Wally Boag, who originated and played the role of Pecos Bill in nearly 40,000 live performances of The Golden Horseshoe Revue at Disneyland, passed away on Friday. He was 90 years old.
“I first ‘met’ Wally at my parents’ glorious 30th anniversary party, July 13, 1955, when he strode on stage at The Golden Horseshoe Saloon with his carpet bag full of gags. It was love at first sight. Like millions of others, including my dad, I never tired of his routine because he was always fresh. Dad loved The Golden Horseshoe Revue. He took all his guests from all over the world to see it, and they loved it. My dad really loved Wally, and those millions of others did too. He had a comic genius, and a wonderful stage presence that many younger comedians studied and emulated. He had a beautiful talent that he shared with all of us, and he was a kind, unpretentious man. We will never forget him.”
—Diane Disney Miller
Wally began his Disney career with the opening of The Golden Horseshoe Revue in July 1955, and retired in 1982. After his retirement, he continued to assist The Walt Disney Company with special shows and events. Here’s his Disney story, in his own words, excerpted from an interview published in the Spring, 1993 issue of The E Ticket magazine.
“…in 1955, [Irish tenor Donald Novis, with whom Wally had worked in Australia] called me up. He said he was talking to Walt Disney who was going to open up a ‘little park’ out in Anaheim and there was going to be a ‘soda pop show’ …and he was looking for a comic. I went to the Studio and they sent me out to this empty set with just a piano player and a chair. Walt was sitting on the chair and he said: ‘Donald says you’re pretty funny … let’s see what you’ve got.’ So I had this bag, with a ventriloquist’s doll, and I did the balloon routine, and the bagpipes (a routine I picked up in Edinburgh in 1947).
“I finished with my dancing, and in those days (at the age of 34) I could do a flip-flop and a back flip and end with a bow. That’s how I got the job. On July 4, I signed a two-week contract, and we opened on the 17th. Walt booked Donald Novis (who already knew every song an Irish tenor could sing) and myself with ten solid minutes of vaudeville, already proven. He signed a girl singer who looked the part, and four Can-Can girls for the two dancing numbers. That was the show, with no extra writing except the special material for the girl. Walt was right there and he auditioned everybody. Walt’s idea was to have this 1871 Wild West vaudeville show with the Traveling Salesman comic and Pecos Bill, an Irish tenor and the dancing girls.
“The first show we did in The Golden Horseshoe…I think it was two days before the Park opened…was for Walt’s wedding anniversary. That was our premiere show, and there were quite a few important people in the audience. Hedda Hopper and Irene Dunne were there. It was mostly a dress rehearsal, but it was our first show as far as I’m concerned.
“…After my two week contract, I stayed on for about six months and they gave me a five year contract. When my second five-year contract came up, I hadn’t even realized it. Walt was in the box and he was with the Indian Chief and some of the Indians from the Indian Village. I had saved my ‘hair gag’ so that I could say, ‘All right…put down your hatchet…I’ll save you the trouble.’ I threw my hair down there in front of them…and Walt just fell about, laughing so hard. After the show was over, I went over and talked to him and he said, ‘By the way, you’re up for a new contract…don’t forget to ask for more money.’ You know, that was great."