FOREWORD: I have put my heart and soul on display on my sites in general, and in this story in particular. I am sorry to say that unjust criticism and misconceptions by lower-phase minds with short attention spans are still being callously bandied about in this world and that this hasn't escaped my notice. To these microcephalics I say, "Read ALL of it, because its my style to not leave anything out that I can think of. PAY ATTENTION, for you missed reading some names, which straighten out for once and for all the question of my preferences. And, read between the lines, and see if you can spot what my harassers in high school lacked the deductive reasoning to figure out. (Heh-Heh-Heh)"
My story begins
with this picture:
This site would probably not exist today, nor would the other sites it has inspired, had I not seen this picture, in what I have now been convinced was the January 1977 issue of Disney Magazine, a copy of which I now have.
I was in the 5th grade at Capeview Elementary in Cape Canaveral, Florida, when a 4th grader by the name of Bobby Morgans brought the magazine in one day in November of 1976. I thumbed through the pages looking for my favorite feature, "Mickey and The Sleuth," but it wasn't there. What was there was a sneak preview article on "The New Mickey Mouse Club," and when I saw the little blonde girl in the picture, I was absolutely, positively smitten! That long, golden hair with bangs, perfectly framing the face of an angel, . . . she was for all intents and purposes The. . . Most. . . Beautiful. . . Girl. . . In. . . The. . . WORLD! to me. One problem: there was no caption or other clue in the article that would tell me her name!
You see, it was the aura of mystery around not knowing her name that kept me hooked long enough to make me such a big fan of the show. Not seeing the article would have meant no buildup of anticipation for its debut, or, specifically, her debut. One could speculate that she could still have taken me by surprise when the first episode aired, but that's a moot point. Whatever the case, the mystery was solved when the February 1977 issue of Jack & Jill Magazine hit the magazine rack at the school library:
This was the first time in my life that I had read or heard the name "Mindy" anywhere, and I thought it to be an appropriately cute name for this girl to have. Being the map fanatic that I was and still am, I hit the atlases and after some considerable difficulty found Chatsworth in the northwest corner of the San Fernando Valley -- over 3000 miles separated me from Mindy Feldman, who was soon to be the girl of my daydreams. . .
It wasn't until March 7, 1977 that "The New Mickey Mouse Club" finally debuted in my area (WDBO Channel 6 Orlando at 4 PM), and this lovestruck kid only four days away from his 11th birthday was hardly disappointed. When Mindy called out her name in the roll call, she just blew me away! Had I known it was being seen virtually everywhere else since January 17th, I would have been mad as a hornet, I've never considered tardiness to be "fashionable" and if I was principal of Liz Taylor's school, there would be no leaving early, only Detention City for the Queen of "Fashionably Late". There was one point of worry, the last part of "The Who, What, Why, Where, When and How Day," where Mindy runs in circles, trying to jump on to her place in the merry-go-round. Why doesn't she stop and wait for the gap in the circle of Mouseketeers to come back around before leaping? thought I. I still think of this exercise in futility as some sort of metaphor.
I immediately ran into trouble with my Webelos activity. The leader of my den imposed a TV blackout at his house during the meetings, a most inconvenient time since NMMC ran during that period. After two weeks of that, I quit -- nothing was going to come between me and watching Mindy squeal "Your Imagination Please!" anymore. I wasn't doing too well with Cub Scouts anyway, a lot of the projects necessary to earn badges, gold & silver arrows -- and in the case of Webelos, skill pins -- my family couldn't afford to purchase the parts and materials for. In addition, the one thing I loathe most of all is mandatory paperwork, and in order to earn one of the skill pins necessary to earn the Arrow Of Light award (the highest award in Cub Scouts), I would have to write a 50-word essay on citizenship. Yuck! So I'm sorry if former Boy Scout Todd reads this and is ashamed of me for being a Scouting dropout, he can blame it on that cute little blonde castmate of his. I found a worthy substitute group to be a part of three and a half years later, where I did very well, but that comes up later in the story.
