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And Ah-one, Ah-two: The Lawrence Welk Show


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#421

Quag

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Posted Aug 10, 2005 @ 2:49 PM

Ava Barber's voice got my attention more than the above mentioned ladies. But I never cared for Lynn Anderson at all.


Interesting, and it got me thinking: Who do I prefer and why. (You can tell I'm in Pledge Week Hell, can't you?)

Favorite Country Guy/Gal: I can't decide. Ava's an East Tennessee girl, so she's got that going for her; and her rendition of "Red River 'Viiilley' can't be beat. But then again, Lynn Anderson, with her buck-toothed smile and white-blonde wigs is a treat, too. Jim Turner has such a soothing, mellow voice that I can't overlook him, so I announce it a tie all around.

Overall Best Time to Take an Intermission Award: When Joe Feeney sings? When Arthur Duncan dances? When Jimmy Roberts and "Narma" Zimmer stare chastely into each other's eyes? When Bobby and Barbara/Cissy/Elaine cut a rug? I'll have to go with poor Arthur, with Joe coming in a hot second. I can get a lot done in the time it takes Arthur to "Take the A Train" or Joe to sing "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling."

Favorite Champagne Music Maker (vocal, non-country): Ralna English. She's beautiful and fun; and say what you will about Guy, she made their duets sound great.

Favorite Champagne Music Maker (instrumental): Okay, you know it's gonna be Neil Levang; but Myron Floren is a close second place. Neil's guitar work is exciting, and his wicked grin sets him apart from Buddy's Opie boy-next-door nice smile. Myron was a wiz on the accordion and made me respect the skill it takes to play one.

Lawrence Welk Memorial Song Prize: Some people equate LW music to elevator music, and there were some that might have been the musical equivalent of Sominex; but there were some that have stuck with me and I find myself humming. Ralna's "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered"; Sandi, Gail, and Mary Lou's "Hoop De Doo" and "Red, Red Robin"; Steve Smith's "Certain Girl"; and the women's "Scarlet Ribbons."
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#422

SuspiciousMind

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Posted Aug 10, 2005 @ 4:22 PM

Quag, I'd like to see you take this post a step or two further and turn it into a doctoral thesis.

Seriously, though - thank you for putting forth your thoughts and encouraging us to examine our favorites in each category, and why we picked them. I'm going to ponder on this a little and chime in later.
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#423

indigo4

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Posted Aug 10, 2005 @ 5:39 PM

Favorite Country Gal/Guy: I like Jim Turner best, Ava Barber and Clay Hart are fine, and I never liked Lynn. And [small voice] I like it when Guy sings country [/small voice].

Best time to take an intermission: ITA with Quag. Nothing to add here.

Favorite Champagne MM (vocal): Female: Ralna or Sandi. Male: Steve Smith or Dick Dale.

Favorite Champagne MM (instrumental): Henry Cuesta, followed by Johnny Zell, Russ Klein, and Bob Havens in a tie.

I would add that my favorite dance team is Mary Lou and Jack. I really think they outdanced everybody else.

I'll have to give the Memorial Song some thought.

Thanks, Quag.
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#424

MikeO

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Posted Aug 11, 2005 @ 6:56 PM

OK, here's more food for thought:

I've always wondered why Lawrence hired Natalie Nevins when he already had Norma Zimmer.

Weren't their soprano styles quite similar, or am I missing something?

I always felt that Norma was presented to us as this "grande dame" of song -- a latter day Jeanette MacDonald -- adding some class to the program. That's probably why she was so often presented in her solos in those aforementioned opulent settings.

And Natalie was this little upstart. I wonder how Norma felt about Natalie.

Does anyone have any opinions on this?

Edited by MikeO, Aug 12, 2005 @ 12:37 PM.

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#425

SuspiciousMind

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Posted Aug 11, 2005 @ 10:41 PM

Favorite Country Guy/Gal: I'm thinkin' it has to be Ava. I just have to say, too, that she's gotten prettier as she's aged (hate her!).

