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It was twenty years ago today ...

Jim Hill

Jim's musings on the history of and rumors about movies, TV shows, books and theme parks including Disneyland, Walt Disney World. Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood.

It was twenty years ago today ...

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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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All rights reserved

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.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

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.

Copyright Sesame Workshop. All rights reserved

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 induce.

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 to Orlando.

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 Island.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

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.

Copyright Sesame Workshop. All rights reserved

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 you think?

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 Frank
Barbara 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.

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  • 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!

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