In an interview on British television channel, ITV2, later that evening Dimitri said 'If you're gonna dance with your son, nothing is as good as that.'
The Birth of Stavros Flatley
Dimitris Dimitriou, his wife Karen and their two children live in Enfield, North London, a suburb known for its large Greek-Cypriot community. Dimitri told ABC news that he suffered a great loss early on in life. He was only 5 years old when his lost his father and his mother became the breadwinner, managing the family's shops and dress factories, while little Dimitri was raised by his maternal grandmother.
As a child he spent long summers in Cyprus, where the humid climate was considered beneficial to his serious asthma condition. It is there that he learned his parents' language, met his extended family and discovered the central role of family in Cypriot culture. These were formative experiences, he says. His English wife Karen speaks fluent Greek and so do his second-generation Greek-Cypriot children. 'Kyriakoula', the woman who raised him, still lives down the street from them.
After studying at catering college and working a string of hotel jobs, Dimitri and his brother decided to open 'Syrtaki' restaurant in 1994. Dimitri told ABC news, "The food was terrible and the restaurant was empty Monday through Thursday, except for my neighbor whom I cooked for every night to pay back for the large fridge he gave me for the restaurant."
In a bid to save the restaurant, Dimitri and his brother decided to provide their guests with live entertainment. Word of mouth made 'Sirtaki' the IT spot in North London for hen nights and birthday parties. At times, Dimitri says, the restaurant was booked three months in advance.
Besides encouraging customers to stand up on chairs and break plates, Dimitri made the guests the stars of the show. A group of girlfriends would bring the bride to-be to 'Syrtaki', where Dimitri would take over, dressing the bride in a funny outfit and showing her to the Karaoke stage. Dimitri adds that he never abandoned the frightened singers but made sure he embarrassed himself on stage with them.
The Cypriot has an entire list of song and dance pieces he came up with for his guests: performing the song 'Shake Your Tail' dressed as one of the Blues Brothers, leading a Conga dance through the restaurant, inventing the 'Zebra Crossing' where his guests left the restaurant and crossed the street in a horizontal line imitating the Irish performer Michael Flatley's Riverdance and the list goes on....
"It's All About Throwing Away Your Inhibitions"
Dimitri told ABC news that he left the restaurant to open his own electrical business, which would afford him more time with his young family. When asked about his relationship with his son Lagi (an abbreviation of the name 'Michalaki), Dimitri's voice changes. He says, 'I'm not ashamed to tell you I love my son. And I'm not ashamed to tell my son that I love him. He's the person, after all, who has to hear it from me.'
He adds that parents are always telling people outside the family how much they love their children, but they rarely tell the children themselves. Dimitri says his son looks up to him, and this is what 'makes him melt.'
The idea to enter the talent competition came to him while he and his family were sitting around the television. He saw the advertisement and turned to Karen playfully, "Wouldn't it be fun if I did the Michael Flatley dance on television?" They all laughed and then Lagi said he would love to dance it with his father. And that is how the idea for the Stavros Flatley act was born.
"It's all about throwing away your inhibitions and enjoying yourself," the Cypriot says. Dimitri and his family love music, their musical taste ranges from Greek patriotic songs to Greek pop singer Anna Vissi to Dolly Parton.
No matter what happens on the talent show's big finale, the world has now been introduced to a loving father-son pair, who are not ashamed to tell the world they love each other while they wiggle their bellies in the name of fun.
The pair will undoubtedly add variety to the final competition and give the massively popular contestant Susan Boyle a run for her money. Add to this Piers Morgan's lavish praise of her singing rival, twelve-year-old Shaheen Jafargholi, and it becomes evident that a win for Boyle is no longer guaranteed.