Some Days the Bear Eats You27 September 2008
EDIT: dozens of Adventurers Club photos now up on a new Flickr site: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kazookris/
Tonight marks the end of Pleasure Island. The night club complex that opened in 1989 at Walt Disney World was why I moved from California to Florida, having been offered a one-year contract to perform at the Adventurers Club. I stayed seventeen years. I could write a book about the place, my time there, my dear friends, my thoughts and feelings, and my warm memories and bitter resentments. It would all spill over from the Adventurers Club to the other night clubs (especially the Comedy Warehouse) to Pleasure Island to Downtown Disney to Walt Disney World to Orlando to Florida to The Disney Company and to the United States of America.
But that’s for another time, or for my biographer to figure out.
The original cast, every one of which contributed something that turned the club from a concept into a creative entertainment:
Terry Mike Acord, Phil Card, Donna Charles, Andy Clark, Phran Gauci, Tim Goodwin, Phil Johnson, Mike Leopard, Kerry Long, Frank O’Brian, Paula Pell, Mary Schickling, Kristian Truelsen.
None of these actors worked full-time from beginning to end. I left 2-1/2 years ago, having been an Adventurer from 1989 to 2006. Tim Goodwin left Disney for a year in the nineties but returned and has otherwise survived the entire run. Andy Clark was still subbing in as Graves the butler up to the end. The amazing Sheila (Smith) Ward, who opened Pleasure Island as an entertainer at XZFR’s Rock ‘n’ Rollerdrome (later the Rock ‘n’ Roll Beach Club) and who joined the Adventurers Club within its first year, can probably claim the most overall hours logged in as an Adventurer.
The maid’s original name was Doreen (“specializing in light dusting and high heels”). Other names used since then include: Millie, Flo, Trixie, Annelle, Fanny, Ginger Vitus, Dusty Cabinets, Marion, Sunny Knight, Inga, Gabby, Dottie Lama, Yvette Lemieux, Mona, Prudence, La Rue de Lamour, Tish Myash, Sugar Snap, Beulah Belle, Talullah Buttertart, Molly McLean, and Kiki.
Tim Goodwin invented the word “Kungaloosh.” Talk about leaving a legacy.
Three original cast members (two of whom were Mike Acord and I) invented the Club salute.
Phil Card invented the New Member Ceremony.
Before Samantha Sterling, there was a different character—a nightclub singer/adventurer named Mandora. (My memory is unclear as to when the switch occurred.) And before Mandora there were only two women characters, Pamelia and Doreen (the maid). But back at the beginning there was an ape-like, silent character called Marcel who would water the plants, deliver mail, and provide a step ladder for the maid so she could climb up to sit next to the Colonel where she would sing Smile, Darn Ya, Smile to him.
How to spell correctly:
• There is no apostrophe in “Adventurers Club.”
• Colonel Critchlow Suchbench’s name is misspelled on the brass plaque in the Main Salon listing members. Yes, Imagineers don’t always think things through and The Disney Company makes mistakes. Like closing certain entertainment venues oh don’t get me started.
• Hathaway Browne’s last name is spelled with an e. The writers originally named him Hamilton Beach, but I guess trademark lawyers nixed that. He was renamed after a girl’s school near Cleveland, Ohio.
Before rock music (live or DJ’d) took over, there was once a walk-around combo dubbed the Pleasure Island Philharmonic that would stroll the island. In those days the street felt more like traditional Disney: small town Americana, family-friendly, Dixieland music. Art Levitt injected adrenalin into the place and it came to life. But I always missed the PI Philharmonic, who became regular visitors to our club.
There was once no stage in the Main Salon. Phil Card and I suggested it, and in the Fall of 1992 a very nice Ganesha statue was moved to the Zebra Mezzanine near the service bar to make way for the ceremonial stage to the left of the Colonel.
