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"Now it's time to say goodbye ..."

"Now it's time to say goodbye ..."

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Wednesday was a day of errands for me. At the last second as I was leaving the house, I picked up a pen and clipped it onto my shirt pocket. I had no particular reason to do so, but I thought "who knows, might need it."
I drove around Southern California, including my last stop in Anaheim. It was now mid-day, and I had an Annual Pass in my wallet, so I naturally ended up at Disneyland for the afternoon. After a few hours of seeing what's up at DCA and Disneyland (noticed the Monorail is operating as a back-and-forth shuttle while construction proceeds on the submarines), I was ready at about 5:30 to make my exit and get home for dinner.

On Main Street U.S.A., I noticed a crowd in the street facing the sidewalk between the Watch Shop and the Emporium. As I got closer, I could see it was the Dapper Dans. Now I'd read all the rumors on the internet about their potential demise and realized this might be one of my last chances to see the group (depending on what Disneyland decided about their fate).

The Dans, of course, wear straw hats, striped sportcoats, bow ties, and spatted shoes--each in a different bright color. Bob Hartley in golden yellow, Shelby Grimm in lavender, Jim Campbell in cyan blue, Bill Lewis in bright red. I arrived in the middle of their performance, but still saw enough to feel I got a good show. They sang "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah," then did a strange little song about always using an eye cup to wash your eyes. The song ended with a groaner of a pun about how failing to wash your eyes means you give everyone a dirty look.

They then picked up their hand chimes and used them with their voices to perform "Yankee Doodle Dandy." They continued with the chimes to offer a largely instrumental version of the calypso song "Under the Sea" from "The Little Moneymaker--I mean Little Mermaid." As a tribute to Disneyland's past, they used the chimes once again to offer "Electrical Parade Unplugged" in which their voices successfully imitated the familiar synthesized intro to the parade.

Then they performed what I gather was their standard closing number--a sing-a-long medley of Disney hits, closing with the Mickey Mouse Club's "Now It's Time to Say Goodbye . . . ," with Bill doing a servicable imitation of Mickey's voice.

At that point they thanked everbody and told us we had just seen the final performance of the Dapper Dans. It took a moment for the audience to process this, with a few murmurs as people confirmed with each other what they had just heard. "Yes, it's true. We will never be performing together again."

On reflection, it seems pretty clear that the songs they selected were personal favorites. After their announcement, they closed with one final number: "You Gotta Have Heart" from Damn Yankees.

There was no hint of sadness in any of their performance. It reminded me of one of the lyrics from "There's No Business Like Show Business": " ... They smile when they are low." I wonder if they might have sung that earlier in the set, but I'll never know. They were complete pros right to the end.

I was a bit in shock that I just happened to be walking by at a historic moment in Disneyland history. I thought "I should get their autographs" but wondered about where I'd get paper and pen. Then it occurred to me that I had the entertainment schedule in my back pocket and if only ... Oh, wait. I DO have a pen! It had sat in my pocket all day and I'd forgotten about it. I stepped forward to get them to sign, then other people picked up the idea. One woman happened to have just purchased their CD and got that signed. I wished them all best of luck.

I understand that Disneyland has to constantly re-jigger their entertainment program. It's the nature of the entertainment business that, ultimately, everyone gets cancelled. Even Pecos Bill and Slue-foot Sue are gone. But what other kind of entertainment would be appropriate to Main Street? I'd hate to think that they're going to pull entertainment from Main Street to put it somewhere else.

As history goes, I know that this is not huge. But I was there.

Jeff Lange File photo

The Dapper Dans barbershop quartet gave their last performance on Disneyland's Main Street U.S.A. on Wednesday, April 5th at 5:30 p.m.

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  • I am not surprised.

    Once again, the Disney machine has demonstrated it's sickening indifference to it's own heritage and Walt's legacy. While the ubiquitous Main Street music tracks are nice enough in their own, non-intrusive, passive way, they lack the human touch. Part of the foundations that Disney entertainment is based upon is that ability to 'break the fourth wall' and emotionally and physically engage our guests. And that foundation becomes shaky as the bean-counters continue to chip away at it.

    Just like the "Hunchback Of Notre Dame" and "Doug - Live!" shows in Florida, this smacks of economically eliminating anything the upper eschelon thinks is draining too much cash from the Theme Park coffers. Or, like when they eliminated the Walt Disney World Band - temporarily - because too many of the musicians were '0ld-Timers' whose salaries had become too large to justify having live music on Main Street, in Flroida! Forgive me......how much money does a single theme park generate in a week?

    What was a nostalgic reminder of a vocal style in an era long-past, will now be a memory too - and as much a nail in the coffin that is Disney's heritage.

    The gift shops however, remain in full operation. Perhaps they, too, shoud be eliminated and replaced by computer-based, catalogue-driven, push-button experiences - as cold and devoid of life as the Dapper Dans' street corner is now.

    Wow! Now THAT's entertainment!
  • This may be a surprise to the powers that be, but every time I see the Dapper Dans, I stop to listen.  (I'm talking Florida here).  Main Street is something I tend to skip a bit.  I am not a souvenir fiend.  But the Dapper Dans make me hang around.  And maybe my linger will let something catch my eye and draw me into a store I was skipping.  Maybe I will get intoxicated by the delicious smells of the bakery and HAVE to go in because I JUST CAN'T STAND IT!  
    They are fun and entertaining and a joy to watch.  I hope Florida keeps them!
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