item 1 >>> Ah, the Merry Mouseketeers. We all had our favorites. There were the stars, called by fans today “The Nine,” as those 9 kids appeared on all 3 seasons. But there was a second string too, you see them popping up in old videos, photos, on old record albums. In all, 39 young performers were official “Mice” as they were nicknamed, and today we will attempt an Ultimate Roll Call.
item 2 >>> First season 1955-56. Initially, when filming began in the Summer of 1955, 24 Mice were hired, divided into 3 teams…the 12-member Red Team were the leads, the 6-member Blue and White teams were the extras. (To sort it all out, The Nine will be in capital letters, all the others in lower case.) The first Red Team consisted of DARLENE, BOBBY, SHARON, ANNETTE, DOREEN, LONNIE, CUBBY, KAREN, Don, Johnny, Mike and Nancy. Midway thru the first season, Don was demoted to the Blue Team and Johnny was fired, with TOMMY and Dennis promoted to take their places. Nancy quit the show late in the 1st season, her place on the Red Team taken alternately by Blue/White Teamers Mary and Judy.
item 3 >>> 4 of the original 24 Mice didn’t make it past that Summer’s filming to the series’ premiere. Paul was fired for punching an adult crew member, Mickey and Tim were let go for messing with paint cans in the art department, and Dallas was dismissed after he cried on camera…he had a slight speech impediment that frustrated him. His replacement was his brother Lee. The other 2nd-stringers were Bronson (girl), Dickie, Ronnie, Billie (girl), Mark, Bonni, and another Mary. But it was obvious to all involved there were just too darn many kids, and so…
item 4 >>> Second season 1956-57. For the 2nd season, all the 2nd-stringers were let go, as well as Red Teamer Mike…and the White Team was dropped entirely. Returning were only the The Nine plus Dennis. Rounding out the Red Team for an even 12 were newcomers Jay-Jay and Cheryl. The Blue Team consisted of replacements Larry, Margene, Eileen, Charley, and Sherry, for a total of 17 kids, a much more workable number, less chaos all the way around.
item 5 >>> Third season 1957-58. All Blue Team members were let go, along with Reds Jay-Jay and Dennis. Thus the Red Team was reduced to 10 members, The Nine plus Cheryl. An abbreviated Blue Team consisted of newcomers Don, Bonnie, Lynn(boy), and Linda. There was a 4th “original” season, but it consisted mainly of re-packaged older segments, and the few new episodes featured only 6 of The Nine: DARLENE, BOBBY, ANNETTE, DOREEN, CUBBY and KAREN. And that was it. If you count back, I think I’ve mention all 39. Y? Because we LIKE you…M-O-U-S-Eeeeeeee…
item 6 >>> The Aftermath. Some ex-Mouseketeers went on to careers in show business, but surprisingly many did not, simply going on with their “normal” lives. Of those that did, only a few had any major success. There was Annette, obviously, and Bobby Burgess who danced forever on the Lawrence Welk Show. Cheryl Holdridge got some acting roles…she was Wally’s girl-friend on a couple on Beaver episodes, and she did a nice turn on the Dick Van Duke Show. Interestingly, the first season dismissals faired pretty well: Paul Peterson was Jeff on The Donna Reed Show and had a successful recording career. Johnny Crawford played the son Mark on The Rifleman. Mickey and Tim, sons of Mickey Rooney, were involved in rock groups as well as acting. Another rocker was Dickie Dodd, lead singer with the Standells. And we mustn’t forget 3rd season replacement Don Agrati who as Don Grady starred on My Three Sons and had some recording success too. But really, I’ve only scratched the surface of interesting Mouseketeer lore and factoids, and there’ll be more in coming editions of DFHC. Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!
item 7 >>> …and that reminds me, The Rifleman? One of our favorite playground jokes, sure to gross out the girls, was: What’s green and shoots a gun? Mucus McCain…as in Lucas McCane, Chuck Connors. Pro sports? You betcha…in fact, Uncle Wiki sez he’s one of only 12 to play in both the NBA (Boston 1946), and Major League Baseball (Dodgers 1949, Cubs 1951.) BTW, the adjective form of the noun “mucus” is “mucous,” pronounced the same…as in “Mucous membranes have mucus….”
item 8 >>> “Bandstand” debuted on WFIL in Philadelphia on Oct. 7, 1952. The original host, DJ Bob Horn, lasted almost 4 years, but was fired in 1956 for a drunk driving arrest, replaced by Dick Clark. The show went national on ABC Aug. 5, 1957, renamed “American Bandstand.” All this time it was a 90 minute show, and of course broadcast live. An example of how loosey-goosey TV was back then: When CBS cancelled the game show “Do You Trust Your Wife?” hosted by Bergen & McCarthy, it was picked up by ABC and renamed “Who Do You Trust?” now hosted by Johnny Carson, announced by Ed McMahon. But they decided the perfect time slot for it was 3:30pm. Bandstand ran from 3 to 4:30…so they simply cut away from the dance show at 3:30, then rejoined it in progress at 4! Well, not on WFIL, where they taped the game show and aired it later, so they could run Bandstand uninterrupted. Wouldn’t surprise me if not a few other stations did the same.
item 9 >>> Now as much as teens dug the show, it also had a large number of young housewife viewers. I can remember my Mom setting up the ironing board in the living room so she could watch while she ironed. Perhaps that was the reasoning behind the prime-time half-hour version of AB…Monday nights at 7:30, beginning in October 1957. But it flopped, lasting only 2 months. In 1961, the weekday show was reduced from 90 minutes to 60 by ABC, then to just 30 minutes a year later. The show became Saturday-only in the Fall of 1963, lasting until 1989, and in 1964, production was moved from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. Color began in 1967. One of the great but little-told stories is how Dick Clark, an otherwise savvy show business guy, completely missed the boat on the Beatles. But that’s a tale for another time…
item 10 >>> from yesterday…The root in Root Beer traditionally came from the Sassafras tree. In 1960, the FDA banned the use of sassafras oil in foods or drugs due to the presence of safrole, a compound linked to cancer and liver disease, and today used in the manufacture of the drug ecstasy. Sassafras tea came off the ban in 1994, and today Root Beers are flavored with artificial sassafras, or extracts that have the safrole removed. But of course every brand is different, and some of the other ingredients include wintergreen, cherry tree bark, licorice, sarsaparilla, and yes, vanilla. An interesting note, original Root Beers were sometimes slightly alcoholic, what in olden times was called “small beer,” hence the Beer in Root Beer.
Solomon Kane, the Puritan swashbuckler, created by pulp author Robert E. Howard, same guy who came up with Conan the Barbarian. Kane wanders the globe vanquishing evil in the early 1600’s. Recently there have been comic book adaptations and even a movie in 2009.
Resume and audio samples at http://home.rr.com/mastolfi