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A Tip of the Ears to Mouseketeers, 40 Years Later : Entertainment: Hundreds line up at Disneyland to glimpse nine members of the TV show's original cast.

October 09, 1995|GREG HERNANDEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — Nine original Mouseketeers from "The Mickey Mouse Club" basked in the spotlight during a reunion that marked the 40th anniversary of the TV series, but Annette Funicello, the most famous of them all, was not there.

Still, hundreds of people lined up to catch a glimpse of Bobby, Sherry, Don, Doreen, Tommy, Cheryl, Karen, Lonnie and Sharon as they made their way down Main Street in the group's first appearance together at Disneyland in more than two decades.

"It's great to see them back together again," said Los Angeles resident Frank Pascale, 38. "This is something I grew up with and that baby boomers can share with their children. And, they look great!"

Although hundreds of Disney enthusiasts came to the theme park Friday specifically to see the Mouseketeers, most visitors were caught by surprise. Many said they were instantly filled with nostalgia.

"We got our television in 1957, turned it on and the first show we watched was 'The Mickey Mouse Club,' " said 47-year-old Tyra Barrett of Orem, Utah. "It's a nice memory."

Yorba Linda resident Peggy Hargett, 48, said, "The show was really something I looked forward to. I had a Mouseketeer hat and everything. When my dog ate the hat, I just sobbed for days."

With Funicello absent, the most familiar face belonged to Don Grady, who went on to play Robby on the long-running "My Three Sons" TV series. He now composes musical scores for documentaries and other shows.

"This is like a reunion that takes you back to elementary school," said Grady, 51. "We get back together and become kids again."

For most of the cast members, the show has overshadowed anything else they have done in or out of the entertainment field.

"Walt Disney said to me, 'This will probably be the greatest thing you'll ever do in your entire life,' " said Doreen Tracey, 52. "That was pretty heavy stuff for a 12-year-old. But, he was right."

Tracey, the self-described "black sheep" of the group, once posed nude for a men's magazine and spent the 1960s touring with her rock 'n' roll band called Doreen and the Invaders.

For Karen Pendleton, 49, adjusting to life after "The Mickey Mouse Club" ended in 1959 wasn't always easy.

"The kids were tough on me when I went back to school," she said. "They'd say to me, 'Wiggle your ears and we'll give you some cheese.' But it was worth it. This is a lifelong experience that never ends."

Pendleton, who works at a clinic for battered women in Fresno, suffered a spinal-cord injury in a car accident 12 years ago and is confined to a wheelchair.

Bobby Burgess, 54, said the popular weekday series was a good "baby-sitter," with its mix of singing, dancing, cartoons and serials, and the Mouseketeers were kids viewers could relate to.

"We were selected by Walt Disney because we were just regular kids," said Burgess, who spent 21 seasons as a dancer on "The Lawrence Welk Show." "He didn't want slick professionals. He wanted the kids next door."

Also at the reunion were animator Bill Justice, who created the show's opening sequence, and Lorraine Santolli, author of "The Official Mickey Mouse Club Book," published earlier this year.

"For some reason the show touched those of us who are baby-boomer age in a very special way," Santolli said. "You can relate your entire childhood to that show. It means childhood in the very best way."

After the parade, the group gathered in front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle and did impromptu renditions of the show's opening and closing themes.

"Once a Mouseketeer, always a Mouseketeer," said Sherry Alberoni, 48. "In 40 years, we'll all still be friends. This is a continuation of the great childhood we all had."

Funicello, who is battling multiple sclerosis, apparently wasn't feeling well enough Friday to attend the event.

Mouseketeer Sharon Baird, who remains her best friend, said, "She wanted to be here so badly, but she sends her love to everyone. I'm very proud of her for how she's handling her battle."

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