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It was twenty years ago yesterday that I was standing in the
Adventurers Club surrounded by some very incredulous WDW cast members.
"Let me get this straight," said the woman who was playing Pamelia
Perkins that evening. "Your wife is in a hospital, in labor right now ...
And yet you're here?!"
"You don't understand," I stammered. "I'm only here tonight
because she sent me here ..."
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Hang on. I should probably give you folks some background information
before every female reader of JHM then decides that I'm the worst person on the
planet. Back in January of 1993, Michelle Smith and I got married. We actually
tied the knot in one of the small outdoor brick courtyards that you can find if
you wander the corridors of Disney's Beach Club for long enough.
Anyway, some six months later, Michelle & I discovered
that we were going to be parents. Which -- given that we were just barely
squeaking by on what she made as a travel agent (I was in the middle of my
struggling screenwriter period back then) -- it was both an exciting & extremely
stressful time in our lives.
But what always helped lighten the mood back then was to
jump into our battered grey GEO Metro and then make the 70 mile drive from Tampa
to Walt Disney World. Where we'd then spend the evening visiting with friends
at the Adventurers Club at Pleasure Island.
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Now I'm not exactly sure how this happened (Though -- knowing
Michelle and her force of personality -- this was probably her doing). But over
time, we actually befriended a lot of the WDW cast members who had opened the
Adventurers Club. By that I mean those performers who had originated the roles
of Otis Wren, Dusty Cabinets, Hathaway Browne, Emil Bleehall and Graves the Butler.
Now you have to understand that a lot of these performers
had initially traveled to Orlando
because they were hoping to take advantage of all the film & television
work that was then being done at Universal Studios Florida and Disney-MGM
Studios theme park. So in a weird sort of way, working at the Adventurers Club at
night was actually these actors' "day job." The thing that they did back
then to keep the lights on & the bills paid just so these extremely
talented people could audition for roles on then-produced-in-Orlando shows like
"The Adventures of Superboy" and "Swamp Thing."
And given that they were all struggling actors and I was then a screenwriter
wanna-bee, certain members of the Adventurers Club cast & I bonded. I
actually remember Sheila Greenberg & I collaborating with Darin De Paul (who -- to my
way of thinking, anyway -- was the definitive Otis Wren) and Kristian Truelsen
(who always put such a fun spin on Fletcher Hodges) on a pilot script for an
"Adventurers Club" television series. Which -- for about five minutes
or so there back in the Fall of 1993 --
Disney Channel executives toyed with producing in Florida.
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Meanwhile, Michelle became friendly with Leslie Carrara. Who
-- these days -- is best known as the talented puppeteer behind Abby Cadabby,
that fairy-in-training who has become "Sesame Street" 's latest
break-out character. But back then, Ms. Carrara-Goodwin was the one, the only
Dusty Cabinets. The most madcap maid to ever work at the Adventurers Club.
Okay. Let's jump ahead to mid-March of 1994. Michelle and I
are now living in the Orlando area
and her pregnancy has not been going all that smoothly. There have been
numerous trips to the hospital due to false labor and other health-related
issues. But now -- finally -- the doctors at Arnold Palmer have decided to
And given that we're now in "This-is-not-a-drill" country,
I hurry to the payphone and first call my then-in-laws. Who -- because they
live in Hawaii -- have the
longest way to come if they're looking to actually be on hand for the birth.
But as soon as Terry & Nancy Smith hear my news, they run on out to the airport
and then catch the next flight from Honolulu
And then I call my parents. And Barbara & Frank Hill, being the road warriors
that they are, immediately climb into their camper and begin the drive down to Florida.
I then walk back to Michelle's hospital room and tell her that I've made all of
the necessary calls. Which is when my then-wife -- just after she makes it
through her latest contraction -- turns to me and says "You got ahold of
the people at the Adventurers Club, right?"
I have to admit that this request kind of tripped me up. I mean, don't get me
wrong. I liked all of the WDW cast members that I knew who worked at this Pleasure
Island nightclub. But they weren't
exactly at the top of my people-that-I-need-to-notify-when-the-baby's-finally-officially-on-the-way
list. But Michelle was insistent. She had supposedly told Leslie that she would
let her know just as soon as she went into labor. And since it's not a good
idea to argue with a pregnant woman / put her under any additional stress ...
The next thing I know, I'm driving up I-4 headed for Pleasure
Okay. Now to get back to where today's story started out ...
As soon as the female members of the cast of the Adventurers Club found out why
I was actually there (i.e., under direct orders from Michelle), they quickly
gave me the phone number for the duck phone in the Grand Salon as well as the
backstage phone at the Club. With the idea that -- when there is finally news to share -- I can then hurry to the pay phone and dial straight into the Adventurers Club. And with that info in hand, I immediately turned around
and went back to Arnold Palmer.
Let's now jump ahead 18 hours or so. And against all odds,
Terry & Nancy have not only made it all the way from Honolulu
to Orlando but are now at the
hospital. And with my then mother-in-law holding one leg and I holding the
other, Michelle is getting ready to bring our daughter into the world.
It's at this point that Leslie Carrara pokes her head into the delivery room.
She hadn't been at the Adventurers Club the night before. But she had heard about what
Michelle was going through. So Leslie had come by Arnold Palmer figuring that she'd either
get to see our already-delivered baby or just get the chance to chat with
/ comfort my still-in-labor then-wife. But never in her wildest dreams did Ms.
Carrara-Goodwin think she'd wind up in the delivery room just as Alice Andrea
Hill was officially entering the world.
And given that -- after hours & hours of contractions -- Michelle was dearly in need of some
distraction / encouragement at this exact moment ... Well, that's exactly what
Leslie did. So picture this: I'm holding one of Michelle's legs. Nancy Smith (my
ex-mother-in-law) is holding her other leg. And directly behind the doctor &
delivery nurses, Leslie is standing up on a chair, channeling her inner
cheerleader by chanting "Push 'em out, push 'em out, way out!"
And that is how my daughter entered the world 20 years ago today. Surrounded by
love & absurdity. Which is a pretty great way to make an entrance, don't
Which isn't to say that there weren't a few scary moments. For what seemed like
a longest time in that delivery room, Alice didn't make a sound.
Not a peep. We were all about to panic, but then this thin little whine filled
the air. As if my then-newly-born daughter was saying " ... Why did you
wake me? I was nice & warm & snuggled down deep under the covers in there."
(L to R) Nancy Stadler, Alice Andrea Hill and yours truly at FrankBarbara Hill's 60th wedding anniversary celebration,November 2, 2013
Well, knowing how much you still like to sleep in, Alice, here's hoping that
you have a very dream-filled birthday. It still seems like yesterday that you
entered your Mom & my life. But I've loved every moment of the past 20
years. Here's hoping that -- in the decades ahead -- you're always surrounded
by silly people who love you with all their hearts.
I always enjoy a good Jim Hill story, and this is one of the best. Happy Birthday, Alice!
What a wonderful tribute, Jim. Hope Alice always appreciates the family she was blessed with!