Overall Best Time to Take an Intermission Award: When Joe Feeney sings? Yes, when Joe Feeney sings.

Favorite Champagne Music Maker (vocal, non-country): Tom, for all the snark and sweat he's generated.

Favorite Champagne Music Maker (instrumental): Johnny Zell. He's just darn cute.

Lawrence Welk Memorial Song Prize: Calcutta, by a mile.
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#426

Alibi114

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Posted Aug 12, 2005 @ 1:39 AM

Gosh, I was surprised to see that my suggestion for the Semonski Sisters to host a 'wrap-around' was met with more cheers than jeers! As precocious as Michelle may have been in her youth, she probably has the distinction of being the youngest member of the Welk Television Family. She also has the tribute of being the only one whose given name I recall. I was very much in appreciation of the eldest of the crew, who usually had tinted blonde hair, and was normally on the far-left edge of the camera angle. I once saw a gleaming hint of a wedding-ring diamond on the appropriate finger of her left hand, although it was almost always hidden from view.

I believe the concert-tour appearance which Natalie Nevins missed (which led to her dismissal) took place in Seattle, WA, in 1969. I do no wish to cast any aspersions, but there seemed to be some 'chemistry' between her and Orio Amadeo in the episode which revealed that he had given her personal lessons on how to play the flute.

I agree that Steve Smith would be an excellent candidate to host a 'wrap-around'. He always reminded me of The Lettermen, particularly when a member of The Blenders.

I'm working on a list of 'couples' who once were (or still are) married as a result of participation on the LW stage. So far I have 8: (1) Lawrence Welk, Jr. & Tanya Falon (2) Peggy Lennon & Dick Cathcart (3) Sally Flynn & Clay Hart (4) Mary Lou Metzger & Richard Maloof (5) Guy Hovis & Ralna English (6) Gayle Farrell & Ron Anderson (7) Bobby Burgess & one of Myron Floren's daughters (8) Janet Lennon and the conductor who led the band in Branson -- forgive me for not being able to 'name' the people in those last two instances. And, if I am wrong about any of these 'couplings', I apologize.

And of course, there were always the 'imagined' romances, such as Norma Zimmer & Jimmy Roberts, plus the Aldridge Sisters & the Otwell Twins. But nothing shocked me more than learning that the demure Kathy Sullivan was once truly 'in amour' with Andy Kaufman (a very bizzare comedian) in the late '70's.

Again, thanks to everyone who has accepted me as a "Welkie" -- I visited his birthplace near Strasburg, ND, last year -- his niece, Evelyn, was our hostess and docent, and she was very cordial. Everyone should (if possible) go there and pay their respects sometime.
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#427

fivemile13

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Posted Aug 12, 2005 @ 10:03 AM

I'm working on a list of 'couples' who once were (or still are) married as a result of participation on the LW stage.


Bob Ralston's web site has a list of Musical Family Couples:

Larry Welk married Tanya Marie Falappino, divorced, both remarried
Guy Hovis and Ralna English married before stardom, divorced in 1984, both single
[this must be old information since we know about his new wife "Sis."]
Bobby Burgess married Myron Floren's daughter Kristie (02-14-1971)
Barbara Boylan married Greg Dixon of the Blenders
Mary Lou Metzger married Richard Maloof (06-16-1973)
Elaine Colvin/Niverson married Jim Balden
Salli Flynn married Clay Hart

This list is incomplete, as it leaves out Gail Farrell and Ron Anderson, Peggy Lennon and Dick Cathcart, as well as Kathy Lennon and John Bahler. [Here's some interesting trivia for you: John Bahler, along with his brother Tom and two other vocalists, did all the arrangements and backup singing for The Partridge Family! Ahh, those lush 70's harmonies. How I miss them.] And of course we know that Tanya used Falan as her stage name. Lawrence certainly never forgot about her Italian roots. This information on dancers Barbara and Elaine are good additions to the list. Jim Balden was a cameraman for the Welk show.

