The Original Mickey Mouse Club Show
The following is also taken from a part of Chapter 5 in Eileen’s book, and specifically addresses the 1980 Mouseketeer 25-Year Reunion.
The Mickey Mouse Club was a club in more ways than one. Throughout its three-year existence, the majority of the 39 Mouseketeers basically served as a support group for The Nine most popular. The terms Red Team, Blue Team, and White Team, were never mentioned in the show, yet it was fairly clear to an observant viewer, that some Mouseketeers were in Roll Call and others were not.
It was equally obvious that some were seen more frequently than others. For me personally, it was an oversaturation of Darlene Gillespie that caused me to take an interest in the lesser-known Mice.
The prior section of Eileen’s book addressed her perceptions as a child. The 1980 segment shifts to an adult’s Point of View. Eileen’s experience was essentially the same as a 25-Year High School Reunion: a successful alumna attends, eager to share her experience and successes, only to find that things really haven’t changed. The “in crowd” is still the “in crowd” and no one really cares about her or anyone else.
As with a high school reunion, most of the attendees were there to see old friends. As in my own case, some realized they had already been through this, and either begged off or left early. Eileen does explain why Sherry now appears front and center at all the Mouseketeer events even though she was only featured, by my count, once in any of the Fun with Music numbers. It also explains why this is the one that D23 showed in its 60th Anniversary Show.
What I found interesting was how the Producers of the Reunion, knowing nothing about the original show, were actually interested in Eileen’s talent and ability. All of that ended when they were told that all Mice are not created equal, and reverted back to A, B and C groups.
That’s my two cents. Again, I suggest that anyone who really wants to know about the real story of the Mouseketeers should read this book. We don’t yet have a publication date, but please check availability at Theme Park Press.
From The Mouseketeer That Roared by Eileen Diamond
I received a call from one of the producers of the Mouseketeer 25th Anniversary Reunion show asking if I was still capable of performing. “Of course,” I said with great alacrity.
“All right, now I’ve got to get back into shape! Loose twenty pounds and really dig in at my Dancersize class.” I wanted to look beautiful and strut my stuff.
The letters were arriving almost daily from Disney Studios: Be here at such and such a date. Please come with pictures. What size shoes do you wear? Please send resume and recent photo.
I hadn’t taken my measurements in years. I used to be a perfect… well, who cares? I’m not anymore!! On the other hand, now I’m just perfect. Wish I could believe that.
All of a sudden, I took it into my head that I should go to see the producers of the show by myself and see if I could be of any help. I write. I produce, and I have so much to give, off stage as well as on.
So off I went with very high expectations to knock them dead with my wit and talent and beauty. (I very seldom say that). Well, I thought I had succeeded. They were impressed and said perhaps I might be one of the lucky nine out of thirty-six who would be the key group around which the whole show would be centered. I went out of there flying high because I thought finally after all these years my talents showed through. I wouldn’t be pushed in the back and finally make the Roll Call. My dream was shattered when I was finally called back. “We’re sorry, but we want to go with the originals… the ones who were on the show for three years.”
The big day was approaching. Nine of the other kids had been in rehearsals for two weeks already. I was lucky enough to get two days of work out of it. Judy Harriet was with me. We were known as the “B” group. There were twelve of us, and then there was a “C” group, which consisted of ten more. They only worked for one day.
Judy and I went in a week early to take pictures and see the “A” group rehearsing. They looked like an old chorus line. It was all about Disney, as in hindsight, it should have been. But the lines between Disney and the Mouseketeers blurred, and we thought that it was about us.
What I learned that day was that my whole life was not as a Disney Mouseketeer.
Most of my fears had subsided after my picture call visit the week before. Time Magazine interviewed us as equals. The reporter talked with me for a longtime. He asked me why we still referred to each other as “kids?” I thought it was a wonderful question.
When the article finally came out there was no mention of me, just the key nine kids with their picture next to an old one that I was in. My name was not in it.
People Magazine came out with an article and picture a few weeks later. At least Judy and I made that one. They put the key group in front again. Now, to my surprise, I was the tallest girl.
There was a strike threatened by the Screen Actors Guild. We all knew it, but the producers paid no mind and kept the shooting schedule the same. The SAG strike stepped in and rehearsals stopped. Nothing was filmed and we were all waiting to hear when we could begin again.
We were not allowed to shoot on the Disney lot because of the SAG strike. We were asked to put on our shirts with our names on them. Twenty-five of us showed up.
Off we went on a hot day in a hot bus to a hot photography studio in the middle of a hot summer. Then there was Cubby, who never showed up even though we all waited for him for three sweltering hours. He was stuck somewhere on the road between Las Vegas and LA, where he had just completed playing a show.
The head of publicity for Disney, Arlene Ludwig, said, “OK” for the first shot:
“Let’s have all the originals and the key nine kids stand in front.”
The photographer arranged all twenty according to importance, with Annette up front and in the middle.
Cheryl got into the first picture even though she wasn’t one of the Nine. Sherry got in the picture because she was to be in the key group replacing Doreen. The upper echelon at Disney decided to remove Doreen from the key group because she did a nude layout for a magazine. (That’s not very Disney-like). She was awfully sweet when I talked with her. We used to take dancing together in Hollywood at the Rainbow Studios.
Doreen came to the studio with her seventeen-year-old son. The last time I remembered working with her she wasn’t even seventeen herself.
Well I finally made it into the picture. The last shot, so to speak, I was way in the back.
People Magazine, August 11, 1980. I am in the last row, on right
We were all part of making television history. Each and every one of us stood out in our own way and with our own particular talents.
Did it teach me a lesson? Many. I wouldn’t have changed my experiences for anything, key group or not. The “Nine” were talented yes, but the rest of us were talented, too, if not as popular.