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posted on 9/18/95)
I wanted to write this up for you all because I thought it was so special -- here's what the announcement flyer said about the event I attended today:
If you visited Disneyland (DL) in the days before Eisner, you probably remember the original Golden Horseshoe Revue which was performed nearly every day in Frontierland. This lively show, complete with a cast of frisky Can-Can dancers and honest to God real musicians, was the first exposure to live theater for many of us kids way back then. (Lord, I even remember falling in love with Betty - she was my first crush. I can truthfully say I was so inspired by the show, that I ended up in the record business because of it, but you don't want to read about that!) It was a wonderful DL tradition, made all that special by the limited seating the theater offered, and the fact that no matter how many times you saw the show, you still laughed, sang along, and heartily enjoyed it each and every time.
For me, and I'm sure anyone else who saw the original Revue (and also it's follow-up, the Jamboree edition), what was so amazing was the uniformly high quality. Every performance was fresh and fun, despite the thousands of times it had previously been done. Unlike other theme parks, (or even DL's current management's idea of what a show should be), a great deal of attention to the writing, very slick production values, and a top-notch cast were maintained from day one. Walt himself adored the show, and frequently when visiting the park, made a point of attending a performance. He'd sit in the box on the right as you face the stage, laughing and clapping along as if he'd never seen the show before. He would also take his many guests backstage to meet the performers. This show truly reflected what Walt considered a basic element of the original DL Park, and was one of his last touches to survive pretty much intact well into the new regime.
What always struck me as so incredible about the show was the attention paid to the audience by the performers. Cast members never failing to take a moment to say hello and tousle a head full of hair as they passed kids in the audience, or just smile and acknowledge people individually throughout a performance. (This fine tradition was even kept in the follow-up edition -- known as the Golden Horseshoe Jamboree. This version, so you know, featured the old Broadway show song Belly Up to the Bar and the famous audience participant sound effect drama, along with some incredible Seven Brides for Seven Brothers type of choreography.)
According to Wally Boag during this performance, the last time the cast performed the show we were about to see was about five years ago. And even though it was billed as "Highlights" of the show, basically all that was missing was two of the musicians and the Can-Can gals. (Two of which took a bow from the audience at the end of the performance.) Not performed at this reunion, but what I remembered from the past, were the old George Cohan song Harrigan and the Girl on the Cover of the Police Gazette production number, and Betty Taylor's famous reflected heart-shaped spotlight mirror search through the audience.
After getting there at 10 AM to get in line, I and the 200 other folks who arrived throughout the morning waited until 1:30 to buy our tickets and get let into the theater. While we were waiting, at about 10:30, both Betty and Wally and their spouses arrived, with Betty dragging an amazing amount of hat-boxes and props along, and Wally swooping by with his famous bagpipe-filled carpetbag right after her. Both of them were smiling back at all of us who were waiting in line because we were all just grinning from ear-to-ear in anticipation of this event.
The pianist (whose name I forgot -- my apologies -- and who was one of the original performers by the way) began with an overture that included the songs, "That's Entertainment," and "Harrigan." And then to a huge, absolutely deafening welcome, Fulton Burley, Irish tenor extraordinaire made his entrance. He was still dressed in the fringe jacket costume and elaborate vest he wore all those years, and started with all the old picture taking / camera jokes. He talked about July 15, 1995 when the park opened, and mentioned that he thought overall both editions of the show had done about 50,000 performances.
Fulton talked about having famous audience guests like Cary Grant, and Lucille Ball (with her Mother), but what he really remembered was all the Mothers and Fathers bringing kids. To which he added in a classic deadpan "If you don't like kids, you shouldn't work at Disneyland." Among the many old-time gags that followed in his monologue was also the joke about him not knowing what it was to sleep alone until he was married. My favorite was the one about his mother-in-law seeking revenge after she dies, so he buried her upside down, to make her dig her way out. He then introduced the lovely, and original, Slue Foot Sue, Betty Taylor
Betty Taylor then came out on stage dressed in an incredible fitted black dress with a feathered hat that only Mae West could even come close to matching. Needless to say, both I and the audience were amazed - time HAD stood still since she looked the same as she ever did. She started with the song I Love Everybody, performing it as freshly as ever, and afterwards during the thundering applause she very coyly said "I think we've met before." Then she introduced "a song as old as the west itself," Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey.
