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December 18, 2014

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Ice Ice Billy

Hooterville, Nev.: It’s time

I asked my buddy T.J. this week by text message to tell me his favorite moment from the television series Green Acres. "Any Arnold (Ziffel) moment..." he said. "Cracks me up thinking about Arnold."

For those who were born after the release of the Atari 2600 and still don't have a cable or satellite television subscription, Arnold was the pig son of Fred and Doris. The Ziffels lived in Hooterville, and Arnold was an accomplished abstract painter (Nude at a Filling Station), played the piano and was a notorious practical joker at his school.

Arnold has long since passed. But, again this week, there is no joy in Hooterville. Frank Cady, who played Sam Drucker on television's Green Acres, died this week at the age of 96.

Mr. Drucker operated the general store in Hooterville, back when such a fictitious town name would only represent small town life, and probably owls. Drucker was also the town's postmaster, one-man newspaper operation and culture carrier.

While everyone from farmhand Eb to the youngest Ziffel gave Oliver Wendell Douglas (Eddie Albert) a lot of material to which to react, Cady performed every line based in relative sanity. His Mr. Drucker handled Mr. Haney and Frank Kimble with equal ease.

Mr. Drucker was Hooterville's glue.

Green Acres' earliest incarnation was as Jay Sommers' radio program in 1950. Arguably, the most brilliant writers and creators of absurdist situation comedies since Green Acres left the air in 1971 have striven for the machine gun setup-punch line format of Sommers' master stroke. The show reached television popularity after spinning-off from Petticoat Junction which - when watched in reruns - gave a 1970's 10-year-old boy a lot to think about when Betty Jo, Bobbie Jo and Billie Jo skinny dipped in the railroad water tank during the show's opening credits.

Sommers struck legend with Green Acres, bringing to life a relentless cast of unique oddballs delivering equally as fevered, true-to-character dialogue with a Shakesperean competence in scripting switchback chaos.

Nostalgia is an expensive pursuit. And so the search begins for the venture capital to build the Hooterville Theme Park, right here in Las Vegas. Since my mortgage company refuses to return calls or keeps me on hold for no less than 90 minutes at a time before disconnecting the line, I have an underwater backyard attached to an underwater home that could be a perfect starter location.

There isn't much room for thrill rides. But, I can put up a telephone pole and guests can make calls from the top. And there might be room for a water tank to encourage any aspiring Betty Jo, Bobbie Jo or Billie Jo.

I vow to post copies of the HOA letters, as well as my responses, addressing the rusty tractor in the front yard and the smell of understudy Arnolds in the back. A constant loop of "bud-da bud-da duhs" would fill the neighborhood.

Alf and Ralph Monroe would perennially occupy the walk in closet. Mr. Haney would operate the gift shop and offer non-refundable tickets on the non-existing helicopter tour of the place. He would hock pictures of the Clampetts, and claim them as residents of Hooterville. Lisa Douglas would cook in the snack stand and Hank Kimball would serve in the information booth. And upon leaving, guests would be reminded that this has been a Filmways production, darling.

But most essential of all, Mr. Drucker would be the tour guide, because there could be no one else.

Billy Johnson is the president and chief operating officer of the Las Vegas Wranglers.

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