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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

That's entertainment: Hey there! Hi there! Ho there!

You're as welcome as can be. M-I-C-K-E-Y  M-O-U-S-E.  So went The Mickey Mouse Club March on the day of the show's debut in October of 1955. For four seasons, kids sat mesmerized, often wearing Mickey Mouse ears (yes, even me), as a bunch of precocious kids sang and danced their way into American homes.

I recently came across a fairly detailed history of the television show, and not only did it bring back a flood of memories, it also provided me with some answers to "Whatever happened to...?"

Casting for the Mickey Mouse Club began in March of 1955, and by the time production had started in May, 28 kids had been hired. Walt Disney had insisted that the cast be "ordinary kids," not professionals, but that idea was quickly abandoned. By the end of the third season (the fourth season being re-runs), a total of 39 people had been Mouseketeers, but only nine of the original kids made the cut throughout the entire run of the show.

The nine were Sharon Baird, Bobby Burgess, Lonnie Burr, Tommy Cole, Annette Funicello, Darlene Gillespie, Cubby O'Brien, Karen Pendleton and Doreen Tracey. So what happened to these well-known Mouseketeers after the show ended?
   Sharon Baird worked at Disneyland
   and toured with a few other
   Mouseketeers from time to time. She
   taught dance and worked on and off in
   the entertainment industry, although she
   went to college and majored in math and
   secretarial science, supporting herself for
   most of her adult life as a full-time
  Bobby Burgess became a regular dancer on
  the Lawrence Welk show and eventually
  married Kristie Ann Floren, daughter of
  accordionist Myron Floren, who was also on
  the Welk show. He remained a performer on
  that show until the 1980s, at which time he
  opened a cotillion studio in Long Beach,
  California. He and his wife have four grown
Lonnie Burr graduated high school at age 14 and went on to get his master's degree in theater arts from UCLA. He has worked on stage, in television and in film, has written a book, several plays and poetry.

Tommy Cole had some success as a teen singer, received a junior college degree and did a stint in the U. S. Air Force. He had done some work on Leave It to Beaver and My Three Sons and became fascinated with work behind the camera. He eventually became a successful make-up artist, winning one Emmy for his work and being nominated several more times. He and his wife Aileen, a former dancer, have two children.
Annette Funicello had a successful teen singing career, as well as making appearances in numerous television shows and films, most notably her beach party movies. She married in 1965 and left the entertainment business to raise a daughter and two sons. In the 1990s she revealed that she has multiple sclerosis, and she has retired from public life.
Darlene Gillespie was engaged in a long legal battle with Disney. She became a surgical nurse, but eventually she suffered a back injury which ended her medical career. In the early 1990s she became involved with a man with whom she committed a number of criminal acts.  They were charged with shoplifting in 1996, then a year later were indicted for a check-kiting scheme. Darlene was convicted in 1998, receiving a sentence of two years. In November 2005 they were indicted on federal fraud charges.
  Cubby O'Brien went to the Lawrence Welk 
  show for two years after the show ended. 
  He then worked for several years with 
  bandleader Spike Jones and later with Ann-
  Margret, Jim Nabors and Carol Burnett. While 
  working for Burnett, he also worked for Richard 
  and Karen Carpenter. He still plays drums for 
  various Broadway shows. 
Karen Pendleton dropped out of
college and became a sales clerk at a
department store. In 1970 she married
a lawyer and had a daughter but later
divorced. In 1983 she was in an
accident that left her paralyzed from the
waist down. She returned to college
and earned a master's degree in
psychology. She is now director of the
Center for Independent Living in her
   Doreen Tracey worked as a teen singer
   in the early 1960s and later toured with the
   USO throughout Europe and Asia in the
   mid-60s and entertained the troops in Viet
   Nam in the late 60s. She worked in the
   recording industry as a promotion director
   and scandalized the Disney organization by
   doing a couple of nude layouts for Gallery



  1. Gosh Dana, I so wanted to be a Mouseketeer!
    The first Australian. Alas, it was not to be...

    1. I was 7 years old when the show made its debut, so I was smack-dab in the middle of the target audience, and being a Mouseketeer would have been my dream come true too. They weren't recruiting any from Texas either, so I had to put on my ears and watch from afar...which I did faithfully. I still know The Mickey Mouse Club March by heart, 57 years later. :)