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June 6, 2016

Waxing nostalgic about Disney memorabilia

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The cover of a long-playing Mickey Mouse Club record. The album features 21 hit Mouseketunes. [Chuck Schmidt Collection]

CHUCK SCHMIDT / Still Goofy About Disney
AllEars.Net Guest Blogger

What do you think of when you think of Disney?

World-class theme parks, with so many iconic rides and attractions, to be sure. And all those classic animated feature films, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Frozen, and live-action epics like Star Wars and the Marvel franchises ... beloved characters ... a respected cruise line ... a popular time share enterprise ... numerous retail outlets in the theme parks, in malls and online ... a leading television network ...

And let's not forget nostalgia.

"Makin' memories," as they used to say at the Imagination pavilion at Epcot, is a key component to Disney's unparalleled long-term success. A few years back, Disney Parks initiated a year-long campaign called "Let the Memories Begin," because they have long recognized how important memorable experiences are to the fabric of most families.

As a natural extension, memorabilia and collectibles are an integral part of the world of Disney. Just ask anyone who has ever attended a Disneyana or D23 event and you'll get an idea of how great the appeal is for Disney's storied past [more on that in a future blog].

Like most hard-core Disney fans, I love Disney of old. Which goes a long way in explaining why, every time I visit a Disney theme park, I grab several guide maps ... one for use that day in the park, the others to be filed away for future reference. Thankfully, I've done this ever since our first visit to Walt Disney World in 1972. To me, these seemingly innocent maps serve as a window back in time, a glimpse at the way things used to be, a barometer of how things have changed.

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Marty Sklar wrote this in the author's copy of "Walt Disney's Disneyland." [Chuck Schmidt Collection]

Over the years, I've managed to put together a collection of Disney memorabilia that I'm quite proud of. Some of these items I've secured on my own [usually with the help of my wife Janet], others were given to me by family and friends who know of my love of all things Disney.

One of my first "finds" was securing a copy of Walt Disney's Disneyland, a wonderfully detailed book written by none other than my friend Marty Sklar. The books were sold at Disneyland in the late 1960s into the early 1970s as a souvenir of your visit. In truth, the book is a remarkably well-done work, rich in detail about the Happiest Place on Earth.

I found my first copy [Janet and I now have three] of the book at a yard sale in Colts Neck, N.J., in the 1990s.

Years later, in 2011, I had Marty sign the book for me during "a dinner and a conversation" fund-raising event that he headlined in Orlando the night before the D23 event celebrating Walt Disney World's 40th anniversary. It's a cherished keepsake, on many levels.

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The cover of Life Magazine in October, 1971, featuring a "mob-scene" photo of the cast in front of Cinderella Castle. [Chuck Schmidt Collection]

A colleague at the Staten Island Advance, Steve Zaffarano, was cleaning house one day in 2010 when he came across a copy of the iconic Life Magazine edition, dated October 15, 1971, featuring the Walt Disney World cast posed in front of Cinderella Castle.

He brought it to work the next day and asked me if I'd like to have it. A no-brainer, on many levels. A few years after Steve's generous gift, I was fortunate to speak to the man who was chiefly responsible for setting up that classic photo, as well as several other pre-opening magazine features ... Disney Legend Charlie Ridgway.

After making significant contributions to the success of Disneyland, Charlie and his family moved to Florida in 1969 following him being named Walt Disney World's first director of press and publicity.

"The first trip I made when I took the job at the end of 1969 was to go to New York," he told me in 2014. "I went to Time, Life and Look magazines and all the major papers and I also went to Washington to National Geographic.

"The managing editor of Look Magazine (Pat Carbine) said: 'We want to be the first ones with a cover story' [on Walt Disney World]. They wanted to have their reporter come down in April [of 1971; the Magic Kingdom wouldn't open until October], which was way too early. There wasn't that much really finished. But we were able to gerrymander things and produce pictures that looked like it was really done.

"We laid some artificial grass on Town Square so we could shoot City Hall. I think there was a ladder still up on the balcony when we shot it. Look had a very good layout."

As for the Life Magazine cover photo and story: "The idea of going to Life was Sandy Quinn's, who came down in 1967 and was the first Disney guy on the ground ... he became very friendly with a lot of the local news media," Charlie said.

