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A chance meeting on a bus led filmmaker, actor and writer Cristina Doikos to live in Hell’s Kitchen. She shares her loves, hates and memories of the neighborhood she proudly calls home.
So, what’s your New York story? Born here, or just arrived?
Let’s see, I was born in New York but I grew up in Tokyo and then lived all over. Since I’ve been in NYC for almost 20 years, doesn’t that mean that I can consider myself a New Yorker? Not to mention my grandparents came through Ellis Island from Greece and Italy so NYC has always held a special place in my heart.
How did you end up in Hell’s Kitchen?
It’s one of those serendipitous NYC stories. I moved to the city to pursue a career in acting and writing. I had gone out to New Jersey for a play callback and on the bus ride back to the city, I sat next to a young woman who had been at the same audition. The audition experience was very disorganized and had tons of quirks. We had such fun comparing notes on our auditions, which made an otherwise monotonous bus ride a complete joy. By the time we got back to the city, she said she was looking for a new roommate and I needed somewhere new to live. Voila, I moved in.
What’s your favorite thing about Hell’s Kitchen?
I’m a sucker for a great slice of pizza and we have Sacco’s! In my opinion, it’s the greatest walk-up pizza slice in the hood. The place feels super old school with an authentic counter window and the slice is a foldable, easy to eat on the go, delicious piece of heaven.
And what’s your Hell’s Kitchen pet peeve?
Smelly trash. But I suppose that’s my pet peeve across the city.
Did you stay put when the pandemic hit or did you find an escape for some of the time?
Half and half. I was here for the better part of 2020 and then I was lucky enough to spend a couple of months with my folks in Florida. That’s not somewhere I could ever live permanently but I felt so fortunate that I spent an extended amount of time with my parents, especially since they are more mature now and I cherish every moment we have. If the pandemic taught me anything, it’s that life can be so fleeting and to enjoy the ones you love whenever they are around.
What did you do for work pre-COVID? What are you doing now?
I was an actor and a writer pre-COVID and I’m still an actor and a writer. There was a period of time where everything in the arts went dark, which was heartbreaking. But we are a resilient crowd. Now I am deep into pre-production for a film called DISPLACED, based on true events of asylum seekers navigating US immigration court.
What’s the most interesting thing that you’ve learned during the pandemic?
That I can complete a 5,000-piece jigsaw puzzle of a black and white photograph and not go mad. Seriously, it taught me patience and logic and patience and patience. It’s done and I sealed it and turned it into a bulletin board above my desk. I just love it.
Tell us one thing that’s given you hope during the pandemic?
During the elections, I phone banked to encourage people to vote. It was one of my least favorite things to do but also gave me the greatest sense of connection to people. Some people were not at all receptive but there were others who were eager to talk and learn. Even though I was calling people in parts of the country that I had no connection to, I still managed to find a commonality between us. That gave me hope, because connecting with people was taken from us for a time during the pandemic — but after those phone calls, I knew it was not lost.
What’s the most serendipitous (random/obscure/ insane) experience that’s happened to you in Hell’s Kitchen?
At one time, my building had a problem with mice. Apparently, this is very common in apartment living. I do not like mice. I don’t want them in my house, my building, anywhere. So, the exterminator set glue traps. The next day I awoke to a family of mice stuck to the glue trap in my kitchen. I lost it! The mice were wiggling and squealing. It was horrible. I rushed out of my apartment looking for someone to help me because I certainly couldn’t deal with them. My super was nowhere to be found so some unsuspecting young man was walking down the street and I implored him to help me. He followed me into my apartment, scooped up the glue trap and took the family of mice away. I realize now this was not one of my smartest choices in life but it got rid of the rodents!
What’s your closest brush with world fame and celebrity?
Since I’m an actor I don’t know if this is a fair question. But I was outed in a tabloid once about something completely made up. It was so absurd it was almost comical. Just goes to show that disinformation is everywhere and just because it’s written, doesn’t mean it’s true.
What’s your superpower?
I am a super multi-tasker! This is coming in very handy right now with our film DISPLACED.
What song do you sing at the top of your voice in the shower?
Kelly Clarkson’s Since U Been Gone!!!
Which people inspire you the most?
I am so taken with people who are passionate about what they do. And that could be in any career or discipline. When someone takes pride in what they do and really enjoys it, it’s so attractive.
What’s your favorite quote or saying?
That’s an easy one… Say what you mean and mean what you say and be kind doing it.
Do you love Times Square? Why, or why not?
I secretly love it. I complain about it being too touristy and difficult to traverse but there’s a part of me that completely digs it. So many can only see it on TV but I can walk through it at any time. I love the awe on people’s faces when they stand in the middle of it, I love that at times it’s seedy and dark, I love that this world attraction just happens to be in my backyard. No big deal.
Do you love Hudson Yards? Why, or why not?
Yep, I like it. It’s pretty and shiny and has a certain character all it’s own. It might not be my first choice of places to go in the city but I think it’s well done. Things are always going to change so no use mourning that because then I’d miss all the new stuff that’s happening.
If you could bring one thing (person/place/event) back to HK that is no longer around, what would it be?
Okay, so I did mourn the closing of Tokens on 9th Avenue. It was a charming gift shop that was a perfect spot for any last minute and/or unique gifts. They had something for everyone. I do wish Hell’s Kitchen would hold on to those small owner and mom & pop shops. Sadly, they seem to be dwindling.
Add your shameless plug or personal profile?
Thank you, I will! I welcome everyone to visit DisplacedShortFilm.com. It’s such an important film and I know it will reignite the conversation about the injustices in our immigration system. Check out our website and if it resonates with you, make a tax-deductible donation to help us get this important story told. Be a part of making a movie! It’s fun.
Anything we missed?
Let’s connect on Instagram – @CristinaDoikos
Hell’s Kitchen Happy Places
Tulcingo Del Valle — Best authentic Mexican food in the hood! It’s a family-run business. The service is fantastic, prices are reasonable and the food is divine!
Delphinium Home — If you need a laugh, they have the best selection of greeting cards that are sure to make a sad day sparkle.
48th Street Community Garden — It’s tranquil and lovely. I always feel revived after spending even just a few minutes on the garden bench.
Amy’s Bread — I went in daily during the pandemic just to say hi and thank them for being open. There’s nothing an Amy’s Coconut Dream Bar can’t fix.
Pier 96 at Hudson River Park — I love to run along the Hudson and this patch of park between 54th and 57th Street is wonderful. It’s not usually crowded and has a great sunset view.
Kahve Coffee — This coffee bar has moved around the hood so many times but luckily they never go far. This may be controversial but I do enjoy a good decaf on occasion and theirs never disappoints.