GLENN LONEY'S ARTS RAMBLES
Report for The Trip to Branson & Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede in May 2012
THIS WAS THE TORNADO THAT WAS & STILL IS…
Driving down from Springfield--the Springfield in Southwestern Missouri: there are Other Springfields, of course--there are ample Ozarkian Options for Unusual Tourism.
En route to Historic Eureka Springs--Healing Waters, a Grand Old Hotel, & Lots of Souvenirs--there is an Open Air Railroad Museum, with a variety of Coaches, Cabooses, Steam Traction Engines, & even a venerable Turntable for reversing Engines.
If you have time enough, you can even take a short trip--complete with Dining Car Elegance of another Era.
This is the Eureka Springs & North Arkansas Railway.
You will find yourself chuffing through the Border Country between Missouri & Arkansas. But you do not have to make a Missouri Compromise on what to eat on board!
"The Conductor" is Prime Rib at $39.50. "Chicken Eurekan" is similarly priced.
But "The City of New Orleans" Menu features Rainbow Trout Almondine, even though the ES&NA Tracks go nowhere near Louisiana…
The Dinner Train--as with the Foodless Excursion Trains--runs only May through October, Tuesdays through Saturdays.
But if you are driving through such Tornado Devastated Towns as Joplin, MO, the Experience is entirely different & Totally Devastating.
On 22 May 2011, a Giant Twister swept through the Historic Town of Joplin, leaving Shattered Houses & Bark Stripped Trees in its wake.
Rather than attempt to describe the Destruction & Damage in detail, here are some of the INFOTOGRAPHY™ photos our Web Editor, Scott Bennett, & Your Roving Arts Reporter took in Joplin:
[Insert Varied Horror Pix here…]
Sadly, whole City Blocks are now virtually Open Fields, with a Concrete Curb or a bit of Fence remaining.
To see Prefabricated Roof Trusses--which were supposed to be Sturdy & Unfailing--collapsed on each other, like a Pack of Cards, may well make you wary of buying a Sub Prime House in a Prefab Subdivision.
How about a Lone Dentist's Chair amid Roof Wreckage? If anyone was having Root Canal in that Throne, the Swirling, Whirling, Tornado touching down was surely worse.
An appeal to an All Powerful All Benevolent GOD, daubed in black paint on the side of a Squashed House seems a futile appeal to The Lord of Chaos.
Even the huge modern Joplin Hospital has to be rebuilt.
But various Humanitarian Helpers have appeared on the scene, not only to Rebuild Lost Homes, but, also, in many cases, to give the Devastated Home Owners an entirely New Life in a Dream Home.
These have Basic Structures, but an amusing variety of Exterior Decors.
In fact, you may already have seen the Extreme Make Over People rebuilding Joplin on TV!
[Insert Varied Houses here…]
Dorothy suddenly discovered that She Wasn't in Kansas Anymore.
But for the Good Folks of Joplin, there were no Ruby Slippers underneath the ruins of their homes…
SIGNS OF THE TIMES!
Seen along the Roadsides in Southwestern Missouri:
A Road Worker
& SPEND A YEAR
IN COUNTY JAIL!
Live Each Day As If It Were The Last Day of Your Life!
That Day Could Be Tomorrow!
Are You Right With Jesus?
Driving along the Highways of the Border Country, some Sylvan Scenes are suddenly punctuated by the appearance of a Failed Auto Shop or a Burned Out Motel.
Then, as in an Instant, a huge, hulking Walmart Like Structure looms into view.
But No, this is not Sam Walton's Outlet: it is, instead, a MEGA CHURCH!
Large Signs assure the Speeding Motorist that He, She, & the Entire Family is Warmly Welcome!
Indeed, some of the Signs warn you that Your Immortal Soul may be immediately In Peril, so you'd better Slam on the Brakes & Get Right with God!
Rest Assured, these Parishoners & Their Pastor are not voting for Barak Obama…
There are Other Signs, however, that offer rather different Warnings: Not for your Soul, but for your Wallet or Your Personal Freedom.
But the Signs that advise you that Hitting a Road Worker will cost you $1,000 do not suggest that there will be any other kind of Penalty.
So, if you have Extra Cash & are in a Sporting Mood, you could play Giant Bowling, with Road Workers for Pins?
[Insert Varied Signs here…]
These fringes of Arkansas & Missouri are not the Heart of the so called Bible Belt, but they do seem very near the Belt Buckle in their Signage Need to Save Sinners.
But some Wayside Sites hark back to Depression Era Misery, recalling those pathetic black & white photographs of the Poverty Stricken made by Dorothea Lange & Walker Evans.