"At the time we were getting ready to plan for the opening, I suggested we do a mob-scene picture and we carried forward from that point. We went to Life with the idea and they liked it and they sent down one of their very best photographers, a guy named Yale Joel. He got up on a stand with an 8x10 view camera to shoot the picture. Of course, that one we shot in front of the castle.

"We assembled as many cast members as we could get there. We actually had 5,000 employees, of which we were able to gather 3,000 at one time for the photo." The magazine is a wonderful keepsake, made even more special after getting input from the man involved in bringing it to Life [pun intended].

Disney memorabilia comes in all shapes and sizes, from Mickey Mouse watches to character figurines to Davy Crockett coonskin caps to vintage stuffed animals ... a.k.a., plush. Vinyl records — you remember them, don't you? — also fall into this nostalgic category.

Our son's mother-in-law, Cindy, came across several Disney recording gems at a flea market a few years ago and gave them to me. All three records — one is a 12-inch long-playing record, the other two are smaller 6- and 7-inch discs — feature the Mickey Mouse Club and The Merry Mouseketeers, as they were sometimes referred to during the show's prime in the 1950s.

One of the smaller records is a Disneyland Record and Book titled "Mickey Mouse, Brave Little Tailor," while the other is titled "Songs from the Mickey Mouse Club" and was part of a series of official Mickey Mouse Club Records.

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"The Mickey Mouse Club March" was featured on this vintage record. [Chuck Schmidt Collection]

The liner notes on the cover of that record are priceless: "Exclusively on these low-priced official Mickey Mouse Club Records are the voices, songs and games from Walt Disney's wonderful daily one-hour TV show. Here are Mickey, Donald and Jiminy Cricket — Jimmie Dodd and The Merry Mouseketeers for your child's enjoyment, participation and education."

The LP — "Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Club, Mousekedances and Other Mouseketeer Favorites," on Disneyland Records — features a colorful cover, with drawings of Mickey, Donald Duck and Goofy sharing the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse stage with likenesses of club leader Jimmie and Mouseketeers Karen, Cubby, Bobby and, of course, Annette Funicello. The songs on the album run the gamut of what was played during a typical "Mickey Mouse Club" television show, which was broadcast on ABC in glorious black-and-white Monday through Friday in the mid- to late-1950s.

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This letter, from Walt Disney to then-Gov. Goodwin J. Knight, was up for auction several years ago. [Chuck Schmidt Collection]

Several years ago, an auction house sent me photos of several Disney-related items that they were about to put up for bidding. One of the items was a letter from Walt Disney to California Gov. Goodwin J. Knight, sent in December of 1958. It's fascinating, on many levels.

The point of the letter, on official Disneyland stationary no less, was to alert Gov. Knight that he was receiving his Disneyland Gold Pass for the 1959 season. In reading the letter, it's obvious that Walt is quite proud of the fact that many new attractions would be opening at Disneyland during the year, including the Matterhorn bobsleds, a monorail system and a submarine voyage.

If need be, according to the letter, Gov. Knight could contact Walt's secretary, Tommy Walker, by calling her at VIctoria 9-3411. If you manage to get your hands on a time-traveling device, make sure to give Walt a call when you go back to the 1950s. Gov. Knight was among the many honored guests on hand during Disneyland's opening day on July 17, 1955.

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A newspaper article, circa 1939-1940, and in French, dealing with Walt Disney's new film, "Fantasia." [Chuck Schmidt Collection]


Mike Virgintino, my Friendly Freedomland pal, occasionally stumbles on Disney-related gems and he generously sends them to me to add to my collection. "I know they'll get a good home with you," he says.

One such item is quite interesting. It's a newspaper clipping, circa 1939-1940, of a story on Disney's upcoming new film, Fantasia. The article features a photo of one of the film's segments, Beethoven's "The Pastoral Symphony."

The only problem is: The article is in French [any French students out there?].

The clipping adds to my Fantasia collection: I have [on loan from my mother] an original program movie-goers received when they saw the movie during its long-running engagement at the Broadway Theatre in Manhattan. The booklet features a wealth of information about the ground-breaking cinematic achievement, including portraits of Walt Disney, Leopold Stokowski, Deems Taylor and the making of the classic.