For the next 10 months, when Mindy wasn't on the TV, she was in my head -- I wasn't kidding when I called her the girl of my daydreams. In the "pocket dimension" that I usually refer to as my imagination, we were co-adventurers through time and space, and whenever I heard a favorite song on the radio we were then fronting the best cover band in Rock, Pop, R&B, and Disco, and when we weren't entertaining the crowds we were serenading each other, . . . or having Monkees-like misadventures with the rest of the band when the music wasn't on. If you're were curious about the lineup: myself, Mindy, Kelly (she was my second favorite, only because she was older and I liked younger girls at the time, plus I saw Mindy first), my best friend Joseph, and Carole, the girl I had it bad for BEFORE Mindy. On whatever spaceship I was commanding, Mindy was also the chief engineer. The most common scenarios of all my musings usually involved Mindy getting into trouble to where I had to bail her out -- what can I say? I'm a pushover for damsels in distress! I wanted to be the one to rescue Mindy when she was kidnapped by Prof. Nefarious in the "Sleuth" two-parter. When I'm finished with my alternative rewrite of that, I'll post it! Of course, when she was on the TV, I was there as well, close by and invisible, watching the Mice do their thing, with an occasional "decloaking" to join in on the fun. I didn't consider myself to be a Mouseketeer like them, only a friendly visitor teleporting in and out like Turkey from Kaptain Kool and The Kongs, just hanging out with the Mice, . . . and serving as Mindy's guardian angel.
During this time, I chose to keep my interest in Mindy and the Club a secret, even from my best friend. I was one of the persecuted kids in my school -- I was both shy and a Person Of Weight. Only my size (one of the tallest in my class, too) and my refusal to back down to bullies prevented the confrontations from escalating to physical contact, don't think I wasn't sorely tempted towards "throwing my weight" into giving them WHUT FUR, though -- and I didn't want to hand any taunting ammo over to my oppressors.
Summer came, and with it a trip to my ancestral homelands in Northwest Georgia -- Dad's parents came from Cedartown, Mom's mother came from Covington, both towns are on US 278 with Atlanta between them -- with some side trips to Birmingham and Chattanooga. I love going on trips -- and I especially love to use maps on trips, come on males, use them! there's no shame in it! -- but since we were towing a popup trailer, that means staying part of the time at campgrounds = no TV = no "New Mickey Mouse Club" = NO MINDY! ARRGH!!! How I envied my great-uncle's VCR that he had in his house in Alabama. I learned the hard way about the first rule of keeping a secret crush: Never confide in your older male second cousins! I thought I would never get them to shut up! I went to Six Flags Over Georgia, and had many a thought about adding one letter to the name of the Mindbender coaster that was there. . . and what possible effects it would have on its new namesake after she rode it!
As the end of summer approached, so did the Labor Day Weekend visit of the Mouseketeers to Walt Disney World. The promos of Kelly announcing the upcoming visit were running for several weeks prior, which would have allowed my family to save up for the trip. . . that is, if I had the courage to ask them if we could go on that weekend! As it was, I dreaded that the following Q&A would ensue, because I wouldn't dare lie to my parents:
"Why do you want to go to Disney World that weekend?"
"Because I want to see the Mouseketeers and they're visiting that weekend."
"Why do you want to see them?"...
Would YOU admit to your parents that you had it bad for a Mouseketeer? I WOULD be forced to!
So that weekend I sat at home, silently suffering, where only an hour's drive away, The Most Beautiful Girl In The World and her fellow Mice were "singing, dancing and performing their comedy routines three times daily in the Cinderella Castle Forecourt, and also taking part in the afternoon Cavalcade of Character parades, as well as the Main Street Electrical Parade" -- that was taken from the Orlando Sentinel's article on the visit, BTW. 60 miles may just as well be 3000, so close and yet so far. I saved the article, which had a reduced version of the Cast Album Poster pictured, in addition to Disney World's actual ad inside:
Both are badly torn and faded or browned out now -- I have paid the price of my paranoia and cowardice, and that's all that was left. I kept them alongside the TV Guide article I also saved -- say, don't you find it a little odd for an 8-year-old to be worried about her weight?
