Monday, September 9, 2013

Tales From The College Program: Smush and The Pretty One

I received a special request to write out this story, so here it is.

I was in my apartment at Vista Way when Dan called me "Some random girls just called my apartment and asked if I wanted to go to Tampa."  At Vista Way calling an apartment was simple, you added a one to the first number of the apartment (1205 = ext 2205)

Dan started telling me about these girls he was talking to and their plan to go to Tampa.  In the middle of our conversation I heard the click of another call coming in, I told Dan to hold on and switched over.    On he line was a very Puerto Rican sounding girl "Hey, so jew wanna go to Tampa with sum sexy girls?"  I told her to hold on and switched back over to Dan "Now they are calling me!" I told him.  I switched back over to mystery girl and told her that one of her friends was on the phone with my friend, she told me that we should all meet up at their apartment.  I walked over to Dan's and the three of us (Me, Dan, and his roommate, Rickli) headed over to meet these girls.

At this point, I cannot over stress that these girls spoke very highly of their physical beauty which probably should have been our first indication that we were in for an awful night.  Let's be honest, pretty girls don't need to dial random numbers looking for dudes to go out with.  When they opened the door it became apparent that they may have exaggerated just a little about how attractive they were.  This is not to say that the three of us were some sort of catch.  It felt like we had gone too far to turn back now, so we headed in.  The Puerto Rican girl I had spoken to on the phone was the leader, I don't think we never actually heard her name, so we started referring to her as "Smush" whenever we told the story.

A plan was made, the girls would spend the night in Tampa while Dan, Rickli, and I would drive back that night.  Smush and 2 of the girls rode in her car while Dan jumped into the car of the one we had named "the pretty one."  Rickli and I rode together in his car.  Now would be a good time to mention that it was 9:00 pm, foggy, cold, and mid November.  And we're off!

The drive from Orlando to Tampa is about 2 hours, while Rickli and I discussed pop culture topics, quoted episodes of Seinfeld, and sang the Perfect Strangers theme; Dan got to hear all about the pretty one's boyfriend that she had back home.  A few hours later we were in Tampa.  We pulled into a parking lot and I walked over to the beach.  It was so foggy and dark that you couldn't even see the water.

The girls decided they were hungry and we all headed over to some hole in the wall restaurant.  Smush did most if not all of the talking, while Dan, Rickli, and I sat there wishing we were back in Orlando.  It was dark, cold, late, and we were realizing that we had nothing in common with these girls.  After dinner the girls decided they wanted to check into a hotel.  A friendly homeless looking guy over heard and told everyone to follow him around the corner.  He took us to the shadiest looking motel I have ever seen.  If memory serves correctly, it was called the Diamond Motel.

It was around midnight and the motel manager who already gone to sleep, but our hobo guide knew she lived next door and he banged on her door until she answered.  The woman did not seem to happy to be woken up, but she gave the girls a key and walked us all to their room.  The motel was set up like a labyrinth, it was all outdoors with walkways that wrapped around buildings, and no exterior lighting.  The inside of the room was terrifying.  It looked like she had stumbled across an abandoned haunted summer camp and started charing people to sleep there.  The one light bulb in the room hung from the ceiling without a shade and emitted so little light that a man with an axe could have been standing in the corner and none of us would have noticed.

After the owner left, Dan, Rickli, and I looked at each other, looked at the girls and simultaneously said "OK, see ya."  The girls all screamed "No, stay!"  and this was in no way a seductive "no...stayyyy"  it was a "we don't want to die in this place!"  We all stood in that creepy room trying to decide the best way to wake up the owner and tell her that the girls wanted their money back.  We walked back to the restaurant, found the hobo, and Rickli explained our predicament to him.  He woke up the owner, who was more unhappy than the last time and we got the girls money back.  Now to find a suitable hotel.

Dan had joined Rickli and I in the guy car, and left the pretty one to talk to herself about her boyfriend.  The girls pulled into a nice hotel while we sat in the car and waited.  When we knew they had a room, we were going to floor it back to Vista Way.  They came out with no room.  Turns out all of the girls were under 21, and the manager would not give them  a room.  There was only one member of our little group that was 21, and it was me.

