PROFILE: DENISE McGOWAN TRACY

imageDenise McGowan Tracy

Of the many things I have learned while writing this post is how many friends and acquaintances I have that have such wonderful and fascinating lives.  I think of more each day to ask to answer my questionnaire.  In addition, NenasNotes has given me the opportunity to renew memories for me and my profile subjects…it is a blast, to say the least.  I hope you, my readers, are enjoying this journey as much as I am.

One such person is Denise McGowan Tracy.  We hadn’t seen each other in ages and bumped into each other a couple of times over the past few months, an omen that I needed to get her to answer the questionnaire.  I mentioned my blog and asked Denise if she would be interested in joining me, her immediate response, of course (which, by the way, has been everyone’s response, yay!!!)  I asked her when we first met and neither of us could remember, it has been that long.  I do know she was at Navy Pier at the time.  Denise is an extraordinarily talented singer and an amazing event planner…she knows everyone!  Do catch her at Petterino’s Monday Night Live, you won’t be disappointed and you may well hear many other talented performers who are in Chicago for a couple of days or a cast member or two from one of the many Chicago’s stage productions…you will have a fantastic evening of entertainment along with your always yummy food and drink selections at the popular Petterino’s, yet another of the wonderful Lettuce Entertain You enterprises.

Please enjoy Denise and her fascinating story…..

WHEN WAS YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF YOUR TALENT

Hmm, which talent?  I feel like I always dreamed of being a singer/actress which I first discovered when our parents would have Saturday singalongs at our home at our cottage on Paw Paw Lake.  Dad played piano, Mom tambourine.  They both sang.  And I joined in.  I knew I loved it from probably 6 or 7 years old.
As for my event planning – I remember distinctly putting streamers up in the dining room for all the family birthdays and I even (some would find this hard to believe) made many of the birthday cakes.  All from a box, of course, it was the 1960’s and Duncan Hines ruled!
WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD “MADE IT” EXPLAIN
When I had more than two pairs of pantyhose in my sock drawer.  When I first started out, I was 19 and working as a receptionist for the Ice Follies/Holiday on Ice when they were owned by the Wirtz organization ad the office was in the old Furniture Mart (now 680 N. Lake Shore Drive). (Nena’s note, as a child, long before Denise was with the Ice Follies, I took figure skating at the Arena (across the street from the old Furniture Mart), and we skated on the Ice Follies ice when they were in town performing…we thought we were quite special!! Then we would sit in the audience and watch the matinee, it was magical!!!)
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Denise with Cookie Monster while touring with Holiday on Ice – late 1970’s
I remember thinking that I knew I’d have made it when I didn’t have to wash out the pantyhose every day to have one drying while I was wearing one.  I laugh a little about that now.  And, when the sock drawer is overflowing it’s a good reminder of how lucky I really am.
Oh, and the time I was recognized as “that singer from Petterino’s” while on my honeymoon in Hawaii.  That was good, too.
imageDenise on stage at Petterino’s Monday Night Live.
HOW DID YOUR ORIGINAL PASSION BRING YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW
It has certainly been a long and definitely winding road.  I really didn’t know what I wanted to do but I knew I wanted to have fun while I was doing it.  I wanted music to be involved.  I wanted to laugh.  Finding jobs with Lettuce Entertain You at Byfield’s, then touring (I got a promotion!) with the Ice Follies/Holiday on Ice and saw that creative side of the business … all of it led to Navy Pier and then my own event production company which is where I am now.  Oh, and that little hobby of mine hosting Petterino’s Monday Night Live (celebrating our TENTH ANNIVERSARY in September) where I get to sing a song or two, tell a few stories and have fun with other talented friends both on and off the stage.  It’s the perfect balance of both of my loves.
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Beckie Menzie and Denise celebrate 9 years of Petterino’s Monday Night Live.
WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN YOUR ALTERNATE CHOICE AS A CAREER….WAS THERE ONE
Honestly, I can’t think of anything I’d be better at that I’d rather be doing.  Oh, well maybe “Julie from the Love Boat”.  That looked like a blast.

