As you are probably aware, comedian Wally Boag passed away this last Friday, June 3, 2011 at the age of 90. There are numerous obituaries and tributes available on the Internet, so I won’t repeat the oft-stated facts of his career. Indeed, the purpose of the Disney History Institute is to go beyond the common bits and pieces of a story that seem to compose more than 99% of the internet offerings. The idea is to offer the exception to the story, to dig a bit deeper, to offer the extraordinary amidst the ordinary. It is with this in mind, that earlier this weekend I set out to find material that would celebrate this remarkable individual–a person that played an important part in the legacy of Walt Disney. With that in mind, I would like to offer a scrapbook of memories, stories, and images that commemorate the life of this particular Disney legend. Enjoy!
CONFESSIONS OF A
By Wally Boag
I can’t believe I’m a Disneyland Oldtimer…it seems like only yesterday, or maybe last week, that I couldn’t get to the stage door of the Golden Horseshoe because they were still laying asphalt. What an excitement of that first day television show. In those pre-tape days, what you got was what you saw. Wow, 1955.
Donald Novis and I hosted a half hour radio show from the Horseshoe five days a week…”Your Happy Holiday.” We had great guests like Groucho, The Andrew Sisters, Joe E. Brown, and even Abbott and Costello, who had us doing “Who’s On First.” Now and then I would dash up to the Studio and film with a new group called “The Mouseketeers.”
The stage-left box of the Golden Horseshoe is still referred to as “Walt’s Box.” He would stop in a couple of times a week and bring friends. One day he brought in the Indians with him. If you remember, the Indians held a pow-wow every day just the other side of Aunt Jemima (the restaurant that is). That day in the Horseshoe the Chief was holding a tomahawk so I handed him my hair-piece at the end of my act. I explained that it was much more hygienic that way. I almost got a pow … wow!
Speaking of hair-raising experiences, I think I was the original tour guide. Every act I knew in show business showed up that first year. I loved it! It gave me an excuse to go on the rides, but I got into trouble the day I took a ventriloquist friend on the jungle cruise. We got as far as the hippo pool and broke down (can you believe that?). 25 minutes later we were still there, and the next Horseshoe show was just starting. There was nothing to do but take out my wallet, take off my hair and swim to shore. I kissed a hippo, ran down the railroad track, dashed up to my dressing room, executed a fast change and was on stage with a couple of minutes to spare. I left that ventriloquist talking to himself.
I never handled a shooting iron until I went into rehearsal at the Horseshoe. I was fascinated. After a week I picked a fight on the street with Lucky Laredo, Frontierland Marshal. I took a couple of prat falls and as I was being gunned down, Walt was walking behind me and said, “That looks like fun; why don’t you keep it in?” I wound up being shot off the roof twice a day. We used to have fast draw contests. I got the back of my pants blown off so many times, there was a draw between who hated me the most…wardrobe, or First Aid. I had so many shots that year, they called me the “Tetanus Kid.”
I can’t believe I’m a Disneyland oldtimer, but the Guinness Book says the Golden Horseshoe is the longest running show in history, and I’m still running.
I have a 25-year wall in my life. Actually it’s more like a neighborhood fence, because at any time I can look over and feel the excitement of Disneyland 1955.
I was a lad then, you know…
Written in 1980 for Disneyland’s 25th Anniversary.
By Roy “Big Mooseketeer” Williams
WALLY ON DISNEYLAND
In Honor Of It’s Tenth Birthday
Well, we started our tenth year of operation. Nine years ago Disneyland opened to the public. Hundreds of people have asked me what it was like in those early days. Actually, many people have. Well, at least several. If you smooth it out it was my mother who asked. Here from my diary are facts, facts which will show you how it was the day BEFORE the press opening.
“7:30 a.m. … Left house in L.A. … Arrived park 8:00 a.m. (Of course, today with the Freeways, it only takes 1 1/2 hours.) … Started toward Frontierland and looked over the modern parking lot … Saw bones of creature that got stuck in the road…Creature was polite…Tipped hat. 11:00 a.m. … Rehearsed on stage of Golden Horseshoe … 12:00 … Musicians learned to read music … 12:30 … Teeth accidentally knocked out by Donald Novis … Got such a yock, from help, decided to keep it in … Jack Sayers suggested using beans instead of teeth, as only paper plates allowed in Horseshoe … 1:00 … Decided to visit Park … Went by Plaza, wound up with paint brush in hand … 1:38 … Collected $8.33 in painter’s overtime … 1:38 1/2 … Hit by falling orange picker, muttering to himself as he looked around, ‘What happened to the rest of the orange grove?’ … 1:45 … Met carpenter who said ‘Everything around here has to be 5/8 scale,’ as he started to saw off my legs … He was only kidding, and I watched him waddle off towards Fantasyland … 1:50 … Met Sluefoot Sue … She had an hourglass figure with sand that defied gravity … 1:55 … Met the Golden Horseshoe dancers … They all had pony tails, two were phony ponies … Girls were trotting around Main St. getting used to the noise … Watched musicians parade around Park getting used to horses … Made mistake of standing still to watch them … Wound up with a coat of red paint and a ticket booth around me … Man walked up and said: ‘Two please, and which way did my orange grove go?’ … He was only kidding and I watched him waddle off … 2:05 … Ralph Adams invited me into the Main St. Cinema … 6 shows showing simey–simeltus–all at once … Had already seen them on the Late, Late, Late, extremely tardy show … On my way out tripped over man who said: ‘Good pictures aren’t they, but my orange grove isn’t in here.’ … I screamed and waddled over to Adventureland … The reason I was waddling was my gun belt slipped … 2:30 … Met Walt … He and some architects were discussing additions to the Haunted House and where did the orange grove go? … 2:45 … Met man who said: ‘I’ve never been to this part of Knott’s before!’ … Made note to use that in my act …”
So, you see, that day was just like any other day … Everything is as it was except YOU ARE … Oh, by the way, an hour glass normally has the sand at the bottom, but gravity in this case, an exception, nullified, in contradiction to its normal nature, and not usually having the attributes accredited to it, it has … Oh, well, Pleasant Buffoonery to you all.