We drove down to the next hotel which was a Red Roof Inn.  We told the girls to wait in the car, the plan was for me to rent the room with the girls money, give them the key and leave.  Once inside, we let Rickli do the talking again.  He told the manager about the awful hotel we had escaped from and how we had very little money but needed a room just for the night.  He made no mention of the girls, just told the story as if it had just been the 3 of us.  The manager sympathized with our tale and even offered to give us a managers discount on the room.  The night was beginning to look up, then it happened.

In his joy of almost being rid of these girls, Rickli slipped.  He said something to me and Dan along the lines of "I feel much better now that the girls will at least have a safe place to stay."  After hearing this, the managers mood took a drastic turn.  "I dont run that kind of hotel!" he screamed.  We all jumped in "No, no, no, no, you don't understand, its not like that."  I tried to calm him down by explaining "No, you haven't even seen these girls, they aren't even hot."  He had already made up his mind, apparently Dan, Rickli, and I looked like some sort of casanovas brining a bunch of girls back to our hotel room.  We tried to explain how they were not 21 and I was just getting the room when the manager picked up the phone and started to dial "I'm calling the police, this is not that kind of hotel."  That was all we needed to hear, we ran back to the car and took off.

We started driving back towards Orlando with the girls following behind us.  They pulled into a small hotel along the freeway.  We sat in the car while they went in to talk to the desk clerk.  They came back with a room key a few minutes later.  The girls headed towards their room and we drove off in Rickli's car.

A few weeks later I received another call from Smush, she invited us over to their apartment for Thanksgiving dinner, we respectfully declined, I had to work on Thanksgiving.  We never heard from the girls after that.  I'd occasionally see Smush working at Pinocchio's at the Magic Kingdom, but she never saw me.

I found out later that it was my roommate, Dan's (a different Dan) fault that Smush called our apartment in the first place.  For Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party Dan had dressed up like a character he called "Dr. Love" and handed out business cards with his Vista Way extension on it.  He gave one of those cards to Smush.  I owe that whole night to him.  Thanks a lot Dr. Love.






Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Honey, I Shrunk The Kids

I remember being up early on a Saturday morning watching cartoons and seeing a trailer for a movie with Seymour from Little Shop of Horrors.  I ran upstairs and woke my mom up.  I told her there was this great movie coming out called Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and asked if we could see it.  Without any hesitation she said no.

I was really confused by her answer, until a few days later when I saw the trailer again and pointed it out to her.  Turns out she thought I had said Honey, I Shot the Kids.

After the movie was released my Saturday morning cartoons were interrupted by short segments about Disney's newest theme park, MGM Studios.  One of these segments showed the backlot tour and how the "bee scene" from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids was done.

In 1991 my family visited MGM Studios and while on the backlot tour my sister and I were picked to ride the bee from the film to show the rest of the tour how the effect was done.  A Cast Member came up and asked my parents if my sister and I wanted to be part of the show.  We said yes, obviously. They took us off the tour and onto a sound stage, and there it was, the bee!  Until we saw the bee we had no idea what we had volunteered for.  Having seen that special a few years earlier, I knew what we were going to do.  The rest of the tour caught up with us while Katie and I walked up a ladder and onto the bee.  From there fans were blown on us and we were told to act scared, but I remember just doing a lot of waving.  When it was over we were able to watch the video of us flying on the bee, then return back to the tour.



Does anyone know what happened to the bee?


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tales from The College Program: 10 Years Later

Wow, This week 10 years ago my friend Ralf and I were loading up his tiny car and heading off to Orlando for our jobs in the Walt Disney World College Program. It really does not seem that long ago but since I was 20 at the time and 30 now...I guess it was.

I've decided that todays post will mostly just be pictures from the year and a half I lived in Florida working for Disney.  Let's see what has changed.

First of all, I don't think I could get away with this hair at 30.  This is also the shirt I wore when trying to meet Hilary Duff.


I was also a big fan of wearing my Thriller jacket everywhere.


but as you can see, it no longer fits


Back then I would collect Fast Passes off the benches in the locker room.  Waiting in line was for the tourists.  Unfortunately, you cant even use an hour old Fast Pass now, forget about one that's been expired for a year.


