As you know, Beyonce and Jay-Z are leaving New York, so its time for someone new to ascend to the throne. If you’re looking for royalty, it only makes sense to swing by the nearest palace, so we stopped by Park Slope’s Grand Prospect Hall. You probably recognize owners Michael and Alice Halkias from their iconic commercial, which airs at least 35 times a day, 365 days a year in the New York Metropolitan area.
“People recognize my wife and I at restaurants, they already treat us like celebrities. We have round-bellied Wall Street guys come here, and they are so excited, they are running up and down these stairs saying ‘We make your dreams come true!”‘ says Michael Halkias of the iconic commercial.
Local notoriety and luxurious digs are must-haves for any royal heir-apparent, but do the Halkias have what it takes to be the next regents of Kings County? On a tour of the Grand Prospect Hall, they told me why they should be crowned King and Queen of Brooklyn, and let me in on some of their history, the hall’s history and a brokester-friendly wedding tip involving flying sandwiches.
The question on everyone’s mind of course, is why they should vote for the Halkias. They had a two-part answer to that question. “My wife already has royal blood! She worked so hard for so long, her blood turned blue,” Mr. Halkias told us, while Mrs. Halkias added that she would do “whatever is required” if elected the next Queen of Kings county. They also added that their first act as King and Queen, will be to “have a spectacular coronation with a cocktail reception.” Walking through the Grand Prospect Hall with them, I got the feeling that coronation would be an amazing party.
The Halkias purchased the turn-of-the century palace in 1981, with Michael Halkias telling us “I was in real estate, and I’m a fixer. So, I found something that needed to be fixed, and I made it beautiful again…this isn’t a passion project, this is a crazy project.”
Just because you’re touring the hall with Mr. Halkias doesn’t mean he’s going to stop making sure his palace is sparkling clean. He would stop to straighten tablecloths, pick up rogue crumbs, and gently chide his staff about the floor cleaner smelling too strongly of ammonia. He noticed a taxidermy fox, its leg bent, damaged from last night’s party. “Some people are animals!” he cried in earnest.
Mrs. Halkias shares this passion for history and architecture, “We maintained a lot of the original, and we brought out what was hidden. They had a drop ceiling to hide the disrepair, but we knocked it down to show the original detail. We had an artist from Russia come in to do the fresco work, we polished all the marble, we redid the gold leaf.”
Bringing in a Russian artist seems to have paid off for the Halkias, with a slew of Russian weddings that have booked the hall. “That is our customer, they love the Grand Prospect Hall! It reminds them of something from the old country. And they compete with each other. More caviar, more liquor, more food!”
With miles of gold leaf, priceless antiques, and chandeliers in every room, a wedding at the GPH may seem a far cry from the Mason jar DIY-ethos of a modern Brooklyn wedding, but the Halkias’ have experience with a novel cost-saving approach.
“You know a football wedding?” asked Mr. Halkias, (I did not.) “It’s a sandwich, flying over the air!”
Mrs. H. clarifies, “People would invite the whole town for a wedding, they could not afford to feed them a sit down dinner, so they would wrap up sandwiches. They’d go up on this balcony and say, ‘Hey! Charlie! Throw me a sandwich!’ So they throw the ham and cheese, and they call it a football wedding. We’ve had a few anniversaries and they insisted they wanted a football wedding because that’s what they had before.”
The Grand Prospect Hall has royal bonafides of its own, having hosted dignitaries from around the world, including a Nigerian prince and the reigning Queen of Burlesque (and former Ms. Cyclone), Angie Pontani. Beyond brushes with royalty, the GPH has had plenty of brushes with fame, appearing in TV shows and movies like 30 Rock, Gossip Girl, The Cotton Club and The Royal Tenenbaums.
When asked if he had any tips for the average Brokelyn reader, Mr. Halkias laughed, “Living big on small change! I like that! Listen, you have to work for the life you want. My lifestyle is wonderful…but we work 10 days a week, 7 is not enough.”
Unlike Bey & Jay, the grand couple of the Grand Prospect Hall will not be defecting to the west coast anytime soon, or ever. They’ve lived in Bay Ridge for more than 40 years.
“Oh no, I couldn’t. No, Brooklyn is really very unique,” says Mrs. Halkias, “It’s so close to the city, and yet still, almost like a suburb. The architecture of Brooklyn is amazing, even our famous Green-Wood Cemetery! You are right on the Hudson River, right on the Atlantic Ocean, what else could you want? I came to this country in 1963, and I moved to Brooklyn in 1964.”
“Our home is here,” says Mr. Halkias, “and our palace. This place, it’s part of living.”
So there you have it. Michael and Alice Halkias have nothing but love for our dear borough. They’re deeply committed to preserving a local historic treasure. They’ve delighted a generation of couch potatoes with their seminal late-night commercial, and they know how to throw a killer party to boot. If they’re not worthy of the crown, I don’t know who is.
Are you sold? Vote for these hometown heroes for Brooklyn’s next Royal Family before the polls close this Friday!