“Who’s the leader of the club, that’s made for you and me, M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E!”
On October 3rd, 1955, a phenomenon known as the Mickey Mouse Club began. The Walt Disney Family Museum recently reunited three of the original Mouseketeers at a special event, hosted by Lorraine Santoli, author of The Official Mickey Mouse Club Book. Lorraine introduced the special guests: Cubby O’Brien, Sharon Baird, and Bobby Burgess, and led the discussion of their experiences with the show and working with Walt.
Cubby, known for his drumming skills, appeared on stage in his familiar white turtleneck sweater with his name in sequins. When asked how he found out about the auditions, he replied that the producers saw him playing in a Dixieland band and asked him to audition. He had to return three times, once to audition with Karen (another Mouseketeer), and had to quickly learn to tap dance, before finally landing the role. Sharon said she was in a recording session for the movie Artists & Models, when she was approached by Jimmie Dodd to audition. Bobby originally auditioned for a role on Spin and Marty, but when he wasn’t offered a role on that show, was asked to try out for the Mickey Mouse Club instead.
The subject quickly turned to the Mouseketeers' signature accessory, the mouse ear hat. Although many in the audience were proudly wearing theirs, they weren’t so popular with the stars of the show. Bobby explained that wearing the hat would ruin the pompadour hairstyle worn by many of the male Mousekeeters. He said that even though they may not have liked what it did to their hair, they did whatever they could to not lose it. If they did they would be charged $50 to get a replacement. Thankfully, none of the panel had lost theirs, however Annette was not so lucky as hers did eventually disappear, most likely due to some admiring fan looking for a souvenir.
When the panel was asked about their memories of Walt, Cubby remembered how Walt was always on the set, “He was always bringing birthday cakes to the set to celebrate. He wanted us to call him Uncle Walt, but no one ever would. To us he would always be Mr. Disney.” Sharon remembered that Walt was always soft-spoken and calm, and did not allow swearing on the set.
One of Sharon’s favorite memories was on opening day at Disneyland. She reflected about being in what is now Walt’s apartment. She said she remembered seeing Walt looking out of the window over Main Street with his hands behind his back, grinning from ear to ear, a lump in his throat, and a tear in his eye.
Lorraine asked how they managed to avoid the pitfalls that plagued so many other child stars. Bobby replied that that it was due to having fairly normal lives and fairly normal parents, “We had Moms of the 50’s who made dinner every night.” Sharon stated that she still had chores to do at home, and Cubby still played baseball with friends and hung out at the park, although sometimes fans would get their home phone number and call them.
After the show ended for them in 1959, the spotlight didn’t go out on Cubby, Sharon, and Bobby. Cubby was then and is still a musician, working with many famous entertainers. Sharon went on to perform in commercials and animal costume shows, such as those by Sid and Marty Kroft. Bobby has spent 21 seasons on The Lawrence Welk Show, and in June of 2010, became the host.
For those in the audience, the time passed quickly. Many stories and pictures were shared and clips from the program were shown. At the end of the event, everyone stood and joined the panel in singing the familiar song, which ended each episode. “Now it's time to say goodbye, to all our company. M-I-C, See you real soon, K-E-Y, Why? Because we like you. M-O-U-S-E.”
Heather Werth (as seen here with Cubby O'Brien)
Volunteer at The Walt Disney Family Museum