"The DiscoMouseCon Four"-- DM's 1, 5, 6, and 77!
From L to R: Joel Wright, Helen O'Boyle,
Mike Montgomery, and Melinda Hall
My day at "DiscoMouseCon East 1999"
By Joel D. "DM-One" WrightAfter a long night's sleep from work the previous Friday evening, I got up around 9:30 or 10:00, can't remember exactly, only that I had to be ready to leave at 12:45. I packed the vinyl part of my collection (both used Cast Albums, Mickey's 50th, and the Disco Mouse 45) into a cardboard mailer, with the still-sealed Cast Album strapped to the outside, ready to carry around and attract attention. Most of the rest of my Mousekaloot went into a day-backpack, the only notable item I left behind was the Lunchbox. I fixed the big 3 1/2" button to my blaze-orange callsign cap, and the 7/16" lapel pin to the collar of my shirt. I was READY. Helen O'Boyle was already waiting in line at the Contemporary Resort Convention Center by this time, but I would not run into her until after the Public Exhibition for the Disneyana Convention was over. This would be the first time I would get to explore at least two of the resorts on the Magic Kingdom's monorail loop, and I was stoked!
At this point, let me tell you that for me, the perfect start of a day at Disney World begins with breakfast early in the morning at IHOP (International House Of Pancakes), followed by listening to the Blackbyrds' "Walking In Rhythm" en route. I experienced this combination on one of my first trips to the Magic Kingdom, so it has a special place in my memories. Besides, the keyboard and flute in "Walking In Rhythm" reminds me a lot of the music from Disney World's live bands. Well, I didn't get either...
Brunch at the house before I left consisted of a small salad, needed to save room for the feast later on, dontcha know? The deal for getting me to D-World was as follows: Mom would drive me to the McDonald's at the east end on SR 524 in North Cocoa by 1 PM, where we would wait for my Uncle Tim after he got off his normal job surveying for Florida Power. After waiting half an hour he arrived in his green Ranger pickup, I switched vehicles, tucked the backpack between my calves with the mailer sliding in the space between my legs and the dashboard, and we were on our way. The only thing playing was ESPN Sports Radio, so no memorable music at all there. BTW, someone posted the extended version of "Walking In Rhythm" to Usenet that very weekend, so all I need now is a portable MP3 player with a car kit, and I'm all set for the next trip! ;-)
Once we were moving again, my uncle and I began comparing the Clubs. He remembered watching the original 50's MMC on his aunt's TV set when he was little. I told him about Disney Channel's 50's/90's shuffling during its history, and about our increasingly successful efforts to bring parity for the 70's Club. He mentioned that he worked the security for the Grad Nites a few months back, when Brittney Spears was one of the headliners, and commented on how limited her repertoire was -- the same tunes over and over again for each performance. I informed him about the Backstreet Boys' MMC connection (my household's loaded with BSB fans) -- all five of them auditioned to be on the show, only one was selected, but that one chose to stay with the rest, and the rest is history.
We had taken the BeeLine Expressway on our way over, and eventually we started hitting the toll plazas west of the 520 interchange. How exciting it was for me to watch my uncle's truck enter the E-Pass lane! For those not familiar with it, E-Pass is a means of getting through the plazas without stopping to drop change in the baskets or change/receipts with the collectors, which can be very handy if you're a frequent user of the Orlando area toll roads. Subscribers have a transponder about the general size and shape of a Snickers Bar attached to the front of their vehicles, usually to the lower bolts of the front license plate holder. When the vehicle passes through the designated lane, the transponder is scanned, and the toll is charged to the subscriber's account. Though one can avoid stopping and starting, that does not necessarily mean they shouldn't slow down -- the speed limit through an E-Pass lane is 25 MPH, and if it's exceeded, the transponder might not get scanned, and a picture is taken of the violator's license plate instead, with a citation coming in the mail. There were times when I didn't think Uncle Tim would decelerate quickly enough as we approached each plaza, but sure enough, the red changed to green each time.
