Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Disney Roots


April, 1985

My friend Brent did not tell me where we were going.
"It's a surprise," he told me. "You're going to be so excited when you find out. You'll be jumping up and down!"
When we arrived at a small, crowded parking lot in Anaheim, Brent told me that we were auditioning for Disneyland's Electrical Parade.
I was not excited.
I was intimidated, intimidated by the long line of young men who looked like professionally trained dancers to me. I specifically remember Matt V in jazz pants, leg warmers, a slashed sweatshirt sliding off of one shoulder a la "Flashdance," and Vuarnet-style framed glasses. Matt turned out to be one of the sweetest friends in the world to know, but for someone like me who had not come out of the closet yet, he looked very effeminate, and that was intimidating!

There was no way that they were going to hire me to dance in a Disneyland parade. I had very little experience as a performer, and even less formal dance training.
That attitude helped to get me hired--sorry, cast into EP. I had nothing to lose, so I was actually a lot more relaxed when doing the simple dance combination (step-pivot, step-pivot, wizard, and wizard, and burst!) than if I had desperately wanted the job.
I was able to laugh at myself while butchering what little of the combination I was able to remember. I remember the choreographer smiling and kind of laughing at me before waving me over to the 'good dancers side.' Now that I'm older, I realize that not-so-good dancers often make the cuts and get cast when the choreographer thinks they're attractive. Being young and cute probably helped to get my foot into the Mouse House, although at 19, I certainly didn't think of myself as cute.

I knew what kind of boys worked at Disneyland. A friend from school had been in the Donald Duck parade the year before, and he told me that all of the parade boys were gay. I knew that being hired into parades would not be good for me, having been raised as a Christian. I knew that if I started hanging around these boys, I would want to start being like them
I had this vision of myself standing at the edge of a cliff, right outside of a protective forest: taking a job in a Disneyland parade meant that I could jump off of that cliff, or I could run back and hide some more in that closet of a forest.

I jumped.

Actually, it was more like I fell. Yes, I got hurt on the way down, more than once, but I didn't die. Getting back up, however, was a long, difficult journey.

1985 was a difficult year. I had dropped out of UCLA. I came out of the closet and started dealing with my sexuality, trying to compromise it with Christianity. My father was angry that I had dropped out of school and that I had taken a 'nowhere job' at Disneyland, so things were not good at home.
And yet, I am able to look back on that time fondly, with a lot of good memories mixed in with the bad. That year was the beginning of one of the best times of my life, and the true beginning of shaping my adult identity.

2 comments:

thelastnoel said...

This will make an amazing personal essay someday!

Peter Varvel said...

Wow! Thanks, Noel!
Words from a master of writing!

I will cherish them.