Thursday, March 22, 2007

Bobby and Cissy

Thanks to YouTube, we can revisit so many low points in American pop cultural history, points so low that they flip around on us becoming great for how horrible they are.

I know, I know, The Lawrence Welk Show is an easy target when it comes to singling out such debacles in Americana, but I can't resist. However, rather than just picking out a random Welk clip and pointing at it for a cheap laugh, I thought maybe we'd try to learn something about the show. After all, aside from those poor wretches amongst us who were forced to watch a lot of Lawrence Welk with their grandparents, most of us don't know much about the show's finer details.

So for this post we introduce "Bobby and Cissy," Bobby Burgess and Cissy King, two regular dancers on the show. To this Lawrence Welk layman, the duo's routines in the mid to late 70s epitomize the hyper-weird cultural cul-de-sacs that the Welk Show so thoroughly explored each week.

The best example of this that I could find on YouTube was of Bobby and Cissy's take on "Love Will Keep Us Together."

First off, let me say that I approve of the nod towards Pan-Africanism that the color choices of their costumes suggest. Brave choice, and about time!

Next, as goofy and laden with variety show dance cliches and gimmicks as this bit of choreography is, what impresses me is that Bobby and Cissy were physically able to hang in there with this number. Several times it looks like they're about to lose it entirely, especially at the end when poor Bobby does his best to hoist Cissy up on his shoulder. It looked touch and go there for a second, so way to go Bobby, you did it! Rather than "Love Will Keep Us Together," I prefer to call this one "The Perils of an All Red Meat Diet."

Too bad the quality on "Disco Square Dance" isn't so great. What we have here is a cultural abomination that appalls, and yet, the more I watch it, also charms. It's a full-speed, head on collision on the interstate between a full load of country western and a thick brick wall made of disco. The number of casualties are unknown, but estimated to be high.

Bobby and Cissy do sort of a Riverdance-ish, must-keep-upper- body-rigid-at-all-costs routine. Maybe it doesn't have the transfixing, hypnotic affect that their version of "Love Will Keep Us Together" has, but it still feels like a good, solid Bobby and Cissy performance. In other words, it scares the shit out of me.

The surprising thing about this number is that it's not as country western as the costumes suggest. With its reverb-laden accordion and dips into the minor key, the ditty owes something to the european polka culture of the northern midwest.

Next week's Welkian topic: "Sandi and Sally" - don't miss it!


trish said...

I remember watching that show with my grandparents along with Hee-Haw. we also ate at the Lawrence Welk resturant in San Diego. All i can remember is bubbles and silver brocade.

Jen said...

I am so jealous! I saw plenty of Lawrence Welk with my grandparents but never got to the promised land of the Lawrence Welk restaurant! I'm a little sad right now...