Some even suggest scenes from Erskine Caldwell's Tobacco Road…
No Matter. There's a Passion Play along the way!
Following the Tornado Down into Branson: Missouri's Answer to Tennessee--Nashville West!
Although Branson offers as much Country & Western & Rhythm & Blues as Nashville, it also has the Three Texas Tenors, Andy Williams, Michael Jackson, Twelve Irish Tenors, Elvis Presley--as well as The Presleys, The Beatles--complete with Yellow Submarine, a Hollywood Waxworks, Ripley's Believe It Or Not, & even God & Country.
The Innocent Tourist may be under the Impression that Elvis & Michael have already gone to that Great Music Hall in the Sky, but, in Branson, They Live Again!
The Twelve Irish Tenors are supposed to open on 1 September 2012, but the Grand Musical Theatre in which they are to appear was badly hit by the apparently Music Hating Tornado.
Its Immense Electrical Sign--like so many other of the Grand Signages of Branson--was crushed.
As I scrambled up the Cement Stairs to get closer shots of the Devastated Sign, the charming Lady Manager of the Premises came up to make sure I wasn't going to fall down.
[I had already fallen down when photographing the Golden Gate Bridge with a Trick Lens, so I was being very careful…]
She was determined that the Opening would occur as scheduled. But the Insurers weren't about to replace a bent Central Pillar, insisting it could be straightened.
No Way, José!
The Great Sign in front of the Branson Mall had lost an L.
So it read Branson Mal, which suggested Epilepsy, as in Petit Mal & Grand Mal…
Most shocking of all was the way in which some Huge Motels had been shattered by the Tornado.
Think Twice where you stay over night in Branson: Lightning is said Not To Strike Twice in the same place, but no one knows where Tornados will hit next!
Oddly enough, Ripley's Believe It Or Not--which had already been designed & constructed to look like an Earthquake Shattered Ruin--was not at all damaged…
Driving down the Main Drag--actually Route 76--we were astonished to see the Great Ship Titanic looming ahead, jutting almost into the roadway!
This is the 100th Anniversary of the Sinking of the Titanic, so it was good to find it still Above the Surface, but with the Fatal Iceberg sticking out of its Unsinkable Side.
Unfortunately, the Titanic was Undergoing Repairs--not at the bottom of the Ocean, of course--so the Eternal Flame had been temporarily Extinguished.
[This reminded me of a Brooklyn College Student's Speech about the Burial of President JF Kennedy in Arlington Memorial Cemetery: "They say the Eternal Flame will burn in Perpetuity!"]
But, really, how Long is Perpetuity these days?
If you have paid a Million or so to have Your Name Inscribed in Stone--or even, perhaps,
Styrofoam--on a Period Room at the Met Museum, former Director Philippe de Montebello used to say that Perpetuity is about Fifty Years.
But the Bronson Titanic is worse off than that Rotting Hulk they found at the bottom of the Ocean:
Half way back, the Funnels stop & so does the Ship.
It's only Half There!
Reminding one of Ronald Reagan in his Greatest Film, looking down at where his Amputated Legs once were: "Where's the Rest of Me?"
Despite all the Tornado Torn Devastation, Branson is still Very Much in Business!
The ArtsArchive.com & INFOTOGRAPHY™ Team of Bennett & Loney had the Great Good Fortune to find accommodations in an Excellent Motel, fronted by a Giant Dutch Windmill.
It was right next to a Giant Colored Rooster--Chicken, its Main Course, of course--so we never had a Problem finding where we were staying on the Strip.
Here are some of the Multitude of Attractions that are open & thriving--though some of the Musical Acts are Seasonal:
Mickey Gilley's, Jim Stafford, Dick Clark's American Bandstand, the Gone with the Wind Museum--Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn, the Veterans Museum, The Butterfly Palace, Acrobats of China, Silver Dollar City, Clay Cooper's Country Music Express, The Baldknobbers, The Duttons, The Haygoods, The Hughes Brothers, The Bretts, The Grand Country Music Hall, American Idol's Top Ten Finalists, Buck Trent, the Magic Wand of Kirby VanBurch, Three Redneck Tenors, Todd Oliver & His Talking Dogs, the Hollywood Entertainment Center w/Waxworks & King Kong, & the Lawrence Welk Resort Theatre--remember Lawrence Welk? Your Grandmother surely does!
If you are dying for a Salute to Jerusalem, Dudu Fisher is the Zionist Maven for you!
But he's not on in Summer. He'll be back in Branson from 1 21 October 2012.
In the meantime, how about Yakov Live!, featuring Yakof Simirnoff?
Yakov's Dinner Adventure is said to combine International Acts with a "heart warming story of coming to America."
