After volunteering at the Democratic National Convention in 1960, Harry Shearer was assigned the job of driver. “My assumption was, I would drive delegates to the sports arena where the convention was, but … the people wanted to go to Disneyland,” he says.
The young Shearer’s first impression of the park wasn’t great. “It’s July, it’s very smoggy, and we’re traipsing around and we’re standing in line. So I got the experience of, ‘Why would any sane person want to do this?’ ”
Later visits to Disney parks were better — but just as odd. Invited to appear on a TV show marking the anniversary of Disney World, Shearer says, “I think I was (playing) Mike Wallace interviewing Mickey Mouse.” Later, backstage, Donald Duck appeared and removed the head of his costume. “So from the neck down he’s Donald Duck, and from the neck up he’s a black midget,” Shearer recalls.
“The great joke that New York can’t acknowledge,” he says of Times Square’s squeaky-clean reinvention in the ’90s. “It’s not even L.A.’s revenge, it’s Anaheim’s revenge.”
He adds, “Before Disney, family vacations were to parks and resorts, beaches — real places. But Disney was an attraction built from scratch. The idea of creating a place for the sole purpose of people spending one to five days there, that was born at Disneyland.”
Harry Shearer is an actor, author and radio personality. He’s co-author of the upcoming musical “J. Edgar!”