My workplace, The Missing Link Sausage Company has been torn down.


Here's Dan cheesing it up (maybe for Road Dog)


My beloved manager John is still working for Disney, if you see him in the parks, give him a big hug for me!


One time the dude in the middle told me the chick from Evanescence was a "Horses Ass"


Remember the 75 Mickey's?  Here is one painted like Kim Possible.


Speaking of Kim Possible, does anyone know how I can get in touch with Christy Romano?


If you thought my Thriller jacket was my most outrageous article of clothing you were wrong.  Also, my roommate was a pretty tough looking dude.


Can you still buy guns at Walmart?  How did this photo even happen?


I was really skinny back then, even though my diet was all Disney food, ice cream and pizza...lots of pizza


Most of my time was spent with this fool.
My phone can take and send a better photo than this in half the time!


When Disney wasn't paying us enough we became professional guinea pigs.


When I was not busy dying my hair, we were at the Magic Kingdom.


Now we are both married, and Dan has a kid.

Adults..Pfff



















Friday, April 26, 2013

Tales From The College Program: Hilary Duff

Before I start this story, let me remind you that I was in the Walt Disney World College Program in 2003.  At the time Hilary Duff was one of the biggest stars on the planet.  Having said that, let's begin.

I remember one night when Dan and I were working The Link alone, I went home sick.  I had a real sinus attack and the last thing people want to see around their food is a dude who can't stop sneezing.  I went home and Dan closed down the restaurant by himself.  The next morning I was awoken by a phone call from Dan.  His roommate who worked at Blizzard Beach had called to tell him that Hilary Duff was at the park.  Dan loved Hilary Duff, so we decided "Why not, take a crazy chance" and see if we can meet her.

I'll pause here to give you some advice if you ever plan on trying to meet a celebrity.  The first rule should be "Dress in a way that is appropriate to your surroundings.  So, you want to meet Hilary Duff at a water park, wear a swimsuit.  Neither of us really thought about this ahead of time.  Dan was dressed in his usual cargo shorts and sandals which i'd say isn't perfect but is the second best thing to a swimsuit..  At the time I only owned probably 2 pairs of shorts, I wore jeans and chucks everywhere.  This was probably not the best choice, but I also decided to wear an Alkaline Trio shirt with this graphic.


It didn't occur to us how badly we were going to stand out until we reached Blizzard Beach, and by then it was too late.

We arrived at Blizzard Beach with little to no plan.  We just walked around in hopes that we would run into Hilary Duff.  What would we say to her if we saw her?  Most likely nothing.  We assumed she'd probably have some sort of Disney entourage who wouldn't let a couple of street clothes wearing idiots like us anywhere near her. Hilary and I are both from Houston, so she would totally be cool with meeting a fellow Houstonian, right?  Turns out tracking someone down in a water park that you've never actually been to is a lot harder than it sounds. 

We walked around the park for a little while and stopped at a large area with chairs and bungalows for people to sun bathe.  As we stood there discussing if we should continue walking around the park sticking out like sore thumbs or just call it a day, we noticed something.  In one of the covered bungalows on the opposite side of the sun bathing area we were being stared at.  Given what we (or I) was wearing this was not a big surprise. The surprise was that the person staring at us was Lalaine, who played Hilary Duff's friend Miranda on Lizzy Maguire.  

This created a somewhat awkward situation as the three of us just kind of stared at each other.  The conversation between Dan and I at that point went something like this.  "Why is she staring at us?  Does she think we are here looking for her?  Why is she still staring at us?  Should we go over there and say "Hey, don't worry we are just walking around looking for Hilary?"  No, that will surely get us kicked out and probably fired, let's get out of here....Seriously, she is still staring at us" 

We decided it was time to leave, with no sign of Hilary and Disney security possibly on their way looking for the only two people in the park not wearing swimsuits.  We don't even know if she even went to Blizzard Beach that day, but it was definitely an interesting adventure.

