Ronny’s Steakhouse, well, having eaten there several times, I could accept its demise philosophically. Things happen.
But the Tommy Bartlett Show? The Water Thrill Show?
Cut out the heart of the Dells — out of Wisconsin, out of the entire Midwest. Exile the ornate faux riverboat of Mr. Pancake to the salvage yard, sell the Packers to Austin, Texas and sign our country over to the Russians while you’re at it. White flag. We surrender.
I’m semi-serious. My family loved going to the Dells. Seeing the Tommy Bartlett Show was as American as apple pie.
”The boys liked the speedboats and clownery,” I reported after a 2002 visit, “and I savored the show as a pure form. One doesn’t get much chance to see a chorus line of gals doing the can-can on water skis, never mind a flag-waving pyramid streaking by to ‘The Stars and Stripes Forever.’"
Is that not America? How could that not survive? That is the central quality of the Midwest. We don’t quit. We continue. Did a duck boat sinking in Branson, Missouri, killing 17 people, put a stop to the Dells duck tours? Of course not. Did the death of Tommy Bartlett, famous radio star, slow his empire? No, the concept he expropriated in the early 1950s from Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven, Fla., kept going without him.
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