The Original Mickey Mouse Club Show
|Our own Roving Mouseka-reporter, Randall Nakashima, recently conducted a phone interview with original Mousekateer Ron Steiner. Speaking from his home in Winnepeg, Ron was most generous with his memories about the MMC and his personal photos from his time with the show.|
Preface: To the knowledgeable MMC fan, Ron Steiner is something of an enigma. Not Ron himself, who is as nice and straightforward a guy as you would want to meet. But why would the studio hire an excellent dancer, and not let him dance? This talent would lead to dissatisfaction, but would also lead him and his brothers to greater heights of popularity shortly after he left. This turned out somewhat fortuitous for the studio, in that they could bring him back as the first "Mouseke-Graduate" in an indirect explanation that some of the S1 Mice were gone, but they were doing fine. It was probably no coincidence that Ron was called back several months after he left, but that he and his brothers were on the first Talent Round Up of the Second Season.
There was already a guy named Roy, and your name could end in "-ie. Bobby, Lonnie."
(laughing) Ronnie was not my most popular name: I liked Ron.
What type of gig did your agent tell you this was? There was nothing like the MMC before.
To tell you the truth, I knew nothing about it. I didn't know what the Mouseketeers were. We just got this call from Disney, and we went, and we did our shtick, and I was the one picked. There were a couple of them that had been let go. I think one of them was Paul Peterson.
Where were you living at that time?
In Los Angeles. We were living in Sherman Oaks.
So now you're a Mouseketeer. You go the studio for your first day. What happens?
I can't specifically tell you. I didn't know what to expect. I had never been involved in something like that before, and I guess it was more an introductory day, if I can remember back that far.
Who did you meet?
Oh gee, I can't remember all the names. There was Cubby, Karen, Bobby, Sharon.. I can't remember her first name, but her last name was Sartori. I can't remember how many there were, but it was the original ones.
Do you remember any of the adults?
The adults? Well, of course, there was Jimmie Dodd and Roy Williams I think his name was. And I met Walt. and of course, the production people. Unfortunately, I can't remember their names. That was about it for the first day. I don't remember what we did.
Did you meet the Choreographer?
I probably did. I don't remember the name. I think there was a gentleman and a lady, but I honestly don't remember.
When did you start working on the show?
In the first couple of days, I remember they broke us up into teams and I think I was on the Blue Team.
Which of the Mouseketeers were you teamed with?
I don't remember being physically teamed with anybody, because really, even during the year I was with them, I really wasn't utilized that much. You know what I'm saying?
I know exactly what you're saying.
Some of them were paired together on the one main team, but I worked with all of them at one point or another. I still keep in touch with a few of them. Tommy Cole for sure. Annette and I were very good friends. That was a sad thing about Annette, she was a beautiful person, that girl. Sharon Baird, Lonnie Burr, Bobby Burgess, Cubby O'Brien. That's about the only ones I was in touch with for quite a while. I still keep in touch with Tom every year.
Do you remember car-pooling to the studio?
I didn't carpool. My mom would drive me and my brothers. At times, we would drive with Tommy to Disneyland.
Did you ever get a chance to dance with Sharon?
I don't remember doing that, actually. We did skits together. As far as doing a dance routine with a partner, I don't remember doing that. I was underutilized, actually.
I have to agree with you Ron, and the Webmaster agrees with me. If you could ever describe a Mouseketeer as underused, it would be Ron Steiner.
I'll tell you honestly, that was one of the reasons I didn't renew my second-year contract, but the main reason was because it had broken up my brothers' act, and I had a hard time dealing with that. When I didn't renew that contract, three or four weeks later my brothers and I were right in Vegas at the Sands Hotel. I had a great career! I really had a great career!
The thing that stays with me the most is when Walt opened Disneyland, because I was one of the ones who were there, and unfortunately, I couldn't get down for the 60th because I was ill that time.
Did they ever call you and say "we would like you to renew your contract?"