The is pretty much my Al Capone's Vault of College Program stories.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Back to the Twilight Zone: Part 2

After the clock tower, the most important set in Hill Valley is probably the cafe. 


In the Twilight Zone, the area we know as being the cafe is a police station.


In 1985 Hill Valley, it's Lou's Aerobic Fitness Center.


The building has not changed that much since the Twilight Zone, all they really did was relocate the door and build that facade.  Funny how Lou went from owning a restaurant to a fitness center 30 years later.


Mike Ferris also takes in a movie at The Savoy.


The Marquee (and movie selection) was changed when this area became Hill Valley



A close up shows, that those busts have been there for quite a while.


One scene that really threw me off, was when Mike walked past a drug store.


It looks like the clock tower is behind him, and the reflection in the window looks like the post office building, but something about the geometry just didn't make sense to me.  I looked for more pictures of the set from this era and found out that an episode of Leave it to Beaver was also filmed here.  This photo is from that episode.


Looks like the side of the Police station is also a drug store.

So there you have it, the story of two guys, who wondered down a lonely road


and ended up in the same place.


obviously, by that I mean...a phone booth



















Friday, April 12, 2013

Back to the Twilight Zone: Part 1

When you think about it, Back to the Future is a very Twilight Zone-esque movie.  In the season one episode "Walking Distance" a man actually ends up back in his childhood town and runs into his younger self and his parents.  Like Marty McFly, tampering with his past changes things when he eventually returns to the present.

"Where is Everybody?" is the pilot episode of The Twilight Zone.  It's about an Air Force pilot who finds himself in an empty town with no recollection of how he got there or who he is.  He spends the episode wandering around searching for signs of life, but only finds, mannequins, lit cigarettes, ringing phones, and an empty movie theater.  This was the only Twilight Zone episode filmed on the Universal Studios backlot.  Why is important, because the town of Oakwood that Mike Ferris stumbles into in The Twilight Zone is also Hill Valley in the Back to the Future trilogy.

I decided to take screen shots from Where is Everybody and compare them to Back to the Future, which was filmed about 25 years later.  We'll start with the most recognizable landmark, the clock tower itself.

There it is behind our Twilight Zone character, Mike Ferris.  


In Back to the Future, obviously they added the clock. 


One of the first signs of life Mike encounters turns out to be a mannequin sitting in a car.


In Back to the Future, this area becomes the Texaco Station.


Mike looks inside the building but finds more mannequins


It looks like this doorway is still there.



Here's a shot of the same area, as Mike runs to the ringing phone.  The record store entrance is still there with possibly a facade built over the pillars.


When Mike enters the phone booth, he looks around the town, which gives us a great view of the entire set.


This area is behind Marty and Jennifer when she tells him how great his demo tape is.


It looks like one of the oval window was converted/inspired the entry way when they remodeled the building.


In The Twilight Zone, the building at the end of the street is a post office


In Back to the Future, it's a Bank of America


Aside from the third story, this building was brought back to it's Twilight Zone store front for 1955 Hill Valley.


Here is a view of the whole street


The building at the end of the street appears to be a church, interestingly even though they tore it down by the time Back to the Future was made, the building they put in its place is also a church.


Mike's phone booth is actually in the same place as the Hill Valley sign.


Stayed tuned for part 2 of Back to the Twilight Zone next week!






















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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tales From The College Program: Road Dog

Believe it or not back in 2003 there were Orlando locals who would spend every weekend hanging out at Pleasure Island.  The most infamous of these "Islanders" (a term I just created) was a dude named Joe.

Joe was probably in his mid forties, and dressed like a dude from the mid eighties.  Actually that isn't entirely true, most of the time he wore black jeans and a cut off black t-shirt.  I can't blame him for the cut offs though, he had to show off the Superman symbol tattoo on his upper shoulder that read "Bon Jovi Forever" (that is 100% true).  Joe had a good number of tattoos, off the top of my head I remember him having Freddie and Jason on his forearm.  He also had Cartman from South Park, and of course, every member of KISS.   Before I forget to mention it, and you probably would have assumed anyway, Joe had a glorious mullet.

