Monday, November 29, 2010
A-one An-A-Two... Wunnerful, wunnerful!
There is a small golf course and resort in Southern California that was developed by the King of the Bubbly himself, Lawrence Welk. It's called, not surprisingly, Welk Resort and Champagne Village, although its original name was the simpler Lawrence Welk Village. I can't speak to the quality of the golf courses, although I'm sure they are first class, but I can tell you about the museum. Yes, there is a museum dedicated to Lawrence Welk, nestled snuggly in a corner of the lobby of the theater, the theater located just to the side of the musical note fountain, it in turn overseen by a statue of a batonned Mr. Champagne himself.
The museum is free, and the day we stopped by we were the only visitors, although the reservationist was in the same room and she was on the phone selling tickets without a break. The lobby is dedicated to Lawrence Welk and his early life: how he was born in a small, German settlement in South Dakota where his father got him his first musical instrument -- a $400 accordion. He promised his father he would pay for it by working on the family farm until he turned 21, which he did.
He learned to play it on his own, and fulfilled his repayment promise, but stayed not a day more -- on his 21st birthday he left the farm to play in Big Band orchestras, eventually forming his own band. The "Champagne Music" tagline was born during a Pennsylvania tour when a patron said his band sounded "light and bubbly like Champagne."
The museum's centerpiece is this huge crystal champagne glass, said to be "the world's largest." It may at times be bubbly and lit, but it wasn't the day we were there. It quite charmingly sits in front of the theater's refreshment stand.
But the best part of the museum has to be the life-size cut-out of Mr Wunnerful himself, with a vintage TV camera focused on him and a live feed from the camera displayed on a ceiling-mounted TV. How could we not take advantage of THAT photo op?
Lawrence Welk died in 1992 at age 89. The Lawrence Welk Show aired for an amazing 27 years from 1955 to 1982, and can still occasionally be seen on television today.