entertains in reruns, concerts
Weintraub, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, June 23, 2002
Q. Happy birthday. Which
one would this be?
A. Oh, no, don't ask me that! Just say I'm old - but I'm not
as old as I look! Actually, it's been a great birthday so far.
Yesterday I had a wonderful massage at a spa - it was a gift
from a friend - and a honey-almond scrub. This morning I played
tennis, and later I'm going to have lunch with my tennis gals.
And then my sister, who's a master pie maker, is going to make
me a lemon meringue pie.
Q. You were a nightclub
singer in Las Vegas before you went on the Welk show. Did some
of your friends from those days make fun of you because the show
was considered pretty square?
A. Sure they did, but it didn't bother me. You know, I was never
big on the show myself in those days. I really just wanted to
be on it so my grandmother could see me. I'd traveled all over,
but she'd never seen me in a show, and she just loved "The
Lawrence Welk Show." So my grandmother finally got to see
me perform. And now, of course, I'm so glad my life took that
turn. It just opened up a whole career for me.
Q. How did Welk's taste
in music affect what you sang?
A. The one thing he wouldn't tolerate was jazz, which is my great
love - Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, all of those wonderful singers.
As a matter of fact, he liked jazz himself, but he didn't think
his audience would go for it. One of my first weeks on the show,
they gave me "The Windmills of Your Mind" to sing,
and he didn't like it. He said to me, "My curl" - that's
how he pronounced it, "my curl" - "My curl, you're
singing that song too jazzy." But as long as you didn't
improvise, he was fine.
Q. Why has the series
now been running so much longer than anyone predicted?
A. For one thing, it serves a portion of the population, older
people, who have so little to watch on TV. And children love
it, too. A woman came up to the autograph table at one of our
shows in Canada a couple of years ago and told me that her family's
been watching it ever since her 3-year-old discovered it. We're
like "Barney" or something for little kids. And then
there are immigrants who don't even speak English but appreciate
the show for the beautiful costumes and the music. Someone else
told me that her friend's grandmother, who had just come here
from China and spoke no English, loved watching the show. She
didn't even know the name. She called it "Pretty Girls."
Q. A few months ago
on Larry King's show, you said you'd taken some heat on the Welk
show because of your necklines. Why was that?
A. Oh, that! What happened was that our wonderful costumer went
out and bought exactly the same dresses for all the girls, but
I was maybe a little bit more well-endowed than some of them,
so the dresses just fit me differently. And we started to get
these letters, you know, from these little old ladies at home,
about my "low-cut" dresses, which weren't really low-cut
at all. Well, Lawrence finally came up to me one day and put
his arm around me, and said, "My curl, we're having some
problem with da dresses that they're cut down too low for you,"
and I just lost it. When he brought it up, it was one step over
the line, you know. I said, "There's nothing I can do about
that. You'll have to talk to God about that." And he was
angry, but he got over it. That was the only cross word I ever
had with Lawrence. He was wonderful.
For ticket information
about today's show, call (414) 297-8011.
Singer Ralna English
joined the cast of "The Lawrence Welk Show" in 1969
and was still making champagne music when the series halted production
in 1982. Still a public TV staple in almost 300 cities, the show
can be seen in reruns at 5 p.m. Saturdays on Milwaukee's WMVS-TV
(Channel 10). Texas native English - whose unusual first name
combines her father's name, Raul, and the title of her mother's
favorite book, "Jalna," by Canadian novelist Mazo de
la Roche - now plays about 125 concert dates a year. Along with
her longtime singing partner and ex-husband, Guy Hovis, and former
Welk dancers Bobby Burgess and Elaine Balden, she will appear
at 3:30 p.m. today at Elmbrook Church, 777 S. Barker Road, Brookfield,
in a benefit concert for Channel 10 Friends. Journal Sentinel
TV critic Joanne Weintraub spoke to English on Wednesday from
her home in Scottsdale, Ariz., where the singer was celebrating
the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on June 23, 2002