We eventually entered Disney property via Epcot Drive. I turned to look at Spaceship Earth as we passed by Epcot, and let me tell you something...those Millenium celebration brochures and commercials don't do the party hat and "2000" logo on the side of that giant polyhedral sphere enough justice! We proceeded further in, and as we reached the aqueduct between Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake, Uncle Tim recalled that an alligator once dropped down from the aqueduct and had gotten into the underpass below, blocking traffic. So be warned that there's a good reason why both bodies of water are largely off limits to swimming save for cordoned, lifeguarded areas near each resort! Chomp!
We parked in the Contemporary Resort's lot reserved for security, and walked into the lobby. As my uncle had a little bit of time left before he had to clock in at 3, we started searching for where to buy admission to the Disneyana Convention. Up and down stairs and escalators, from one end of the A-frame edifice to the other, no dice. The desk clerks were of little help either. Eventually it was time for Uncle Tim to get to work, so we parted. I continued to wander towards where the action on the ground floor was taking place, then I was stopped from entering a certain place and finally given the directions I needed, towards the west end of the Convention Center Annex.
Since the convention was well underway, the lines for admission were light, so I forked over the ten-spot and had that flourescent green wristband affixed. I then saw a sign saying that guests were prohibited from selling -- on the ride over from the Space Coast I had fixed a little "NFS" tag to my Cast Album, and was thankful that I did have the foresight, as I ultimately was stopped by a guard later on. On the first floor in and around the annex, there was an "outdoor" bazaar with limited edition pins, buttons and banners, in a couple of meeting rooms inside there were artists ready to autograph their wares -- no NMMC stuff there.
The line didn't start until I took the escalator to the 2nd floor, where the vendor area was located in the main building's meeting rooms. It was in that line where the still-sealed Cast Album I was carrying began to attract attention. First from the people behind me, who commented on how rare an item it was, then from one of the Disney Character mascots "working" the queue -- a mandrill from "The Lion King" (never seen it yet, so I don't know exactly which character), who, after I showed off the album, tried to take it from me, and a little tug of war ensued! GIT YO' PAWS OFF MY PRIDE AND JOY, YA PURLOINING PRIMATE!!!
The line ended, but the crowds began as I entered the vendor area. As a veteran of the Orlando Hamcation and Computer Shows (Central Florida's largest ham radio convention) from over the past decade, I could see this was no different -- hurry up and wait, as I floated from booth and alcove to booth and alcove. Whilst leafing through a huge binder full of kitchen magnets, I found one with the 70's logo and bought it on the spot for $1.50. That was about the only NMMC item I could find, though -- the only other item was the toy drum, displayed in plain sight in the back of a booth. As I got closer, sticker shock set in: seventy-five dollars! :-o
The vendor area was confined to one large meeting room that encompassed the southwestern quarter of the main building. The northwestern quarter contained another artist autographing area, so it was time to head for the 4th floor Concourse, where the remainder of exhibits were displayed. I was astounded at how cavernous the A-frame interior was, the view from passing through on the express monorail on earlier visits just wasn't the same! I went from end to end and back again, one shop was closed off because of the exhibits, but the rest were open to some degree. When I entered one, there was a limited edition monorail train set on display right at the entrance, with a WDW Railroad set beneath it. While in the shop, I found the "headclip" Mouse Ears after all, . . . Minnie Ears with a bow in the middle, and Mickey Ears trimmed with flashing lights. This last item cost over $9.00 so I passed on completing my "special look" as I had discussed in earlier chats.
You know, hard as I looked, I could never find that five-legged goat in those giant murals around the elevator shafts...
