It was halftime at the Packers-Vikings football game, and I started channel surfing. I hit the PBS channel and some well-dressed black guy was doing a really good tap dance routine with a band in the background behind short podiums with the initials “LW” on the front, so I stopped with the remote. I watched him finish his gig, and all of a sudden, there was Lawrence Welk, ready to introduce his guest star, Henry Mancini.
Mancini played the piano to the tune he wrote, “Moon River,” and next directed Welk’s band in a rendition of Mancini’s theme song of the “Pink Panther” movie series. Damn, those were great movies. After that, I continued to watch singers and dancers do a variety of song and dance numbers. I noted how well everyone was dressed (“to the nines” as they used to say) and how well groomed all the men and women were. And smiles. Always the smiles from every single performer on the stage.
By the time this PBS special ended, it was already pretty close to the 4th quarter when I returned to the football game. But I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I hated Lawrence Welk as a kid. I was 12 when Elvis hit the big time, and I never looked back. No more Patti Page (God rest her recently departed soul), no more Andy Williams (he, too, has recently left us), no more any of that old fart bullshit. I went with the Buddy Holly “Maybe, Baby” ducktail crowd.
But as I watched these PBS clips of Welk from long ago, I thought, well, that show was schmaltzy as hell, just like I remembered it. It’s still not my cup of tea, but I was fascinated by how pure and innocent it all was. The wildest scene was a buxom female dancer in a low-cut feathery dress that covered her cleavage until the feathers would briefly fly to the side on a spin move and reveal just how well built she was. That’s it!!!!
I don’t know why, but I cannot begin to explain the enormous well of sadness that has washed over me. And a-one, and a-two.