It was Back To School, . . . a new school that is, Theodore Roosevelt Middle in Cocoa Beach. With these new classes came new enemies, both in the upper classes, . . . and in the same grade, only graduated from another feeder elementary school and, fearing who they do not know, always flinged the first barb. At least my old same-grade tormentors were mostly banished to lower-phase classes, but that didn't alter my need for secrecy, at least until one of the newer same-grade adversaries admitted his interest in Kelly. I spilled my guts that one time about Mindy and to his credit, he didn't start taunting; I guess that as long as I kept quiet about him and Kelly, he would keep quiet about me and Mindy. Even after that when I had a chance to pick up and read the NMMC Funbook when it was on the stands at the school library's annual Book Fair, I wasn't about to risk being spotted holding it by those of hostile intent. If I had only read Mindy's mini-biography within it, I would have known about Corey and have paid attention to whenever his name came up in the press afterwards!
January of 1978, . . . reality hit home. I had known several months in advance of the show's cancellation, no thanks to a article in my local paper titled "Mickey's Getting The Ax, It's A Matter Of Money." Little did I know that the re-syndication reruns the article had mentioned as one option were never to be (at least in East Central Florida), and so "The New Mickey Mouse Club" on Channel 6 was replaced by. . . "The Little Rascals"! AAAAAAAAAUGH!!!
Mindy was gone from the television, . . . but not from my mind. For the next two years and nine months I continued to carry a torch for her -- there was no one else on the TV or in Roosevelt Middle who could equal or exceed her beauty and charm. Hurricane David came calling in 1979, and when my family was forced to evacuate, I was only allowed to take my pillow, so I smuggled my aforementioned clippings and the TV Guide article in the pillowcase! Through the summer of 1980 the "cover band" was on an extended camping trip.
Freshman Registration Day at Cocoa Beach High School . . .
By this time my growth spurts had burned away my weight to where I was as skinny as a rail. Among the classes I would be taking was Leadership Development, A.K.A. Army Junior R.O.T.C. I was singularly impressed with the recruiting demonstration the "Minuteman Battalion" had put on at Roosevelt a few months earlier, and I especially wanted to join the Rifle Team, which had at the time an 8-year dynasty of winning state championships. "Rot-cee" was my replacement for Scouting, and by the end of my senior year, I would rise to the rank of Cadet Lieutenant Colonel with the position of Battalion Executive Officer, and a chestful of medals and ribbons to boot, not to mention participating in two more state championship wins with the Rifle Team. Anyway, I had finished registering at the cafeteria, and had left it to go looking for where my classes and my locker were, when I turned the corner, . . . saw a new face, and from that moment on, Mindy was less and less the girl of my daydreams.
Her name was Janet, and I swear to you that she had a face and hair like a younger version of Laurette Spang-McCook (Cassieopia from the original "Battlestar Galactica" for the uninitiated). As I watched from afar and found out more about Janet and her not-quite-identical twin sister Nancy over the following weeks and months, I was growing apart from the mini-Mouseketeer in my head, to where I timed our official "breakup" for March 7, 1981, four years to the day I first saw Mindy on TV. As the PM Dawn song later put it, "She's just one of the corners of my mind, and I just put her right back with the rest, that's the way it goes, I guess."
Mindy had one last hurrah though, when I saw her in November of '80 in the TV movie "Reunion." It wasn't until 1991 when "Reunion" was brought back on TBS, and then I had a VCR ready and waiting, but in the years between the breakup and that taping opportunity (and afterward), Mindy and "The New Mickey Mouse Club" were hardly thought of in my life. Sure, I paid close attention to when Julie and Lisa made it to "The Facts Of Life," but when Julie got "rightsized" from "Facts . . ." after the first season, I lost interest in even that. I do however admit to having worried about Mindy every once in a while, . . . whether she would survive "The Jupiter Effect's" cataclysmic consequences for all of California west of the San Andreas Fault, . . . if dieting at age 8 would lead to anorexia as she grew older, . . . or if she would start developing that horrid "Valley Girl" dialect! Gag me with a spoon! Regarding that first worst case scenario, I actually entertained the notion that once I turned 16 and got my full driver's license, I would head out for the Left Coast, find Mindy, and somehow convince her to evacuate with me east of the faultline, before the day that the planets were going to be in their closest alignment in late '82. As it turned out, I became interested in yet another girl (Heather), I was never allowed to practice driving for my full license beyond Drivers Ed, . . . and The Jupiter Effect was an even bigger fizzle than the Y2K Bug!
