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Morning Sun
  • MAN ON A MISSION

  • Once a business entrepreneur who founded five companies and became the world’s largest operator of Pizza Hut franchises, Gene Bicknell has been devoting much of his considerable talent in recent years to the entertainment industry.


     

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  • Once a business entrepreneur who founded five companies and became the world’s largest operator of Pizza Hut franchises, Gene Bicknell has been devoting much of his considerable talent in recent years to the entertainment industry.

     

    Now he’s going to be traveling thousands of miles to entertain some of America’s finest — the men and women defending liberty. He’ll also be performing before royalty.

     

    “We’ll be leaving next week with a host of entertainers,” said Bicknell during a telephone interview from Branson on Friday. “That includes Tony Orlando and his band, and my dancers and four singers from my show in Branson, ‘Country Tonight’.”

     

    Also coming along will be Vandel-Snook, a county music group from Kansas City, three former Miss Americas, singer/songwriter Corinne Campbell and Dennis Wilson of Nashville, Tenn., actor Steve Baldwin, Leeann Tweeden and a couple of talk show hosts.

     

    Bicknell added that a full crew of technicians and camera men will also be going.  A documentary is being planned of the trip. 

     

    “American Airlines has furnished the plane, and Exxon-Mobil is providing the fuel,”  he said.

     

    Bicknell said the idea for the trip came last December. “Tony and I went to San Antonio, Texas, and we met with some of our wounded warriors, and that’s what got the ball rolling,” he said. “American Airlines was taking some of them to Orlando, Fla., and the next week another flight was taking some to Disneyland. American Airlines really deserves a lot of credit for this.”

     

    He, Campbell, Wilson and two of his dancers will be dropped off in Bahrain, an Arabic island microstate in the Persian Gulf ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family. 

     

    “We’ll be performing for the king of Bahrain and the ambassador,” Bicknell said. “Then we’re flying to the USS Eisenhower, an aircraft carrier, and we’ll do a two-hour show for 3,000 sailors, as well as some side shows.”

     

    Other entertainers in the group will put on a big show on the Vicksburg, a battleship.

     

    Cast of “Comedy Tonight,” Tony Orlando and the Miss Americas are scheduled to perform a show in Baghdad, Iraq, while Vandel-Snook will do a show for troops stationed north of  Baghdad.

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    “After this, we’ll meet in Kuwait and fly to Germany for a performance at Ramstein,” Bicknell said. “Then we come home to the United States.”

     

    Bicknell, who has appeared in more than 20 movies  with stars ranging from Vanna White to Ernest Borgnine, has written numerous songs, recorded a CD and appeared on stage numerous times, including performing as the kindly grandfather in the acclaimed Branson production “Celebrate America.” 

     

    He’ll be serving as emcee, singing and doing some comedy for the troops.

     

    “I think we’ll dazzle them,” Bicknell said.

     

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