Crooner and restaurateur Andy Williams talks about what Alpo tastes like
When the late Ronald Reagan was president, he proclaimed that singer Andy Williams was a “national treasure.” That's a strong a description, but Williams certainly has been treasured by audiences around the world for more than 60 years, first as member of the Williams Brothers quartet and then as a solo act.
Williams, now 81, has recorded 18 gold and three platinum certified albums. Among his memorable hits are “Canadian Sunset,” “Moon River” and “Days of Wine and Roses." The Iowa native also hosted a musical-variety series on NBC from 1962-71 and has been a staple at the Branson, Missouri resort since 1991 when he opened his Moon River Theatre. Two years ago, he opened the Moon River Grill adjacent to the theater. Williams recently published his autobiography, “Moon River and Me”, and Sony Music has also released the CD “Moon River: The Very Best of Andy Williams.”
But that is not the only reason Williams has been in the news of late.
Despite his strong friendship with the late Bobby Kennedy, Williams is a longtime Republican who accused President Obama last month in the Daily Telegraph in England of “following Marxist theory” and “wanting the country to fail.” But on a recent afternoon, Williams was more in the mood to talk about the comfort food found at his restaurant than politics.
Q: In your memoir you say that you ended up eating dog food when you first went solo in the 1950s because your career was struggling.
Andy Williams: I ate Alpo. It’s pretty good. It has gravy and big chunks of horse meat in it. I had no money but had enough to buy a couple of cans of dog food because I had my dog with me. I put it on a little hot plate I had. I was really poor at that point and it smelled so damn good, that I finished the can and next day I ate another can. Then I wired my brother Don to send me $100 so I could get on a bus back to New York. I was in trouble.
Q: How often do you perform in Branson?
AW: I used to work there nine months a year, 12 shows a week. I cut that back to one show a day and now I only work in the theater September through December. The rest of the time I stay in Palm Springs and play golf.
Q: Why did you decide to open the Moon River Grill?
AW: I built the restaurant for somebody else. It was wonderful food. Then it ran down and they sold the restaurant. The out-of-town owner didn’t know how to run it and it just ran into the ground. They couldn’t pay the fee anymore to have their restaurant there. I decided to take it over. I redid it completely inside and outside.
Q: Is the menu inspired by your mom’s recipes?
AW: I have a section of the menu that’s called "Andy’s Favorites." All of those are my mother’s recipes — pot roast, chicken pot pie and meat loaf, catfish, spaghetti and meatballs, chicken vegetable soup and rhubarb shortcake. It’s absolutely great.
Q: Sounds yummy.
AW: My mother was a very good cook. At least we always thought so. We have a great chef. We also have quail and pheasant. The ones I grew up on, comfort foods, seems to be the biggest draw.
Q: Do you cook?
AW: No, I don’t, but my wife is a pretty good cook.
Q: I have to ask you — were you surprised your remarks about President Obama made headlines around the world?
AW: I made a mistake actually in saying what I said over the phone in an interview in another country because over there they don’t see things the same way we do. To the people in England and Europe, Obama is a prince, he couldn’t do anything wrong. They don’t have the same idea of what’s going on. I have nothing against him. He is a very charismatic man. He speaks beautifully. I am sure he’s a good father. I just don’t go along with his direction in taking the country.
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