So I’m back at the Mountain and it’s business as usual. I might have taken the Disney rejection a lot harder, but for the wonderful situation I was in at Spillikin Corners.
The character of Prof. Spillikin would not have fit at Disneyland, folks. I was greedy, dishonest, irascible and had absolutely no affection for kids… just like my inspiration, W.C. Fields. And, just like Fields, these were the exact qualities that made the Professor such a hit with the public. What can I tell you? Folks love a rebel.
People love an original thought. They love to be surprised. And they particularly enjoy it when they are dealt with honestly. By emphasizing my character’s more unpleasant traits I had made him a hero to many (including Tigger and the head of Disney Talent Booking, apparently). The truly remarkable thing was the way kids reacted. They seemed to sense my contempt and enjoyed playing along with it.
I knew I would never find that in a Disney Park, so I decided to count my blessings and be happy where I was.
A few weeks later I’m making up some balloon animals after a show. I had developed a true-to-character approach that catered to the kids while adding an element of self-parody that the parents found amusing. I hand one kid a balloon puppy and smile, “There you go, kid. I think you know what you can do with that.”
The kid’s Mother comes over and says, “My husband works for MCA and he’d like to talk to you about a project. How can he get in touch with you?” After some convincing I decide to give her my right name and number, and I think nothing more about it.
Now all this time I had been living next to LACC near Downtown Los Angeles and had a looong commute each morning to Magic Mountain. Then there was another looong commute to Poppy’s Star in Encino and then the late night haul back over the hill to L.A. Since my destiny was obviously tied to the Mountain I decided it was time to move there.
So on Tuesday morning I was all set to go apartment hunting around Newhall when I was stopped by a phone call from Stuart Adelson, a lawyer for MCA Universal. He explained that the ‘husband’ who had caught my act in Spillikin Corners was in fact Jay Stein, the President of MCA Attractions and the boss of Universal City Studios. Mr Stein wanted to meet with me to discuss my participation in an upcoming project and would I be available to meet with Stuart the following Monday in his trailer/office at Universal? I said sure.
I was moderately excited and very intrigued. Looking back on the incident with Mr. Stein’s wife I half expected to be called to task for practically telling his kid to take the little balloon puppy and shove it. On the other hand that could hardly be considered an ‘upcoming project’…
The phone rang again. It was now 10:30 am on April 15th, 1980. I picked it up and this is what I heard:
“Ron, this is Mike Davis at Disneyland Talent Booking. We’d like you to come to the Park tomorrow and start training for the comic’s role in the Golden Horseshoe Revue.”