Somehow we always ended up at grandma and grandpa’s house when Lawrence Welk was on. I’m not sure how that happened, since the show moved around. But we saw it from its black-and-white days in the sixties to its living-color days in the seventies. Though it was always in shades of gray for us, since grandma and grandpa never had a color tv.
I can’t speak for my parents or siblings. But I know that grandma and grandpa and I more than watched that show: we LIVED it. I knew the personal lives (or at least what grandma imagined them to be) of all the stars: Sandy, the red-headed Mormon girl. Cute little Mary Lou, who was quite the dancer. Guy and Ralna who were married in real life and made such a cute couple. That nasty tramp Tanya who married Lawrence Welk’s own son just so she could get more air time. (Grandma was not the least surprised that they got divorced. She never mentioned that Guy and Ralna did, too.)
I was fascinated by the breadth of Gail’s forehead and the shortness of Bobby’s legs. Confused by the horrible lip-synching in the group numbers. Amazed by Ken Delo’s gravity-defying combover.
Grandpa also weighed in from his throne: a giant gun box covered by a thin mattress that he reclined on to smoke his two packs a day. (Think of a recumbent Ed Asner, but larger and more nicotined.) “Now that’s a real man’s voice,” he decreed whenever living Ken doll Tom Netherton took the stage. Never mind that he wore powder blue suits and held the microphone like a china cup at high tea. Ava Barber was “one cute gal,” but Lynn Anderson and Janet Lennon (a bit before my time) had been cuter. Grandpa had been a bandleader who called himself “Ace Hover” back in the day – the day being in the 1920s – and he liked just about everything on the show.
Except Joe Feeney, Irish tenor. Joe Feeney’s introduction always got grandpa off the gunbox and heading down the hall to the bathroom. This activity was so regular and predictable that “Joe Feeney time” became our family euphemism for needing to use the facilities. Even after grandpa died, when Joe Feeney would come on, we’d look skyward and imagine grandpa shuffling down the heavenly hallway to the Lord’s own loo.