Back in the early 1960s, whenever Walt Disney himself
escorted dignitaries around Disneyland, there were always a few rides &
shows that Walt would insist that his guests experience with him while they
were in the Park.
Walt let Jawaharlal Nehru take a turn at the wheel on the Jungle Cruise when the Indian Prime Minister visited Disneyland in November of 1961. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
Typically, Disney would first take these folks down to
Adventureland. Where they'd then all climb into a boat and go off on a Jungle
Cruise. Afterwards, Walt would insist on stopping at the Enchanted Tiki Room.
So that he could show off his singing bird show (which - Disney would
point out - made use of the exact same technology that guided
the Polaris, the world's first submarine-launched ballistic missile).
At this point in the tour, Disney always took his Guests
over to the Golden Horseshoe. Where they'd be seated in his personal box (which
was to stage left) so that they could now watch two of Walt's favorite
performers - Wally Boag & Betty Taylor - work their magic with an audience.
Between when Disneyland officially opened in July 1955 and
Disney's passing in December of 1966, Walt must have watched the Golden
Horseshoe Revue a hundred times. But at every single performance Disney
attended, he'd laugh & clap & sing along - just like the rest of the Guests. Thanks in large part to the way Wally & Betty always kept this Disneyland
show fresh & funny. Delivering consistent, top quality performances whenever they took to the stage.
And it wasn't just Walt who loved Wally & Betty. Cary
Grant - whenever he came out to Disneyland - would always insist on stopping at
the Golden Horseshoe to see Boag & Taylor. And Lucille Ball ... Lucy was a
huge fan of Wally & Betty's work. So whenever she and her family would
visit the Park, Lucy could eventually be found in Frontierland. Her distinctive
laughter filling that saloon whenever Pecos Bill and Slue Foot Sue made their
appearance in this Disneyland show.
Lucille Ball made a point of being in the audience on January 28, 1982 to catch WallyBoag's last performance at Disneyland's Golden Horseshoe. Copyright DisneyEnterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
And because Boag & Taylor were such obvious show
business pros, Disney would eventually come to count on them in very unique
ways. Be it Walt recruiting Wally to come write gags & do character voices
for the Enchanted Tiki Room (which virtually guaranteed - in Disney's eyes,
anyway - that the world's first Audio Animatronic show would be seen as
entertaining by Disneyland Guests) or - in Betty's case - Walt having her climb
up & down through the then-still-under-construction Swiss Family Treehouse.
So that Disney could then get Ms. Taylor's opinion about whether all those
stairs would be too hard for women wearing heels and a skirt to navigate.
Now as for Wally & Betty, the people (rather than Boag
& Taylor, the performers) ... From what Wally himself once told me, he always
thought that these two got along so well because Boag & Taylor both grew up
in the Pacific Northwest (Wally was born in Portland, Oregon on September 13,
1920, while Ms. Taylor was born in 1919 in Seattle, WA). More importantly, these two shared the same sort of old-school show business work ethic. That the
show must go on, no matter what.
Betty Taylor wanders through the Golden Horseshoe Saloon, in search of a victim ... er ...volunteer to take the title role in her "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby" routine.Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
So even when Betty broke her ankle while the Golden
Horseshoe troupe was off on a USO tour, entertaining the troops in Greenland
and Iceland in 1968, she still managed to make it up onstage that night to belt
out "Bill Bailey." Or that time when Wally cut things a little too close while
taking friends on a tour of the Park. Which is why - in order to make it back to
Frontierland in time for the next performance of the Golden Horseshoe - Boag actually
had to bail out of the Jungle Cruise in mid-cruise and swim to shore.
Now Disneyland history buffs will talk about the number of
the performances that Wally & Betty appeared in. But those who really knew
these two, who worked with them backstage at Frontierland year in and year out,
would rather tell you about that never-ending poker game that Boag, Taylor and their
longtime Horseshoe co-star Fulton Burley always had going on in their dressing
rooms. Or the easy camaraderie that these three had both on-stage and off.
(L to R) Fulton Burley, Betty Taylor and Wally Boag pressing their hands in wet cement attheir 1995 Disney Legends induction ceremony. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
Of course, some of that was because - given the nearly 27
years that Wally worked for the Company and the 31 years that Betty was
employed by the Park - Boag & Taylor genuinely came to think of Disneyland
as their home. Which is why - when you dropped by Wally's dressing room - you'd
invariably find him in there with his soldering iron out, as Boag tried to
assemble the latest electronic gadget that he'd just ordered from Heathkit. Or
why - on Saturday & Sunday mornings - Taylor would always treat friends
& family to a leisurely breakfast at Aunt Jemima's Pancake House. So that
Betty could get in some socializing before showtime.
And given that these two Disney Legends' names are forever
linked by the huge number of shows that they did together at the Golden
Horseshoe ... Well, it only makes sense that Wally Boag & Betty Taylor would
pass away within a day or so of each other. I mean, even the order of their deaths
adheres to show business tradition. With the gentleman always allowing the lady
to take the final bow.
Betty Taylor and Wally Boag AKA Slue Foot Sue andPecos Bill
As both people & performers, Wally Boag & Betty
Taylor will be dearly missed. Which is why the entire JHM staff wishes to
extend its heartfelt condolences to their friends & family during their time of sorrow.
When I heard of the passing of two Disney Legends I knew JHM would honor their talent
Best of all of the tributes I have seen. Thanks. They will both be greatly missed.
A great, heart-felt tribute, Jim!