DAVID LEE SIMMONS| Special to The Advocate
Deanie’s Seafood sits at the intersection of Dauphine and Iberville streets in the French Quarter. Deanie's Holiday Kids Dance Party & Sing-Along with Vince Vance sits at the intersection of the dreams of two close friends: bandleader Vince Vance and Deanie’s owner Barbara A. Chifici, old-school New Orleanians seeking to rekindle the spirit of holidays gone by.
They will gather again for the special event, held over four dates in December at the restaurant, 841 Bienville St.
Vince Vance, backed by the all-female Valianettes, will perform holiday songs — including his chart-topping classic “All I Want for Christmas Is You” — while also premiering songs from a new EP by Vince & The Valiants, “Christmas State of Mind."The $45 per person inclusive ticket provides guests with a full buffet breakfast, photos with Santa Claus, holiday crafts, face-painting and lots of dancing as they sing along with Vance, the band and the Valianettes. (Kids 3 and under are free.)
All of it will unfold in a space graced by the seasonal ornaments Chifici used to put out at her Kenner home — an homage to the display New Orleanians used to enjoy when passing the old D.H. Holmes building. (That building now hosts luxury apartments; Deanie’s is in the former D.H. Holmes Store Annex & Cafeteria.)
Over lunch at Deanie’s, Vance and Chifici speak warmly of those old days. Vance, whose given name is Andrew John Franichevich Jr. and who goes by Andy Stone, jokingly references his old-school ways as that of a guy who isn’t much into political correctness.
This is, after all, the guy whose other hit was the 1980 novelty song “Bomb Iran,” sung to the melody of the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann.”
“I want Christmas to be enjoyed by atheists, by Jewish people, by all the religions of the world,” he said, “because it’s a beautiful cultural thing, and I try to capture the idea of that in the my new album.”
He sees beauty everywhere in the holiday, including the spirit of lighting up a child’s world as much as a Christmas tree.
“I believe in Santa Claus,” he said. “Because he comes every year and gives children toys. Whether you want to call Santa Claus an idea, it’s something real that I felt in my heart. When a parent stays up all night to wrap presents ... for their children in the morning, what more proof of Santa Claus do you need than someone presenting a gift to their children?”
As Chifici put it, “It’s a giving of yourself.”
For her, the holidays are all about family, one that’s experienced more than its fair share of challenges.
She lost her husband, Frank, who passed away just as he was realizing his dream of purchasing the original Deanie’s Seafood out in Bucktown near Lake Pontchartrain in the 1980s.
Barbara realized her own dream by opening the French Quarter location in 2002. After Katrina, one of her grandchildren suffered from a life-threatening virus that required a heart transplant, and Chifici and members of her family spent lots of time at the Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia as the grandson underwent and recuperated from the procedure.
Chifici never forgot the hospitality she received at the Ronald McDonald House, though she elevated her stature there by cooking up some Louisiana food for the guests.
“I’m still giving back,” she said.
This article appeared in The New Orleans Advocate on Dec. 10, 2015.