Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Branson, Chapter 2

Our second full day at Branson started with a duck ride. Quack? No. Donald? No, the amphibious relics from World War II, which also served in Korea and briefly in Vietnam, landing American troops for battle.

These ducks have been
“stretched” and will hold about 36 riders for a trip on land or water. Our trip took us from the Branson Strip to the top of a local mountain (which in the western states would have been a reasonably good-sized hill) where we got a great view of Table Rock Lake. Then we headed out onto the lake itself, which is currently about 11 feet above normal. We circled an underwater island, saw the Showboat Branson Belle (more about her next time) at her usual dock.

An interesting sight was the building with the Showboat’s offices, visitor center and workshop. The workshop’s doors were about half under water! We presume they had known the lake was rising and got all their tools and equipment safely to higher ground.

The next stop was at the Dick Clark American Bandstand complex. We toured the ’57 Heaven Auto Museum in the basement, displaying 66 pristine 1957 automobiles: every make and model of the ’57 convertible; three 1957 NASCAR race cars; 1957 pickups, station wagons, hard tops, motorcycles and a fire truck. There was even a Texaco gas station. After all the classic cars we had seen in Carson City last year, plus the Route 66 Museum’s classy cars, we didn’t take a single picture of these beauties.

Then we moved upstairs to the American Bandstand Grille for dinner (a mélange of tender roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy, one “chicken finger,” mixed vegetables and a nice green salad, with a mediocre-at-best brownie for dessert). We sat at a table with another couple from our group, hailing from Ohio. While they drive a Winnebago motorhome, it was clear that they are limited-experience RVers. They peppered us with questions about how full-time RVing was even possible, from leaving the home and all the “stuff,” to how we get our bills paid, to other details that seem to us (now, at least, after nearly six years on the road) as everyday living.

They regaled us with stories of places they’ve gone that we haven’t seen yet, which sounded very interesting, and whetted our appetites for more adventures of our own.

The highlight of the evening was the Dick Clark’s American Bandstand show, featuring original stars from the early days of American Bandstand. Starring this evening were: Fabian (“Sealed With a Kiss”), Bobby Vee (“Take Good Care of My Baby”), Brian Hyland (you remember his “Itty Bitty Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini”), and the Chiffons (“He’s So Fine”). The Chiffons’ original lead singer was there with her daughter and her niece filling in the side positions with their own excellent voices.

Bobby Vee and Brian Hyland.

All of the stars seemed completely comfortable with who, where and how they are now, as well as who and where and how they were in the ’60s. Of all of them, Fabian seemed to own the stage, and be completely at home and natural in that milieu.

It was great hearing these “originals” singing their own hits from our teenage years. So many shows have impersonators or “tributes to.” This one was the real thing. In this photo, Fabian's on the right, the Chiffons on the left, with Bobby Vee in the middle.

Other stars who appear at the American Bandstand show on a regular basis include: Paul Revere and the Raiders, Bill Medley from the Righteous Brothers, Bill Haley’s Original Comets, and Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers.

Wednesday morning started with a pancake breakfast at the RV Park, then a bus ride into town to see the Jakov Smirnoff Show. We said a few episodes back there were two things every American should see: the Vietnam Wall and the Oklahoma City Memorial. Please add Number 3 to the list: the Jakov Smirnoff Show.

Aside from great comedy (“The big problem with America’s oil program is that all the oil is in Texas and Oklahoma, and all the dipsticks are in Washington, DC!”), Smirnoff is a dyed-in-the-wool, unabashed American patriot (“What a country!”). He believes in personal choice and responsibility, described as “We see what we seek.” If we’re looking for corruption, there’s plenty to be found, but if we’re looking for examples of service and selflessness, there’s lots of that out there too. We will see what we seek to see.

As a finale to the show, Smirnoff presented a live Lady Liberty.

As an example of the many sides of Jakov Smirnoff, he is an accomplished artist in oils. Among his works is a self-portrait entitled “American by Choice.” Prints of that painting are displayed on the inside of each stall door in the ladies’ rest room.

Another of Smirnoff's paintings on display at his theater.

Smirnoff received a Masters Degree in Philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania, and now teaches The Science of Laughter at the University of the Ozarks.

We ate lunch at a restaurant called Mel’s Hard Luck Diner. All the servers are aspiring singers and songwriters, and they are earning a living while working for their big break into Show Business. Every few minutes, one of them would put background music on the sound system and do a number they had recorded. We bought a CD recorded by our waitress, Dana Lynn Bell, singing the most requested songs from country music’s top songstresses.

The afternoon was free time, and we spent part of it writing this episode to carry you along with us on … Our Life on Wheels.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the interesting information on Jakov Smirnoff. He certainly is an accomplished painter! His philosophy is similar to this quote by Elbert Hubbard: "We awaken in others the same attitude of mind we hold toward them."


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