Wally Boag, the versatile Disney performer who logged more than 43,000 shows at Disneyland’s Golden Horseshoe and provided the voice of Jose in the park’s Enchanted Tiki Room attraction, died Friday in Santa Monica of natural causes. He was 90.
One day after Boag’s death, his longtime partner in the Golden Horseshoe Revue, Betty Taylor, died at her home in Washington state. She was 91.
Boag was a favorite of Walt Disney’s for his distinctive comedy routines that blended family-friendly jokes with hoofing and slapstick acrobatics showing off his rubber-limbed dexterity. His Pecos Bill character was known for spitting out an endless supply of broken teeth as part of the show at Disneyland’s Western saloon attraction. Taylor played Sluefoot Sue, leader of the dance hall girls and sweetheart of Pecos Bill.
Boag also had a knack for crafting animals and other objects with balloons, an art he dubbed “Boag-alloons.”
“Dad and Wally had a lot in common because they were both consummate entertainers,” said Diane Disney Miller, a daughter of Walt Disney, in the 2009 book “Wally Boag: Clown Prince of Disneyland.”
Born in Portland, Ore., in 1920, Boag joined his first professional dance troop at the age of 9. By the time he was a teenager, he was performing in nightclubs and theaters around the world, including Britain, Australia and New Zealand. During a stint at the London Hippodrome in 1947, he performed “Starlight Roof” alongside a 12-year-old Julie Andrews.
In the mid-1940s, Boag was a contract player for MGM, appearing in such pics as the Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn starrer “Without Love” and “The Thrill of Romance.”
After a friend recommended he audition for a job at Disneyland, Boag wound up working there for 27 years, starting on Disneyland’s opening day in July 1955. Taylor joined the revue in 1956.
During his long run with the Mouse House, Boag made countless promotional appearances on behalf of various Disney initiatives and Disneyland. In the early days, he hosted a daily radio show from the park that aired on ABC’s network.
Boag helped write the script for Disneyland’s Enchanted Tiki Room attraction and gave voice to one of the audio-animatronic birds, parrot Jose, who leads the show. He also had parts in such Disney pics as “The Absent-Minded Professor,” “Son of Flubber” and “The Love Bug.”
Marty Sklar, longtime Disney exec, called Boag “the heart of Disneyland in the early days…It was not only show business, it was the spirit and exuberance Wally brought to every performance, day in and day out.”
Steve Martin, who worked at Disneyland as a teenager, has cited Boag as a major influence in helping him develop a sense of comedic timing.
In 1971, Boag went to Florida to open the Diamond Horseshoe Revue at Walt Disney World, and in the early 1980s he helped develop material for Tokyo Disneyland.
Boag retired from Disneyland in 1982. Taylor retired in 1987.
Boag’s survivors include his wife, former actress Ellen Morgan; a son and a daughter.