Fast forward to the summer of '93. One early Saturday night, I tuned across the dial on the boom box in my room, and heard a tune I hadn't heard in years: The Sweet's "Love Is Like Oxygen" (the short version without the long guitar solo, if you're curious.) I knew that this particular station I had tuned into didn't normally play something like this, so I listened to find out what was the deal. Turned out, I had stumbled onto WOMX-FM Orlando ("MIX 105.1") and its "Seventies Saturday Night" program. What joy! As I listened to songs that have been simply ignored over the years, my mind floated back to those happy times...and to the memories of a cute little blonde girl in the blaze orange Mouse Ears. . . the sleeper was awakening.
I began to wonder what happened to Mindy and the rest of the New Mice, while simultaneously becoming flabbergasted over The Disney Channel's failure to run the show. They had rerun the original 50's MMC starting from Day 1 of TDC's debut, then discontinued running it in favor of producing the third TV incarnation of the Club. Not once in the schedules did I see NMMC mentioned. This was the perfect medium to run it, though TDC was mostly a premium channel, the return of the 70's episodes would only constitute just a fraction of the weekly programming. What's more, 70's nostalgia was sweeping the country, and Disney was squandering this ideal time to bring NMMC back, and considering the other dreck on the airwaves and cable, recesutating a quality program would bring a breath of fresh air. This was a show that in its heyday was NUM-BAH ONE in the ratings, for crying our loud! The righteous indignation of the awakening sleeper was building, . . . I knew somehow that "The New Mickey Mouse Club"'s return, either to TV or at least out on home video, had to be brought about. Numbers of other old Mousekafans would also have to be awakened in order to accomplish this feat, and so I determined that the Internet was the key. There was just one little problem, no home PC! I would have to wait a little while longer. . .
It was time for some hard research first. I combed the reference shelves of three separate county library branches for anything that would have mentioned the Club or the Mice, and I discovered a great deal in my "excavations." For one thing, I uncovered the show's true debut date -- January 17, 1977 -- from The New York Times microfiche. Two new group photos were photocopied and added to my collection. A book about movies made for television not only confirmed Mindy's appearance in "Reunion," but also revealed that Julie and Kelly each had one TV movie to their credit prior to 1986 -- Lisa of course had a few more. Then came an unsettling revelation about the NMMC from a book about syndicated television. The excerpt stated that while Action for Children's Television was bestowing a special award to the show with one hand, it was attacking the show's main sponsors -- makers of sugar-laced children's cereals -- with the other hand, and had nearly succeeded in getting the FCC to ban such ads. This had the effect of causing these sponsors to cut their potential losses by pulling out their support for all syndicated children's shows -- including "The New Mickey Mouse Club," which would and should have continued on in re-syndication reruns for many years to come, but instead was condemned to less than trivial obscurity. Can you believe such howling, fragging stupidity and naivete was ever possible? The sleeper was fully awake now and filled with a terrible resolve!
In time, the county library system went online with E-mail-disabled Lynx browsers at the various branches with a few similarly disabled Netscape terminals at the central reference branch. In addition were a few Netscape-equipped workstations at Brevard Community College's Library. I quickly became proficient with search engines, but what little I found concerning "The New Mickey Mouse Club" was hardly impressive -- only two Web sites, one dedicated primarily to the 90's Club with only passing mention of its predecessors and a link to the second site, which would for the remainder of its existence be abandoned in mid-construction because its Webmaster made the mistake of storing his source material in an obsolescent hard drive. Unfortunately for me Mindy's mini-biography was also trapped in that hard drive! I also found The Internet Movie Database, which told me Mindy was in "Say Anything...", so I rented the only locally available copy, only to find it afflicted with the Copyguard Jitters.
In December of '96, I took my VCR to a repair shop over in Merritt Island, and discovered Coffee&@Byte, a newly opened cybercafe next door -- 10 terminals, T-1 access! Shortly thereafter I finally had my own E-mail address and I put it to use, first with an offer to help fill in the blanks where and when I could with the unfinished NMMC site, then finding the Disney website and asking the $64,000 Question in their e-mail submission page: "Are you bringing back NMMC in time for its 20th anniversary?" Unfortunately whoever replied couldn't tell the 70's Club apart from the 90's Club, which was then off the air. If I had only been online a year or two beforehand, momentum could've been built up for the anniversary push.
