Thursday, July 03, 2008

Disney Dreams

I can still hear the words and melody as if it happened only yesterday…

Thank you Mickey,
Thank you Donald,
Let’s all give a cheer,
The whole world wants to thank you,
For thirty happy years…

It was 1985, the thirtieth anniversary year for Disneyland and I was working at the Magic Kingdom in an area known as Main Street Foods. That means I bounced between Town Square Café, where I usually worked and sometimes did my shift at Carnation Ice Cream Parlor where all the cool and hip people worked. I was a busboy, which meant clearing the tables, making sure there was enough ice, replacing the syrup cylinders for the soda fountain, washing dishes, removing the trash and then every Sunday, there was a thing known as Sunday Night Close. That was when everything got cleaned until it sparkled. All the brass was polished, all the ice melted, all the stainless steel wiped down with a protective coating of oil until there was not so much a fingerprint in the place. Town Square Café is located near the entrance of the park, and is the first restaurant you pass on the way in. It is a breakfast and lunch place, serving lots of omelets and eggs, which the young children feel they should use as finger paints all over the tables and chairs and walls and floors while their parents look and snap pictures of their cute offspring.

Carnation Ice Cream Parlor was even worse. Chocolate, caramel, strawberry sauce, butterscotch and melted ice cream all over the place. Just looking at the place made you feel sticky and gooey and in want of a shower. But it was a cool place to work. Lunches were usually spent behind Coke Corner in the unused boats for the Jungle Cruise or behind Town Square Café where the characters would rest in between parades. It was common to see Mickey or Minnie without their heads on (always a girl underneath those costumes, or a little person in orange tights you knew was Donald. I had major character envy. Of course I had heard the stories about Chip and Dale getting mugged or one of the Three Little Pigs being chased around the park, but I was desperate to be a character. I was even more desperate to be in the parade.

All of the parades go from Small World, in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and down Main Street passing Carnation Ice Cream Parlor and Town Square Café. Each time they would pass, I would sneer and give dirty looks under my "Disney Attitude" exterior. All anyone saw was a smiling, happy me. Inside I was fuming. I was so jealous I invented a new shade of green. By the end of the first week, I knew all the words, all the steps, all the hand motions. All I was missing was a costume and float! And then one day there was a posting for parade and character auditions. That was it. I knew it was going to be my big break. I could feel it in my bones. This was going to be my first step on the road to Broadway! I would ride that float all the way to New York.

I went to the audition which was located in one of the backstage areas behind Bear Country. As we walked in, we all gave each other dirty looks. It was very “A Chorus Line” but with Disney attitude. We were all taught a little dance number that would take us from one end of the rehearsal hall to the other and given a few minutes to rehearse and make it our own before performing it in pairs for the judges. When my turn came up, I gave it my best Disney smile and off I went. By the time I reached the end of the routine, we would each find ourselves in front of a judge who would point us in a certain direction. Mine pointed me to the left, and after that all us lefties were asked to leave.

The dreams I dreamed were crushed by a little mouse named Mickey at what is supposed to be the “Happiest Place on Earth”.

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