There's also one critic's succinct take on the movie: "Fantasia will Amasia." ... as will most items from the Disney vault.

May 9, 2016

Jack Lindquist: A rich legacy and a fun-filled career with the Walt Disney Company

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Jack Lindquist and Mickey Mouse appear at a function held at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., where Jack was a trustee. [Courtesy of Chapman University]

CHUCK SCHMIDT / Still Goofy About Disney
AllEars.Net Guest Blogger

In May of 2011, at Walt Disney World's 40th anniversary celebration, Jack Lindquist had this to say about fellow Disney Legend Marty Sklar:

"Marty was always a big troublemaker. He'd bring water guns to work and, right there in our offices above City Hall in Disneyland, we'd have shootouts! Either that, or he was always throwing footballs around the place."

Turns out, The Master of Fun was just getting started.

There followed another story, this one about Jack's used Cadillac, a series of blown head gaskets, an engine fire and Marty laughing so hard that he had to relieve himself in a nearby orange grove adjacent to Disneyland.

Long-time friends can do that -- poke fun at one another in a good-natured way and tell hilarious stories about each other without hesitation -- because they've experienced so much together and their bond is that strong, that enduring.

The friendship between Jack Lindquist and Marty Sklar began in 1955 when the two were members of Disneyland's first publicity department, and it lasted more than 60 years. Although the two followed different paths during their decades-long careers with the Walt Disney Company -- after first making his mark dreaming up unique ways to market Disneyland, Jack would go on to become the first president of the park, while Marty would head up Walt Disney Imagineering -- they remained close through it all.

"It's always fun to spend time with Marty," Jack told me last summer during a phone interview that Marty helped set up. "We've been good friends for 60 years. We had offices right next to each other above City Hall at Disneyland." It was in those offices where some of their most creative marketing strategies took root ... and where the two often engaged in those spirited water-gun battles.

"He was a Bruin [Marty graduated from UCLA] and I was a Trojan [that would be bitter rival USC], but despite that, we've remained the best of friends."

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Disneyland's public relations team posed for this photo in 1957. Pictured are, front row, seated, left to right: Phil Bauer, graphic artist; Dorothy Manes, in charge of group sales and children's groups; Marty Sklar, in his early 20s; Eleanor Heldt, group sales manager, and Milt Albright, promotions. Second row, standing, left to right: Charlie Nichols, head photographer; Jack Lindquist; Eddie Meck, publicity; Ed Ettinger, Division Director; Carl Frith, photographer; Lee Cake, publicity writer, Frank Forsyth, Vacationland Magazine distributor. [The Walt Disney Company]

Indeed, having fun while still keeping his eye on the prize made Jack Lindquist such a special person among his colleagues. "Jack really was one-of-a-kind," Marty said recently.

When Marty Sklar retired in 2009, he was given a window in his honor in Disneyland. It was placed on City Hall, appropriately, on the opposite side of the building where Jack Lindquist's window was placed. Marty's window lauds him as "Dean, Main Street College of Arts and Sciences," while Jack's proclaims him "Honorary Mayor of Disneyland" and calls him "The Master of Fun."

"Jack and I worked together when he was advertising manager at Disneyland," Marty said. "He's got the only other window on City Hall, so the two of us are kind of bracketed" ... which is appropriate on so many levels. At Marty's window dedication on July 17, 2009, Jack kept the audience in stitches with several wonderful stories about experiences they both shared.

The placement of their windows insured that they will remain together, forever, at a place that was near and dear to both men.

Jack Lindquist passed away on Feb. 28 at the age of 88, leaving behind a legacy of accomplishments that few, if any, will match ... as well as a loving family, many dear friends and former colleagues, and countless people who were influenced by his innovative marketing strategies.

In those early days at Disneyland, the success of the park "wasn't a slam dunk," Marty recalled. That's why the work of the marketing department -- and Jack Lindquist in particular -- was so crucial.

