Chris Giftos tossed out verbal bouquets before displaying his world-class floral arranging expertise in a February visit to Boca Grande.
The former floral designer and banquet manager at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art wooed the crowd from the start saying he had met the most beautiful people he has ever known right here in the Boca Grande Garden Club.
But his show needed no such flourishes to curry favor for the man whose work has wowed Prince Charles, Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton, Princess Diana, Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart.
Chris Giftos with Boca Grande Garden Club program chairwoman Marsha Dishman, who also played host to a cocktail party for him.
Giftos said he was drawn to the floral arrangement field after working as a child in a Greek floral shop while his parents went overseas.
He worked at being an accountant and in the insurance business before being drafted into the U.S. Army.
When he got out of the military he went to work for another Greek florist where his first customer was Greta Garbo. In the years to come he worked with Jacqueline Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Pat Nixon, Mary Martin, the Rockefellers, Henry Kissinger, Oscar de la Renta, and Brooke Astor among others.
His talent was prodigious. After he talked the Met into letting him to do 8-foot arrangements for the Great Hall he became assistant banquet manager, a job he held for 33 years.
He took a pay cut to take the job but his timing was impeccable. The Met blossomed from 700 employees when he started to 2,700 when retired while the annual number of visitors rose from 1 million to 5.5 million during his three-plus decades.
He had some embarrassing moments, such as the time the empress of Japan walked into a room full of waiters pulling on their pants to negotiate the minimum donation of $60,000 necessary to rent space in the Museum.
After he did a wedding bouquet for Elizabeth Taylor's first marriage to Richard Burton, he swore off doing bouquets saying his flowers seemed to last longer than the marriages.
"Giftos was funny and entertaining while sharing incredibly gorgeous photographs of his creations and various Met dinner functions," said Nora Lea Reefe of the BGGC.
Following his slide show he created three quick arrangements using flowers from Publix and Native Gardens or from local gardens. They were given away as door prizes to Nancy Pais, Leanne Bucher and Val Walche.
He also signed his floral arranging book at a tea arranged by Jo Beth Harrison and Lolo Weir in the Woman's Club Room.
On Tuesday Giftos was entertained by club officers and committee chairs at a cocktail party set up by Melanie Sullivan at Marsha Dishman's home.
"He was so charming that everyone at the tea told him he absolutely had to return to Boca Grande, and he promised to do so, since he found island to be enchantingly casual and extremely welcoming," Reefe said.