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My Dad, the Influencer

This week's prompt was difficult for me because so many people in my family could be considered Influencers but because I am writing this on February 3, my father's birthday (Eugene Guccione February 3, 1935-August 17, 2011), I took it as a sign that he was the one for this post.

Everyone in my family is very outgoing and all of us have many friends. This, I believe can be attributed to our father who was not always the easiest person to get along with but he had charm, charisma, and even today people ask was Gene Guccione your dad?

When I started working at Napoleon House for the Impastato family, Sal's wife, Vi told me that my father took their wedding pictures. Born to an immigrant Sicilian father and a second generation Sicilian mother, he used his wit and character to befriend so many in New Orleans to succeed in business and in the meantime he created (along with my amazing mother, Joan) a very open-minded and smart family in the process. My parents took us to locales not typical for Americans in the 1970s: from Thanksgiving dinner with an indigenous family in the jungles outside of Cancun to seeing the pyramids in 1990 when people were telling us we were crazy to go there.

We grew lots of vegetables (he bought the lot next door just for the garden) organically and he taught me how to make pesticides from the tobacco we grew!

We all cooked (except for my older sister, Gina) and my Dad exposed us to all kinds of food. He'd bring produce fresh from our yard to his favorite family-run restaurants and most of them would become friends. I'll never forget the 4th of July in the 1980s when our friend Lien and her family came over to swim and eat, she taught us all how to make Vietnamese fresh spring rolls. My sister, Ann's godfather was close to Fats Domino so my Dad would send Fats containers of his red gravy and in return we grew up eating rum cake made by the iconic New Orleans musician.

Another one of his good friends was Ms. Leah Chase, the world famous chef and civil rights activist who told me, after he had passed, that my father used to bring school board members and other important people to her restaurant, Dooky Chase. She said that he told her that she had a gold mine if she could get the word out to more people the food would guarantee even greater success. She told me something that I could not wrap my head around---he risked going to jail for being in a Black establishment at the time. As I write this it still seems unreal.

He and my mom would also frequent bars such as Tony Bacino's in the French Quarter, a place known for their Drag Queen bartenders. My mom recently told me that he would do their Christmas photos and publicity free of charge.

There's so much more I could write but I'm going to stop right here.

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