Jack was an outsider looking in when Disneyland was under construction in 1954. He was working in marketing for Kelvinator, one of Disneyland's many corporate sponsors, and was given access to the park during construction. He was in attendance when the park opened on July 17, 1955, and was witness to the chaos of that first day. Still, he was quickly enamored with The Happiest Place on Earth.

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Jack Lindquist, who topped off his long and distinguished career by being named Disneyland's first president, was honored as a Disney Legend in 1994. [The Walt Disney Company]


A few weeks after the park opened, Jack was approached by a Disneyland representative and was asked if he could recommend someone for the position of marketing manager at Disneyland. "The job looked pretty good, so I recommended myself," he said. "Since there was no one else in marketing at the time, I was the manager of nothing. So I guess I did an excellent job!"

All kidding aside, he did do an excellent job. Out of that fledgling department came ideas like The Magic Kingdom Club, Disney Dollars, Grad Nites and the Disneyland Ambassador Program. The department would quickly grow and add many key people, all of whom played important roles in the long-term success of Disneyland.

Jack was a proponent of celebrating anniversaries and turning them into huge park promotions. His first -- Disneyland's Tencennial -- helped spur highly successful marketing promos at the other Disney properties over the years. He also dreamed up the now-iconic "I'm going to Disney World!" post-Super Bowl promotion.

In early 1957, members of the department gathered for a group photo. I was given a copy of that photo by the folks at Walt Disney Imagineering and both Marty and Jack helped supply the IDs for "the cast of characters," as Marty called them, in the picture, which was taken in Frontierland.

They were Phil Bauer, a graphic artist; Dorothy Manes, who was in charge of group sales and children's groups; Marty Sklar; Eleanor Heldt, group sales manager; Milt Albright, promotions; Charlie Nichols, head photographer; Jack Lindquist; Eddie Meck, publicity; Ed Ettinger, public relations Division Director; Carl Frith, photographer; Lee Cake, publicity writer, and Frank Forsyth, magazine distributor.

In addition to Marty and Jack, Eddie Meck and Milt Albright would go on to achieve Disney's highest accolade -- Disney Legend status. Meck was a well-known figure in the movie industry before he came to work for Disneyland, while Albright worked in finance before being transferred to the PR department, where he made many significant contributions.

According to Marty, the people in the photo "were my close colleagues until 1961, when Walt moved me to WED [the forerunner of Walt Disney Imagineering] to work on the New York World's Fair. This was the group I worked with in the summer of 1955 and when I returned to Disneyland in September of 1956 after graduation from UCLA."

Although Marty was able to identify most of the people in the photo, it was Jack who provided me with the IDs of the two women seated to Marty's left and right. "Glad to help," Jack wrote in an email. "The women in the picture are Eleanor Heldt, group sales manager, and Dorothy Manes, group sales staff for youth programs. As for the other things you want to talk about, there's too much to write. Call me and we can talk."

I called Jack bright and early a week later and we chatted for about 45 minutes. He was an absolute pleasure to speak to, sharing warm memories and intricate details from his storied career.

During my interview with Jack, he expanded on women's roles in Disneyland. "Group sales probably had more women working in non-secretarial positions than any other jobs in the park," he said. "In the 1950s, that was rather unusual."

He went on the say that Dorothy Manes "worked at a kids' amusement park up in the Bay Area and Walt somehow happened to go to this park and met her and ended up hiring her to do youth programs at Disneyland."

Jack's accomplishments are legendary, not only within Disney's ranks, but in corporate America, as well.

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Jack Lindquist rides with Walt Disney during a Christmas parade in Disneyland. [The Walt Disney Company]

It was Jack Lindquist who came up with the idea of selling tickets for special events in advance. In 1957, Disneyland decided to hold its first New Year's Eve celebration. Jack thought it would be a great idea to make the night a special ticketed event, but 5,000 tickets needed to be sold just to break even. Since there were no guarantees 5,000 people would show up that night, Jack directed that tickets be sold weeks ahead of time at a variety of businesses in Hollywood, Long Beach and Los Angeles.

The night was a big success and the idea of advance-sale tickets caught on throughout the entertainment industry. "In those days, nobody sold advanced tickets," Jack said. "If you wanted a ticket, you went to the venue the day of the event."

