Dean Christopher, A St. Louis Gem Not to be Missed – by John Hoffmann
If he could enter Mr. Peabody’s time machine and go back to 1970, Dean Christopher would be the guy sitting next to Johnny Carson instead of Rich Little – he is that good as an entertainer, comic and impersonator. Give Dean a big band and he will put on a fine show as Dean Christopher, but when Dean does his Rat and Pack and More show it is as good as any show you could hope to see in Vegas.
Dean grew up in South County, where he still lives, and went to Bayless High School. For his senior year, he transferred to Affton High School, into the class of 1971 along with actor John Goodman. They were on the same bill in the Affton Spring play of 1971.
The big difference between Dean and John Goodman (aside from million dollar salaries) is that at 64, Goodman looks like he is 64, while Dean looks like he is approaching 50.
Dean worked his way up from being a doorman to an emcee and singer at various clubs, including The Speakeasy and the Playboy Club, after it moved from Lindell to South County.
Some of the best fun I’ve had in St. Louis was going to Frank Pierson’s Goldenrod Showboat in the 1970s. Every performance of the same melodrama was completely different from the last, as the actors on stage joked with each other and traded barbs with the audience. Dean was on the stage at the Goldenrod from 1977 to 1979.
He married Victoria Churchill in 1980 and eventually returned to St. Louis, where Victoria is a drama teacher for the Parkway School District. Dean continued to perform, doing on-camera and voice over work in corporate videos and television commercials. Much of the institutional work dried up after the 2009 recession.
But there was still stage work. In 2012 he won the St. Louis Theater Circle Award for his performance as Amos Hart in “Chicago” at the Muny.
He did not start his Rat Pack stage show until 2000. Dean has always had a talent for doing voices. He has Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. down pat. His show is titled “The Rat Pack and More,” and the “More” is my favorite part. It is fun to hear Dean sing “Beyond the Sea” as Bobby Darin, but it is a greater experience when he decides to sing it as Daffy Duck.
One night at One 19 North in Kirkwood, Dean sang as Daffy Duck all alone because the musicians, Jim Manley and Chris Swan, were laughing so hard they had to stop playing.
Dean’s Rat Pack Show still draws audiences in with full houses at the Wildey Theater in Edwardsville and the Cultural Arts Centre in St. Peters. He used to do a shorter Rat Pack show as an opening act for the recently deceased Don Rickles, as well as on cruise ships.
Dean’s following really began to grow in St. Louis from 2005 until the close of the Finale Nightclub in Clayton in 2008. Four times a year he would put on his 70-minute Rat Pack and More show with two sold out shows on Friday and Saturday nights, but he also performed with various big bands around town.
I really enjoy Dean Christopher most when he plays restaurants and bars. If Dean’s fans come out he will break out the comedy, especially in the second set. That is when you never know what to expect.
He also does a Dean Martin tribute stage show in cabaret clubs where he plays Dino with just a pianist, who plays the role of Martin’s longtime accompanist Ken Lane.
My favorite Dean Christopher performance is his Christmas Show. He often performs it as a fundraiser for his church, First Unity Church of St. Louis in South County. Recently, he has been doing the show at civic auditoriums in St. Charles County. This year it is scheduled at the Sheldon in St. Louis on Tuesday, December 5.
It is the same show every year, but I have seen it at least seven times in the last 10 years just to hear Dean do “The 12 Days of Christmas,” impersonating a different Hollywood film star from the 1960s for each day. It is probably something people 50 and older will enjoy more than younger generations, but even they will find it entertaining.
The first day of Christmas starts with John Wayne, then goes to Walter Brennan. At one point Paul Lynde appears. Dean does a bit with each actor and includes a quote from a famous movie. In the case of Paul Lynde he sings a couple of bars of a song from the movie “Bye Bye Birdie.”
The fifth day of Christmas is Kirk Douglas. Dean gives a perfect impression of Douglas from “Spartacus.” While I understand that Walter Brennan might be tough for some folks to recognize, I’m always amazed at how many folks under 50 have no idea who Kirk Douglas is – then I remember that Kirk is 100-years-old.
I was at a nightclub a few years ago when Dean was doing the “12 Days” and came to Henry Fonda. A forty-something lady at the table next to mine said, “Who is that?” It caused me to yell over to her “that Jane Fonda’s father!,” but then I realized that Jane was already in her mid-70s.
If you watch Turner Classic Movies (TCM) at all, I would highly recommend the Dean Christopher Christmas Show.
John Hoffmann was a disc jockey in St. Louis from 1969 to 1972. He then took an about face and spent 30 years in public service as a policeman, detective and command officer. During that time Hoffmann also wrote articles for St. Louis and Washingtonian Magazines, worked the sports desk at the Kansas City Star and was a Washington Correspondent for several Public Safety trade magazines. He was also a sportswriter for a chain of papers owned by the Washington Post, a baseball website and magazine. When he returned to St. Louis he was an editor for a traffic reporting service, a columnist for AOL’s Patch.com and from 2008-2010 served as Alderman for the city of Town & Country. Hoffmann has written hundreds of articles for regional publications, covering local government and sports. In 2012 he was awarded the prestigious “Best Newspaper Columnist” in the Riverfront Times’ annual “Best of St. Louis” awards. Hoffmann is the editor of popular “News from Snoburbia.”