22 – Training for the Shoe

The first thing I do after I hang up the phone is shave off the beard.

Next morning I’m in the audience at the Golden Horseshoe Revue. After the show, the house clears and cast members start preparing for the next audience. The Show Tech comes out to sweep up Wally’s ‘teeth’, the service staff bus tables and straighten chairs and Wally Boag steps through the curtain to shake my hand and invite me backstage.

Behind the scenes I’m surprised to find it’s deserted. No dancing girls, no other actors, no one at all. I was to learn quickly that the cast has dressing rooms near the theater and when a show is over they are outta there!

True to form, Wally shoots straight through the building into a backstage area then out across Adventureland and through the Jungle Cruise exit. I just manage to keep up as he takes a hard left toward the end of the dock and steps straight off into the water. Only then do I notice the row of volcanic rocks that line the shore behind the Tahitian Terrace stage and lead into a narrow cave.

The cave leaves us behind Main Street by the kitchen for the Plaza Pavilion. Up a flight of stairs are some small offices and Wally’s Apartment, a two room affair with an office, an upright piano and a media room with a day bed and a walk-in closet. It sounds more impressive than it is; everything backstage is in great shape but has obviously been there for decades.

The next few days are a loosely-organized whirlwind of hanging around backstage, watching the show, practicing Pecos Bill and getting oriented. I have a fitting for my costume with the legendary Disneyland costumer Jack Muhs. I need a cowboy hat for the Pecos bit, so the show’s costumer Bernice digs up a ten gallon white affair that goes great with my size and personality.

Sitting backstage during the show is wonderful. The show runs like clockwork, everyone totally focused but still so sweet to the new kid. I learn in time that this is a remnant of the way the whole park was once… in the Days of Walt.

The Golden Horseshoe Girls have their dressing room directly behind the back drop onstage because they wear three different costumes over the course of the 28 minute show. Betty Taylor (Slew Foot Sue) also changes back there for her three outfits, though her dressing room is behind the theater on the second floor of Adventureland, next to Fulton Burley’s.

Onstage Fulton Burley is a high-energy, extremely friendly flirt who is constantly up for a joke or a song. Offstage, on the other hand – he’s exactly the same. Vince Rossi is the piano player and leader of the house band, Dale Olsen plays trumpet & trombone and young Steve Sharpie is on drums and sound effects. Steve never takes his eye off the comic onstage so he can punctuate every move and moment with an appropriate effect; I often break up onstage at the stuff he adds.

Bernice is Mother Hen to the Golden Horseshoe Girls, managing their dressing room and wardrobe. Stage Tech Bobby Davis is a sweet little old man who looks exactly like Jiminy Cricket; he runs lights, sound and props. I found out early on that he was a bit of a wild man, but I had no idea until much later that he was a leather biker who collected nazi memorabilia!

For me, the most amazing moment comes that first day in his apartment when Wally asks, “What do you want to do?” Apparently it’s up to me what the first part of my act, the traveling salesman, will contain. It takes me no time to reply: I want to do a blend of the best bits from my pitch with some of the classic lines of Wally’s; it’s important to me to carry on the traditions of the show.

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Saturday comes and the clean shaven Prof. Spillikin returns to Magic Mountain. Everyone in the crafts village is thrilled for me and I give my notice to the Mountain. For the next two weeks I’ll be training weekdays at Disneyland and working weekends at Magic Mountain. And smiling almost constantly.

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About Ron Schneider

Creative Consultant, Lecturer, Freelance Writer, Director & Show Doctor, Actor and Voice-Over. Lifelong student of themed interactive entertainment.
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