Vacationland Magazine was another of Jack's promotional gems that helped generate tremendous interest in Disneyland and, in turn, solidify the park's long-term success.

"When Marty and I created Vacationland Magazine, we wanted to use the theory of reaching people with something different," Jack said. "Most of the hotels and motels throughout California [in the mid- to late 1950s] used to have racks in their lobbies. On these racks, all of the attractions throughout the state were featured in pamphlets. We didn't want to do the same old thing. So Marty and I developed the magazine concept; Marty was the editor and I did the marketing."

Originally, the magazine was called Disneyland Holiday. "But the people at Holiday Magazine were not happy with us using that name," Jack said. Still, "the magazine was a tremendous tool for Disney, very unique. It had all the information on the park, but it also had all the things happening in the area, not just Disneyland ... Knott's Berry Farm, Catalina Island and so on. At its height, in California, Nevada and Arizona, I think we distributed 300,000 magazines, four times a year."

As far as getting the product to the public, "we hired two guys [Bill Schwenn and Frank Forsyth] who delivered all the magazines," Jack said. "They were on the road most of the time and they built a tremendous rapport throughout the area. Everyone got to know them and like them.

"It was one of those ideas that worked beyond our wildest dreams."

Ideas that worked. That was the hallmark of Jack Lindquist's distinguished career. "We were willing to try anything, because there were no precedents," he said.

It didn't matter how or why he came up with those ideas ... just as long as they got the desired result: Promoting Disney in a fun and imaginative way.

Case in point: The giant Mickey Mouse head crop circle carved out of cornfields in Iowa to celebrate Mickey's 60th birthday in 1988, visible to any and all aircraft flying overhead. His colleagues believed that Jack probably got the idea while flying cross-country in Walt's company plane.

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Jack Lindquist proudly wears a pair of Mickey Mouse ears during Disneyland's 50th birthday celebration in 2005. [The Walt Disney Company]

Jack also played a key role in setting up the marketing strategies for Walt Disney World, Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris. He had a hand in signing up several countries' companies to join the World Showcase lineup at Epcot. During those endeavors, Jack was reunited with his old buddy from their Disneyland PR days, Marty Sklar.

"When Jack autographed a copy of his memoir, In Service to the Mouse, for me he wrote: 'It's been quite a ride!' We were great friends and colleagues for almost 60 years – we both 'grew up' in marketing and publicity in the early days of Disneyland, when [as Jack liked to say], 'we didn't know what wouldn't work, so we tried anything!'

"Jack pioneered marketing in the theme park industry around the world. One of my proudest accomplishments, together with a few others in the industry, was finally getting Jack inducted last November into the Hall of Fame of IAAPA (International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions). He deserved it for many years!

"Jack was a mentor to countless marketing people in the theme park industry. Beyond that: other than Walt Disney himself, I think Jack Lindquist was 'Mr. Disneyland' in Orange County. He represented the values and highest standards that Walt Disney wanted Disneyland to stand for, and he did it with such dedication that it never felt as though he was selling – he believed 100 percent in the product."

After his retirement from Disney in 1993, Jack formed The Lindquist Group, a distinguished marketing consulting firm. He also became a trustee at Chapman University in Orange, Calif. Chapman's president, Jim Doti, spoke in glowing terms at a memorial service for Jack.

"Jack and I frequently had breakfast together, usually at Rockwells in Villa Park," Doti said. "He was my marketing guru, and I learned so much from him. Jack was also my friend, my mentor and my hero.

"In addition to becoming a Chapman trustee, Jack provided dedicated and exemplary leadership through his involvement with Orange County's professional sports teams and convention and visitor bureaus as well as organizations like the Boy Scouts and Bowers Museum."

Fittingly, Marty Sklar was a speaker at another memorial celebration held in Jack's honor. "A great event that Disney staged," Marty said. "I'm using what I said as the core of my column for the Disney Vacation Club's Fall Disney Files magazine."

To be sure, it's going to be a fun-filled tribute, chock-full of many great stories ... and plenty of love, from one dear friend to another.

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About Jack Lindquist

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in the Jack Lindquist category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Charlie Ridgway is the previous category.

Marty Sklar is the next category.

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