In the Battle for Power on HBO’s ‘Ren Faire,’ I’m Rooting for This Overlooked Player

It's time to name a successor

Three characters, including King George in a collage from HBO's Ren Faire.
Courtesy of HBO

If you haven't watched the first episode of the three-part HBO docuseries, Ren Faire, please stop what you're doing and do so immediately. (Episode two airs this Sunday, June 9, and I'm waiting with baited breath.)

The first installment lays out a pretty classic story, one of two parties vying for power as the sun sets on the king's reign. In this case, the king is 86-year-old George Coulam (aka King George), the man who created and runs the Texas Renaissance Festival, the largest "faire" in the word. (For reference, the 55-acre Festival draws in over 500,000 attendees and houses 400 vendors and 21 stages.) Like an Elizabethan Walt Disney, Coulam not only built a fantasy land for all ages, but engineered it into an actual town. It's a living, breathing entity in which many employees live and base their lives, and King George, hopped up on Viagra and Cialis, is too horny to continue operating as is. (Yes, this is a documentary, not a mockumentary.) It's time to name a successor.

So yeah, the heirs apparent include Jeff Baldwin, the actor-turned-General Manager who's been at the Festival for more than 40 years. His roots, however, are deeply planted in the theater—he still hopes to play Lear one day!—so concerns over his running a multi-million dollar business are valid. In fact, King George expressed great disdain over Baldwin anointing his own wife, Brandi Baldwin, to the entertainment director position, citing reckless nepotism. In fact, the king is expecting the GM to replace her.

The other contender is sugar-free Red-Bull-chugging Louie Migliaccio, aka Lord of the Corn. He's the maverick kettle corn magnate of the faire, who wants to buy the Festival (with the help of his family's deep pockets) so he can bring his visionary Renaissance EDM parties to the people. Typical.

Who am I rooting for, you ask?

Even in this stranger-than-fiction story, there's a very familiar narrative: the bozos in the c-suite overshadowing one very capable woman. King George, how dare you chalk Brandi Baldwin's entertainment director promotion up to nepotism. First of all, IT'S A RENAISSANCE FAIR. If we're being historically accurate, nepotism is totally A-OK. And even if it wasn't (I'm sure there's a strong Queen Elizabeth/Mary Queen of Scots argument against family promotions somewhere in here), in this case, isn't nepotism a welcome thing? This isn't Enron. It's an off-color Disney World where adults cosplay as Olde English drunkards to watch jousting tournaments and don flower crowns. Isn't the best kind of employee the one who came of age, fell in love and married within the same fantasy world in which she works to create? I say yes!

And that's not the only reason I'm rooting for Brandi. She is actually qualified. She has the field experience, having worked there forever. And, unlike her husband, the former head of entertainment, Brandi has a theater degree. So while she stokes her husband's ego about his 15 years of Comedy Sportz while he can barely eek out "Heart and Soul" on the piano, I'm rooting for my gal, Brandi.

Brandi, I see you. I respect you. And no one in their right mind—not even the King of the Texas Renaissance Festival—would think it's productive to stake out a German Ren fest from opening to midnight for research's sake. It's simply cuckoo and inefficient. Here's hoping, Brandi, you went back to your hotel and recouped with some Big Bang Theory, as any entertainment director worth their salt deserves.

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Executive Editor, Frazzled Mom, Bravo-Holic

Dara Katz is PureWow's Executive Editor, focusing on relationships, sex, horoscopes, travel and pets. Dara joined PureWow in 2016 and now dresses so much better. A lifestyle...