Time to go up on "Top O' The World", as I took the elevator to the 15th floor and the California Grill Lounge. The restaurant was just getting ready to open, but they were already serving drinks. I passed on the offer, as I sat down and pulled the backpack off my shoulders (what a relief!) to enjoy the view of the Seven Seas Lagoon, and watched the monorail trains make their circuit, as well as an excursion launch navigating the aqueduct. I even saw the Security boat with its lights flashing! I then gathered my belongings and stepped outside onto the observation deck on the north side of the lounge -- only one set of pay macrobinoculars was mounted on the railing, but I wasn't buying, I could see well enough without them.
It was getting late, so it was time for a final run through the vendor area. The crowds were considerably less, but still sufficient to prevent a quick pace from row to row. There was a collection of publicity stills that I couldn't get at earlier, but was now within easy reach. No NMMC, I was sorry to say, but I found plenty from both "Witch Mountain" movies, and I began debating on if I could afford a couple. I moved on, then ran into another vendor who spotted the Cast Album and began commenting on the show -- negatively at times, but I couldn't get a rebuke in edgewise before he changed the subject. He handed me a trade paper that he claimed advertised NMMC stuff frequently, and I moved on. I made up my mind about the stills, returned to them and bought two from "Return From Witch Mountain". Next year, I'm bringing more money to buy the rest of Kim Richards' stills!
'Twas a quarter 'til six, so it was goodbye Disneyana, hello DiscoMice! I made my way to the monorail station, where once again, the Cast Album worked its magic on the attendants, and on my fellow passengers. How I enjoyed pointing out the Mice -- "Yes, she was on Facts of Life, but so was this one during its first season...Did you know that this was Corey Feldman's older sister?...This one became Miss California USA, and Fourth Runner-Up in the 1986 Miss USA Pageant,...No, he looks like Greg Brady but he isn't, this other one did however guest star on 'The Brady Bunch'."
The last time I recall riding the "beam", the passenger cars still had the brown leatherlike interior with opposite benches close together. This time, the benches were spread further apart to make floor space for strollers, and vertical poles with crossbars for standing passengers to hold on to, with "sterile" blue and white colors. I am sorry to say that this arrangement makes the interior look more like that of a subway or "el" train, and therefore part of the monorail's magic has been lost. I disembarked at the Polynesian and begun some more exploring. I didn't go far when I found some toy spears from "Tarzan" for sale, but the price was once again a little too much for my limited budget, so that throws out the "Big Kahuna" shot I was planning on taking.
I made my way back to the lounge area at the entrance to '0hana, and was pacing the walkway, when a voice behind me called out, "Hey Mouse Fan!" I turned around, and there was Helen! We tried to find a prominent place in the area to set down and "advertise" our gathering. After a futile effort to prop up the Cast Album on the little table, I gave up and proceeded to unload the backpack. First I showed her the pin on my collar, which I had outbid her for at an eBay auction (my promise to let her know about the next one that comes on the block is still good), then this year's "70's Week" masters and the Magic 9 loaner. More Mousekastuff came pouring out: the Funbook...The Ghost Town Adventure...The Mouseketeers' Train Ride...The Animal Guessing Game...the charm...the postcard with the special contest promo on the back...Jay Barron's limited-edition Cast Album CD with the bonus tracks(how we longed for a boombox to play it on!)...both my original TV Guide "unstapling" and the more recently purchased complete back issue...the Orlando Sentinel's article. If I could've found the original Disney World ad for the Mice's '77 visit, I would have brought that too, but its still missing. I also opened up the mailer and showed her the vinyl.
