Pop culture gives Lake of the Ozarks a bad wrap.
Take popular Netflix series Ozark, where a money-laundering Chicagoan Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) and his family feud tawdry, drug-hungry backwoods families in the namesake lake town. In Kansas City-bred Gillian Flynn’s bestselling thriller novel-turned-film Gone Girl, a chunk of the plotline takes place in Lake of the Ozarks and gives the audience the vibe that the lakeside Missourians are lousy scruffs who just want your money.
Seattleite journalist Mike Seely took observations into his own hands. The writer set off to Lake of the Ozarks to find out what this place is really about, and documented his experience.
In his New York Times travel feature, Seely describes the resort he stayed at, Alhonna, as “frozen in popcorn-ceilinged time,” the place also coincidentally holding a Great Dane convention the weekend he was there. According to Seely, the Alhonna Resort is where Ozark screenwriter Bill Dubuque got inspiration for the show’s slovenly lodge, The Blue Cat, that Byrde buys to rehab.
Seely’s conviction of the Ozarks is positive: He explored on-the-water “upscale, beach-club vibe” bars like Shady Gators and booked a sightseeing helicopter to explore Lake of the Ozarks and Ha Ha Tonka state parks, concluding that “the contrast between the lake’s hyper-developed east side and lush, green west side is striking.”
The only real “experience” Seely had was at dive bar Hurricane Dolly’s, where he says “the Langmores (the scruffier of the show’s two local crime families [in Ozark])” would frequent.
Times are changing, and the Ozarks are with it. A new Jimmy Buffet-style Margaritaville resort, previously rundown Tan-Tar-A, recently opened in Osage Beach, drawing in families with an arcade, indoor water park and mini golf course. Our editor-in-chief even took his four-year-old daughter there, and said she “has since been asking to return for more breakfast buffet waffles and skeeball.” Look for that story in our upcoming September issue.