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Filling some awfully big shoes at the Shoe

Filling some awfully big shoes at the Shoe

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Picking up where we left off with last week's tale ... It's one thing to watch your favorite Disney show as a fan. It's quite another to know that -- in 45 minutes -- you're going to be a member of the cast, carrying on a proud tradition started 25 years before by Walt Disney and Wally Boag.

It's April 16th, 1980. My first day of training to step into the comic lead in the Golden Horseshoe Revue. I'm sitting in the stage left booth -- Walt's box -- watching Wally perform his traveling salesman pitch. Amazing the crowd with his 'Boagaloons' bit and bring the house down with his tooth-spitting routine.

After that show ends and the guests have exited the theater, the house staff quickly moves in to reset everything and sweep up 'teeth' that have flown into the audience. Wally Boag himself steps out from behind the curtain to escort me backstage ... and right out the door.

I have to hustle to keep up with him as Wally dashes through Adventureland and across the Jungle Cruise dock. He goes right to the far edge of the dock and steps off. For a moment I wonder whether my 'dream job' will involve swimming the dark green waters of the jungle.


Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

Then I notice that Boag is stepping onto a trail of stones in the water that lead along the shore, behind the stage of the Tahitian Terrace and into a cave. Okay, Wally isn't trying to drown me. But where are we going?

The cave opens into the industrial area behind Main Street. We run upstairs to the second floor of a building which houses the Plaza Pavilion, the Tahitian Terrace, the Enchanted Tiki Room and (it turns out) Mr. Boag's dressing room.

Actually it's more like a studio apartment, with a day bed and media room, a walk-in closet full of costumes and props and an office with an unimpressive view of the back of Main Street. I would use the fire escape outside that window all summer, when I'd climb up to the roof to watch the fireworks each night.

When we sit down to talk (and I finish gushing about what a thrill this is) Wally asks: "Okay. What do you want to do in your act?"


 Wally Boag (L) and Ron Schneider (R) chat on stage at the Golden Horseshoe during
a cast member open house that was held in honor of Disneyland's 25th anniversary

It hadn't occurred to me that I could do what I wanted at the Golden Horseshoe. No wonder Wally always looked like he was having a great time onstage - he was doing what he wanted to do, the way he wanted to do it. I answer that I'll do a blend of my stuff and his ... As I want to carry on the traditions of the Golden Horseshoe Revue.

I watch a few more shows that afternoon, meet Fulton Burley, Betty Taylor, Bobby Davis (i.e. the show's stage manager, who bears an amazing resemblance to Jiminy Cricket), Bernice, the ladies' dresser, and the Band and the 'Line' (i.e. the can-can dancers). After lunch, I'm measured for my new period suit by Jack Muhs, the costume designer for Disneyland Entertainment. In the fitting room, I jump a mile when I round the corner and nearly slam into an 8-foot figure of Stromboli that's being prepped for the park's new Pinocchio ride.

Before I leave that first day, Wally loans me a cassette recording of the show, one of his six-shooters and a bag of dried baby lima beans. So I can practice twirling the guns and spitting out teeth for the Pecos Bill number. I don't have the heart to tell him I already have several recordings of the Golden Horseshoe, going back ten years.

Back home, I run through the material over & over and practice twirling the heavy gun with both hands (standing over my bed - cuts down on bending over to pick it up off the floor). But how to practice spitting out teeth? I don't want to have to pick up hundreds of lima beans off my apartment floor.


This Andy Warhol-inspired painting of Wally Boag will be auctioned off
at Saturday night's Golden Horseshoe tribute event. To view more of this
artist's work, follow this link. Photo courtesy of Davelandweb.com

I wind up walking down Vermont Avenue with a handful of beans secreted in my cheek. As cars drive by, I practice casually bouncing beans off their windshields. I get pretty good at it, too. I get one down the back of a lady's blouse. She never knew what hit her.

I spend the next few days getting paid to hang out with Wally and Fulton backstage at the Shoe. This thing runs like clockwork. Five shows a day with everyone and everything timed to within an inch of its life.

What I find most amazing is the way Wally just seems to know when it's time to drop what he's doing and hightail it through the cave, across the stones and backstage to pick up his props. Then it's back outside to enter through the front doors of the saloon. He always makes it just as the production number is wrapping up, stopping at the bar to wait for the lights to fade down so he can sneak into the center of the room for his entrance.

As we're standing back there in the dark waiting for Wally's cue, I see several people in each show turn around and look at him. I had to laugh at this. You see, when you stood in line for the Horseshoe Revue you never knew who the comedian was going to be that day. It was probably Wally ... But it could be Wally's talented understudy, Jim Adams; or it might be Bert Henry, who eventually moves to Orlando to star in the Diamond Horseshoe.


 Wally's longtime understudy, Jim Adams.
Copyright 2005 Prof. Productions

Whenever I saw that show, I knew to turn around during the production number to see who the comic was. I love to see that ALL the Horseshoe fans do that exact same thing.

After a few days of watching shows and working on the Pecos Bill number, I show up one morning and Wally greets me with "Your costume is up in my room. You're doing the third show today. I'm going to the track."

Gulp.

