Three for 60

by David Koenig, contributing writer

In addition to all the official sanctioned celebrations to mark Disneyland's Diamond Anniversary, there are also a few more not-quite-as-publicized happenings tied into the 60th.

1. Club 55'ers Reunite

There are about 15 surviving members of Club 55 (those who began working for Disneyland in 1955 and stayed with the company until at least 1970), and this week about 10 of them will be in Anaheim, attending various events and appearing at media-friendly photo ops.

This evening (July 15) at the Disneyland Hotel, former top dog of Operations, Dick Nunis, is hosting a dinner party for Club 55 members and their spouses. About 10 couples are expected to attend, including Al Alvarez, Harold Christopher, Ron Dominguez, Jack Lindquist, Tom Nabbe, Bob Penfield, Milo Rainey, Bill Sullivan, and Ray Van de Warker.

Tomorrow night, Dominguez has arranged for a special viewing area for the group to view the new Paint the Night parade and fireworks show.

On Friday July 17, the club will be doing a "castle moment" at 10 a.m., followed by a group luncheon and then participating in a pre-parade at 3 p.m. They'll all then get VIP seating to view the afternoon parade.

Keep your eyes open in the park. I suspect the Disneyland PR folks will be keeping this special group very busy with appearances and interviews all weekend.

Those not expected to attend any events, due to health or distance, include Ron Heminger, Bill Hoelscher, Frank Pfannensiel, George Short, and the last female member, Mary Carter.

2. Disneyana Shindig

Although the company will most heavily promote 60 years of Disneyland at its D23 expo next month, the upstart Disneyana Fan Club is holding its own convention during the park's actual anniversary, during which they'll honor several Club 55 members.

On Thursday July 16 at noon, the Legends Luncheon will toast Dick Nunis. On Saturday, July, 18 from 1:15 to 2:15, Bill Sullivan—who was inducted as a Disneyana Fan Club Legend in 2007—will take the stage for a retrospective of his career.

I'll also be delivering a presentation that morning on Yippie Day, complete with rare photos, undercover video, and special guests who were on the scene during one of the most notorious days in Disneyland history.

After the presentation and at the show all day Sunday, July 19, at the Wyndham Anaheim-Garden Grove (formerly the Crowne Plaza), I'll be signing copies of my books, including…

3. Even More Mouse Tales???

By astounding coincidence, July 17 is not only the 60th birthday of Disneyland and the 21st birthday of Mouse Tales (hey, my first book is old enough to drink!), but also the release date for my newest book, The People v. Disneyland: How Lawsuits & Lawyers Transformed the Magic.

The new book chronicles 60 years of tumbles, attraction mishaps, ticket scams, attacks by security guards and costumed characters, disability disputes, and employees who turned on their employer. Sometimes the allegations convinced Disney to change its operations, usually secretly. Other times, they stuck by their guns, convinced the claims were bogus.

Mouse Tales readers will get to meet flamboyant new characters and get to know a few favorites a little better, including the witness stand Winnie the Pooh, the fast-fingered Little Pig, and the guy who tried to ride Space Mountain standing up. Tried.

Based on exclusive interviews and nearly 1,300 lawsuits filed against the Mouse, The People v. Disneyland reveals how Walt's wonderland has been remade into a very different place.

The book is already shipping from and will hit local bookstores July 17.

The Cosgrove Affair

As expected, my article last week ("The Man Who Turned Club 33 Upside Down") on the lawsuit brought by longtime members Joe and Janet Cosgrove generated a firestorm of comments. The anti-Cosgrove pile-on received ample airplay on the discussion boards, but here are a couple of my favorite emails from the Pro-Joe contingent:

B. wrote:

Your article appears to be full of a bunch of lies and huge exaggerations from people that hate the Cosgroves and say this stuff out of pure speculation. There isn't a single shred of evidence to support any of the things mentioned in this article, just a bunch of hateful people hellbent on bullying an elderly couple, and this article only contributes to perpetuating the hatred towards them.

Because they're in the middle of a court case and can't defend themselves against these blatant lies, they have to sit back and watch writers like you paint them in such a way that generates even more hatred towards them (based on speculation and biased opinions).

How about this knowledge… Disney gave them no warnings because they never broke any rules. But why would they do this? I'll tell you… As your article states, the 2012 issue was the last straw, except Disney kept collecting their dues up until 2014 and allowed them to upgrade their membership from Gold to Platinum without any care in the world. If they broke the rules in 2012, why were they allowed two more years of club access?! It should be obvious to you that perhaps maybe Disney always wanted to shortchange the membership, charge more and give less, while they used an internal group of haters to blame the Cosgroves as a catch-all escape-goat to their policy changes. Trust me, nobody wants an old-timer around telling new members about all of the benefits they lost and yet pay more for.

It would seem this website has no interest in being fair and honest, but rather spreading hateful gossip that will no doubt put the safety of an elderly couple at risk.

D. wrote:

Read your article with interest. Very well written for taking one side of the situation. As a 30-member, I would actually say you got about half of the story right. The main part you left out was the lack of integrity lost by management. It is also interesting how you never use any quotes from actual members. Seems all is "hearsay." And why is that? Well, Disney's response to the complaint has always been "you don't have to renew." So maybe an article showing the other side would be in order.

When I pointed out to D. that the story tried to present all sides of the story (the Cosgroves' side, the anti-Cosgrove members' side, and Disney's side) and that it contained "quotes from five different ‘actual members.' All are anonymous for, I suspect, the same reason that your email is anonymous," D. responded:

Does the article mention Disney's position as to why you cannot refer to "member quotes" by name? Does your article mention that the benefits of upgrading to the Platinum level were being promised up to two weeks until they were taken away? Kind of sounds like bait and switch to me.

Here are the benefits for upgrading: they collected the money (three times the Gold annual dues), and then within two weeks they took the benefits away. Of course, they didn't return the money. Does your article explain that a few of the new members quit within the first year since they did not receive the benefits they were promised? Did you talk to anyone in management to get some insight as to why the major changes?

Did any of your "anonymous" contacts tell you that with the new changes, the club is nearly vacant on most days of the week? To the point that several cast members have taken second jobs? I go to the lounge several times a week. You would be surprised on how many times I am the only one there.

Sir, I am not a strong friend of the Cosgroves. But as a member, I cannot say if they violated the rules or not. There has never been any rule as to how many guests you can invite to the club. There is no rule that says these guests must be personal friends. If they were actually selling reservations then that would be a violation. How a dinner bill is paid is between the dinner party. All you have is a lot of hearsay from five members who don't like the Cosgroves. As a seasoned reporter, I would expect more from you.