Entertainer Didi Maxx makes a $100 bill levitate at her home...

Entertainer Didi Maxx makes a $100 bill levitate at her home magic studio in Bay Shore. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

You can’t say Denise LaBrecque-Uhl isn’t entertaining.

The Bay Shore resident is owner of Didi Maxx Productions — a business that for 25 years has been providing entertainment throughout New York, New Jersey and Connecticut for everything from kids’ birthday parties to corporate events.

Among the offerings are performances by Didi Maxx the entertainer (LaBrecque-Uhl's professional name), magic and mentalism shows, DJ services and balloon twisting. LaBrecque-Uhl is also a party and event planner who can arrange gatherings featuring corporate team building, children's entertainers, face painting, jugglers, stilt walkers, musicians and bands, specialty acts and more.

And the stage was set for the 62-year-old’s Bay Shore-based business early on. She’s been in front of audiences nearly all her life.


Didi Maxx Productions, Bay Shore

What it does: Provides entertainment for children’s and adult events ranging from small backyard parties to corporate events.

Leadership: Owner Denise LaBrecque-Uhl

Annual Sales: $450,000-$500,000

Employees: 4

Founded: 1998

LaBrecque-Uhl’s late mother, Lydia Tanne, was an entertainer known as Mimi Chevalier, who lived in Nazi-occupied  France and Italy during World War II and later was part of a French revue created by writers from the William Morris talent agency, LaBrecque-Uhl said. As emcee, Tanne did comedic material about life during the war, and during the 1970s LaBrecque-Uhl and her sister sang and performed tap and jazz numbers set to nostalgic music from the 1940s.

“This would allow my mother time for her costume changes, as she was the star,” LaBrecque-Uhl said. “We did perform a few numbers as a trio, like a fun audience participation ‘call and answer’ to ‘Frere Jacques,’ and we also performed the Can-Can together.”

In her early 20s LaBrecque-Uhl moved to New York City to continue performing, and in the '80s when MTV started to take off, she danced in music videos and worked in dance troupes for clubs as well. She also got work in recording studios, singing backup for hopeful new artists, and was a singer in bands.

Q: What led you to start your business?

It was a natural progression for what I had been doing all my life.

Q: Where did you get your startup money?

My back pocket.

Q: What’s your biggest challenge right now, and how are you meeting it?

My biggest challenge is keeping up with my online presence and social media. Because I get most of my business through referrals and from repeat customers, I can be a bit lax with regards to updates and posts.

Q: What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made along the way?

Assuming that everything will go as planned. After 25 years of just about every conceivable party or event, I have learned to be prepared with backup plans for the backup plans, doubles and triples of everything, a good tool kit and lots of duct tape, wire ties, safety pins and extension cords.

Q: How do you find customers?

Referrals, repeat customers and social media.

Q: How do you find employees and keep them?

I have found most of my employees through personal recommendations. What I have found works best in attaining and retaining my employees is interviewing with the right questions to get the person with the right qualities, giving proper compensation for work performed in conjunction with gifts or bonuses for exemplary work, treating employees with respect and letting them know they’re valued, having regular staff meetings, and remaining open to suggestions of others.

Q: What’s the best part about owning your own business?

There’s nothing more personally satisfying to me than being able to set the standards for how everything in my business is done.

Q: How many hours do you put in each week?

During the busy summer season, I may have one day off per month. During the slow season — January to March — I will work three or four days per week. The rest of the year I usually work four to five days per week. However, there are times I will have events every day for two weeks straight.

Q: What’s your advice for others thinking about doing this?

In this business, you should be prepared for phone calls, emails, texts and messages to come in at any time, and especially just before holidays and events. Remember that in this business, you can never ‘redo an order.’ Parties and events are once-in-a-lifetime gatherings. Always have backup plans for backup plans. Always double the time it takes to travel and set up for an event to make up for traffic delays and other setbacks that will almost always happen.    

Q: What do you hope your business will look like in five years?

Exactly like it does today — a boutique-style entertainment company where I can give proper attention and personalized service to my customers. It took me many years to get this company where I want it to be, and I love it here and now.

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