Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #33 – “Going to Branson, the Hard Way”

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THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to  the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.

In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.

Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.

by Larry Brody

Branson, Missouri is my bane.

I’ve been trying for four years to get to the town that calls itself “Nashville North,” and for four years I’ve failed every time.

Until last weekend, the trip always went the same way. Gwen the Beautiful and I would get into our truck and head up Highway 65 for a couple of days of what the ads call “good old-fashioned entertainment the whole family can enjoy.”

We’d see the billboards with Andy Williams and Petula Clark and Glen Campbell and Yakov Smirnoff and Ray Stevens and get all het up about seeing these old faves—

Only suddenly, after the Arkansas-Missouri border, the billboards would vanish. In their place would be the usual highway signs about how many more miles it was to Springfield, Mo. and its amenities.

But there wouldn’t be another word about Branson.

For four years somehow we’d drive right past Branson, realize our mistake, and double back. Drive slowly and deliberately from the Missouri side. Keep our eyes on the billboards…

And still find nothing.

We took every exit and followed where it led. There’d be gas stations, inexpensive motels, large, looming buildings like unmarked high school auditoriums.

Once we ended up in “Historic Branson,” and I was so excited I drove right off the road. Eventually we ended up in a quaint little Western town like Old Tucson, Arizona or Deadwood, South Dakota. Cute street. Good atmosphere, sure. But not the “Las Vegas of the Midwest But Without the Stuff You Don’t Like About Las Vegas” that we were looking for.

Hope, however, is my middle name, and last weekend we tried again. This time Gwen proved what a genius she is by making a reservation at a high-ticket Bed and Breakfast. She figured that a place that expensive would provide the best service in town. Including—please, oh, please—detailed directions telling how to get from our driveway to its door.

And she was right!

Armed with a map and two pages of “Turn here and go straight there,” we drove up the 65 to Highway V, where we turned left and went past The University of the Ozarks, hung a quick right, and found ourselves driving through a suburb that looked just like a place where they could’ve shot any teen comedy starring Lindsay Lohan.

Except for one little difference.

The houses were built atop a cliff directly overlooking Lake Taneycomo.

And eagles rode the air currents over the front yards.

At Cameron’s Crag, our anniversary retreat, our Charming Hostess took us to our suite, complete with private entrance and solarium and hot tub and an even better view of the eagles than we’d gotten from the street.

“We’re having dinner at the Top of the Rock,” Gwen said to her. “Can you tell us how to get there?”

“Ah,” said Our Hostess, “that’s a lovely place. And there are a couple of excellent restaurants for a celebration like this in Branson too.”

“Wait a minute,” I said. “Isn’t the Top of the Rock in Branson?”

“Not really,” Our Hostess said. “You passed it on your way here.” She smiled. “Actually, we’re not in Branson either.”

“We’re not?”

“Heavens no. This is Hollister!”

“Uh…then…where’s Branson?” I said.

She pointed out the window, past the lake and the sheep farm beyond the lake. “See those buildings? That’s Branson.”

“But we can get there from here, right?” Gwen said.

Our Hostess nodded and took out a map. She drew a line to Highway 65, and another to Highway 76.

“Most of the Branson shows and shopping and restaurants are right along this road,” she said.

Highway 76! It sounded so familiar…but why?

“When we get there, how will we find the shows?” Gwen said.

“Oh, you can’t miss them,” said our Hostess. “They’re in the big buildings that look like high school auditoriums.”

And there we had it. Of course Highway 76 was familiar. It was where we’d always turned around, giving up in disgust because we were sure we’d missed…Branson

That night we had dinner at the Top of the Rock. The next day we slept in, used the hot tub, and had the kind of day you always dream your anniversary will be.

But next time we’ll make it into Branson. We’ll turn onto Highway 76 and go from faceless auditorium to faceless auditorium. Sooner or later we’re bound to find Andy. Or Petula. Or Yakov.

And then, I swear, we’re gonna rock out on “good old-fashioned entertainment the whole family can enjoy!”

Author: LB

A legendary figure in the television writing and production world with a career going back to the late ’60s, Larry Brody has written and produced hundreds of hours of American and worldwide television and is a consultant to production companies and networks in the U.S. and abroad . Shows written or produced by Brody have won several awards including - yes, it's true - Emmys, Writers Guild Awards, and the Humanitas Award.