Will Branson Missouri ever be cool?
The article sits on the last 6 pages of Detail's December issue. The article, "Will Branson Ever Be Cool", has the subtitle,
"Would you use your vacation days to see Andy Williams Sing 'Moon River?', Probably not. And that's why Branson's town fathers are studying the Las Vegas business model."This is what really caught my attention. I wondered, "Just who are the town father's details is talking about?". My vigorous search led to an eventual jackpot as I scored what appears to be the last copy available within a hundred mile radius.
Most of the photography was taken in Arkansas, ironically, near the liberal sanctuary known as Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The second page spread is a picture of Jesus of the Ozarks shot by photographer Christian Patterson.
The third page and opening editorial begins with an interview over a glass of wine with Darren Romeo. Author, Bart Blasengame, gives one of the most colorful descriptions of Branson I've read to date. He describes Darren's assistants as "young, nubile ….with cleavage hanging out like an all you can eat buffet". Go ahead, laugh, it's worth a chuckle.
Branson's visitors are described as "Mostly White, mostly conservative, mostly Christian and mostly soon to be dead. He proceeds to raise the question raised by many people. How will Branson survive in the years to come?
Though the article never elaborates on who Branson's town fathers are it notes the Las Vegas type sinage and developing traffic along the strip. A humorous description of Branson reveals the cities conservative religious roots in contrast to the unwanted "debauchery" of Vegas. Enter, Rick Huffman, Detail's saviour of Branson. The segway describes him as a man who thinks he can bring "Jesus and Elvis" together. An endorsement describing the Branson Landing notes vendors such as Victoria Secret and $518,000 in development including a water show designed by the same people that built the water show at the Billagio in Vegas. Huffman apparently believes the waterfront will bring 5 million in visitors a year. Nice pitch.
The article states that Branson, wants to be the "Sin City of the Ozarks…..a pickin', grinnin' Hee Haw Vortex with an unsatisfied craving for just a little bit of sin." Whether you love or hate this article you gotta love Bart's descriptions. Ok, this ones my favorite, which made me laugh out loud. He calls the upcoming changes in Branson a transition to "Bizarro Vegas".The interview with Rick begins...
"When people are on vacation they like to have a cocktail," Huffman says. "They want a good glass of wine or a fine cigar - basically, they want to loosen up and have a good time." Our goal is to add a nicer environment for our guests to do that in." In the name of all that is holy, what's next prostitution? " "Well, they haven't made that legal yet," Huffman says, laughing. "If they do that though I'm getting into that business."
The article calles Romeo the "Justin Timberlake of Branson:" Say what? Darren, makes a comment about the filth he experienced in Vegas noting Branson is a welcome change. A four year multi-million dollar contract with the Welk resort is noted.
Enter Huffman -
"Darren does his thing, and throws a lot of nice looking gals in skimpy clothes up there, Huffman says approvingly, we need more of that"
Romeo boasts pushing the boundaries and leaving the audience to make a choice about what type of entertainment they want. Romeo acknowledges that some of the audience walks out when he does an impression of Jesus Christ rising in the air to heaven while doing an over the top version of "Gethsemane".
Romeo comments about the complaints he receives about his personal on-stage religious commentary. "People think Jesus didn't gripe about being crucified, but - the man was weeping blood, for crying out loud."
Bart observes that only two people walk out.- a sign of Branson leaving its puritanical roots or Romeo's changing status.
Branson EDGE Comments
Darren Romeo's show has gotten a lot of press lately. His affiliation with Siegfried and Roy have driven a media interest. But, is he a driving force in Branson? Is his show to date one of our most popular shows?
I think it's important to note that the Detail's crowd is apt to find affiliation with Branson's liberalism an attractive subject. The cover story is an interview with Jake Cyllenhaal who doesn't want to admit he's not gay.
Although, shocking and only partially representative of Branson, the magazine appeals to an audience who wouldn't be thrilled with the "usual" venues Branson offers. In this sense, in relation to the target audience, the article exhibits a very positive spin.
What really grabbed me is that the magazine couldn't be found anywhere in the tri-county area - with the exception of those who already have a subscription - which is why I found it necessary to summarize the article.
Though I purchased the magazine the images are the property of Conde Nast. The photography was shot by Nashville resident Christian Patterson who would love to come back if there is work available in the region.
Bart Blasengame's article is very well written and I would recommend you write Conde Nast if you want a copy for yourself. They are in fact available.