Over this past 4th of July, my lovely and vivacious wife and I jumped in the car and headed up to Branson, MO (the “Wall Drug” of Missouri). You’re probably thinking “How exciting! To spend a weekend in that magical land, where Andy Williams and Paul Revere & the Raiders still perform nightly, and Yakov Smirnoff is treated like the mutherf*ing star that he is.”
Unfortunately, since we are neither 107 years old nor in a coma, we found that Branson actually sucks. Pretty hard. That’s not to say there isn’t an abundance of activities one can enjoy in Branson—just driving from the exit ramp to our hotel, we saw no less than three “olde tyme” photo studios. As we drove past block after block of strip malls, we saw numerous of t-shirt shops where you could purchase items imprinted with the confederate flag, as well as a store devoted entirely to the Dukes of Hazard.
Also huge in Branson [besides the average tourist’s morbidly obese ass—ZING!]: Death. Perhaps because the town caters to people who get up at 4:00 am to go for their walk and eat lunch at 10, the local shows all seem to include dead celebrities–a morbid reminder of the tourists’ own mortality. Driving down route 76, we saw countless billboards advertising shows with the deceased–Elvis, Johnny Cash, the Blues Brothers, or [shudder] Dick Clark.
If there’s one thing that Branson seems to love, it’s celebrity. Andy Williams, of course, put Branson on the map, and the town, like a necrophiliac morgue worker, has had an undying love affair with the rich and famous since. This is evident in some of its main attractions. For example, there is a “Hollywood Wax Museum” where, according to the ad, you can rub elbows with luminaries “from Lucille Ball to Lucy Lui” as you leap into famous movie scenes, provided you don’t mind if the waxy doppelgangers look nothing like their living counterparts.
You can also see Liverpool Legends, presented by “George Harrison’s sister, Louise” and starring the four guys in the entire world who look the least like the Beatles.
But that’s not all. You can see the highly popular “Branson Brothers Show”
Or, you can see the world-renowned “comedy” show: Baldknobbers
If the bright-lights of Branson’s great white way pique your thirst, you can always stop for a pick-me-up at a local watering hole. We were able to stop for a mid-morning ale at one of Branson’s internationally renowned pubs, known for it’s authentic Irish ambiance.
But lest you believe Branson is all flashy celebrities and indulgent decadence, bear in mind that the town is also hugely religious and God-fearing. As long as if by “God” you mean “Wrathful and non-denominational right-wing demagogue.” And when you peruse the countless gaudy baubles being sold with religious themes, you’ll know that the Branson Business Bureau’s belief is sincere.
The town is also a mecca of patriotism. Perhaps it was only because it was Independence Day, but practically every tourist we saw was wearing a red, white and blue themed t-shirt stretched to the breaking point over their rotund mid-sections. And most impressively, we witnessed a fire and water “extravaganza” down at the Branson Landing, as flame and water shot into the sky, keeping time with the Star Spangled Banner as the song blared over the PA system.
As we left the splashy lights of Branson in our rear-view mirror, I asked my wife what she thought of the town. She was silent for a long while, deep in thought about what she had witnessed over the course of the weekend. Finally, she turned to me and said “Well…it was a place.”
Truer words were never spoken. Whatever else it may be, you cannot argue that Branson is a place. In Missouri. That old people go to.