Entertainment Editor’s note: With the tourism industry here in Branson facing the same crises as the rest of the world, there aren’t any shows, attractions, restaurants or other tourism-based things for your ol’ Entertainment Editor to go out and experience, then write about to share with my Loyal Reader(s).
So I thought it might be fun to see just how some of our favorite entertainers are spending their “spring quarantines.” I will do my best to have one of these stories in every issue of the Branson Tri-Lakes News until this whole thing runs its course.
Also, if any of my Loyal Reader(s) have any ideas or suggestions for entertainers, business owners or personalities you’d like to see profiled, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Even though the Presley family had 53 opening nights under their belt, No. 54 most assuredly turned out to be one for the books. A few weeks before their March 13 opening night, the cast was on the high seas for their annual cruise.
“Our cruise left Feb. 23, and we got back only a week before those other cruises started getting stuck out there,” Eric “Cecil” Presley said. “We took like 640-something people, and nobody got sick or had an issue with this. Then we opened a week or so later, and even though we were busy, it was still lingering.”
The cast then rehearsed for several days before opening the show.
“We talk about this a lot in the family, but throughout 53 years, this has never happened before,” Eric said. “I mean, they opened during times of war, during national emergencies, and so many other things, but man, this one was just so unique, so different. We had a great opening night, and not just the show, but the crowd was also big.
“But I think by that Friday night we opened, after the show, we knew something was going to happen.”
Even though the “Presley’s Country Jubilee” opening night went off without a hitch, Presley said the whole evening had a “weird” vibe.
“That night I wasn’t as caught up as everyone else was about everything that was going on, and my dad was sitting next to me at the autograph table, and he kept bumping elbows with people,” Eric said. “I didn’t know that was a thing at the time instead of shaking hands or hugging, and I was thinking to myself, ‘What is going on with him? What is he doing (laughs)?’ Then I noticed people were doing it back, and I just got so tickled at the whole thing.
“But that whole night, everything was just kind of weird, you know, people not shaking hands and being hesitant to get close. By Saturday night, we weren’t shaking hands at all.”
The following day, Presley said, the family made the decision to cease operations following their Saturday and Monday night shows.
“I am a research junkie, and by Monday we were really watching it, and I knew this wasn’t going to be a week- or two-week thing,” he said. “This thing was creeping across the globe at a certain speed, almost like a weather front. So I think when we left after that last show, we all thought it could be a while.”
Like most other citizens of the world, Presley went home to self-isolate with his family.
“We’re just existing, trying to stay busy, just like the rest of the world,” Presley said. “It’s just one of those things, but other than not going to the theater, my life hasn’t changed that much, because I do everything from home.
“I may have to run to the theatre and grab something from time to time, but I usually do it when we visit my parents, which we don’t do every day, but close to. We hang out in their front yard and talk, or in the parking lot.”
Speaking of his family, Presley said he’s enjoying spending extra time at home with his wife Kelli, and their two children Anna and Ben “Little Cecil.”
“I have great kids, and I really don’t know how my wife is still sticking around (laughs), but she’s great, too,” he said. “We home-schooled our kids until junior high, then sent them to public school for that social experience, and that was always our plan from the time they were born. So over the last two or three weeks, they’ve had to do some school work, and they’re like, ‘oh, this is easy. I’m home schooling again.’
“But we just love to have fun around here. I mean, we have badminton tournaments in the living room with all the kids. We play a lot of billiards, some blackjack. And this thing has also made my 16-year-old daughter stay home, and we have had some great times doing things we wouldn’t have normally had the chance to do.”
Speaking of things he doesn’t normally get to do, Presley said the miracle of modern technology has also allowed him to reconnect with several of his oldest friends.
“So my three best friends from high school, one is in New York, one is in Tampa, and the other in L.A., every Tuesday night we have an online Spades game,” he said. “It is so much fun, and again, something that we’d never get to do otherwise.”
Another thing Presley is enjoying during the quarantine is taking strolls down memory lane via old show videos and albums.
“My whole life, my family and the guys used to make fun of me a little bit because when it came time to put shows together, like I said, I’m a researcher, so I would go back and watch shows, and I don’t even care if it was our show or some other show that was in town back then, from any VHS tape we have in the basement.
“I’ve been digging through those old albums, and we’ve even made a trip out to ‘The Sheds,’ which are filled with all the old ‘Presleys’ stuff. Dad’s also been digging through stuff too. He sent me a video of him digging through his old records, which was really cool. So anyway, I love to watch old shows and while it is a stroll down memory lane, 100 percent of the time, it inspires something. Every single time.”
While the “Presley’s Country Jubilee’ cast performs hundreds of shows each year, they also host a weekly TV show on RFD-TV. According to Presley, while they were recording last year’s slate of 26 new episodes, they also recorded a handful of “extra” shows.
“Last year we decided to push a little hard for, at the time, no other reason than just doing it, and tape some extra shows,” Presley said. “And boy, we’re sure glad we did.
“We have between six and seven new shows that will air within the next month or so, and we’re excited about that, and feel lucky in the fact we can get some new TV shows out to everybody this spring.
“Plus, we have 250 separate, unique television shows taped, all in HD, and we have so much content we’re just going to try and keep everyone entertained as long as everyone is stuck at home.”
The longer people are stuck at home, Presley said the more they realize how much they miss one another.
“It’s kind of weird how many of these people we’re missing now because usually by this time of year, they’ve come to visit us,” he said. “I was doing a video the other day, and I wrote something like, ‘We miss our family, we miss our friends, and we miss you.’ And we do have an extended family, not just the cast, but all the guests who come see us year after year.”
“It’s tough on all of us right now.”
Like everyone else, Presley said he does have that one item he deems “essential” to make sure he’s at least a little more comfortable during quarantine.
“Well my answer is kind of a boring one, but it’s just milk,” he said. “Tell Marty Hughes (who said his family buys “the big 25 pound bags of wheat, then grind it and make their own bread” in last week’s “How I Spent My Spring Quarantine”) I’m going to buy my own cow and stick it on this hill (laughs).”
Visit presleys.com for more information.