Dan and I gave Joe the nickname Road Dog because (legend had it) he was the roadie for a bunch of 80's metal bands.  We never called him Road Dog to his face though, because Joe was a total jerk.  I think he still felt he was back in the 80's making demands for the lead singer of RATT.

RATT


When Joe would come into The Missing Link, he wouldn't walk down towards the register like all the other guests, he would stop right inside the door behind the grill.  He would bark his order "2 chili cheese hot dogs, chili cheese fries."  Joe never went to the register because he had no intention of paying for his food.  I guess sometime in the past he had been given a free meal and had expected one ever since.  This was the only conversation you could really get out of him.  While his food was being prepared Dan and I would try to talk to him but he usually gave us quick one word answers. We eventually started putting on a real fan fare when he came in which he seemed to enjoy, but didn't get us any closer to the Road Dog.  Our relationship felt like we were trying to befriend the school bully who was stealing our lunch money by laughing about it with him.

If there was on thing that you could say about Joe, it was that he loved KISS.  I already mentioned the tattoo, but he also had a black corvette with the members of KISS airbrushed on the hood.  He would park it front and center in the Pleasure Island parking lot, not even in a space.  One night KISS played a show in Tampa, Joe had told Dan and I that he was going in full make up and that after the show he was driving back to Pleasure Island to show it off.  We had the night off but Dan and I made a special trip to PI to see Joe all painted up.  He made the 2 hour drive back from Tampa in his KISS make up and showed up just in time to be the person selected to do the nightly Pleasure Island New Years countdown.  The DJ played a KISS song and he rocked out on stage feeding off the energy of the crowd like one of the bands he had roadied for so many years before.

After the fireworks Joe just walked around PI in his KISS costume, Dan and I went up to him and asked for a photo.  This was the happiest I had ever seen him, I'm pretty sure we even called him Road Dog when we saw him.  


It has been almost 10 years since I have seen the Road Dog, but I still have fond memories of his rudeness.  Who knows where he has been hanging out since Pleasure Island is no more.  Maybe he's a "City Walker" now. 

If you are ever in Orlando and see a KISS corvette illegally parked, just know that the Road Dog is near (and some poor employee is getting the brunt of his wrath).  Hell hath no fury like a Road Dog scorned.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Cast Member Knowledge

Imagineering Disney had a great post yesterday about cast member's knowledge of Magic Kingdom/Disney.  You can read it here. 

Mitch approached random cast members and asked them about 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the Skyway, Carousel of Progress, and Splash Mountain (to name a few).  Their answers were a bit surprising.  Why do Disney cast members know so little about Disney history?   Now, as he states in the original post, some of these cast members could have been new hires from the College Program which gives them a little bit of an excuse.  Here's my theory on the rest of them.

When I was in the Disney College Program, on the days when I would venture outside of Disney property, I found that almost every person I met had at some time worked for Disney.  The deli guy at Publix, the guy who changes your oil, and almost everyone who works at Universal claims to have been fired by Disney.  In Orlando working for Disney is not the glamorous job that Disney fans think of it as, it's just a huge place that is always hiring.  Do you know the history of the company you work for, probably not?  Then again, this is Disney World, why can't a cast member tell you the name of Splash Mountain?

I took the Disney Traditions class, the College Program course is shorter than the one regular cast members take, which I find odd since a majority of cast members are in the college program.  So, how much Disney history is discussed in Traditions?  In my experience, not much.  There was a short video about the company, but most of the class was done from a work book.





There was one page in the book that had around 10 pictures from Walt's birth to the opening of Animal Kingdom that you had to put in order, but that was about it for company history.

Before you start work you spend a day walking around your new work location.  You have probably noticed a group of well dressed people walking around the parks in the mornings, these are most likely new cast members.  I worked at Downtown Disney, so I don't know exactly what is discussed with Magic Kingdom CM's but i'd bet they go over park history and the names of attractions.

So, who's fault is it when a 16 year old kid who pushes strollers around or asks "how many in your party" doesn't know there used to be a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction?  I'd say a little bit Disney's and a little bit their own.

We can't force them to learn Disney history, but we can pray that they apply at Universal.....