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Monday, October 15, 2012

Backstage at the Golden Horseshoe

Golden Horseshoe - Backstage
Backstage at the Golden Horseshoe
by Todd James Pierce

Up on the blog today are a trio of backstage photos from the final days of the Golden Horseshoe Revue.  All of these pics, I think, were snapped in the 1980s and feature the elegant Betty Taylor, who feathered her way through more than 45,000 performances of the Revue.  The Revue, as you probably know, was a favorite with Walt.  He would bring VIP guests to the Golden Horseshoe Saloon and watch the show from his special box which was situated right next to the stage.  The show was so popular with tourists that it produced imitations at other early theme parks.  And these knockoff productions were really, really close to the original.  There was the Golden Donkey Saloon at Magic Mountain in Colorado.  Then there was the Diamond 'Lil show (sponsored by Pepsi, who also sponsored the Golden Horseshoe) at Pleasure Island in Massachusetts.  If you remember the old stage set up for the original Golden Horseshoe, just click here to see an amazingly close replica (at Pleasure Island in Massachusetts) which was designed by ex-Disney artists.  There's a great story there, but that, of course, is for another day.  (Thanks to Bob McLaughlin for posting the photos.)

Betty Taylor - Golden Horseshoe
I had the chance to talk with Wally Boag, co-star of the Revue, shortly before his passing.  In that conversation, I was struck with the strong sense of family that existed among the performers, which stands to reason as they worked together for three decades.  But also, in Wally's stories, there was one detail that stood out: The lead performers all had their own dressing rooms and studios which, at least for Wally, doubled as his apartment.  In the early days, he would commute down to Anaheim for his five-day workweek stint in the Revue and actually lived  above the Horseshoe, in a small efficiency that looked toward (I believe) Adventureland.  Now for a confession: though I've cajoled my way into many backstage areas at the park, I've never actually been backstage at the Golden Horseshoe.  So these photos--and others like them--are my only touchstones for the world that once existed behind the curtain.

Most of my posts explore the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.  Or to put that another way: I write mostly about things that happened long before I was born.  But for this post, I clearly remember the 1980s.  I can easily call up images of Betty Taylor, sequinned up in black, holding an oversized hand-mirror on the stage.  When I was a kid, my family's first stop inside the park always was at the Golden Horseshoe reservation booth to collect the free tickets for one of the day's performances.  So for today, oddly, events that I remember in my own life now become "history."  

The final photo (below) is unique for two reasons.  It features Betty Taylor on her 67th birthday, with decorations strewn around the dressing room.  (Actually, if the date-stamp is correct, it is the day after her birthday.)  It is also two days before the Golden Horseshoe Revue dropped its final curtain--to be replaced by the Golden Horseshoe Jamboree.

That's it for this week.  You can find a couple previous DHI articles on the Golden Horseshoe here and here.   See you all next Monday.   TJP


Betty Taylor - Golden Horseshoe - 1986

12 comments:

  1. Wow, I don't think I've ever seen backstage photos from the Golden Horseshoe before. Amazing! In that last picture, notice the row of apparently-identical dresses waiting to be worn, probably for different performance throughout a single day. Also, Betty took her glasses off for the photo, you can see them on the paper on her lap!

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  2. Just noticed that. She's also holding one of the old car sun visors. My grandmother, who was a manager at the park, had the exact same visor back in the 1980s.

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  3. PS the odd thing: some of the dresses look to be slightly different lengths. As I recall, there was at least one understudy for Betty. Maybe the odd dress or two was for her? I don't know.

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  5. Wait! Wait! I am going to get it right this time!

    Yes, those are MM sun car visors; I had the very same ones for my car when I was a WDW cast member in the 80's!

    Talk about some "Betty Taylor" connection in my life!

    Great pics and article, btw!

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  6. Great post.It really contains valuable information.Thanks

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  8. Todd- You would be surprised at how tiny the backstage area for the Golden Horsehoe is. The back wall of the building is just a few feet away from the curtain. I believe Wally and Betty's dressing rooms are now a part of the Cast Breakroom and Adventureland-Frontierland offices that stretch from above the River Belle to the Bazaar.

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  9. Also, did you notice the Disneyland Parkalendar on the wall in the first photo? This listed park operating hours, special events, and estimated park attendance.

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  10. wdi33,

    From talking with Wally, it would make sense that they are roughly where the Adventureland-Frontierland offices are now. Thanks!

    Todd

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  11. Thanks for this neat backstage glimpse. I have a friend who did a short-lived evening show in the theater while the original show was still running & saw Betty backstage not in makeup & in glasses asking about some scheduling issue. Such a small little unassuming lady & what a LEGEND with her close to 45,000 performances!

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