The Library originally had long tables running between the bar and the stage, with stools on either side of each table. Getting to and from seats was difficult, and one’s neck became tired from having to keep one’s head turned to see the stage. Other club improvements: adding the revolving door to help keep out amplified sounds from outdoors (actors used to have to shout to be heard in the Main Salon) and making the club non-smoking (thank you thank you thank you)!
The two library shows that ran for as long as the club was open were the Balderdash Cup and the Radio Broadcast (Tales of the Adventurers Club). The original version of the latter was a somewhat different script and all done by Pamelia and Otis with no audience volunteers. In fact, Otis had to read the role of Hathaway Browne, who neglected to show up for the broadcast!
Library shows that came and went:
• Pamelia’s Welcome Party – Three songs by Pamelia, Hathaway and Graves.
• The Brew Fest – The less said the better.
• The Gypsy Show – Madame Zarkov sings and Fletcher gets into a mess.
• Fingers Takes Requests – Fingers would try to play tunes suggested by the crowd. After nightly renditions of Gilligan’s Island and other anachronisms (don’t get me started), the end of the night farewell party was created and was christened the Hoopla (HOOPLA).
Library shows that existed but were never performed publicly:
• The Fingers Zambeezi Show – Pamelia, Otis and Hathaway wrestle with a spirit released from the same box recycled years later for Fletcher’s New Discovery. The spirit finds a home in the club organ.
• Hathaway Browne’s Hour of Love (in Twenty Minutes) – a radio program offering advice to the lovelorn from the master. Why did this show not happen? Don’t get me started.
Celebrities that have visited the club include some I got to meet: MacLean Stevenson, John Davidson, Meat Loaf, Lyle Alzedo, Leslie Nielson, George Lucas, Robin Williams, Bobcat Goldthwait, John Lithgow, Woody Harrelson, Barry Gordon, David Odgen Stiers, John Scully, Raul Julia, Bozo the Clown, Robert Klein, Pauly Shore, Gilbert Gottfried, Gary Sinise, and Neil Patrick Harris; those I only saw: Norman Fell, Curtis Armstrong, Molly Ringwald, Stephen Sondheim, Howie Mandell, Nichelle Nichols, and David Copperfield; and others I missed (but they were there): Bob Hope, Jim Henson, Alan Alda, Liza Minelli, Gary Coleman, Larry “Bud” Melman, Mark Wilson, Johnny Unitas, George Blanda, Y.A. Tittle, Susan St. James, Gloria Estefan, Andrew Lloyd Weber, John Stamos, and Bob Saget. And more.
There are photos and videos aplenty to be found on the internet, and since I do not mean to slight anyone whose picture or name is not included in this post I encourage you to go look! It will be easiest to find the amazing talents that have been brilliantly entertaining guests since I left, which is why I have focused on the early days.
I wish I could name all those who have been part of the cast over the years. (I wish I’d kept track!)
I wish those who only knew the club over the last few years could have seen the original cast, as well as the talents of Darin DePaul, Jennifer Goodwin, Art Dohany, Doug Mackey, Ken Thiboult, Sue Peahl, Cullen Douglas, Bob Dutton, Jim Howard, and more. (Forgive me for not listing everyone, please!) Former Adventurers have gone on to many achievements. Paula Pell became a writer on Saturday Night Live. Mike Speller had the lead for three seasons on the Nickelodeon sitcom, Welcome Freshmen. Darin DePaul and Kurt Von Schmittou have appeared on Broadway. Leslie Carrara is a Muppeteer. Anne Hering is Director of Training with Orlando Shakespeare Theater. Philip Nolen is, perhaps, the most highly respected wooberhead in North America.
And I haven’t even mentioned the musicians (Steve and Jim and Al) and technicians (Mike and Jim) bar and wait staff, door hosts, managers, show directors, supporters, regulars, fans and crazies. And Comedy Warehousians, and DJs, and dancers, and bands. And custodians and security and everyone else whose lives have been affected for better or worse by the Disney After Dark experiment that lasted for nineteen years. I regret I cannot be with my Pleasure Island pals on this, the final night.
I toast you all.