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Monday, August 23, 2010

Deeper Dish with John Vincent Mahady

John Vincent Mahady is Chicago's very own "Master Eventor". He has his own baking business, Vincent Van Dough, in which he creates delicious confectionery delights for special events (I love his show tune-inspired "Berry Me A Little", a succulent strawberry muffin cake with either a white chocolate or hot fudge glaze). He also does wedding consulting, serves French food with a flare at Lincoln Park's Mon Ami Gabi restaurant, and has been entertaining audiences with his heartfelt musical performances for over 20 years. This guy certainly knows how to create a special event with either food or song - and his upcoming September 2 - 4 engagement at Davenport's Piano Bar & Cabaret will include both these amazing talents as he'll be singing while his audiences enjoy his signature Vincent Van Dough Dessert Bar. I am delighted to have John Vincent Mahady here on the Dish to discuss his careers and answer a few pop culture questions.

Let's begin with your new show, The Nightclub Act, that you will be performing at Davenport's. How did you become a fan of the great nightclub acts of the 1950s and '60s?
As a child, I listened to a great deal of Perry Como and Sammy Davis music. I just loved that music - and both my parents were big fans. I also loved Bobby Darin. So, when I started singing professionally, it felt like a perfect fit! I remember begging my Mom to stay up and watch Perry Como's Christmas specials.

If I asked you to sing three of your favorite songs in the show, which ones would you choose?
Well, I don't wanna give away my setlist, so let me just say that three of my most favorite tunes in the world to sing are "My Foolish Heart", "I'm Gonna Live Till I Die" and "What Kind of Fool Am I?"

Do you remember your very first cabaret performance and what you sang?
My debut cabaret show was back on April 21, 1988, at an amazing club called Boombala's on North Lincoln Avenue. It was such a treasure - and I was so thrilled to sell out my first performance. It sold out one week after I announced the date. I opened the show with "My Favorite Year" and I closed the show with "My Romance".

What is the most memorable moment you have had while performing?
Most memorable would also have to be the most gratifying as well. I have a client whom I tried to get to come to shows for years. Finally he came to one of my shows at The Royal George Theatre and after the show, he told me that I made him feel things he hadn't felt in 40 years. I was so moved. It was such the ultimate compliment. As a performer, I believe that touching someone's heart is the pinnacle reward. If someone leaves my show and is moved, I have done my job.

What was your inspiration for your CD, Intimate?
I wanted to create a CD that was as close to a live performance as possible. So often you buy a performer's CD and it is so drastically different from what you heard live. I wanted people to be able to "take me home" and feel as if I was singing in their livingroom. Before I recorded the CD, I recorded one song on three different mikes and took those initial recordings home and listened to them over and over for one week. I wanted to use the mike that made me sound most alive and genuine and accessible. It ended up being a 50's microphone. I was so pleased with the final product and 10 years later, I still love every selection on my CD. It was an amazing process and one of the top five experiences in my life - so far!

How long have you had your baking business, Vincent Van Dough?
My baking business started back in 1985. I had made a cake for a friend's birthday and everyone went crazy over it. A friend suggested I open my own bakery and I jokingly said, "Yeah, and I'll call it Vincent Van Dough." We all laughed and the rest is sweet history. I find baking to be so relaxing and a natural extension of my creative juices. It has also helped immensely in my PR for the music career. I don't have a stage name that is easily remembered and often it is mispronounced. Yet everyone remembers Vincent Van Dough. I would often send out press releases with a box of "sweet treats" from VVD and I would get an instant response and often great press.

When did you decide to add Vincent Van Dough to your shows as a dessert bar?
I started including the sweets at my show as a way to set myself apart from other performers and their shows. My debut VVD dessert bar was at the old Halsted Gentry on Valentine's Day back in 1994. That was such a fun evening and the start of this tradition.

What are a few of your most popular Vincent Van Dough baked specialities?
By far the most popular dessert is the "To Die Fors", which are a chocolate/marshmallow muffin cake with a white chocolate glaze and topped with caramel, butterscotch and toffee chips. Also wildly popular are my Hot Fudge Cakes and my Triple Fudge Marshmallow Brownies.

If you could go back and give your 19-year-old self a wise piece of advice, what would it be?
Dreams can make you fearless - run with them and don't look back!

In high school I was:
The class clown with the 4.0 grades and a big, big voice.

My favorite comfort food is:
Anything chocolate.

When I was growing up, I never missed a television episode of:
Knots Landing - all 14 and a half years. Still the greatest show EVER to be on prime time TV. I also loved The Ed Sullivan Show, Sonny and Cher and Carol Burnett. I was a huge fan of The Mike Douglas Show - it is my dream to host a show like that one day. Are you listening, Oprah?

Today I never miss a television episode of:
Brothers & Sisters - a show that can make you laugh and then cry and then laugh again. I love shows that touch my heart. I also love Medium and Law & Order.

The very first record album that I purchased with my own money was:
The Perry Como Christmas Album.

If I was stranded on a desert island for a year, I would want to listen to:
Patti LaBelle, Ann Hampton Callaway, Sammy Davis Jr., Bobby Darin and Nat King Cole.

Three of my favorite movies are:
The Way We Were (most romantic), Ordinary People (most earth shattering and profound), and The Shawshank Redemption (a masterpiece).

If I was asked to choose the Sexiest Man Alive, it would be:
Hands down Ryan Reynolds - funny, sexy and chiseled. Waiter, please take my order!

If I could have anyone in the world - living or dead - be a guest at my dinner party, I would invite the following three people:
Sammy Davis Jr., Julia Child and Jackie Onassis.

What's next for John Vincent Mahady?
I am trying to finish writing my book on the restaurant business (22 years at Un Grand Cafe/Mon Ami Gabi), and I would love to start reseaching new material for my next CD. I also have several concerts planned with a dear friend, Debra Kilgore. I would also like to continue creating new dessert concepts. I also would love to marry my partner of 12 years, David Izaguirre - but I only want to do this when it is legal coast-to-coast.

Thank you, John, for getting Deeper with us here on the Dish. To learn more about Mr. Mahady, check out his website at or click here to download his music from iTunes. For reservations to his Nightclub Act at Davenport's (1383 N. Milwaukee Ave), which will be performed September 2 - 4 at 8 pm, call 773-415-6393. Tickets are $20 with a 2-drink minimum.

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