"Welk Star Loves Exhibit"
Mixed-media art display pays tribute to champagne music king


Lawrence Welk show regular Ralna English gives an enthusiastic review to the tribute to Welk at the G2 Gallery in Scottsdale. Amy Romanin's exhibit can be seen through Feb. 2. Photo Mike Rynearson/The Arizona Republic
 
by Diana Balazs
The Arizona Republic
January 25, 2002
 
Singer Ralna English zeroed in on a rectangular panel of hand-painted images of the late bandleader Lawrence Welk, his face shown in shades of red, yellow, green and blue.
 
It's the Welk star's favorite piece of the champagne music maker in an exhibit, "Lawrence Welk Revisited," at the G2 Gallery in Scottsdale.
 
"It's his face. People would recognize that," English said.
 
The exhibit by Valley native and mixed-media artist Amy Romanin can be seen through February 2 at the gallery 4200 N. Marshall Way.
 
It has drawn a diverse crowd, said Trent Guerin, G2's director, who runs the gallery with his brother, Fort.
 
"We have had a lot of older people who maybe don't come out to the Scottsdale art scene who come down here specifically to look at the work," he said.
 
There also have been younger visitors.
 
"To them, the show is more of just a quirky show," Trent Guerin said. "It's a little humorous, so they get something out of this as well."
 
Romanin, who isn't a Welk aficionado, acknowledges that after a 50-year run in prime time and syndication, Welk's show remains popular throughout the country.
 
In fact, it is the longest-running TV show still in production.
 
"I obviously like it enough to do something like this," she said of the exhibit.
 
English said she's thrilled with the results, calling it "Americana."
 
Welk would have been proud, she added.
 
"Absolutely. He wouldn't understand it," she said, "but he would think it's great. It makes me cry. He never got what he deserved, you know, as far as being recognized for what he's done, for what he created."
 
Generation after generation continues to watch the show, which airs at 7 p.m. Saturdays on Channel 8 (KANT).
 
English joined the show in 1969 and continues to perform along with other Welk stars, including with her former husband, Guy Hovis. The couple divorced in 1984. Hovis, who works for U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, lives in Jackson, Miss.
 
The show, known for its wholesomeness and patriotism, featured music from big band to polka, and lavish sets and costumes.
 
"I think it just stayed on the air because it's family entertainment," English said. "You rarely find this on television anymore. The whole family can sit down and watch it. It's beautiful. It's colorful. It's entertaining."
 
English also is excited about the exhibit because it is in downtown Scottsdale. She wants the area to thrive.
 
"This is unique," she said. "It's history, even though the city is only 50 years old. This is Scottsdale."
 
She moved to the city from Los Angeles in June 1994 with her daughter, Julie Hovis. Welk dancer Cissy King also has a home in Scottsdale.
 
Julie, who plans to be a teacher, is a graduate of Arizona State University. She now is pursuing a master's degree from the University of Phoenix.
 
In addition to her singing career, English has been an ambassador since 1978 for Scottsdale-based Childhelp USA, an organization dedicated to the treatment and prevention of child abuse.
 
Looking back on her career, English said, she had no intention of being on The Lawrence Welk Show. The Texas native was in a rock and roll band in high school. She wanted to become a major recording star.
 
It was her 90-year-old grandmother who encouraged her to audition for the show. Thirty-two years later, English remains in awe of Welk.
 
"He was charming," she said. "A charismatic man. One of the greatest performers on stage that I'd ever seen."
 
Welk died in 1992 at the age of 89. Today, reruns of the show are seen on 276 PBS stations and by millions of viewers. New segments update viewers on the lives of Welk performers.
 
Last year, 47 of them got together for an emotional reunion show titled "Milestones and Memories."
 
"We see each other all the time. We are a family," English said.
 
The Welk phenomenon isn't going away any time soon, English said. Her schedule includes a national "Live Lawrence Welk Show on Tour" and a March 21 appearance with Welk musician and hoofer Jack Imel at Harrahs' Phoenix Ak-Chin Casino Resort.
 
"I don't know how long it's going to last," English said. "As long as the people want to see us and I can get out there and do it."
 

 

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