Welk Tribute Scheduled to Air on CNN Friday

By Rita Sherrow

Maybe the eighth time is the charm for Lawrence Welk.

Barring developments in the Middle East, CNN's Larry King will finally pay tribute to Lawrence Welk at 8 p.m. Friday on Cox channel 41.

The program, which was taped September 3, 2001, has been scheduled to air seven separate times and, each time, breaking news bumped the program, according to Susie Dowdy, spokesperson for the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority.

"We are very excited that the show is finally going to air," said Dowdy, who headed up a contingent including "Welk" stars Ralna English, Bobby Burgess, Janet Lennon, Larry Welk Jr., and Lawrence Welk III who made the trip to California for the taping. "They ('Larry King Live') only produce six tribute shows a year and they wanted to pay tribute to Welk."

The taping was done at the CNN studios in Hollywood and OETA provided all the video clips for the program. Welk died in 1992.

"Larry King is actually a 'Lawrence Welk Show' fan," said Dowdy. "He told us he had been one for years. He said he was amazed the show had been on television for 50 years but that he wasn't surprised because 'there is nothing like it on television.' He even had a bubble machine on set and that is how he introduces the show. As he says goodnight, Ralna, Bobby and Janet sing the Lawrence Welk 'Goodnight Song' while the bubbles flow."

OETA is now synonymous with Welk, she explained.

OETA's former executive director Bob Allen brought the original "Lawrence Welk Show" to Public Television in 1987 and has produced the series ever since. It has also produced 10 Welk fundraising specials including "Lawrence Welk: Milestones & Memories," one of the top three most successful fundraising specials on public TV.

"Larry King Live" has its own reason for spending one hour of primetime on the former bandleader, said the show's publicist.

"The Lawrence Welk Show is an American institution," said Erin Sermeus, spokesperson for the news interview show. "Celebrating its 50th year this season, it was fun to gather the cast and pay tribute to this staple of family television."




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