Now it was time to dig deeper into the Purple File (ask any "Babylon 5" fanatic what that means). I pulled out the '92 reunion photo and set it on top. I yanked out photocopies of the articles and references I accumulated. It was about this time that Mike Montgomery showed up, having recognized all the goodies, and the reunion photo in particular! He proceeded to take a seat and dug around what was already piling up on the table. When he pulled out "Train Ride" we told Helen that's how we met up on the 'Net, my having outbid him for it on eBay. I unfolded the Cast Album poster, and as I did so, a full-page blowup of Mindy's Academy Player's Directory headshot was waiting -- Now how did that get in there, I wonder? ;-) I pointed out to Helen all the jewelry the Mice were wearing in the poster. Next was the Jan. '77 issue of Disney Magazine, where it technically all began for me, and for which we would not be meeting there and now if Mindy wasn't in it. Last but not least, I pulled out a red binder out of the pack -- the binder James sent me containing the Episode Guide, and when I did that, Helen pulled out her own notes! As we began comparing them, Melinda Hall then approached our table and introduced herself -- at this point, the three original planners of this little get-together were all present and accounted for! Now where were all the rest who emailed their intent to sign on?
All this while we chatted, but I could hardly hear Melinda's side of the conversation as there was a live entertainer in the lounge area who was performing close behind us. I kept checking my watch as I was both getting hungry, and acutely aware that reservations could be lost if one does not show up within a given time window (at least for the Epcot restaurants), so I reminded Helen it was time to check on them. Together the other three went to check, as I hastily repacked everything. The trio came back with Helen holding a beeper like the ones they use at Outback Steakhouse. We chatted some more, then the beeper sounded and it was off to the feast!
As we were being led in deeper into the restaurant by the hostess, she explained that 'Ohana means "Family", and that everybody address each other as "Cousin". That's about all I could hear from her as more "entertainment interference" was blaring. We were finally seated, with my back to the interior as I was facing the window out across Seven Seas Lagoon for a magnificent view of the spires of Cinderella Castle, with Helen to my right, Mike to my left, and Melinda to Mike's left. I hung my cap on the chair, placed the backpack and mailer on the ground beside me, and waited.
It wasn't long until the appetizers were set before us in a lazy Susan in the center of the table -- salad, miniature egg rolls, and stuffed dumplings, with chocolate nut sauce, mustard-horseradish sauce, and applesauce with pineapple, tangerine, and banana bits. The second course was just as good, as a wok was brought out containing broiled salmon, ramen pasta, and stir-fry vegetables. The entertainment portion of the feast proceeded with a hula-hoop contest waging behind my back, and I wondered aloud if Mindy could still cut it after all these years. Now it was time for the main course -- mesquite-grilled pork sausages, beef, turkey, and jumbo shrimp, all brought out still on the skewers to the diners by the chefs! My only wish was that I didn't have to peel all that shrimp. The entertainment continued as some foolhardy distant cousins dared to anger the gods by asking for condiments, the emcee proceeded to parade these infidels around the room, and then had them plead not to be sacrificed by swearing off asking for condiments!
All this time I presided over the conversation like I always do when #DiscoMice is in session, . . . keeping my comments to a minimum and speaking only when spoken to -- they who govern least, govern best. As it was, I was too busy savoring the feast -- this gourmand likes to take his sweet time with the flavors (that and my bad teeth made chewing a little more labored and longer than usual), and wondered how the others were able to put as much down so fast and still talk so much! Besides, it was more fun listening to Melinda the monorail pilot and Helen the monorail zealot interact. Melinda recounted other perks and pratfalls of Cast Members, like special boat excursions for the fireworks...or VIP detail with those Royal Saudis! Mike added his own remarks, that while his wife's students were enjoying Grad Nite at one time, he and his wife were given the underground tour of the Magic Kingdom along with other teacher/chaperones.
After they served us hot towels to clean up with, it was time for the palate cleanser, though we thought it was dessert at first until told otherwise later on. They take a raw pineapple, cut off the ends, and split it lengthways into three pieces, then slice the interior into little wedges that are still left in the rind. The 3rds are then served with fondue spears inserted in the wedges, for dipping them into caramel sauce! Just pick a spear, pull the wedge from the rind, dip, and pop it into your mouth, but you gotta shake off the excess sauce and be quick in the delivery, as the sauce is quite drippy!
