Sunday, September 13, 2009

Branson - Our Last Day

In our effort to make the most of our sojourn to Branson, we got tickets to the Red Skelton Show at 10:00am in the morning. We joined the hearty souls there and laughed ourselves silly as Tom Mullica went through some famous and well-loved Red Skelton routines. I did not know that Red’s “Guzzler’s Gin” routine was Lucille Ball’s inspiration for “Vitemeatavegimin”. She requested Red’s permission to do it on her TV show and it was an incredible hit. I loved this clean comedy – how I miss being able to laugh without worry of being completely offended.

Anita and Bob took us to lunch at the “Chateau” where they had stayed on a previous trip to Branson. It was lovely and elegant and we had a very nice lunch in the dining room looking out onto Lake Taneykomo.

There is for us, an unanswered mystery in Branson – what’s with all the butterflies? There is a huge butterfly shaped garden in from of the Dixie Stampede show. There are butterflies painted in all manner and description all around the town – very much like the cows in Chicago. There’s an attraction called the Butterfly Garden in Branson where you walk through and see live butterflies floating about. What’s with all the butterflies????

We drove back to Anita and Bob’s that evening, had pizza for dinner and Bob took us to the airport the next morning, We made the most of a short, fun, trip to Branson. I want to note that Branson is hilly! Driving the roads around Branson is somewhat akin to riding a rollercoaster. They call the hills here bald knobs. I don’t get the bald part because they are all covered in green foliage. But when they say, “hill” billies I understand the “hill” part.

Branson Day Two

We went in search of a better breakfast this morning over to the Hilton Convention Center. We wandered through the lovely lobby to the cafĂ© upstairs. They didn’t seem too happy to see us; commented that we were arriving just as their breakfast service was ending and after we had ordered, sent the waitress out to ask us if we didn’t want lunch instead. We stuck to our guns and ordered breakfast that turned out to be not so great.

Undaunted, we took off to find Dick Clark’s 57 Heaven. It was the best car museum I’ve ever seen. It is focused on models from 1957, which took Anita and me right down memory lane. The beautifully restored cars were displayed in settings to compliment them; a car dealership, an auto repair shop, a drive-in movie, a sample 1957 home. Most of the cars were unique collector’s items. We saw a car with “feelers” which would let the driver know if he was getting too close to the curb that it would tarnish his whitewall tires. One had a built in record player – did it skip much, we wondered? A car by the drive-in had seats that made into a bed – not so subtle. The Ford Fairlane hardtop convertible was there complete with the set of luggage you needed to use because it fit precisely in the trunk with the hardtop stowed. Their two-seater Thunderbird reminded me of Dona and Danny Eichelberger. One steering wheel had a clock in the center that was wound as the driver turned the wheel. The purple Cadillac was exquisite. So many of the carmakers no longer exist – Nash, Studebaker, DeSoto, Plymouth, and Hudson.

By then it was time to have lunch. Luckily Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Grill was nearby. Flat screens in the restaurant re-run old episodes of American Bandstand. The walls are adorned with memorabilia. I loved the framed comic strips joking about how Dick Clark never seems to age.

Right after lunch it was almost time for dinner – we were just able to take a quick shopping excursion at the outlet mall nearby. Anita and I jumped right out and got shopping while the menfolk napped in the car.

Dolly Pardon’s Dixie Stampede was a highlight. You walk to the entrance along a row of stables that house and tell about all the horses used in the show. It’s a long walk with lots of beautiful horses. People are seated in tiers around a big arena where the North Side battles the South Side in games and riding feats. Professional riders run through their paces for both sides. Then they select audience participants to do some of the games. Three kids from each side had to chase a pair of chickens from one end of the stadium to the other. There were miniature horses holding tiny stuffed riders that raced around the ring. My favorite was the pig race with hero pigs from the North – Ulysses S. Grunt and Abraham Link Sausage. They finish up with a Dolly patriotic video that unites us all into one great country – even among the rednecks.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Branson, MO

It may be a last hurrah, but we've finally gone on summer vacation. We're in Branson, Mo. with Anita and Bob for Labor Day weekend. After an overnight at Snyders in St. Louis, we headed down to Branson in a mighty wet rainstorm. We arrived just in time for dinner at Moon River Grill where I had a chicken pot pie made from Andy's mom's recipe. It was GREAT! Then we headed over to the theatre for the show. Andy Williams himself did the whole thing pretty much and although he looks very old and tiny, his voice is still great big! I was amazed. It was a variety show with lots of other supporting performers but I totally enjoyed it. We met Anita and Bob later that evening and made preparations to be up and at'em for the 10am Roy Rogers show. We found the theatre by noting the giant Trigger replica in front. The show was done by Roy Rogers, Jr. and his son, Dustin. Well, they were real down home folk and played up a bunch a good ole cowboy music. Rick and I got our pictures taken with them before we headed to the Hard Luck Cafe for lunch. This was a unique place. Every waiter/waitress had to audition to work there and they all sing. So as you're eating every so often a waiter/waitress will take the mike and sing up a storm. Some have been on American Idol and they were good warbblers. You can buy their cd's in the gift shop where you pay your bill on the way out. Then we were off to the Branson Showboat Belle. We hoped on this giant paddlewheel boat and headed out on Lake Tanycomo. They fed us - again. Then while they clean up you go out on the deck and check out the lake. Then they call you back in for the show which was headlined by Todd Oliver and his talking dogs. They were are favorite act of the whole day. This ventriloquist had rigged little things on his pet dogs that makes it looks like they're talking when he does their voices. He was FUNNNNNY. He brought two people up out of the audience and told them to just open their mouths when he squeezed their necks and that was even funnier. We had to hustle off the boat to make it to the Sight and Sound theatre to see "Noah". I thought this would be quite secular but no, it was right out the the Bible Belt call you to repentence, Halleleujah presentation. However the giant stage holds a 4 story arch and they take all kinds of live animals in while you watch. After intermission, the set is 3 sides of the theatre that are made to look like the inside of the ark with animal pens along the sides with the live animals in them. It was quite amazing. The audience gasped and clapped when the lights came up on that set. Well, everybody was pretty worn out after our big day but oh, what fun we had! Non-stop entertainment, ain't bad!