I'm still working on my thoughts for some of my favorites for each category.
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#428

fivemile13

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Posted Aug 12, 2005 @ 10:31 AM

I've always wondered why Lawrence hired Natalie Nevins when he already had Norma Zimmer.  Weren't their soprano styles quit similar, or am I missing something?

MikeO, I would have to agree with you. They do seem very similar. But I think Norma was really set apart at the Champagne Lady, as you say, the grande dame of the show. But even that in itself was odd. Compare Norma with Alice Lon, who seems to be someone you'd be much more likely to sit and have a beer with rather than champagne. I think that the level of respect Norma got far outweighed any perceived competition from Natalie.

During the twins' bathtime last night, I re-watched the episode featuring Kathy & Janet Lennon. It was the one in which Natalie babbles on endlessly while preparing to play flute. She had just finished singing a nice rendition of "Danny Boy" as a St. Patrick's Day treat, a holiday which had otherwise been ignored. But Lawrence introduced her as his lovely "colleen." Does this make her an odd counterpart to Joe Feeney? I'd much rather hear her sing the song (folded wrists and all) than him.

I think that in the 60s, the idea of having more featured singers and less orchestra solos on the show was just beginning, and Lawrence was trying to find singers in a style that might have still been popular, especially to the old-timers. While Natalie's style was similar to Norma's, she was just another featured singer. I know many of you might not care for her (or Norma's) vocal style, but for what it is, she sang very well. I will agree with you MikeO, that in later years, many of the singers did have bland voices, but I think that may have been intentional. I think Lawrence was trying to find singers who could harmonize and blend well. I wish Sandi and Sally would have harmonized more instead of almost always being in unison. But when Sandi, Gail, and Mary Lou harmonized, it was just right. Perhaps not Lennon Sisters-exciting, but a very nice blend. (And still much better than the Semonski sound). But Lawrence also got more from his singers: Mary Lou also danced, Gail did much of the vocal arranging and what a piano player she was as well! It wasn't till the end that the singers were less inspiring. As you know, I really like Kathie Sullivan's voice. I just would have liked to hear her sing with more enthusiasm and less dreaminess. Tom's voice was certainly not bland, just a bit affectedly smarmy (and sweaty!). Jack Imel's voice was nothing to speak about, but he danced, did the choreography for the group numbers, and played marimbas, spoons, and every other kind of percussion! Dick Dale was on sax as well as a singer. Larry Hooper was a pianist with his deep bass voice, Charlie Parlato and Bob Lido played violin and sang, as did other orchestra members. Even Bob Ralston, pianist-organist-arranger-occasional vocalist got used to the max. Yes, Lawrence got a lot for his scale pay.

By the way, Natalie's babbling aside, I really enjoyed that episode with "Tip Toe Through the Tulips" sung by Kathy, Janet and Dee Dee (or should we say "Tip Toe behind the Bookcase" as we disguised Dee Dee's pregnancy--what were they doing in a house anyway during that song. No doubt left over from Norma's number.) Zorba the Greek is always a rousing number to get my kids dancing. And when Mr. Smooth himself, Dick Dale, sat there with kerchief tie, singing "Bonaparte's Retreat" with the go-go-booted cowgirls Kathy & Janet, Barbara and Norma, it was a real treat. (Although Norma as a cowgirl???? Really!) And at the end, when Little Wally the accordionist got together with Myron and a rare accordion appearance by Jo Ann Castle, that was great fun! Lawrence should have joined in for the ultimate Polka Accordion Quartet!

Edited by fivemile13, Aug 12, 2005 @ 3:23 PM.

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#429

Quag

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Posted Aug 12, 2005 @ 10:57 AM

And Natalie was this little upstart. I wonder how Norma felt about Natalie.

Does anyone have any opinions on this?


