The House on the Rock by Ken Rosenberger
One weekend in May, Mark Beesley, who has playing host to Ken Rosenberger (Atlanta) and Robert Geraci (Syracuse, NY) lured them--dragging the Flemings in tow with the promise of beer and cheese in Monroe (Wisconsin) to the "world-famous" House on the Rock. Here is a brief account made by one of the victims, Ken Rosenberger.
The statuary on the road in should have been a dead giveaway, a warning to stay away. Grotesque lizards gamboled happily on metal spheroids, as if Modern Disney had tried to adapt “The Call of Cthulhu” into an animated family feature. It was downhill from there.
The telling phrase in the short documentary playing in the Exhibit Center was something like, “…and he received some financial support from his parents.” Ah, the many body blows our civilization has been dealt by the trust fund baby, over the years. With their needs already met, they are free to emancipate the rest of us. From that standpoint, Alex Jordan’s nightmarish House on the Rock is relatively harmless. It’s not a new federal program or a Gates Foundation Global Sustainability Initiative. It’s not even a scruffy and aggressive trustafarian shaking you down for spare change in an Asheville coffee shop, during your mountain getaway weekend. It’s a kitschy attraction well off the main highway, and no one’s forcing you to lay down your $15 (bare bones tour) tariff. It’s no worse than a lot of what the free market charlatans have on offer. Unfortunately, PT Barnum was right about the birthrate of suckers. The same paying public that has gladly turned Steven Spielberg into an “important” director has made the House on the Rock into the #1 tourist attraction in Wisconsin.
But in case you get the wrong idea, let me say that the House is awful. I’d call it cheesy, but that’s not really a pejorative term in Wisconsin. One imagines the eternally-juvenile Chicago entrepreneur Hugh Hefner must have visited the House on the Rock once or twice. Perhaps on a short bunny hop up from his Lake Geneva resort. Is this where the idea for Mansion West’s famous Grotto was hatched, here in these cave-like rooms, dimly-lit and bestrewn with all manner of expensive gewgaws: automated musical instruments and bare-breasted statues and tacky trimming from floor to low-hung ceiling? A robotized-cello, for instance, offered a particularly monotonous Bolero. I hadn’t expected to be reminded of Bo Derek in rural Wisconsin, but there was no escaping it.
We took the short tour, which was the second-best option, the best choice being to bypass the House entirely and head straight to the the Shoe House--the monster shoe outlet in Black Earth with 800,000 pairs on sale.
At least the people of Wisconsin—as near as I could tell—seem largely unaffected by the House on the Rock. Leave it for the Iowans, the downstate Illini, the sophisticated Twin-City-ites. After all, the tourist dollar trickles down. Later at lunch, as we were enjoying our veal sausage and Roesti in New Glarus, I looked around at the well-fed and rosy-cheeked faces of our fellow diners in the Glarner Stube Restaurant. Badger Staters are a happy lot, I’m told, and here was all the confirmation one needed. If any of them had been to the House on the Rock, none of them seemed worse for wear.
The final verdict on Alex Jordan’s obsession: exhibit A in the case for a 100% inheritance tax.