Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I had the pleasure of interviewing Gene Sands recently, one of the co-authors of the upcoming book about Wally Boag, which, simply put, sounds fascinating.

Didier Ghez: Who are the authors of the book?

Gene Sands: I co-authored the book with Wally.

DG: When will it be released?

GS: It will likely be released after the first of the year. And, we'll formally announce that as the date grows nearer.

DG: How did you get involved in the project?

GS: Wally and I are long time friends. I met him in 1957 when I was a 13 year old working at Disneyland selling balloons and like a lot of people was entranced with him and his act. I started hanging out at his dressing room and over time, he would give me gags that I used in school assemblies. He paid me to haul his follow-spot light and props around to the various gigs he booked outside of Disneyland and in 1961 I appeared in "Vaudeville Re-Visited." After college, I began a 20 year career as an Air Force officer. All during that time we stayed in touch and I would go visit with him and Ellen for a few days every year. During those visits they told me all these wonderful stories about where they’d been and what they’ done and realized that many people didn’t know about Wally’s career before he did The Golden Horseshoe Revue. In 2001 we decided to shoot some videotape of him talking about his life and career so his heirs would know what he had done. When we looked at the tape, we saw the potential for a book . We talked about doing it for a year or so and then began writing it. It was a fascinating process for the both of us. When we started going through all his scrap books and photos (plus photos in the Disney archives), it was even more evident that his life would make for some very interesting reading.
We discussed this off and on with Marty Sklar and at one point we said needed someone to do the design work on the book. He suggested Imagineer Bruce Gordon. We called Bruce and he was interested so we were off. We had three goals for the book. It had to be an accurate account of Wally's career, it had to be interesting, and it had to be fun (any book about Wally would have to include whimsy). When we were kicking around various names for the book, Bruce said that Richard Sherman had a real talent for coming up with book titles and suggested we consult with him. We did, and, true to his reputation, he came up with our title.

DG: What are the main chapters of the book?

GS: The chapters are: “Growing Up: “Going on the Road”; “Disneyland” and “After Disneyland”.

DG: Is it heavily illustrated and how long is it?

GS: It's about 180 pages and yes, it's heavily illustrated. Each page contains a number of photographs or design elements and Bruce did a wonderful job of pulling it all together.

DG: What were the main discoveries you made while writting this book?

GS: We weren’t sure how much material we would actually be able to find to put together for the book. But, once we got started, we found that there was both ample material and photography available. Every time Wally looked at a news clip, photo, etc. it suggested a story. And, every time he recounted a story, he remembered 2 or 3 more stories. It was like peeling an onion because there were layers upon layers of stories depicting his career. However, we couldn’t have done all of this without his wife, Ellen’s, assistance. She remembered all the details of when, where, how and why. Plus, she was such a major figure in the story that this was her story as well. While writing the book, it became clear that not only were we talking about Wally's career, we were also talking about Disneyland's early days. Since he was there from the first day, he had a treasure trove of memories about the Park, Walt, opening day, and, of course, The Golden Horseshoe Revue (to name only a few). One of the things readers will find interesting is Wally's career before he came to The Horseshoe. At 34, he was already a seasoned performer having played all the major hotels and clubs in this country, plus those in England, Scotland, South America and Australia. Plus he had appeared in a Command Performance before the King and Queen of England (as he says, “I can still remember the command…it was Stop!”). When he auditioned for Walt in late June of 1955, he was bringing all this talent and experience together in an act that Walt knew instantly was perfect for The Golden Horseshoe Revue.

Here are a few more information that Gene added afterwards:

[What readers would find in the book:
- Wally as a young boy growing up in Portland, OR.
- Wally and his early dance partners when he was around 8.
- Wally and his Wallce Boag School of Dance when he was 16.
- Early days when Wally first went on the road. One of performers he worked with taught him how to make balloon animal.
- In New York in the early 1940's appearing in night clubs like the Blue Angel and at Radio City Music Hall. This is where he met Ellen and they were married.
- On tour in England, Scotland, France, South America and Australia.
- The first performance of The Golden Horseshoe Revue Hosting ABC's daily radio show "Your Happy Holiday" which emanated from Disneyland. Working with Betty Taylor, Fulton Burley and the boys in the band.
- On tour for Disney promoting new Disney movies.
- Motion picture roles and television appearances.
- Editing Disneyland's cast magazine "Backstage Disneyland".
- Filming "The 10,000th Show of The Golden Horseshoe Revue" for Walt's weekly television program.
- Voicing Jose' in The Tiki Room.
- Appearing on "The Muppet Show".]

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Wow. Sounds like another amazing title. I am looking forward to this one.

I hope you got a chance to do a longer version of the interview with Mr. Sands! ;)