I never saw any competition between Norma and Natalie. As fivemile said, I always thought of Nat as just another featured singer. Also, Norma was in pretty big demand back in the day. I know she sang at the Billy Graham concerts and had other bookings throughout the year, so--if you notice--on some shows, she's missing. Although I don't look at Nat as a replacement for Norma, I guess it's nice to have another soprano soloist around, especially when Norma wasn't there.

Thanks to fivemile and alibi for the couples info. Some of them were a surpise to me.

Oddest Champagne Music Maker: Tie between Aladdin and Natalie Nevins. Aladdin may slightly edge out Natalie because of that odd spoken word performance he gave on love. Remember that?

Best Themed Show: The holiday ones are the best for me. The Halloween (haunted mansion) and Thanksgiving (pilgrims around a long table) ones come to mind.

Best Hairdo Male/Female: Ralna for her long, dark hair that looks like it might not be a wig; and Tom Netherton for the perfectly feathered (bottle?) blond hair and stylish sideburns.
Worst Hairdon't Male/Female: Neil during the dreadful Man Perm years, and Sandi for the red frizzy 'fro days.
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#430

BusyBodyBrad

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Posted Aug 12, 2005 @ 11:02 AM

I just joined this group...I find it all so interesting.
I read that after Natalie was fired, she would hang around the studio trying to get her job back, but Lawrence ignored her. What's up with her eyes anyway?
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#431

MikeO

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Posted Aug 12, 2005 @ 1:08 PM

Natalie's babbling has been mentioned a lot in the last couple of days.
I'm still wondering if anyone thinks it was "part of the act?"

In this interview with Larry King (below), Bobby, Janet, Ralna, LW II, and LW III say the show was scripted, so that they could fit 21-22 songs into a show, without stopping the tape and without retakes. So, they say they were never encouraged to talk very much. It occurred to me, they never did talk very much to one another or to the audience. They did their thing, smiled, and it was on to the next number.

CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Tribute to Lawrence Welk
Aired April 5, 2002 - 9 PM ET http://www.ralnaengl...ykingtrans.html

Natalie went on for what seemed like 5 minutes, which would have surely thrown off the timing of such a tightly controlled production.

That's why I wonder if it was part of the act.

In any event, she managed to come off as a screwball, in sharp contrast to her very proper lady like soprano image. It really made her quite human.
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#432

MikeO

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Posted Aug 12, 2005 @ 1:12 PM

BusyBodyBrad: I just joined this group...I find it all so interesting.


Welcome, Brad. Jump right in and tell us what you think.

The more, the merrier!
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#433

BusyBodyBrad

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Posted Aug 12, 2005 @ 1:19 PM

I heard not too long ago that Natalie has been in poor health for some time, and is living in a convent that her brother, a priest is at. Somewhere in PA.
Norma said she tried to imitate her by wearing blonde wigs etc.
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#434

fivemile13

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Posted Aug 12, 2005 @ 3:49 PM

Natalie babbles on endlessly while preparing to play flute


You know, I thought I had heard her do this more than once. With a little hunting, I was able to find that back in April, they replayed "A Salute to Kathy Lennon" in which Natalie played flute ("Nola" with the orchestra and "Irish Washerwoman" solo), babbling away, and then again in July with this "Springtime in the Rockies" program, coincidentally hosted by Kathy, Janet & Mimi Lennon ("Emerald Hop" with the orchestra), with even more chatter! So either this was a standard part of Natalie's persona, which Lawrence allowed from time to time, or it was possibly scripted, as MikeO has suggested. I find it hard to believe that every word was scripted; perhaps Lawrence did want her to say a few words and she just took a mile!
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#435

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Posted Aug 12, 2005 @ 11:00 PM

Additions/corrections to the couples list:

Janet Lennon & John Bahler first met in the early 1970's, after the Lennons had left LW. They married in 1976. (Janet met her first husband, Lee Bernhardi, when he was an ABC page assigned to the Welk show.)

After the death of his first wife, sax man Russ Klein married Lawrence Welk's longtime personal assistant, Lois Lamont.