YOUR FAVORITE BOOK, MOVIE, THEATER (BALLET, OPERA, SYMPHONY), TYPE OF MUSIC, LOCAL RESTAURANT/AND-OR TYPE OF FOOD

I read a lot, lot, lot of books and my favorites vary based on where I am in my world.  Right now I am recommending both A Gentlemen in Moscow and The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper.  Oh, and I did love Lilac Girls.  But favorite book is, of course, the one I wrote, Eleanor’s Very Merry Christmas Wish!  (Shameless plug!)  Favorite movie – again, depends.  But I could watch Moonstruck once a week.  And Casablanca.  Oh, and I loved My Man Godfrey so much I named my late dog Godfrey.  Singing in The Rain – of course! Anything Katherine Hepburn/Spencer Tracey.  I threaten to rent a theater and throw “The Denise McGowan Tracy Film Festival” one of these days to introduce the classics to people who aren’t familiar with them.  Now, THAT is an event I should produce.  Even if I’m the only one in the theater.

HOBBIES….  Watching theater.  Going to cabaret shows.  Going to jazz rooms to hear friends.  Great restaurants.  Great conversations with friends.   Reading.  Oh, and I’m addicted to the Scrabble game on my Kindle.  

HOME….MODERN, TRADITIONAL, ANTIQUES (WHAT ERA) ECLECTIC

We are an eclectic mix of merging two 50+ year-olds who happen to value sentiment over style, I’m afraid.  Our “great art” collection is a mix of street art bought from our travels, great photos of us with friends, colorful drawings of me done by artist friends over the years and my treasured original, signed drawings my Charles Schultz who I had the privilege of meeting and spending time with several years ago.
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Denise with husband Ed Tracy at Congressional Medal of Honor Convention Black Tie Gala October 2009
WHO WOULD YOU HAVE AT YOUR FANTASY DINNER (LIVING OR DEAD) AND WHAT WOULD YOU SERVE
Pasta, wine, and salad with recipes taught to me by my friend John’s late mother, Lena.  At the table – my closest friends who make me laugh.  John McLaughlin. Rachel Maddow, Katherine Hepburn.  Noel Coward.  Oh, gosh, I don’t know, this is really, really hard.  Could it be a weekly series with a theme??? (Nena’s note, we will look forward to your thoughts, Denise, on a weekly dinner series!)

FAVORITE VACATION SPOT VISITED AND WHERE DO YOU WANT TO VISIT

Ireland.  I could go back tomorrow. And, I’ve never been to Greece so that’s high on the list.

YOUR FAVORITE CHICAGO PUBLIC ART PIECE AND WHY
I like Agora.  Although, I had to look up the name.  I just kind of wonder where everyone is going and if they’ll get there when I see it. (Nena’s note, also Michael Anderson’s, my first profile, favorite)
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HOW DO YOU  WANT TO BE REMEMBERED
“She was kind.  She was funny.  She made a difference.”  Oh, and pretty, I wouldn’t mind pretty being included.

Denise’s Best Cranberry Relish Ever

Ingredients

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1 bag cranberries (12 oz)

1 box (3 oz) raspberry Jell-O

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup chopped celery

8 oz. canned mandarin oranges (drained)

11 oz. canned CRUSHED pineapple (drained)

Directions

Dissolve sugar in water and bring to a boil.  Add cranberries.  Return to a boil.  Simmer on low/medium for about 10 minutes until cranberries burst.

Remove from heat.  Add Jell-O.  Stir thoroughly.  Let cool completely.

When cool, transfer to a large bowl and add all other ingredients.  Refrigerate for 24 hours.  Enjoy!

Note:  It will not be completely firm.

Denise McGowan Tracy Recipe “stolen” from Chicago Tribune archives

 

BLOGS I FOLLOW:  My husband Ed Tracy:

My niece: Mermaid Waves – http://mermaidwavess. blogspot.com

 

 

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