Pausing after the song, she said she "Needed a gentleman to help her... a man." Then she began what has to be her patented audience search for a "little boy." Finding a nice big bald one, (chosen for maximum comic relief of course) she then left her big lipstick kiss on his head. Bringing him up on stage she rolled-up his pants up to his knees. "What do little boys like, besides little girls?" she asked, "All-day suckers!" she said handing him a big Mickey Mouse lollipop. Then she put a little baby hat on him and sang You must have Been a Beautiful Baby. After handing volunteer Tim a bag, she sang Baby Face and invited the audience to singalong. Her final line in the song was "I'm not robbing the cradle, I'm just helping to give it a little rock." Betty finished her segment of the show by singing See your Mamma every night, treat her right. Or you can't see her at all.
Fulton then returned on-stage to sing Clancy Lowered the Boom and have the audience sing along with the "baum-baum-baum" part, after he sings Clancy Lowered the Boom. He filled it out with the classic "Three Irish women" and "Three Irish fellas" jokes, and my favorite the "Oh that's good, Oh that's bad, Oh that's good" joke.
Suddenly, no matter how many times you thought you had heard it before, Wally Boag made his entrance with a jolt through the audience with his gun firing off! The audience roared. Wally started with the old gag "What's going on behind that curtain" to which Fulton responded "Nothing!" "Well," Wally said "Something had to be going on back there since nothing was going on in front." Wally then told Fulton he looked like a million dollars, Fulton said he'd never seen a million dollars. To which Wally responded that's right, Fulton does look like something you've never seen before. Wally then talked about "the 2000 things he'd like to sell" and did his tongue twister Salesman ID gag. He told the old "My dad was an Indian fighter, my Mom was old Indian" gag. He asked Fulton to "Step over that line..." when he did he said "now you're on my side."
From his carpetbag he pulled out his famous deck of cards. He shuffled them, "Niagara falls." He shuffled them backwards, "Canadian side" he said. He dropped them so you could see they were all attached and said "Frozen." During the Toy Balloon part of the act he announced to the audience that famous Disney employee Bill Justice just got married yesterday. The other old gag about the two escaping rabbits, "Shall we try to out run them, or should we just out number them," was punchlined with "Keep going, we're brothers!" The little girl invited up to the stage for the balloon dog he was making was wearing a Pocahontas dress, to which Wally commented "Must be a DIZ-KNEE family." He then whipped out the Bagpipes and delivered the line: "Girl next door lived the life of a dog, so I called her rover." Kicking his legs just as high as he ever had on stage, he played Swanee River on the bagpipes. To the audience's great delight he did the "Boy it's hot in here today" removing the toupee gag,. To which he deadpanned, "Waiting for that weren't you?"
Fulton then came back out, along with Betty in her fringed buckskin outfit. They began to sing Pecos Bill and then Wally came back out in his chaps and his silly hat doing his silly gunbelt dance. He did the "Want to see the fastest draw in the west, wanna see it again?" gag. Then Fulton slapped him, and Wally did the amazing endless spitting teeth routine. His water guns then soaked the audience while he sang Stormy Weather. Betty stuck her hand out during a chorus of the song, and got her finger licked, while Wally tried to roll some tobacco, then lost his toupee again inside of his hat. Of course he yanked Betty's pigtail out of her wig and decided to wear it to everyone's great amusement.
Then as the Can-Can dancers' music came up, one of those special moments we look forward too came up in the show. Wally joked that since the show started forty years ago, the original girls must be getting different kicks these days. The trio then asked two of the later Can Can girls who were in the audience to stand up and take a bow. Fulton mentioned he did the show for 25 years, Wally volunteered he had done it for 27.6 years, and Betty topped them both with 31 years. (All to great audience applause.) Fulton then talked about where Walt's box, was on the right hand of the stage, and how people would call the GH when Walt would come in, to hold his box. Wally said "We've cried enough." And then they sang the finale to the Golden Horseshoe Show Hello Everybody, and they couldn't remember the lines. After all cracking up, Wally said just follow Betty since she had the 31. Before you knew it the standing ovation signaled the show was over, and then the three performers came out to say hello to everyone and sign autographs.
For 50 some odd minutes I had relived a wonderful part of my childhood, where magically everyone and everything looked and sounded the same as when I was ten years old at the Golden Horseshoe Revue again in the Magic Kindom of Disneyland. My heartfelt thanks for reliving these wonderful memories go out to Fulton, Betty and Wally. Apologies offered for rambling here everyone, but I thought you might find this as special as I did.
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