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Archive for November 6th, 2011
06 Nov

Andy and the Branson Days

Woke up this morning with the news that my former boss, Andy Williams, has bladder cancer. He announced it at his theatre in Branson last night. It is such sad news, however he has always been a fighter so my belief is that he has a great chance to kick the cancer and recover. The news made me all nostalgic for the days when I worked at his Moon River Theatre. I spent 8 years there and it truly was the best work experience I have ever had, and most likely will ever have. Here are a few of my favorite memories from those days:

The Show – At its peak, Andy’s show could easily rival any in Vegas or anywhere. It was a solid 2 hours, twice a day, 6 days a week. The show was structured in segments that flowed seamlessly from his early hits medley through to a full production salute to great movie themes – which included several of Andy’s hits. The sets, costumes, orchestra and dancers were first-class and Andy never disappointed. There were some truly great moments in each year’s show (new segments would be developed for each season), but my personal favorite was Andy singing “Moon River.” It was always a magical moment.

The People – Having a set of co-workers that you actually like these days can be rare. Having co-workers that you like to refer to as “family” is practically impossible. But that existed at the theatre. From Andy to the performers to the office staff to the box office, we all worked together as a unit and spent a lot of time together outside of work. The folks I worked with are truly unforgettable.

The Surreal – I look back at the time now and am really amazed by some of the experiences I was fortunate enough to have. Things like cooking for Andy’s family or catering at his house for a celeb-filled house party seem so unbelievable now. We had Shari Lewis in for some summer kids shows one year and I remember taking her for a promo appearance at Silver Dollar City. The appearance was just for Lamb Chop, so I stood behind a giant curtain with Shari with a theater full of people on the other side, and I held her purse while she reached in and grabbed Lamb Chop, put him on, stuck him through the part in the curtain and started the promo. I’m standing there, watching Shari do the voice with her arm through a curtain and me holding her purse open. Now that is odd – but fun. I also remember when Robert Goulet came in with his wife Vera. I was basically her “driver” when they were in Branson and Robert was working the shows. I had a purple Nissan pick-up truck at the time and that is what I drove her around in. But hey – it’s Branson! I was really embarrassed picking up this elegant woman in my truck, but she told me she loved it. Not often you see a lady in furs getting out of a purple truck.

The After-Parties – Andy often asked me to tend bar in his dressing room when he had gatherings or special parties. I have to say that these were some of my favorite times. It was fun to work the parties and many times the guests were celebs either performing in Branson or visiting. But the best part is when the party dwindled and usually near the end it was Andy and his wife Debbie, his brother Don, and a couple of the party guests that were the ones Andy really wanted to spend time with. It was always this time that Andy and Don would start telling stories, typically of their early days in the business. It was always fascinating. When Andy wrote his autobiography, a lot of the stories that I heard in his dressing room made it into the book. Each time I read something I knew, it brought a smile to my face and provided me with great memories of those evenings.

I truly appreciated the time I had there and I thank Andy and everyone who I was fortunate enough to meet and work with for providing me with and incredible experience. My best goes out to Andy for a complete recovery and I hope he is back on stage where he belongs next year. Here are a few of my favorite photos from those days:

One of my fave photos from when I cooked for his family.

 

Me with Debby Boone and Robert Goulet at our annual theatre Christmas party.

 

Me in my office - with Andy always looking over my shoulder.