Street talk: Chic DiFrancia
Today, we’ll visit with “movie star” Chic DiFrancia, a Virginia City resident who was in the movie “Honky Tonk Man” that was made in 1982.
“Clint Eastwood was the star and I played a jail escapee with Clint,” said Chic as we began our visit. “We escaped from jail and they never caught us. I knew Clint and his son, Kyle, who was in the movie too. The movie was filmed in Genoa and Dayton. Clint and his entourage stayed for a month at the Ormsby House. They had the whole top floor.”
Chic says it was fun making the movie and he got to know Clint during that time.
“I had lunch with Clint just about every day,” he recalled happily. “And, I even got paid too.”
Chic was also in the 1987 movie “Bonanza: The Next Generation” and he played a miner in that film.
“I was born in the Bronx (New York) and will turn 59 on Christmas Day,” he said with a laugh. “I got a lot of combined Christmas and birthday gifts when I was younger.”
Chic grew up in Glendale, Ariz. His family moved there when he was 4 years old because his dad, Joe, who had health problems that would lead to his death.
“Dad died in 1959 from those health problems,” Chic said. “He was only 45 years old. My mom (Elizabeth) also died in 1959. She took her own life. She had a breakdown when dad died and she didn’t have the will to live after he died. She was only 43 then and I was 18. I was their only child.”
Chic came to Virginia City in 1964. He was a prep man for a newspaper in Arizona and in Virginia City he went to work for the Enterprise newspaper. After a few movies and jobs in other places, Chic settled in Virginia City for good in 1982.
“I worked for a year at the Delta Saloon as a cashier and then I got the job as the driver/narrator for the VC tours,” he said. “I drove the trolley and conducted the tours for eight years.”
NOBODY ELSE DOES IT
Today, Chic, along with his partner, Carol Clifford, own and operate the Comstock History Store and the Virginia City Press.
“We promote and sell the history of Virginia City on books and tapes and we also print on fabric for the tourist industry,” he said. “We’re custom bag makers too.”
The business they have is the only one of its kind anywhere.
“Nobody else in the country does what we do,” said Chic, rather proudly. “Everything is done by hand with no electricity.”
He paused for a second and laughed.
“I’m Y2K complaint, I do today what they did 500 years ago. I hand-set all type. We’re small and we like it that way. We’re a mom and pop business and we do all our work in Virginia City. We’re strictly wholesale. We don’t deal with the public at all.”
On the personal side, Chic and Carol are more than business partners.
“We’ve been together for 10 years,” said Chic. “We met by chance when she came into where I worked. Carol was living in Virginia City then and working for the Reno paper. Now she works where you do, at the Nevada Appeal.”
She is the classified supervisor for the Appeal.
“Her support in what I do is invaluable,” added Chic. “I couldn’t have done what I did the last 10 years without her help. She’s my confidant and my life partner.”
Do want to note that Carol owns and operates Golden Eagle Tours in Virginia City. She’s run the business for seven years.
A HISTORY BUFF
Chic is a history buff and his home reflects that.
“In our home we have a massive assortment of history books, at least several thousand and we have old history photos of Virginia City and just about everything and anything connected with Virginia City and Nevada,” he said. “We have western gunfighters memorabilia and we have a huge collection – over 2,000 of them – of rare and collectible vinyl records. They range from movie soundtracks to R&B to jazz, early rock and country/western. I’m a fan of all that and Carol is too.”
They are stay-at-homes. Most of the time, anyway.
“We’re not party people,” said a grinning Chic. “We don’t go out much. We like staying home and in Virginia City. We do go to, and support, local and area events.”
SEE VIRGINIA CITY
Chic has also been involved in videos promoting Virginia City and Nevada and, as a special treat, Chic is letting me share with you his latest video about Virginia City.
It’s called “Virginia City, Nevada: A Trip Though the Town Trapped in Time.” We’ll show you that video tonight on our Street Talk TV show on CAT-10 at 6 p.m. It will repeat at 8 a.m. Monday. Also again, 8 p.m. next Saturday.
“The show features Virginia City today,” said Chic about the hour show. “Everything from the Camel races to the Cinco De Mayo chili cookoff to the Mountain Oyster Fry competition. We have the annual Christmas on the Comstock event, show six parades and lots more. It took us a year to make it and the video is for sale to the public ($19.95) at the Carson City Chamber of Commerce. Nobody puts any money in their pocket from this.”
Anyone interested in purchasing the official video can call the chamber at 882-1565 or just stop by the chamber and pick on up.
ALAN ROGERS is a Nevada Appeal columnist. His message phone is 887-2430, ext. 402.