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The White Bread Hour

While watching PBS this morning, I caught a promo for an upcoming Lawrence Welk Show special. It contained a “wunnerful” clip of Lawrence and orchestra performing “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” with ladies in white dresses whoa, whoa, whoa-ing on the side. I tried to find it on YouTube. No dice, but here’s Lawrence performing his signature hit “Calcutta” on the last network show before he and his entourage packed up their bubbles and went into syndication (1971):

Sweet, eh? Despite his doddering image, Welk excelled at spotting and developing talent, especially singers and dancers. I just can’t get past the fact that his music is so damn sleepy. I keep wishing the band would pump up the arrangements and make them swing a little more. A show like like this seems like a non-stop campfest on paper — but once you get past the bouffant hair and polyester fashions, the show is kinda bland and boring. Of course, one does find the occasional oddity like “One Toke Over The Line” performed by an oblivious boy-girl duo.

One Thought on “The White Bread Hour

  1. Brad In Worcester on September 10, 2009 at 11:13 pm said:

    Oh. My. Gaaaaah. (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

    EVERY Saturday night, EVERY Saturday at 7 pm, EVERY Saturday my folks would call over the oldie-old neighbors Helen and Sam to watch Lawrence and his zombie cadre.

    I would sit there in that stucco house, new K-Mart socks on after my weekly bath, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen years old, SEETHING.

    Mom, who’d been an English Major (everyone knew that by the second sentence in even the most casual of encounters— “Think it’ll rain today?” “Well, when I was an English Major we’d pray for rain– the smell of damp books is like catnip, you know!”) would set her jaw, trying not to tumble as she served The Salted Nut Log and Port Wine Cheese (“Ach– so European!” Helen and Sam would spit out between smacking their thin lips in some oldy-old version of orgasm).

    And if Dad had a good day and didn’t smash any windows and actually finished mowing and edging and trimming and raking and raking and raking, he’d bring out the frosted glasses and ice-encrusted dark bottles of Michelob.

    The glass was a little thicker than that of, say, Miller beer, so the bottles would give a good “THWOCK” sound as they collided with each other and the silver-plated can-opener (wedding present; a nephew now dead in some nameless rice paddy; years later they spelled his name wrong on the Wall in DC…) in his sausage-red fingers lightly moistened with the only cologne my father ever let rest on his ruddy skin, WD-40, as with a flourish this clean man, this raking raking raking man served the walking dead and his pert, bleached, English Major.

    Those lost hours were the suburban equivalent of waterboarding.

    As my parents are both alive and in excellent health, this story will not collapse into an acrimonious shame-fest of how much I miss them.

    Nor when I found out that Sam was a Russian Survivor (long-sleeves lifted while watering his roses one day, navy-blue numbers faded and torn on paper-sack skin like a bag left in a Von’s parking lot) did he become sage, or kind.

    Or Helen with her evil daughters who rooked and bilked and tormented her as she slowly grew blind, cataracts like baby Oreos slowly covered in milk– No.

    Their humanity and goodness and delight in an old song by some probably really nice guy named Welk, and all the paper angels and cardboard fence-posts for the Rodeo episode and the crisp little footwork by Bobby (“He vas a MowskuTEER, you know” croaked Sam, wiping his eyes) and the denial of the body and the bloodless safety and the champagne bubbles that hovered like perfect little circles of all my fears (erections at the chalkboard, daddy would cut himself for good this time, math) and my mom creasing the wax-paper to save the last of the Port Wine cheese for next weekend and I am 40 pounds too fat I wear my despair on my chest it is choking me there are Russians with a big bomb who want to kill us–

    All of this, this rage(?) pathology(?) swirly-swirly inside my nine-year-old brain, made me dig my nails into my Husky-Fit pajamas (for the stocky-boys).

    I would say I was sleepy. Pad down the hall to my room. Try to touch myself, but end up praying to some faceless God that they would find a way to Make Lawrence Welk Die.

    No Welk, no cheese, English, Russian, numbers, mowers, fat, no nothing.

    I’m still waiting.

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