delanceyplace.com 12/10/10 - mouseketeers and pompadours

In today's excerpt - to help finance the construction of his new theme park, Walt Disney launched a new 1955 television show that revolutionized programming and dominated the daytime ratings with the unheard of strategy of letting regular kids be the stars of a show. For the kids that starred, the work was hard, and they survived in part with their own small subversions. For example, the pre-teen boys who starred in The Mickey Mouse Club defied the wishes of the show's producers and tilted their Mouseketeer caps back to show off their golden pompadours:

"Lonnie Burr's blond hair would be just so: the sides slicked back, the top a forever-cresting wave rising above his smooth forehead and breaking along the back of his skull. And then, as usual, one of the paunchy Mickey Mouse Club producers would come along and flatten the twelve-year-old Mouseketeer's coif with one glunk of his black-winged beanie straight onto the top of his head, suctioning it to his cranium and cutting a line across his eyebrows as if, perhaps, his brain might come off with it if squeezed tightly enough. A guy could have the coolest hair in town, but no one would know about it if he wore his Mouseketeer cap according to regulation. This fact alone made many of the older, teenage boys among The Mickey Mouse Club's two dozen cast members hate those ears that would become such icons of the 1950s. Pompadours were the rage. The guys had to have their waves out. And producers' demands that they wear the stupid hats way down on their heads wrecked everything. 'All the guys hated the ears,' Lonnie says now. 'They'd always want us to wear it like a monk.'

"The solution: the boys would act like they were going along with the producers' ridiculous rules until the last second before shooting started, then sneak the cap back two inches or so, just as cameras started to roll, pushing as much hair as possible forward with it to approximate a decent wave. After all, they'd spent most of their preparation time in the morning washing, drying, parting, combing, dovetailing, and applying a gooey wave-set product that would dry as hard as glue, just to do it all over again and again throughout the day as they sweated through their dance numbers.

"It was the dawn of the rock 'n roll era, and hair was a priority. So time and again, Lonnie and castmates Bobby Burgess and Tommy Cole would be there on the Mouseketeer soundstage, fidgeting a fraction of a second before the scene, doffing their caps to liberate their waves just as cameras started to roll. 'If you watch the show, you can see the different sizes of waves out front,' Lonnie says. 'All of us boys had full manes of hair, and they wanted none of it showing,' Tommy says. 'The girls all still looked pretty because they had these waves of hair flowing down, but they wanted to make the boys look like little bald people!'

"More than ten million children watched the first season of The Mickey Mouse Club, and two million Mouse ears sold in the show's first three months, proving that kids mattered in this new mass-communication-driven world. The Mickey Mouse Club demonstrated that a group of ordinary children could put on a crowd-pleasing show and that kids their age would tune in en masse to watch it. The series spoke straight to the prepubescent crowd at a pivotal time in their lives, when they were primed to fixate on anything they felt was just for them. The Mickey Mouse Club made a generation of kids feel like they belonged to their own elite group, a feeling that would lodge itself in their hearts and make them remember Mouseketeers Annette, Tommy, Darlene, Cubby, Karen, Lonnie, Sherry, Doreen, and the rest of the gang for the rest of their lives."


author:

Jennifer Armstrong

title:

Why? Because We Still Like You: An Oral History of the Mickey Mouse Club

publisher:

Grand Central

date:

Copyright 2010 by Jennifer Armstrong

pages:

3-6
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COMMENTS (1)

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JohnSmith

Yesterday at 7:31pm
Gianni Russo is a liar, which makes this excerpt junk.