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Archive for July 18th, 2010
18 Jul

The Real Life: Don’t You Love Theatre People?, Pt. 1

For eight years I was fortunate enough to work at the Andy Williams Moon River Theatre in Branson, MO. It was one of the best times I’ve ever had at a job. There was always something weird or interesting going on, lots of celebrities to attend to, and wonderful co-workers and friends that made the experience something very special.

Last night when we were out someone mentioned Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop, which is an odd thing to mention when out at the bar! It reminded me of the summer where the theatre hosted her for a series of daytime shows. Part of my job was to take care of the performers that came to the theatre and make sure they were all set with everything they needed or wanted. I had been told ahead of time that Shari was “high maintenance,” which in the entertainment world is a code phrase for “pain in the ass.” Having already dealt with HM celebrities, I was not happy to hear this because this was for a long summer engagement. However, I was surprised when I discovered quickly that Shari and her family (including tour manager, pianist and merchandiser) were truly wonderful and I had such a great time working with them. All of them treated me so kindly and were quick to include me in anything they were doing. If they wanted to see a show, Shari would ask me to get tickets and always said “don’t forget to get a ticket for yourself and come with us.” Or when her daughter came in town for a visit, I was invited to dinner. I was treated as part of their touring family and always felt appreciated and welcomed. I can tell you from experience, this is not the norm.

Shari, her touring family, and me

My favorite Shari story is when I had to take her out to the local theme park, Silver Dollar City. There was a theatre at the park and during the summer they had lots of kid events and shows. For promotion to get the same crowd over to our shows, Shari was scheduled to make a quick appearance with Lamb Chop before one of the kid shows started. I picked up Shari and drove her to the show. Once there, we were escorted to the stage where the curtain was down. On the other side of the curtain was a theatre packed with kids. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen and was ready to leave the stage because I didn’t want to be there when the curtain went up!  But Shari said “no, stay right here – this will just be a couple of minutes.” Then she proceeded to open up her purse, pull out Lamb Chop, waited for an introduction, and then stuck Lamb Chop through the curtain part and launched into the promo. It was quite surreal to be standing next to Shari, purse open and over her shoulder, arm stuck through a curtain with Lamb Chop on the other side, and the voice of Lamb Chop coming right at me.  Then just as quickly as it started, Lamb Chop was done, put back in the purse and Shari was ready to go.

On the back of this photo, Shari's tour manager wrote "Dr. Aaron Latham Puppet Proctologist"

On the way back after the appearance we had a really nice conversation about books. She said her favorite book of all time was “Time After Time” by Jack Finney and asked if I had read it. I said no and she responded, “oh, you must read it!” Two days later, there was a gift at my desk. Shari called someone and had the book bought and sent to give to me. How cool is that? I really appreciated that gesture and it ended up being a fun summer with her. And yes, the book was terrific.