Lawrence Welk Museum
A trip up Escondido's Champagne Boulevard won't do much to help you fathom the dense thermal layer separating Rock 'n' Roll music and That-Which-Came-Before. But at the Lawrence Welk Resort, you'll find yourself in a silvery-haired, happy land of polkas, waltzes and "champagne" tunes.
Lawrence Welk Resort emerges from the brown desert dirt of southern California, all green and golf coursed, like an Old People Country Safari adventure park. It is a mobile home retirement community created by the late entertainer, a sprawling 600-acres north of San Diego. There is a country club, restaurants, a theater where locals enjoy live Broadway and musical performances (Funny Girl, Chorus Line, Annual "Welk Musical Christmas"), and a museum.
For years, the logo for the village was a quarter note, with the number 18 on its flag, symbolizing Welk's two passions: music and golf (Of late, this has been supplanted by an overly beveled "W" with a dot -- international icon for arm-waving orchestra leaders). The sidewalk is studded with bronze musical notes and miniature musical instruments. Outside are a large bronze quarter note fountain, and a life-sized statue of the Maestro himself, baton in mid-twirl. And at the resplendent center of things is the Lawrence Welk Museum.
Over years of visits, we've haven't noticed much change -- a couple of new exhibits, and LW obituaries from 1992 added to the display. But inside the museum, along with photos and old posters, are two items of spectacular note. One is the world's largest champagne glass, bubbling water, lit from inside, and raised on a velvet pedestal. It was given to Welk in honor of his 25th TV anniversary.
Next to it is a real treat. A life-size Lawrence Welk bandstand has been constructed, complete with the famous "LW" music stands. It appears as if the band is on break, perhaps to the village's Par-3 course, their instruments propped in stands.
Patiently waiting for the band to return is a cardboard cutout of Mr. Wunnerful, in white tuxedo and orchestra-leading action pose. Studio lights illuminate the stage, and every three minutes an applause sign flashes. A vintage color TV camera is trained on Welk, and a studio monitor allows you the choice of viewing his image either "live" or on the TV. The museum invites visitors to "Be on TV with Lawrence Welk," while a friend snaps precious souvenir photos off of the monitor.