Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Famous burger joint draws a worldly crowd

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‘LESS talking, more working!" says spunky waitress Daisy to chatty boss John Calogeris who, along with with cousins John and Gus Razos, owns the world-famous VJ’s Drive-In burger joint on Main Street near Broadway.

Since a mention in the Lonely Planet travel guide, Calogeris feeds tourists from all over the world who line up for spicy Greek burgers with cardboard boxes of large, crispy fries. The 47-year-old, in his trademark bandana and chef shirt, inherited a love of the food biz from papa Nick (born Spiros), who was involved with many Winnipeg restaurants such as The Manhattan, the Original Food Bar, BBQ Restaurant, and Kit Kat Grill.

"He was a true Zorba the Greek character," says Calogeris of his dad, who fathered him at 71 and lived to be 91. Well-known VJ's customers include Mayor Sam Katz, Burton Cummings, George Reznik, Hymie Weinstein, Gary Doer, Steve Ashton, Al Golden, and Garth Steek plus scores of people who work in the area. "ALL the prosecutors come here," boasts Calogeris. Nothing like chili to create a fire in the belly.

* * *

THE PIECEMEAL PEAMEAL REVIVAL: Hot bacon, anyone? John Scoles' Times Change(d) High & Lonesome Club served up 10 pounds of steaming peameal bacon to hungry folks at the packed PPR roots bluegrass, folk, country bash on the weekend. Fourteen different acts played along with the Kitcheneers hosting band. Hot in every sense of the word, musical acts spilled out on the sidewalks to cool off. Some were decked out in old-fashioned costume such as Bobby Stahr, in top hat and tails, and singers Cathy Rayner, Selena Bewsky and Tania Gosselin in flapper dresses with headbands and feathers... Spotted watching the show: King of the six-stringer Brent Parkin; Righteous Ike, an original blues and old rock 'n' roll player; and Jessica Rae Ayre and Amber Nielsen from Sweet Alibi, an up-and-coming roots act about to go into the studio with Mitch Dorge, former drummer with the Crash Test Dummies.

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FOLKLORAMA MIX 'N' MATCH: In Winnipeg -- a multicultural city if there ever was one -- you never know who's going to be staffing what pavilion. Cassidy De Luca, part of the famous Italian De Luca family in Winnipeg, is a youth ambassador at the Brazilian pavilion. How did that happen? Cassidy points at beaming grandpa, hairdresser Vincent De Luca of Mr. Vincent's and Salon of Beauty fame. Vincent De Luca was brought up in Brazil and came to Canada at 18 to go to university. On his arm was Grandma, better known to years of university students as Dr. Rayleen De Luca. "I want to be a psychologist, too,"' says Cassidy, a Grade 10 student... Meire Anne Thorainnson, the animated woman teaching Folklorama "tourists" how to make Brazilian cocktail "caipirinha," is a Brazilian-Canadian married to a man of Icelandic background. "I weel teach you this and then you can get dronk as a skonk," she laughs.

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KID NEEDS ICE: Spotted at the 7-Eleven in Corydon Village: actor/comedian Kevin McDonald of Kids in the Hall fame, who's been living in the neighbourhood all summer. According to store staff, McDonald was buying ice for a trip to the cabin with his Winnipeg girlfriend. Not that he's been lying around at the lake all summer. Kevin's been making a movie called Keyhole with director Guy Maddin. The cast includes Udo Kier, Jason Patric and Maddin's fave female film star, Isabella Rossellini.

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OLD LEGENDS AND NEW: Spotted catching the last chance to see the Mynarski Memorial Avro Lancaster Mk10 bomber at The Legend Lives show were standup comics Ryan Ash, John David Gordon and Dan Robertson. Out at the Western Canada Aviation Museum, Robertson was also playing roadie, helping his country singer sister Ashley Robertson set up. Entertainment was welcome as the lineup to view the Second World War bomber was long. Ashley's latest single Woman in the White Dress hit No. 1 after only three weeks on the Pan-European Top 100 Chart.


Got tips, events, sightings, unusual things going on? Call Maureen's tip line at 474-1116, email or send mail to The Insider c/o the Winnipeg Free Press at 1355 Mountain Ave. Winnipeg R2X 3B6

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 4, 2010 B1

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