When Rudy Maxa asked Tony Kahn to step in as your guide this
week, he wasn't entirely sure what he was getting into, but you know,
that's how it is with a new journey. Sometimes you just jump right in
and go. That's kind of how we feel about this next trip: Branson,
Missouri. You hear conflicting reports about Branson. Some rave,
saying it's the country music capital. For others, it's nothing more
than cowboy kitsch. Sometimes when you travel you find exactly what
you're looking for. So you can imagine which sensibility Cash Peters
was after when he went to Branson on one of his infamous Bad Taste
Bad Taste Tour: Branson, Missouri
by Cash Peters
Branson is a strange, kooky place nestling deep in the Ozarks. One of
those quaint, old-fashioned American country towns where
heterosexuals are still in the majority, I mean imagine that, and
where the menus in the restaurants have Biblical quotes next to the
appetizers and where people walk around wearing orange duck beaks.
I'll explain later. Anyway, I arrived around 8:30pm, and went
immediately to the downtown area for some fun, and guess what. It was
Tom: "This time of night, the downtown area, they call this the
commercial district and what they mean by that is our city government
and things like that, and a lot of retail, it's closed."
Cash: "You see, the downtown to me means fun, fun, fun."
Tom: "Well, here in Branson..."
Cash: "It's dull, dull, dull."
Tom: "Dull, dull, dull. Right. They roll up the sidewalks at 7pm."
That's Tom Grafton, the tourist officer. I quickly discovered that,
actually, there are things to do and see in Branson, just not where I
was. There's a lake and theme parks and theatre shows starring people
like Andy Williams and the Osmonds. Then again, who cares about all
that when they also have the world's biggest ball of twine? I
mentioned this to Tom Grafton at the tourist office.
Tom: "The world's largest ball of twine? Not that I'm aware of."
Cash: "Yeah, you have."
Tom: "We do? In Branson?"
Cash: "You're a tourist information officer and you didn't know that?"
Tom: "I know we've got the world's largest banjo and the largest fiddle."
Cash: "I'd keep quiet about those two if I were you."
The man had no clue, but trust me. The do have the world's largest
ball of twine. It's at Ripley's Believe It or Not and it's huge, like
something Indiana Jones would run away from. Manager Gary Daily.
Gary: "This is the real deal here. You're looking at the real deal."
Cash: "Now, what makes it the world's largest ball of twine?"
Gary: "At the point in time it was the circumference and the weight of it."
Cash: "But who made it?"
Gary: "A gentleman down in Texas. J.C. Payne out of Valley View, Texas."
Cash: "You're not reading that, are you?"
Gary: "As a matter of fact, I am. Yes."
It's pretty impressive all the same. But now of course, having spent
an hour staring at string, my adrenaline was really pumping and I was
hungry for even greater thrills.
Announcer: "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Shoji Tabuchi show..."
Shoji's is one of the best theatres in town. They put on these big
spectacular shows, though nothing could ever be as spectacular, I
suspect, as their gent's bathroom. Gold taps, armchairs, chandeliers.
They even have a pool table in there. It's incredible. Guys hang out
in the toilet for hours. Now, where I come from, you'd be arrested
for that. But not in Branson. Bob Froodenstein is in charge.
Bob: "People come from all over the country. We probably have the
most photographed restrooms in the country."
Cash: "You have tour buses coming here just to take a look at the
Bob: "Yes we do. That's a fact. Yes, sir."
Cash: "And so I could be using this, really, and people would just be
walking in and looking at me."
Bob: "Well, when they say people we mean gentlemen. We don't allow
ladies in the men's room."
That's reassuring. The women have to stand at the door and peek through.
Cash: "You. You can't come in here."
Lady: "They let us look."
Cash: "If you knew the things around that corner, you'd faint."
Lady: "No, I'm not coming around the corner."
Cash: "Just come around the corner with me."
Lady: "But I don't want to faint."
Lori: "This is more of a family oriented town. You know, there's tons
of stuff for kids to do. You don't have to worry about taking your
children to a show and it not being appropriate."
Cash: "Like Andy Williams suddenly taking his trousers down. That's
not going to happen?"
Lori: "No, that's not going to happen."
One of the best acts in town is called Jennifer. No, I haven't
heard of her either. But I'm sorry. In Branson, she's big time. She
sings, she dances, whatever. I arrived at the finale when she was
talking to the audience.
Jennifer: "Alright. Every single day, I get to come out to the buses
and to the lobby. Today, I just found out I have a national interview
right after the show, so I'll be unable to do that and I'm so sorry.
I'll do that next time, I promise you..."
Incredibly, I was that national interview. The problem is that at the
end of the show, just when you think, "Whew, this girl is really
going places", suddenly she starts talking about Jesus and then
you're up to your ears in a bunch of Gospel nonsense. Oh yeah. One
other thing I did notice about Branson as I was frantically looking
for a freeway out of there, was all these people walking around with
orange plastic beaks, on going "quack, quack, quack". It turns out
it's part of a ride for tourists. Claudia Vecchio of the Branson
Chamber of Commerce even had one in her bag.
Claudia: "This is 'Ride the Ducks'. It's one of the attractions here
in Branson and it takes visitors on about an hour-and-a-half long
trip through town and then they take you on a cruise around Table
Rock Lake. So, it's kind of a fun way to get both the land and the
Cash: "But how sad is it that you have a beak like that in your bag?"
Claudia: "It's not sad at all."
Cash: "That's how I'll always remember you."
Claudia: "Oh, good."
I was lying. I've forgotten her already. In Branson, Missouri, I'm
Cash Peters for The Savvy Traveler.