We did have a short conversation, but I was the one who did not want to renew it. I wanted to get back with my brothers, in our act. Because I had a lot of guilt from breaking up our team. And that is when our career really started taking off, so it was fortunate. And we worked for over fifty years, traveled the world, worked with every star in the business. it was fantastic, I have no regrets. And I loved the guys I worked with in the Mouseketeers, they were great!
As a kid, who did you work with? Who did you hang around with the most?
Tom Cole for sure, Sharon, Lonnie, Cubby, Karen, Bobby Burgess. that was really the group I hung around with. We got along really great. And Annette, of course.
Bonni Kern, Mary Sartori?
Bonni Kern was great, but I can't really say I hung around her that much. Then of course, there was Darlene and Doreen Tracey. Doreen and I got along real well because my brothers and I used to rehearse in her dad's studio. I can't really say I hung around with any of them, except you know, Tommy and Sharon. They were very close and we were good friends. And of course, Annette.
Okay. On your first day, did Darlene come up to you and say, "Oh, thank goodness we've got another Canadian here?!
I don't remember that (laughing)! Honestly, I did not know that Darlene was Canadian until years later. We had Darlene perform with us once in Vegas, and that's the first I knew that she was Canadian. We got to know each other and it was just in conversation one day. It wasn't any big thing.
Oh yes, I was! Because I thought all the kids were American!
Do you recall doing any dances with the Mouseketeers? Because truthfully, I can't remember one except the waiters' dance.
I don't remember doing any dance numbers with them at all because that was basically. I think they called it the Red Team where they paired people up and they did dance numbers. I did skits with them, but as far as dance numbers, I can't remember doing any with any of them.
Were there any Mousekegirls you liked? Everyone was after Karen!
(Laughing) That's not fair!! Everyone liked Karen and of course, everyone loved Annette. There was another one, Cheryl Holdridge. She came after I left. I met her at a swim party, I think it was at Roy's house. She hung around me a lot.
And there was another one, she had a dance studio. I can't remember her name offhand. And to be truthful, I didn't have time for that, my brothers and I were on the road constantly. She was one of the later ones too. I'm a very shy person. I worked between my two brothers, I always had my brothers on either side of me, I had a hard time on my own. I'm not like that anymore!
I think in a way, because of the group they had me in, I didn't do much. I was kind of disappointed in that, you know, because I liked the kids and I liked to do the stuff with them, but I never got the opportunity. I was in the group things-you know. That's about it... Once I left, you know, we were called back to do the Talent Round Up show.
Now, I'd love to know how that happened!
What happened was that after I left, our careers just took off. We were working in Vegas, Reno, Tahoe, all over. And we had a very good name. Because I was with the Mouseketeers, they called us one day and asked if we would appear on the Talent Roundup... That was great! That was wonderful!
So, you got to see your old friends, your old studio?
Yeah!!! And that was how many years after I left, I don't remember exactly.
Were you ever assigned a Talent Round Up (cowboy) outfit?
I don't believe so. Those were for the kids that appeared on the Talent Round Up show.
Did Jimmie say anything, like we want to get all our old Mouseketeers back? Jimmie wrote a special song for the Mouseke-Graduates, do you remember that?
I do, I don't remember how that goes but I remember doing that. I was back also for three reunions other than the 60th.
Let's talk about that. Let's talk about the 25th, the one that was televised. The one in color!
At the 25th I had a cast on my leg. I had a bad water skiing accident! So, I really couldn't do much, but I went! Actually, I took my young son to that one!
Was there anybody that you were really anxious to see?
Actually, all of them! They were like family. To pick out one over the other, I can't, other than Tommy and the guys I kept in touch with. It was just good to see the gang again, you know? I had a great time!
Did you do any of the Weekend Shows at Disneyland? During the weekends, the Mouseketeers went to Disneyland to walk around in their Mouseketeer outfits, and they did two or three shows during the day.
Yes I did. And we also did the Disneyland Circus.
