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A-One and A-Two-A Macadamia Nuts
By Maxine Lapiduss

Now, we all know how sappy the Welk Champagne Music Show was. But, that didn't stop me from watching every Sunday night at 7 p.m. I'd like to say that it was the kitsch factor, but as a ten-year-old with my own aspirations for the great white way, I was entranced.

Not in the same way I was watching The Flip Wilson Show or The Smothers Brothers, but The Welk Show beat watching Studio Wrestling, which was the only thing on opposite it.

Whenever Arthur Duncan, the tap dancer, would do a number, or Nancy-Jimmy-Sissy and Bobby would sing one of their rousing quartet renditions of "The Good Old Summertime," I was mesmerized. They were so white. And now they were in my hometown. Off we headed for the Civic Arena, I, sporting my blue Nehru dress with the white stitching around the buttons.

Instead of dope, the Arena reeked of Kielbasa and Aqua Net, and was packed with old Polish couples who had given up their bowling night to attend.

We had great seats -- third row center -- and believe me when I tell you that Larry and the kids put on a hell of a show. For two hours the acts kept coming. Mr. Welk, the dancers, the often-overlooked virtuoso of the ivories, JoAnne Castle, and "Ladies and gentlemanummum, da one ant only-um Myron Florenum on de accordionumm."

Finally the tornado of talent ended, my mother nudged me and we headed backstage to meet Mr. Welk. Not exactly like an all-areas pass to meet David Cassidy or Bobby Sherman, but I was pretty excited.

We made our way through the narrow hall down the cement tunnel then back up to the dressing rooms. We passed Sandy Griffith and Mary Lou Metzger who always wore matching outfits and hairdos and sang "Glow Worm" and "Hello Dolly."

We knocked on the door with the big silver star, and then like magic, Mr. Welk appeared.

He was easily over 75 at the time, but appeared fit and distinguished in a green linen blazer that looked like he had just won the Masters. Esther put her hand out for the perfunctory nice-to-meet-you shake, but instead, Mr. Welk took her hand in his and kissed it. Classy. Then he took my hand and kissed it, too, as my mother introduced me. The gallant Mr. Welk asked, "Oh, Maxime, did jewum, enjoyum, da showumnum?"

"Why, yes, Mr. Welk, I sure did." He looked exactly like he did on TV except up close I could see the giant liver-spots on his hands and the vat of gunk in his couf, which made it look like a plastic helmet. One wrong step and he could fall and break his hair -- it would shatter into pieces like Bonomo Turkish Taffy.

My mom gushed, "I just wanted to stop by and tell you how much we enjoyed the show. I'm really looking forward to interviewing you tomorrow morning for Channel 11."

Mr. Welk, charmed, looked Esther up and down in her fetching pantsuit, took her hand in his again and asked, "Well, why don't you lovely ladies join me back at my hotel suite in a little while-umm-umm and I'll be happy to discuss-um any questions you may have in preparation for the interview-um…"

Esther, a little star-struck said that would be fun, and I having never been to the penthouse suite at the de-luxe Chatam Hotel before, thought, "Heck yeah."

A short time later, we were riding the elevator up to the top floor, high above downtown Pittsburgh, as Esther nervously retied her neck scarf and checked her makeup. We knocked on Lawrence's hotel room door, and there he was again. Wow, the room was huge. With a view of all of downtown Pittsburgh. Honestly, seeing it in my mind's eye today, it was like a crappy Ramada Inn, but what did I have to compare it to then?

There was a sitting room, then a little kitchenette area, and way over there, by the big picture window, the balcony and couch and then a whole other room where the bed was. Mr. Welk sauntered over to the mini-fridge and pulled out a can of Mona Loa Macadamia nuts. He grabbed a wooden bowl that lay on the nearby counter, popped the top to the nuts and poured them in to the wooden candy dish. "Here, my dearum," he said to me, "have-a-you effer had-um da macademia nuts-um?"

"No, sir, I replied.

"Wellum," he said, they're a delicious-um, delicacy-um so-you-a- helpum yourself-umum-mum." And with that, he took Esther's arm and led her toward the dimly lit couch with a bottle of champagne.


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