All good things must come to an end, and since we turned down dessert, it was time for the check. Melinda pulled out her Cast Member discount card, and the waiter came back with the check, discounted to $18.25 per person! At this point Mike and Helen were fighting for my share of the check -- I suggested they split it, but then Mike decided to pay for all of us, while Helen sprung for the tip -- you no-shows now know what you missed out on! Before we went our separate ways, it was time for the group photo. Mike brought two cameras, one digital, and Helen brought one. We posed in front of the 'Ohana sign, and a worker snapped one with Mikes digital camera, and one with Helen's camera. At 9:45, Mike parted company as the rest of us boarded the monorail.
While riding, Helen and Melinda continued their gabfest, but I could hardly catch a word as the train and the narrator were both interfering. The ladies were heading for the Magic Kingdom's "Night of Joy", and as they exited the train, I bid them farewell, as I was continuing back to the Contemporary. Once there, I proceeded to find a rather deserted restroom to make more room, so to speak. I wandered the Concourse again, this time walking into the no longer blocked-off shop, and finding stacks of a brand new book: Disney: The First 100 Years, by Disney Archivist Dave Smith and Steven Clark. I turned to the entry for 1977, and sure enough, there was mention of our beloved 70's Club, complete with a small color shot of the Mice. This was one of the shots from in and around the trellis:
A smaller color variant of this photo can be found in
Disney: The First 100 Years,
By Dave Smith and Steven Clark
Yet again, my budget blocked me from another item. I proceeded down to the Food and Fun Center on the ground floor, earlier I had to resist the wonderful aromas coming from there while I saved my appetite for the big feast. I went into the game room, . . . whatever happened to 25-cent games??? Not one machine took less than two quarters! I just watched others play, particularly the Star Wars Trilogy game, . . . my, how it's been a long time since the first Star Wars game came out, just a simple vector game then.
Eventually I staked out a spot at the escalators between the first two floors. I agreed to meet my uncle at them after his shift was over around 11 PM, but it wasn't clear that we should meet on the first or the second floor, so I split the difference and sat down on the landing halfway up the stairway between the escalators. In time he showed up and informed me that he had 10 extra minutes before he could clock out, and showed me a waiting area on the 2nd floor. When he returned, he brought along one of his supervisors and introduced him as a 50's Club fan. This was only the first of a few introductions, as we exited the A-frame and took the long way around the north side, where convention personnel were hauling props in and out. How refreshing it was to still see the old WDW logo on the rear of one security van. As we approached where we were parked, one last introduction was made, but before I could warn the newcomer, he shook my hand vigorously -- you know, the hand attached to the busted arm which was exhausted from carrying the mailer all day. You could have heard my howl of pain clear across the lagoon!
We were in the truck at last, and Uncle Tim revealed that he had some excitement that day, over at the Magic Kingdom monorail station. Seems someone leaving the park had a handgun fall out of one of their bags. When confronted, the carrier proved to be an FBI agent, who was unaware that law enforcement personnel had to check their sidearms before entering the parks. The person was allowed to leave with a stern warning. Guess that explains that Security boat I saw earlier! I then recounted my whole day's experiences, as we made our way off of Disney property, then proceeded to listen to the day's sports recaps all the way back to the Space Coast. Uncle Tim dropped me off at Merritt Island's Wal-Mart SuperCenter, where Mom was working that evening, and would be leaving work at 2 in the morning. At this point I'm in more familiar surroundings, thus the adventure is complete,...but now I have a hankering to set foot in the Magic Kingdom!
My critique of Disneyana: I think the quantity and quality were diluted when it was decided that Disneyland and Disney World each should have their own "Main Event", instead of alternating a single event between the parks on consecutive years as it was in the past. If the West Coast is better, I certainly will never know until I can afford to actually make the trip.
Some ideas for Next Year (and there will be a Next Year, plan on coming next September for "DiscoMouseCon 2000"!!!):
If anyone has more ideas, email me. Until then, See Ya Next Year!