We'll talk about it. There's a picture of you and Jimmie in a Ringmaster's outfit.
I think Billie Beanblossom was there, too. Little blonde.
Little blonde. That's what I was about to say!
You notice blondes too, eh? My brothers and my mother worked in the Circus, too. They gave them costumes and whatever.
Any specific memories about Billie Beanblossom?
Ol' Billie, yes: she was a nice girl! We all got along, it was hard to think of anything that put anyone apart from everyone else. Each one had a talent, like Cubby was a phenomenal drummer and Karen, she was a lovely little girl, and of course Bobby Burgess danced and became popular with Lawrence Welk. I don't think that any of them knew, when I was a Mouseketeer, that my brothers and I were entertainers. Nothing mentioned, never brought up, just one of the gang. Tommy Cole and my brothers and myself went to Hollywood Professional School together.
Going back to weekend shows at Disneyland, do you remember what you did? Numbers?
I have to be honest with you, I cannot remember. I remember we did certain numbers, and I think we did some little dance numbers, but I honestly don't remember what we did.
Do you remember who you appeared with, like which group? I don't know if they had all 24 of you at the same time.
No, they didn't, but if I can remember that far back, they switched us around, but I don't remember who or what.
Did they pair you up, boy-girl and have you walk around the park?
Oh no, I can't remember that.
As far as the Disneyland shows, do you remember if you were with the Blue Team, the Red Team, or just who was there that day?
They were intermingled. We didn't do the full Red Team or the full Blue Team or whatever. There was just a group that was called in, and it would change from time to time.
Were there certain numbers everybody was expected to know so they could do them for the weekend shows?
For all the shows, it was the Mickey Mouse Club theme, "We Are the (Merry) Mouseketeers". If I remembered any of it, I'd sing it for you! There were about 3 or 4 routines that everyone was supposed to know for the Disneyland shows. Our stage was right by the entrance. We did our numbers then signed autographs for a while, but really we wanted to get out to the rides like everyone else!
Let's talk about the Mickey Mouse Club Circus again. What do you remember about that?
Well, we didn't do any of the Circus Acts, per se. Some of us rode in on elephants, my brother was in a chariot, my mother was in a Dopey costume, I think. The Mouseketeers, some of them were dressed like the acrobats or the trapeze people, but we were never on those things. Like we didn't perform in that respect, in the circus acts-not that I remember, anyway. And we went to school out there-had to report there every day.
At the studio, you mean?
No! Even at Disneyland, we had to go to school out there, too! But the best part was we got free rein of the park! We could ride any of the rides, whatever, and we were in our glory! I will never forget that!
Let's go back a little bit about the Circus. Do you remember being in the parade in a drum?
Not me! At least I don't believe I was in a drum! You're taking me way back and this old mind don't work that quick! I remember the parades, and we had a night parade and a day parade. I don't remember exactly what we did, that's sketchy
Did you remember that a couple of the Mouseketeers did-not exactly an aerial act-it's on a rope. It's called the web.
Yes! I don't remember who did that, I had the job of spinning the rope with the girl up top! But I don't remember who it was! They had us doing things like that, but it really wasn't aerial stuff at all. The girl was on top with her wrist in this loop thing, and we'd spin her around.
Was that a Mouseketeer, or from the circus?
From the circus.
Do you remember Bonni Kern and Sharon Baird going up on the rope, being spun around?
It's very possible, I can't say exactly who it was, I think that Sharon was doing it. Bonni probably did it too, but I'm not sure. I don't know how many of them did it, I remember I was on one of the ropes turning one of the girls. I think I had Sharon, I believe. Because she was small and I was small, you know? And Bonni was a big girl! I didn't mean that; she was tall!
I'm going to have to go through my pictures. It was a great time and a great group! It was like a family!
I remember Walt knew every one of our names! He never forgot a birthday. It was a big thing when it was your birthday. How do you forget something like that, you know? You gotta love that guy, Walt was a super, super gentleman.