24 – Disneyland 1980: What I Did That Summer

After a two more days of practice and observation Wally tells me, “Your costume is up in my room. Tomorrow I’ll do the first two shows, then you’re going on while I go to the track.” That night I sit in the balcony and watch Wally do the show and it occurs to me that this might be the last time I ever get to see this. From now on, if I’m at the Horseshoe it’s because Wally isn’t.

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In my beautiful blue custom made period suit I race through the park and through the stage door of the Golden Horseshoe. Fulton Burley greets me with a paper clip. “Do you know what this is?” I guess paper clip. Fulton unbends the paper clip, “Do you know what it is now?” I admit I don’t. “Bionic Woman’s pubic hair.”

My first show starts as I listen backstage. The Girls step offstage after their opening number and wish me luck. In the carpet bag I check my props; strange to see the gags from my Magic Mountain pitch bag in there.

The comic traditionally enters through the back of the house so I grab my bag and hat and stroll outside and around through Frontierland. Suddenly I’m back in Spillikin Corners, the town rascal-up-to-no-good… but I’m not at Magic Mountain. I’m in Heaven.

In through the saloon doors and I take my place at the back end of the bar, where Wally always waits to make his entrance. You can tell the regular Horseshoe fans, they’ll turn and look at this spot before the comic’s entrance to see who’s doing the show that day. Today when they look there’s Wally Boag in his street clothes standing next to me. Wally wishes me luck and I’m on.

When I finally get up onstage with Fulton we wind up face-to-face and he nearly busts up because I have an unfolded paper clip sticking out of my mouth. When the show is over Stage Tech Bobby Davis says, “That was the best first show I’ve ever seen”. And I know Wally liked it because he left for the track.

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Nowadays Disney Anniversaries seem to come at us with terrifying regularity, accompanied by prize giveaways, commemorative merchandise and grand architectural make-overs. But in 1980 Disneyland’s 25th Birthday was a unique and heartfelt event.

There was a limited amount of merchandising. There were t-shirts and hats to be sure, but the real collectibles were produced in truly limited quantities, as if management was afraid that no one would notice or care. This meant that on the day of the actual anniversary, there weren’t any collectibles left.

For two nights, Disneyland held an exclusive open house for employees and their families, but with an incredible twist: every show and attraction was open for the Guests to peek around backstage. There were tram tours of the support areas, walking tours of the Haunted Mansion, the chance to stand inside Space Mountain with the ride running with the lights on… free food and entertainment and the Golden Horseshoe was open to the back wall with Wally Boag in costume at center stage.

There was one special hard ticket public event, though. For the first time in its history, Disneyland would remain open overnight for a 25-hour Party (actually the park stayed open for 40 hours: from 9 am, July 16th to 1 am, July 18th).

On the night of July 16th I do my 5 shows at the Horseshoe, change out of my costume and head to Main Street for the countdown to the start of Disneyland’s 25th Birthday Party. The street is nicely filled, most people sitting on the ground with friends and relatives. At midnight there’s a pre-recorded announcement and fireworks and the crowd heads off in all directions to enjoy the park.

The secret to enjoying a visit to a theme park, for me at least, is who you go with. On this night the Park is nicely filled with People Who Love Disneyland and who wouldn’t think of missing the party. Everywhere we go – in every line, at every table, on every ride – my girlfriend and I meet and bond with people like ourselves and share the most glorious times. We wind up at the Riverbelle Terrace sharing breakfast as the sun comes up over Tom Sawyer Island; I recommend it.


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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1 Response to 24 – Disneyland 1980: What I Did That Summer

  1. Ken Stigen says:

    Thanks for sharing your memories Ron!! Great stories. I always enjoyed the shows at The Golden Horseshoe Revue. I remember being in the lower balcony with my wife in 1976 just after we were married. Wally spitting the “teeth” around us 🙂

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