It's Walt's Party, and I'll Cry if I Want To

If he were still around, Walt Disney would have turned 100 on Dec. 5, an occasion some Disney family members, longtime company officials and die-hard Mouseketeers felt deserved a much bigger splash than was afforded it at his original theme park, Disneyland. Months ago, the Weekly learned that Walt's heirs and Disney executives who worked under him were peeved that the company's major 100th-birthday activities were taking place not in Anaheim—the park that Walt built—but in Orlando—the park that opened five years after his death. The replica of Walt's office was even moved there from the lobby of Disneyland's Mr. Lincoln building. But the bigger beef concerned the corporate focus being less on Uncle Walt than “come-relive-the-magic” marketing. Indeed, there's a feeling that the company's founder is now regarded as an anachronism who can't help a worldwide conglomerate in the 21st-century, multicultural world: the pre-hip-hop Colonel Sandersof amusement parks. It was a nice touch that a recording of Walt's original dedication speech was played along Disneyland's Main Street at 10 a.m. on his birthday, but the official ceremony an hour and a half later was underwhelming, observers say. Disneyland Resort president Cynthia Harriss spoke of a year's worth of Walt events in Anaheim, but other than this ceremony, a Disneyland press release mentions only that nostalgic Walt photos will line shop windows on Main Street, his favorite recipes will be served in resort restaurants, and—natch—limited-edition merchandise will be hawked in Disney stores. Meanwhile, a documentary on Disney now plays not at the park he built, but 100 yards away at California Adventure, the park Michael Eisnerbuilt. By the way, that film won't be the sentimental tribute produced by the Disney family but an Eisner-narrated corporate film.

At the ceremony, Harriss introduced Richard Sherman, one of the Sherman brothers who wrote songs for dozens of Disney's films and projects, and Imagineer John Hench, who helped design the statue of Walt and Mickey at Disneyland. Then the three of them rededicated the piece, prompting a reporter from the Magic Kingdom-chronicling MousePlanetwebsite ( to query, “Why was Walt's birthday celebrated by rededicating a statue that has already been at the park for eight years?” As far as party favors, there were individual birthday cakes and buttons marking the date—for $7. You had to wait in line to get them, and they quickly sold out. Harriss was the highest-ranking company exec there (no one from corporate made it), and Disney family members turned up instead that night in Beverly Hills at a tribute to Disney at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Los Angeles radio station KLSX's Conway & Steckler Show did cover Walt's birthday—in a live remote from Orlando.

EMINENTLY QUOTABLE “Dec. 5, 2001, would be Walt Disney's 100th birthday, and the company he founded has marked the centenary by spectacularly repudiating one of his greatest gifts to the country. It's enough to make Mickey weep.” Michael Linton, writing on “The Decline and Fall of Disneyland,” in the Dec. 10The Weekly Standard NOBODY ESCAPES THE SPANISH INQUISITION Some would suggest that Mr. Disney's 100th birthday deserves no reverence. “In real life, Uncle Walt was a devious, megalomanic, racist, egocentric genius,” Giles Tremlett wrote in the Nov. 30 Guardian of London. “[Disney specialist Christopher] Jones says [Walt] once sacked an Indian employee because he was so dark he looked like a 'nigger.' His hatred of Jews, especially those from New York, was legendary. All of this, however, was pretty standard for the place and the times. His was the Hollywood of the Un-American Activities Committee—with which he collaborated enthusiastically, following Ronald Reagan onto the stand—and violent studio strikes. He tried to use the mob muscle of hoodlum Willie Bioff to bust these. Walt was also vice president of the rabidly right-wing Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals. [Biographer Marc] Eliot says he was a freelance agent for J. Edgar Hoover, with a 600-page-thick personal file at FBI headquarters.” Tremlett's story, “The Spanish Connection,” revisits the 60-year-old rumor that Disney was born out of wedlock in a Spanish seaside resort, that he was abandoned soon after his mother emigrated to the Midwest, and that he was secretly adopted. Some allege that Hoover helped conceal the true details of Disney's birth in exchange for Walt's undying service. Toss in gossip of big-butt love, matriarchal hatred and a dead head in cold storage, and you've got one screwed-up pup. Happy birthday, Walt! SPORTING REDWOOD Over the two years Julia “Butterfly” Hill spent atop the redwood she named “Luna” to prevent loggers from chopping it down, she drew visits from celebrities, public-broadcasting documentarians and Huntington Beach's own lovable environmentalist, Joey Racano. But now that her feet are planted solidly on the ground, Hill has received unwanted attention. As Alexander Cockburn reported recently in the New York Press, Hill's website was taken over by pornmeisters. Log onto www.lunatree. org, and up pops a page titled “Adult Links,” which directs users not to endangered ancient redwoods but to “Euro Teen Sluts,” “Bizar Fetishes” (like spelling, apparently) and Clockwork's personal fave, “Chicks Got Dicks.” Tellingly, at the page's fleshy bottom is this message: “Click Here to Buy This Domain Name.” Hill advised her supporters to delete links to her page, explaining that the site's former owner allowed the name to lapse and someone with an extensive porn collection moved in. “We've inquired about buying the site back, but the owner is asking an outrageous amount of money to sell it, which just isn't feasible.” At times like this, she'd probably like to climb back up that tree. BAGGING BAGLIN Laguna Beach City Councilman Wayne Baglin's term on the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board ended Nov. 30 when Governor Gray Davis failed to reappoint him. Ironically, Baglin had this to say at an Aliso Creek water-quality summit Clockwork attended in March 1999: “My problem is for the past few years, the political climate in California has been to appoint to boards people who do not believe in fining other public agencies. I think that under Governor Gray Davis, you're going to see a major turnaround with the appointments he puts on boards, and we're going to see fines being placed against sewage-treatment agencies and cities. Things are going to be happening in the next few years that never happened during the—and I'm oversimplifying it—Republican years.” Citing an unnamed source, the San Diego Union Tribune reported on Dec. 4 that Baglin, a Republican who has frequently threatened to fine Orange County public agencies over pollution, was not re-appointed because he spoke out without first getting Davis' blessing. So much for the Davis years.

Illustration by Bob Aul
ONE-FINGER SALUTE Holier-than-thou drinking machine whom Republicans have previously declared “czar” over drugs, morals and education William Bennett has been enlisted by the Bush administration to tackle a new frontier: patriotism. Paul Bedard's Dec. 10 “Washington Whispers” column in U.S. News & World Report says Bennett is creating the Committee on Terrorism in American Culture to reinforce flag-waving among America's youth, especially college-age kids who typically get snickered at for that shit. Among Bennett's most intriguing ideas: a Nazi youth brigade that rats out parents. Oops, did we write that? We meant a “patriot SWAT team” (no joke) for deployment on campuses infiltrated by “anti-patriots.” How very Orwellian of him! Since there are no more drugs, morality's all the rage and our education system is better than ever, we're confident Bennett's latest endeavor will succeed marvelously. TONY BALONEY Less than two weeks after the man who wants Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas' seat won the endorsement of the Orange County Attorneys Association, Wally Wade got endorsed on Dec. 4 by the Association of Orange County Deputy District Attorneys. A week after that, the cop unions in Anaheim, La Habra, Buena Park, Newport Beach and Huntington Beach blessed the senior deputy DA. Wade's campaign previously made hay out of Rackauckas nabbing the No. 2 spot on the Weekly's list of the 31 Scariest People in OC. In the interest of fairness, Rackauckas did drop from the No. 1 spot the year before. Feel free to highlight that in your campaign literature, Tony!

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