Kathy Lennon's first husband (from 1967-79) was clarinetist Mahlon Clark.

IIRC, Jo Ann Castle's first husband, Dean Hall, was a cameraman at ABC who worked on the Welk show.
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#436

MikeO

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Posted Aug 16, 2005 @ 12:24 PM

Jo Ann Castle's first husband, Dean Hall, was a cameraman at ABC who worked on the Welk show.



There was no WELK on either of my PBS stations this past weekend. I'm in WITHDRAWAL!

Speaking of Jo Ann Castle, I heard many years ago (during her run on the show), that she had a developmentally disabled child, daughter, I think.

Such a person was never mentioned on Jo Ann's wraparounds. Her children all seemed to have careers.

Did anyone else ever hear this, or am I in error?
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#437

Quag

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Posted Aug 16, 2005 @ 12:47 PM

Speaking of Jo Ann Castle, I heard many years ago (during her run on the show), that she had a developmentally disabled child, daughter, I think.


I read this somewhere a few years ago, too. I thought I read also that she had a child to drown, but I may be confusing her with someone else.

Although we're still in pledge mode here, I did get the 2-hour LW "God Bless America." At least it was something.
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#438

MikeO

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Posted Aug 16, 2005 @ 1:13 PM

Speaking of Jo Ann Castle, I heard many years ago (during her run on the show), that she had a developmentally disabled child, daughter, I think.


I read this somewhere a few years ago, too.


Thanks, Quag.

I was beginning to think I had dreamed it, because in all these years, I've never seen or heard any more reference to it.
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#439

Annlindgk

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Posted Aug 16, 2005 @ 2:00 PM

Jo Ann's eldest daughter, Deana (from her first marriage) had cerebral palsy, and Jo Ann discussed this in several interviews in the mid-60's. Deana died in her mid-teens.
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#440

fivemile13

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Posted Aug 16, 2005 @ 3:09 PM

As you know, Dick Dale was here in Rochester, NY this past Saturday, to help out with the pledge drive. We got the two-hour Precious Memories special. Because I have company this week, I didn't get to watch the show yet (or go to meet him). But I will report back on what Dick had to say. The silver-haired gentleman looked great and acknowledged that he had been involved with the show for 50 years. Amazing. More later.
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#441

MikeO

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Posted Aug 16, 2005 @ 4:27 PM

Jo Ann's eldest daughter, Deana (from her first marriage) had cerebral palsy, and Jo Ann discussed this in several interviews in the mid-60's. Deana died in her mid-teens.


Thanks Ann.

That seems to be the missing part of the puzzle.

I always thought it was sad that someone as "bubbly" as Jo Ann had to face this.

I guess none of us are immune.....

Edited by MikeO, Aug 16, 2005 @ 4:28 PM.

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#442

jaw1269

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Posted Aug 17, 2005 @ 4:26 PM

What I remember about Joann's first daughter:

One Christmas episode (when performer's children are on the show) Joann first says her little girl isn't big enough yet to sing on the show but that she really enjoys Christmas songs (as an intro) and then she played a peppy Jingle Bells. Her other two kids weren't born until after she left the show.

Then I remember Joann in a wraparound saying that her oldest daughter had always been her angel and that she had died recently and so would be her angel forever (something to that effect). And then she played a very dramatic tune on the piano.

What is painful and very un-PC now was an article that was linked on Joann's website about the birth of her second child with the headline "Joann Castle finally has a normal child". Ouch.
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#443

BusyBodyBrad

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Posted Aug 19, 2005 @ 6:14 PM

Is it just me, or does it seem like Tanya really didn't enjoy being on the show?
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#444

MikeO

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Posted Aug 19, 2005 @ 7:47 PM

Is it just me, or does it seem like Tanya really didn't enjoy being on the show?


I don't know, Brad. She often has a bored or far away look on her face -- especially when singing with a group. Maybe, she only wanted to do solos.

