JOPLIN, Mo. —
I didn't expect to make a Branson trip last Saturday.
I usually plan trips weeks in advance if I'm headed over for work or play. This past weekend was special -- it wasn't a "work trip," although, technically, writing this column makes it a "work trip."
A little elf -- Bob Wolfe from Bob's Always Buying Books -- uncovered a treasure few but me would love. He discovered a rag-tag copy of "Janet Lennon at Camp Calamity" at his store.
The campy 1962 novel is 212 pages and documents Janet Lennon's fictional summer at Camp Calamity. I wanted to get it signed by Janet and was on a mission. I grabbed Jeremy Knight, my oft-time travel partner, and headed east.
I've been a longtime fan of the Lennon Sisters and got to meet them -- the three sisters who still perform, Kathy, Janet and Mimi -- last season during their Christmas show at Moon River Theatre. I had my grandmother and niece in tow on that trip, and the Lennons treated them like royalty backstage after the show.
They were gracious, and they gifted me with a moment I will never forget.
I blame my Lennon obsession on Ruth Oliver, my maternal great grandmother. She introduced me to the Lennons during our weekly viewings of The Lawrence Welk Show. That was 40 years ago. Now 49, I still find myself inviting the Lennons, Bobby and Sissie, and Mr. Welk into my home when a PBS special hits my local TV lineup.
I still love "champagne music." Why not? Its bouncy dance routines and Mr. Welk's magical control over his happy crew intrigued me and millions of other viewers each week. Welk was king of his bubbly realm. That is until Andy Williams and his musical variety show came along.
So, I had the 50-plus-year-old copy of Janet Lennon's crazy -- and kind of scary -- account of a summer at Camp Calamity, a summer camp prone to curious happenings. Did I read the book? Not at first. Have I now? Yes. It's "Hardy Boys" meets "Nancy Drew" with a twist of American sweetheart. It would make a good teen flick, even today.
Hitting the road
On the road, I found an affordable hotel room online and booked a night. I secured tickets for the Andy Williams Christmas Show, in which the Lennon Sisters star with the Osmond Brothers. I filled my gas tank and we were Branson bound.
The Andy Williams Christmas Show is a reunion, of sorts. The Lennons and Osmonds -- Merrill, Jay and Jimmy -- team up to continue the legacy that Andy began. It ends tomorrow night, but seats can still be had.
I met some friends for a drink before the show and caught up on the Branson gossip. Don't get too excited; no "Real Housewives of Taney County" type of gossip, just business and mindless chatter. Perfect for a non-working night out on the town. The fellowship was fun, and the show was great.
The Lennons and Osmonds impressed me. I was an Osmond virgin and enjoyed their part of the show. The Osmonds, like the Lennons, enjoyed close relationships with Andy and the benefit of his magic touch. Both groups acknowledged during the show that Andy's touch lifted them to greater heights.
It's hard for me not to gush. Andy was and will always be my Elvis.
Following the show, which received a standing ovation, I was whisked to the theater's green room where the stars gather prior to heading to the lobby to greet the audience, sign autographs and sell merchandise. (Yes, I bought a package of Lennon Sister paper dolls.)
Another autograph opportunity, and I got first shot. With book and marker in hand, I laid in wait for the Lennons to walk in. Mind you, I was one of 20 allowed backstage for pics and sigs. I didn't want to get in the way, so I stood back until a moment presented itself.
Soon the moment came when Kathy Lennon was mine. I awkwardly shoved my hand into hers. I reminded her of the sweet treatment extended to my grandmother the past season. Then I pushed her sister's book into her gloved hand.
It was a crazy fan moment. It was as if my late Grandma Ruth was channeling through me. It's not like it was Lady Gaga, right? To me, it was better. They were the nice, sweet young ladies of the era. But their era isn't over yet -- the theater has been packed, and their fans' excitement is going strong.
I managed a quick photo opportunity with Kathy Lennon and got my "Janet Lennon at Camp Calamity" book signed by Janet, Kathy and Mimi. They even included a sweet dedication to their sisters, Dee Dee and Peggy, and made a memory for me. It was a good day.
Watching the Lennons and Osmonds perform a solid two hours of song and dance numbers made me glad I had taken the spur-of-the-moment trip. The kids in the audience -- those 30 and younger -- were wowed by the show. They now share the same history I do with the Lennons and Osmonds.
Janet's "Camp Calamity" was published two years before I was born. There was never a movie version. I'm not sure who would be sweet and nice enough to star in the modern movie version of "Camp Calamity." I suppose Lindsey or Miley could, but it would have to be the G-rated version.
There are many Christmas shows in Branson open throughout late December. A complete list is available at ExploreBranson.com.
JOPLIN, Mo. —
I didn't expect to make a Branson trip last Saturday.
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