Through Usenet I finally acquired my very first true NMMC item, the Funbook. You can say finding out that Mindy and Corey were siblings was shocking, so I backtracked with my research, this time focusing on Corey and finding out about all of his personal troubles. I gathered all my Club information and prepared a reply to a query about the 70's Club posted at the Hidden Mickeys Discussion Group. After posting my reply, it was a matter of time before the first of the other fans would find the reply, and things started to pick up steam, with various exchanges of information, and acquiring images for later use.
In October of '97, I finally got a computer at the house, but TPTB in the household forbade Internet access for the time being, having become paranoid about receiving spam containing inappropriate material. I finally had the capacity to at least transport floppies between home and the cybercafe, which had moved to Cocoa Beach by that time and so was much closer to home, and could work on the images and data at home. Things were finally coming together as I began hunting for free Web space to post a page, while simultaneously preparing "The Disco Mouseketeers' Manifesto". On Kelly's birthday in January of '98, several hours were spent in the afternoon and evening putting together the components at the cybercafe, and "The 'New Mickey Mouse Club' Renaissance Project Home Page" was born!
Two months later, I was finally allowed to obtain Internet access from home, and it's been a whole lot easier. I was then introduced to eBay and my collection grew a little more over the years, I now have the Ashman Book and the spare poster. Other fans began to find the site and some were inspired to build their own, dedicated to the Club and/or their favorite Mouseketeers (such as my own Mindy Feldman Appreciation Site). The two older sites before the Project Home Page's creation are now extinct -- making the Project Home Page the oldest surviving "New Mickey Mouse Club" site on the Web -- but in their place there have been as many as a dozen new sites. In addition there are three mailing lists and three AOL Instant Messenger chatrooms dedicated to "The New Mickey Mouse Club." Last but not least, there's been a few fan get-togethers on both sides of the country. We've come a long way in the years since the Project Home Page's launch, and we still have a ways to go...
As more fans came in out of the cold, more intelligence reports on the Mice kept pouring in. One particularly inflammatory piece of information was the fact that Lisa requested loans of NMMC tapes from Disney to play at the 15th anniversary reunion she hosted in '92, and was refused! When I heard that, I said, "Enough's enough! They bring back the 50's Club to The Disney Channel, can that for the 90's Club, bring back the 50's Club briefly for it's 40th Anniversary, ax the 90's Club, and finally they bring the 50's Club back again on late nights! And during this time not only do they ignore running the 70's Club, they turn down a very nice young lady's request to relive some of the happiest memories in the lives of her and her old castmates!" It was time for action!
And so "DM-Days" were born -- one-day mass e-mail, snail-mail, phone and fax blitzes upon Disney and its head honcho, Michael Eisner, calling for the return of the NMMC, either on TV, or out on video/DVD. After the initial two DM-Days, our first victory was accomplished: in August of 1998: they kicked off a "70's Week" on The Disney Channel starting off with the return of the "Wonderful World Of Disney" one-hour special "The Mouseketeers At Walt Disney World", and continuing with airing over the week's time of eight episodes from "The New Mickey Mouse Club"! The Project's success repeated as 17 more airings of "New Mickey Mouse Club" occurred during another "70's Week" on The Disney Channel in August of 1999 -- including eight more first-run-on-Disney-Channel episodes, plus a repeat of the Disney World special, which now has been placed in the "Walt Disney Presents" rotation on TDC's "Vault Disney" late-night programming block. Granted it's not the entire known series of 132, but it's a start. Enough fans were put on the alert to where there are now home tapes of those eight episodes and one special in limited circulation, whereas there were virtually none for over 20 years!