Something like: Eat & Emigrate?
But the Best Dinner Theatre of all is Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede!
This is The Show You Must See When You Come To Branson!
It's much, much more than merely a Horse Show, a Western Rodeo, or a Re fighting of The War Between the States.
I had seen this Wonderful Show on my initial trip to Branson some years ago, but I had always intended to return, not only for the actual Stampede--No, they do not re fight the Civil War!--but also for the amazing Four Course Meal that is swiftly served & remains removed, as the Acts progress.
Admiring the Splendid Steeds in their Open Air Stalls during the day--there are Thirty Two of them--I remarked that the Dinner itself was almost worth The Whole Trip to Branson.
Several Families agreed: one man said he'd brought the Wife & Kids four times!
The Magnificent Thoroughbreds that are almost the Stars of the Dixie Stampede belong to the Management, but they are the Special Care of those able Horsemen & Horsewomen who actually ride them in the Show.
The Dixie Stampede also owns the Herd of Bison that performs somewhat Choreographically.
The Texas Long Horn Steers, however, seem a bit more dangerous to be around…
Although the Civil War is not re fought, the Divisional Contentions that brought it about are recalled by dividing the Men & Women on Horseback into Squads of Blue & Gray.
Instead of Battles at Chancellorsville or Gettysburg, we have Competitions in Riding Feats, Wagon Races, Pole Climbing, Cross Cut Sawing, & even Giant Horseshoes, with what look like Toilet Seats for the Big U's.
The Blue Rooters are on one side of the Long Tanbark Arena, with the Grays on the other.
When the Boys in Blue win a competition, a Banner is placed on its front wall. Ditto, when the Confederates win…
Yes, there are Military Drills, Ante Bellum Ballroom Dancing in Hoop skirts & Smart Uniforms, not to overlook Square Dancing & an Aerial Salute to the American Indian.
The Rodeo Clown is not forgotten. Nor are some Neat Magic Tricks involving Barrels, a Vanishing Lady, & Horse Drawn Wagons.
I still have my Dixie Stampede Dinner Napkin, on which is printed the Tasty Menu:
It begins with a Hot Home Made Biscuit, followed by Original Creamy Vegetable Soup--which you can buy in Packets in the Souvenir Shop, which is also crammed with Stuffed Bison, Dixie Stampede T Shirts, & even decorative Horse Collars for your walls back home.
After the delicious Soup--which you drink from a Ceramic Bowl with a Handle, an entire Rotisserie Chicken is plopped down on your Plate.
The immensely long Arena must seat about Two Thousand & there are two shows daily [5:30pm & 8pm], so just think how many Cornish Game Hens have to give up their short lives so that we can feast…
But there's more yet: Hickory Smoked Barbeque Pork Loin!
Accompanied by Buttery Corn on the Cob & Herb Basted Potato, topped off with Flaky Apple Pastry…
Also: Unlimited Pepsi©, Tea, or Coffee.
As Pepsi© has always tasted like Mouthwash to me, I took Tea to see…
No, you do not get to see Dolly Parton riding in splendor before all her Talented Horses & Humans, alas.
Instead, you get her Singing Her Heart Out, flanked by American Flags on Video. Her Song--written by Dolly herself--is COLOR ME AMERICA.
In the Lobby, you can learn more about Dolly Parton's amazing Gifts of Books for Children.
If you'd like to learn more about Dolly, her Dixie Stampede, her Horses, Bison, & Long Horned Steers, as well as her bountiful Donations to Kids, check on the Website: www.dixiestampede.com.
But Branson's is not the only Dixie Stampede. Dolly also has one located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee!
Incidental Intelligence: Dolly Parton is a Real Mensch--or Menchess, if that's the correct form--for she seems unfailingly open & friendly to her many Admirers.
Once, when I was attending the Opening of Monday After the Miracle on Broadway--the Story of Helen Keller's Teacher, Anne Sullivan Macy--Dolly Parton was sitting right in front of me, on the Aisle.
Her Bouffant Hairdo completely blocked my Vision.
When I was finally comfortably seated, Dolly turned around, with a smile: "Should I take off my head?"
"No! No. I'm OK. I'll just look around you."
Then one of my CUNY Grad Students, who'd been sitting in the last row, came down & asked me: "Do you think it would be OK to ask for her Autograph?"
He was holding the Show Program, which was featuring the Star, Zoe Caldwell, a friend of Dolly's.
"Not on that Program. That's really Zoe's, not Dolly's. Look, Colony Records is just across the street. Get some of her Albums to autograph."
He did so & she did so…graciously.
Caricature of Glenn Loney in header is by Sam Norkin.
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