It must have been a lot of pressure being LW's daughter-in-law. Maybe she felt she had to walk a fine line, to prove herself, her talent, and not to appear that she was getting any special treatment.

I've often wondered about this.
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#445

stinkylulu

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Posted Aug 19, 2005 @ 10:34 PM

I noticed something about Tanya in the "ethnic origins of the Welk musical family" episode -- she seemed to be having a really good time in the Italian number. The next time I saw her doing a solo number I noticed afresh how tense Tanya seemed to always be...

I'm always amazed at the quality of her pipes, but her stage performance seemed also always to buckle under her visible unease. And then there's ensemble moments where she really lets go & she's wonderful. I too had previously chalked it all up to Welk family drama, but -- with those episodes juxtaposed -- it got me to thinking about the amount of pressure that must've been riding on Tanya. She was obviously being groomed to be the Welk girl-singer/champagne-lady for the new generation...which was, inevitably, a losing proposition.

Tanya: One of the mysteries of Welk, I 'spose.
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#446

BusyBodyBrad

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Posted Aug 20, 2005 @ 2:17 PM

Tanya at times made funny faces like she was mad at someone. But I've noticed Gail made faces also, especially in one episode where she was sitting behind listening to Anacani sing. Gail looked like she could kill her.
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#447

Alibi114

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Posted Aug 21, 2005 @ 1:36 AM

Tanya could, on certain songs, sing better than any other female in the Welk legacy -- case in point: "Kiss Me Goodbye" was performed with as much personal flair as the original vocalist of that tune, Petula Clark. I also wonder if she was initially placed on an invisible pedestal as the 'heir apparent' to the crown of "Champagne Lady".

However, her status seemed to decline in the mid-70's, as Mr. Welk placed her in somewhat embarassing situations, possibly as an insult when her marriage to his son was crumbling. Once, she was in the group of female (choral) admirers of Tom Netherton when he was singing "Love Me Tender", and admonished not to flirt with him by a tap on the shoulder with the baton. Whether this was scripted or not, it surely seemed to be a singular accusation.

And later in her tenure, when her only appearance on a show was in a chicken-suit ... that had to be demeaning.

I'm still working on my list of "Best In Category". Thanks to everyone who added to the list of marriages and romances cultivated from the Welk Experience!
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#448

indigo4

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Posted Aug 21, 2005 @ 10:39 AM

I always got the feeling that LW was genuinely fond of Tanya, not that I really know. But I don't read any vindictiveness into his actions. The flirting thing was kind of her shtick -- she was always making goo-goo eyes at the accompanying musicians and ruffling their hair. (A lot of the time it seemed like she had almost too much carnal knowledge for that show.) So the comment LW made to her about flirting sounds like just part of the character they cultivated for her. If she was embarrassed, maybe it was because we all get embarrassed when he does those things -- he was so clumsy at it. And it seemed to me that she really enjoyed that chicken song -- even brought her sons to see it. Most of the Welk performers were expected to wear funny costumes and do comedy at times. A lot of them (Joanne, for example) loved it.

But as Stinkylulu said,

Tanya: One of the mysteries of Welk, I 'spose.


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#449

SuspiciousMind

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Posted Aug 21, 2005 @ 12:02 PM

Tanya could, on certain songs, sing better than any other female in the Welk legacy -- case in point: "Kiss Me Goodbye" was performed with as much personal flair as the original vocalist of that tune, Petula Clark.


ITA. Alibi! The first time I heard her perform that I was sprawled under my sink, trying to fix some plumbing issues and I had to scramble out and run to the TV to "worship" her ... if I recall, she looked ultra-awesome (in that blue eyeshadow, tons of hair kind of way), too. Girl-crush time. Don't tell SuspiciousGuy!
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#450

BusyBodyBrad

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Posted Aug 23, 2005 @ 7:23 AM

I had heard Bob Ralston had been in trouble and spent some time in jail for "liking" young boys. Does anyone know if this is true or not?
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