PORTRAITS OF WALLY
From Backstage Disneyland
Boag served as voluntary editor for the Disneyland cast member publication Backstage. Each issue included his column “The Editor Speaks” which was accompanied by an often humorous picture of Wally in some predicament. He claimed the magazine was “for the employees, by the employees” with the idea of helping to “laugh at our troubles.” In the second edition of the publication, Walt Disney wrote a letter to the editor agreeing with the motto: “The ability to laugh at oneself is necessary. Congratulations.”
Below are just a few of the portraits used for his columns.
|Summer & Winter 1963. “You should be
receiving this issue before Christmas, but in case
we have some trouble with it, may we be the first
to wish you a happy Groundhog Day.”
|Summer 1969. “Canoe imagine what this picture depicts? It’s called the
Indian Scissor Stroke, and you use it on a kid…on the end that won’t
listen. Actually, this is my abandon ship equipment.”
|Winter 1969. “There’s nothing like skiing…and if you could see the
way I ski, you’d know there’s nothing like it. And I’m not giving you a snow
job. I give you my slalom word. Hope you notice the way I’m wearing
my goggles…that’s because of my doctor’s orders. He told me to
goggle my throat twice a day. I’ve just invented a new pair of skis
that are going to make me a fortune. They convert into splints.”
|Spring 1971. Wally has an issue with the Audio-Animatronics in
Nature’s Wonderland. “We will always herald, never harbor, the happy
happenings that habit this hamlet of handsome, harmonious herculean
hosts. Now, that’s rhetoric.”
|Christmas 1968. “This picture might have
been what the children of the rough and
wooly West of 1870 envisioned
when they thought of Santa Claus. Isn’t
it fun to think that Santa was probably
the original beatnik…what with his long
hair, beard, and crazy red and white
|Christmas 1968. “He even has that little
pot under his belt and those reindeer to
keep him high. But what a nice
beatnik. His bag is for giving. Like for
those of us who had to work on Christmas
Day…our bag was giving pleasure to
those visitors who wanted to make their
WALLY AND MARY
Wally performed with “practically perfect in every way” long before either of them found their way to Disney. In 1947 Boag appeared in Starlight Roof at the London Hippodrome alongside a twelve-year old Julie Andrews. “Wally Boag was a loose-limbed, adorable American who told stories and did silly dances, flinging his amazingly double-jointed legs out to the side and twisting them in all directions while at the same time making extraordinary balloon animals,” Julie mused in her memoir, Home. “By the end of his act, he’d created a giraffe, an elephant, and several dogs and make believe creatures.” The two would have a reunion on the stage of the Golden Horseshoe Revue in November of 1963; this time, both were working for Walt.
Below are a few rare images from that memorable night.
MEMORIES OF WALLY
“In many ways, Wally Boag was the heart of Disneyland in the early days,” Disney Legend Marty Sklar remembers. “It was not only show business, it was the spirit and exuberance Wally brought to every performance, day in and day out. We all knew that Walt loved to watch Wally in the Golden Horseshoe Revue. As a member of the public relations staff, I never missed a chance to take media guests to see the show. I’m sure I saw Wally’s wild and crazy “Pecos Bill” act at least 100 times — to this day, 50 years later, I can remember many his lines, and they are still funny because I can see Wally’s hilarious antics and impeccable timing. No wonder Steve Martin talks about Wally as one of his comedy inspirations.”
“Here [in The Golden Horseshoe] I had my first lessons in performing, although I was never on stage,” Steve Martin said in his autobiography, Born Standing Up. “I absorbed Wally Boag’s timing, saying his next line (“When they operated on father, they opened Mother’s male”), and took the audience’s response as though it were mine.”
DIANE DISNEY MILLER
“Dad loved that show [The Golden Horseshoe Revue],” Diane Disney Miller stated in the book, Wally Boag, Crown Prince of Disneyland. “He took all of his guests there and never tired of it. It never got stale because Wally was always fresh. Dad and Wally had a lot in common because they were both consummate entertainers. Like Wally, dad was dedicated to bringing fun and laugher to this world. I know that dad loved him and so did so many others.”