About the Mice... Lisa did get to host the 25th Anniversary Reunion (a year early), prior to her Family Dream Trip:
The New Mouseketeers, 2001
(Clockwise from Left) Allison, Scott, Pop, Todd, Lisa, Lisa's grandmother Velma French, Shawnte, Mindy, and Curtis
8 of the surviving 11 were in attendance (with Nita, Kelly, and Julie absent), joined in by their families past and present, a few members of the show's production crew, and a select contingent of extremely fortunate fans, including yours truly. (I had to pay for my own plane ticket, but I was treated to Disneyland admission the next day). These 8 got to finally meet the "Mousekafan who rallied the other fans together over the Internet". A few months later, Mindy was able to talk 5 of the Mice, including Nita, into joining her in an appearance at the Hollywood Collectors Show. Some networking between the Mice and their fans was taken care of at both events, so we get to hear Mice news every so often since then. Up until his death at the end of 2003, Scott was an infrequent visitor to our chat sessions, and even Lisa's put in an appearance.
As for me and Mindy, I've now seen her in "Reunion," "Say Anything," and "South Beach Academy," the last I highly recommend just for her scenes alone; other Mousekafans who've seen it say she's very funny, and even an Allison fan has declared that Mindy has surpassed Kelly in the good looks department! I still have yet to see "Ripoff," "Me And Maxx," and "Busted," plus I still suspect her to have been in 77's "Christmastime With Mister Rogers" and in a promo for "Studio See", as well as a short film on PBS I saw around that time, that I don't remember the title to. BUT. . . I have seen her in Corey's "E! True Hollywood Story" special, and having analyzed her face from those sound bites, I'm convinced Mindy Feldman is essentially an all-natural person who's been for the most part satisfied with who she is inside and out her entire life, with no major concessions nor drastic compromises to vanity in spite of the demands Hollywood places on any starlet, and has pursued the acting craft primarily for the craft's sake. To her I say, "BRAVISSIMO!!!"
HOWEVER, . . . any aspirations of getting closer than just friends, that were rekindled along with my interest in the Club back in '93, were tragically doused when I found out Mindy was about to become a mother back in February '98. Nowadays I just want to do what's right, to see that justice is done for her and her fellow Mice, so that their children can see how wonderful their mommies or daddies were to many people, and for our children to see how wonderful the Mice were to us. There will always be a place in my heart for the little "Blonde in Tangerine" though, for she had, without ever knowing it, smoothed out the rough spots in one preadolescent boy's life.
OH YES, you readers are probably wondering about my encounter with Mindy at the 25th Anniversary Reunion:
Mindy Feldman meets her #1 active fan
To make a long story short, meeting the other Mice for the first time did not make me nervous at all, not even shaking hands with Lisa, the heir apparent to Annette Funicello. But I was so nervous with Mindy, I forgot to ask some of the most nagging questions I had about her appearances in other shows, nor request her help in improving the Appreciation Site, . . . nor exchange contact info! I even failed to compliment her on her current looks, though I blame that on my initial shock of seeing her with red hair! She has, however, seen the site dedicated to her, and she likes it! WHOO-HOO!
So what's next? Disney has now thrown up a brick wall with regards to DM-Days, so those have been discontinued until another avenue can be found to persuade Eisner and ilk that if they will release NMMC, we will buy. The campaign continues until those other 124 episodes are reran or all the episodes are released; as more old fans find this site, then the pressure increases on Disney. There's also an online romance blossoming between two Mousekafans brought together by yours truly which has resulted first in monthly real-world get-togethers and a subsequent move by one to be closer to the other. . . and marriage plans! I only hope and pray I can find happiness such as theirs.
In closing, a large part of "The New Mickey Mouse Club's" current Web presence was inspired by the Project Home Page, but I can't take the full credit for that, . . . if Mindy Feldman hadn't auditioned to be a Mouseketeer in the first place, then she wouldn't have been in the picture that started this whole story, and as such the story would never have begun, period. . . NO Renaissance Project Home Page and the other sites it's inspired, NO DM-Days to get Disney to budge just far enough to give us those sixteen episodes and one special, NO chats, and so on. . . so IF you love "The New Mickey Mouse Club", and IF you love the Project Home Page and all the other sites, and especially IF you have a tape of those special airings where you had none before, . . . whether Mindy is your most favorite Mouseketeer, your least favorite, or somewhere in between, . . . you owe her a REALLY BIG "THANK YOU!!!" for being in "The New Mickey Mouse Club"!
The End, . . . For Now!
Back to the Renaissance Project Home Page
Back to The Mindy Feldman Appreciation Site