I sit down in Walt's box and watch Wally do the first two shows, just as I had a hundred times over the last ten years. This time, though, is bittersweet. It occurs to me that working as Wally's sub means that -- from now on -- I'll be at the Horseshoe when he isn't. This will be one of the last times I get to sit and appreciate the work of this man who has taught me so much... and given my life purpose.

The third show finally arrives. The walk outside to the front entrance is like a dream. I try to adopt the same laid-back manner I'd learned watching Wally and used hundreds of times back at Spillikin Corners. But I can't wipe the smile off my face.


 Photo courtesy of Davelandweb.com. All Rights Reserved

Standing in the back waiting for my cue, I'm almost convinced I have nothing to worry about. Then those Horseshoe fans turn around to see who's on that day. Well, Schneider... You wanted to carry on the traditions of the Golden Horseshoe Revue? Here's your chance.

Long story short (too late!) that first show goes off without a hitch. Sure, I nearly bust up laughing when I get nose-to-nose with Fulton. And I nearly choke to death when one lima bean decides to slide down my throat instead of shoot out of my mouth.

But the drummer catches and punctuates every move I make. I see the band laughing at my routine. And when I walk off at the end, Bobby tells me, "I've seen 'em come and I've seen 'em go. But that was the best first show I've ever seen."

Backstage, Wally shakes my hand and -- true to his word -- leaves for the track. I'm left to do the last two shows that day and walk across Adventureland by myself up to Wally's room and call home.

Who was it that said, "If you can dream it, then you can do it"? Oh, yeah ...

 


 Image courtesy of Ape Pen Publishing

Are you one of those folks who dearly misses this Disneyland show? Well, tomorrow night, Ape Pen Publishing will be paying tribute to Wally Boag with "The Golden Horseshoe Dinner Show & Celebration." Which will be held at the Sheraton directly across from Disneyland. There are literally only a handful of tickets left for this event. Which will feature performances by Dana Daniels and many of the other entertainers that Mr. Boag has inspired over the years. Plus -- of course -- an appearance by the great man himself. So if you'd like to get in on the fun, you should fire off an e-mail off to [email protected] ASAP

As for Mr. Schneider ... He's still hard at work on his memoirs, "Themes, Dreams & Schemes: 40 Years Behind a Nametag." Which should hit store shelves by the late Fall / early winter of 2008.

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  • The picture of the old Golden Horseshoe sign reminded me of a gap in my knowledge, so, after a "slew" of looking up the meaning and history of "slue-foot" here's what I found it means:

    slue 1 also slew (sl)

    v. slued also slewed, slu·ing also slew·ing, slues also slews

    v.tr.

    1. To turn (something) on an axis; rotate: slued the swivel chair around; sluing the boom of a crane.

    2. To turn sharply; veer: braked and slued the car around.

    v.intr.

    1. To turn about an axis; pivot.

    2. To turn or slide sideways or off course; skid.

    n.

    1. The act of sluing.

    2. The position to which something has slued.

    ALSO....Johnny Mercer actually wrote a song that's in the famous Fred Astaire movie "Daddy Long Legs" about a DANCE called the "Slue-Foot" Here are the lyrics:

    You want a dance that's easy to do,

    then dig the one I'm hippin' you to,

    I'm gonna teach you to fall in on what they are

    ca;;-in' the SLUEFOOT

    You make your right point to the north,

    You make your left foot point to the south,

    and then you stroll sort a westerly, slow and siestaly SLUEFOOT!

    Don't be an odd ball, and don;t be a fig.

    Try, why be shy?

    After all It's even better if your feet's too big, and if you learn to dance it

    just right, it should'nt take but hald of the night, It is the most

    lack-a-dai-si-est,

    I mean the craziest SLUE-FOOT.

    You want a SLUE-FOOT.

    LASTLY....did you know that in the original story, when Slue-Foot Sue keeps bouncing on her springy bustle back and forth from the Earth to the Moon, Pecos eventually feels so sorry for her and the fact that she's starving that he SHOOTS HER DEAD to put her out of her misery?!!! Needless to say, Disney cleaned THAT one up bigtime.

  • Ron, I absolutely love your articles! I hadn't realized until I began reading them, but I had a video as a kid that starred Wally and someone in a gorilla suit. It was some sort of activity/birthday video that came with some balloon animals as I recall. I really wish I could find it now. As soon as I read about the teeth bit (which was in the video), I remembered instantly. Can't wait for your memoirs!

  • Thank you Ron for these wonderful articles about your memories of the Golden Horseshoe.  I never saw the original show, but I feel like I did in a way by reading your stories and watching the old episode of The Wonderful World of Disney that featured the show.  When I visit the Golden Horseshoe now, I know it's not the same show, but I'm proud to be entertained in the same location knowing about its history.

  • Ron - Another great article; thanks for sharing. It was also great to hear your tribute to Wally on Saturday. I posted my photos from the evening on my site:

    http://davelandweb.com/goldenhorseshoe/event.html

  • Ron, great article! Thank you very much for sharing your experiences with us. Please continue - I'd love to hear more!

    Also, it was great to meet and visit with you at both Club 33 and the GHS event. Your tribute speech was so touching, and as a member of the event staff I just want to thank you again for contributing to the evening. It was truly a wonderful event.

    :) Lannie Bartlett

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