Friday, March 30, 2012

TPE: The Golden Horseshoe Revue

Even though the Golden Horseshoe is still at Disneyland, I would want to travel back in time and see a few shows featuring the original casts.

How about this sign that used to hang out front? In most shots of the GH, you don't notice it, but thanks to a smart photographer from March 1956, I am able to feast my eyes on it in living color!

The saloon interior was designed by Harper Goff, who basically re-used his set design from the 1953 Doris Day movie “Calamity Jane.” It was the perfect addition to Frontierland, providing the one bit of glamour allowed in an uncivilized territory!

The first show at The GH was Slue Foot Sue’s Golden Horseshoe Revue, a 45 min. show which ran 50,000+ times and is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest-running musical of all time.

What follows are some early shots from the GH's early years:

In the early 1950’s, while appearing in revues in Australia, Wally Boag met tenor Donald Novis, who got Walt Disney to audition Wally for the Golden Horseshoe Revue, written by its first pianist Charles LaVere and lyricist Tom Adair. Novis was the show's first tenor (later replaced by Fulton Burley). Boag’s Pecos Bill/Traveling Salesman character specialized in slapstick humor, squirt guns, an endless supply of broken teeth (which he’d spit out at the audience), and...

his signature balloon animals (aka Boagaloons). Boag began his stint at the Horseshoe with a 2-week contract signed with Walt Disney. One of the features of the show was to have children in the audience sing & dance on stage; “Davy Crockett” was a favorite.

The role of Slue Foot Sue originated with Judy Marsh, and then was taken over by Betty Taylor in 1956 (who gave over 45,000 performances).

The cast relaxes with (what else?) Pepsi!

In the 60's, guests could dance to the hip tunes of the Elliot Brothers at Date Night:

Here's Charlie Barnet, at The Cavalcade of Bands, June 1, 1963

Zooming in to see the music:

Former Cast Member Russ "Lucky" Reynolds was kind enough to share some memories he had of working at The Golden Horseshoe:

I have nothing but the fondest memories of working at the Horseshoe (1969 to 1974). Disneyland has been a family affair. My wife (high school sweetheart during the Horseshoe years) was Snow White in those days. I used to take off my bow-tie and garters to sneak off to Main Street and watch Cathy in the parade. Years later, our older daughter Kariann worked in Frontierland operations for five years. More recently, our youngest Katie danced in the Parade of Dreams and the Christmas Parade. Now she is a Laker Girl.

Back to the ‘Shoe. Wally, Betty and Fulton were still doing the Revue, with Bert as Wally’s sub. Several of the guys I worked with had a crush on one of the dancers (Terry Robinson) – she was a very nice gal. I never got tired of watching that show. At night the entertainment was highlighted by Sonny Hellmer and Banu Gibson doing a Roaring 20’s show. Sonny would chug an entire pitcher of Pepsi every show. Special engagements were common back then. Such stars as Conway Twitty, Xavier Cugat & Charro, Buddy Rich, etc. The Kids of the Kingdom weren’t bad either. Truly, working at the Horseshoe was always fun. I never had a hard time doing my shift. As to the inner workings of the operation, the work was hard because we had to fill the house and serve every guest before the show began. The menu included tuna, beef & cheese and ham & cheese sandwiches (the h & c had great marbled rye bread). The waitresses had the toughest duty by far. There were a lot of breaks, however. While the shoe was on we all retired to the little foreman’s office upstairs. We played a lot of pinochle and poker and quickly bonded into a very close group by virtue of the close quarters and the many breaks during a shift. Yes, there were several weddings between bartenders and waitresses over the years. Now, 40 odd years later, we go back often as season tickets holders. Although we Enjoy Billy Hill & the Hillbillys, they are a far cry from the Revue. Those were the days!

Pepsi was a huge sponsor of The Horsehoe for years, underwriting the expense of the excellent entertainment, etc. at this unique venue. Several years after I left in the 70’s they pulled-out and left the budget in a hole, which was too bad. Walt was right with his belief that the bottom line took care of itself if the vision remained pure.

Thanks for the opportunity for nostalgic memories.

Russ (Lucky) Reynolds

See more vintage & current Disneyland Golden Horseshoe Revue photos on my Golden Horseshoe web page.


JG said...

I was very fortunate to attend one performance of that original cast show with Wally Boag. I think it was in 1976 or 1977, I was with my high school class and we went in for a cold drink and stayed for the show. It was a laugh riot.

Never got to go in on any of the many previous trips with Mom and Dad, because it was a "saloon", and we didn't patronize such places, hmmph. It's too bad, because Dad would have enjoyed the show, only soda was available. Still the vibe was there. Maybe it was the can-can show.

Thanks very much to Mr. Reynolds for his memories. I agree about Billy Hill and the Hillbillies, we laughed hard at that show last year, but just wasn't the same.

Thank you Dave, for this great tour.


Melissa said...

These lovely pictures make me sad that the Diamond Horseshoe here on the East Coast gets so little use.

Douglas McEwan said...

Wonderful post. I saw the show easily 20 times in the 1960s.

I would appreciate it if you would ask Lucky if he remembers "Sir Oliver" Smith, who worked that same crew in the 1960s, and if he does, has he any contact info on him now, if he's still alive. He was my high school English teacher, and I know he worked weekends, holidays and vacations on the crew at the Golden Horseshoe. I know he did because whenever I went to Disneyland in the 1960s (Which was often. I lived 6 miles from the park, and it was cheap then), I'd call him first, and he'd reserve a stage box for me for a perfromance. I and several of Sir Oliver's (His first name was "Sir". Honest! Whimsical parents can be a lifelong trial) students and fellow teachers would really like to know if he is still alive, and if he is, where we could reach him.

Wally Boag's memoir is still available via Internet from Lawrence Boag. For Golden Horseshoe Review fans like me, it's a must-have, and absolutely stuffed with magnificent photographs.

That Wally Boag and Betty Taylor both died last year within one day of each other (and from the same cause: Alzheimer's) is both strange and sad. Wally, Betty, Fulton, I loved you guys. Thanks for all 40,000 shows.