Still, I prefer to say nice things about dead people, unless they're Delores Delgado, that bitch! After all, when you're only 10 days away from being 110, you realize you may soon need as many friends among the dead as you can amass. I can't spend eternity just hanging out with the Headless Indian Brave. Come to think of it, I've spent several years alive now, just hanging out with the Headless Indian Brave, and Little Douglas of course, who isn't dead, just his social life. So today I get to say nice things about a dead person, even though I'd never heard of him before two days ago.
Why am I flogging about a dead stranger I've never heard of? Because Little Douglas asked me to. He had heard of Fulton Burley, the Irish tenor in the picture at the top of this page. Little Dougie had more than heard of him; he'd seen him perform live upwards of 20 times over the years, in something called The Golden Horseshoe Review at Disneyland, Walt Disney's strange little version of Xanadu in Anaheim.
I don't really get Disneyland myself. Why would someone who lives and works in Hollywood need yet another fantasy world to visit? The place is usually full of noisy, obnoxious children (Is there any other sort of child?), and they don't serve or allow alcohol anywhere in the park!* That's not "The Happiest Place on Earth." That's LIVING HELL!
But Little Douglas loves the place. For God's sake, don't wander into the room when Dougie is talking theme parks with one of his fellow Disneyland Freaks. Why on earth a grown man in his 50s gives a rat's ass (Let's say Elia Kazan's
derriere, for a specific example of a "Rat's Ass".) about old amusement park attractions, or gets upset about "Replacing Nature's Wonderland with Big Thunder," - whatever the hell that even means - I can not fathom. Dougie is actually excited that, and I quote, "They're reopening the Submarines after almost 9 years, albeit as Finding Nemo, which is a fantasy, and has no business being in Tomorrowland." What is he even talking about? He's even said, "Barry Humphries played Bruce the Shark in Finding Nemo, so maybe in the ride, there'll be an audio-animatronic Barry Humphries." What the hell does that mean? I know who Barry Humphries is of course, but what is "Audio-animatronics"? Sanskrit?
Anyway, near as I can tell from Dougie's rantings, The Golden Horseshoe is a dance hall saloon in Frontierland (Pictured above), where, for many years, they staged a show called, with stunning creativity, The Golden Horseshoe Review. When Little Dougie was a boy, growing up in 1960s Southern California, he saw The Golden Horseshoe Review over and over. I'm assuming it was a good show, as why would someone voluntarily see the same stage show over 20 times if it was lousy? Here's what the whole cast looked like, posing on the stage.
Does that stage look at all familiar, even if you've never been to Disneyland? It should. The designer, Harper Goff - a genius - was a movie production designer. He designed Disney's version of Captain Nemo's Nautilus in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He also designed a saloon for the Doris Day western transvestite musical Calamity Jane. When Walt Disney asked him to design an old west saloon for Disneyland, he just handed Walt the same blueprints and picked up another check for the same set. (I told you he was a genius.) Therefore, it is an exact duplicate, down to the smallest detail, of the one in that movie. Plus, Warner Brothers used the set again for a scene in my darling Vincent Price's theme park movie, House of Wax.
Now here's the weirdest, most terrifying thing: Fulton, lovely blond belter Betty Taylor, and screamingly funny comic Wally Boag, performed The Golden Horseshoe Review over 40,000 times! Good God darlings! Can you imagine delivering the same lines, singing the same songs, and telling the same jokes 40,000 times! And in a "Saloon" where they don't serve any alcohol! If that's not Living Hell, what the hell is? For sheer horror, that tops anything in House of Wax.
Take a look at this picture:
That's the view Fulton had 40,000 times, except when he saw it, the seats were always filled with tourists, and he probably saw it in color, unless he was colorblind. It's the view from the Golden Horseshoe stage.
Fulton was 84 when he died on May 7. He did that damned show from 1962 to 1986. He replaced the singer who opened the show in 1955 and who wisely thought that 7 years of doing the exact same show five times a day, five days a week, 50 weeks a year, was more than enough. Not so for Fulton, who then did the show for almost a quarter of a century. Did he retire, or was he paroled?
He got the show courtesy of Wally Boag, the comedian who co-wrote and starred in it. I've seen Mr. Boag perform on TV and Little Dougie is right about him; he is very, very funny. But honestly, how can you tell a joke like: "I'd like to sing a song for you. You'll like it. It's pretty --- pretty awful. It's called, 'When they operated on Father, they opened Mother's male'." 40,000 times? I collapsed at around 7455 times. Anyway, Wally is a funny man, with rubber legs and a zany personality. And he's still alive.
Not just alive, but commenting: "He was a natural for it and had a delightful sense of humor," Wally Boag said of Burley in the Los Angeles Times this week, "When you went by his dressing room, you always knew you were going to hear a good joke." Perhaps, but on stage, the jokes he told were things like "My parents would play cute tricks on me growing up. Like I'd go to school, then come home, and they'd moved."
Walt Disney always claimed to love America and Americans, but he kept Fulton Burley on the payroll even after Walt's death, and Fulton wasn't even an American. The man was a Canadian, born in Toronto. Well, maybe Walt and Wally couldn't find an American singer willing to do the same show 40,000 times.
Little Dougie tells me that Fulton was a charismatic stage performer, a brilliant singer, and a fine straight man to Wally's comic shenanigans. (That's the first time I've used the word Shenanigans in anything but Scrabble, in over 60 years!) Dougie knows a good deal about performing, but he knows next to nothing about straight men. In the Disneyland show, Fulton sang The Girl on the Police Gazette, performed in the Pecos Bill comedy finale, and always did his big piece, his comic sing-along number Clancy Lowers the Boom. "And no personal opinions, ma'am. It's boom, boom, boom, not bum, bum, bum." he said every performance. (You'd think the woman would learn after once.) It's typical that Dougie would remember that joke, as, for Dougie, it's always bum, bum, bum, at least in England.
Oddly enough for an actor and singer, he wasn't gay. he was married to a woman named Terry for 62 years. I don't know how he managed it. To the best of my memory, I've never had a marriage last over 10 years. He also had a sister, whose maiden name was Betty Burley. Say that five times fast.
And he had one rather unusual ability: He could lift each of his eyebrows independently of the other, so they would waggle alternatively, instead of together like Groucho. Now that's talent! If I could do that, I'd have won an Oscar!
Dougie said he talked with Fulton once, when Little Dougie was maybe 16 or 17, and that Burley was very nice and jovial. (Dougie always has liked burly men.) Well, his Golden Horseshoe performances only numbered in the low 4 figures then, so he probably wasn't fully brain-fried just yet. I imagine that by 1980, he was probably pleading with any people he met to just shoot him now, or for Clancy to please lower that fucking boom already.
Here's a last glimpse of Burley, posing by the Golden Horseshoe's useless Pepsi bar with a couple of the show's can-can dancers, and in the back, Miss Betty Taylor, who played Slue Foot Sue in the show. They always sang: "The welcome mat is out to stay, at the Golden Horseshoe Cafe."
*[Editor's note] Actually, alcohol is served in Disneyland, but only at Club 33 in New Orleans Square, which is an extremely private, members only club, membership by invitation only, almost unknown to the general public. Please don't tell Tallulah. She'll never learn it from this note, as she never even glances at these finished blogs. - Douglas