Saturday, September 1, 2007
A Fantasy Life Cut Short
Years ago, I had been fired from Disneyland, fired from the Character Department.
Why did I get fired? The short answer is, 'I kicked a child.'
Well, technically, yes, I did kick a kid, but not on purpose.
The long answer: Alice in Wonderland had organized a game of ring-around-the-roseys with some other costumed characters and visiting children. I was her White Rabbit that day. At 'ashes, ashes, we all fall down' (have you ever heard the morbid origins of that innocent sounding rhyme?), Gepetto, Pinocchio's father, jumped on top of me and started tickling me.
I cannot stand being tickled. I was a thrashing bunny under a merciless old toy maker, and one of my size 16 rabbit's feet--picture clown shoes covered in faux white fur--connected with a child's face.
Both Gepetto and I were put on a three-day suspension. Disney was used to being sued, at this point, so they had to take appropriate action to cover their butts, even though neither the child nor his parents were upset.
The Good Timing Gods were not on my side. During my suspension, my department received a letter from a very irate mother. She complained about a character that had shown her daughter an inappropriate button pinned to his costume.
The button said, 'What if the whole world farted at once?'
The mother had written that she was very upset by this and that "someone like that shouldn't be working at Disneyland."
Her letter included a description of the character costume, date, time, and location inside Disneyland park when the 'incident' had happened. She made it very easy for me to be tracked down, so I didn't see any sense in denying that I had indeed been wearing said button.
I had expected to get slapped on the hand, a verbal warning, or at the worst, a written warning.
Instead, I was fired. Terminated. Only two strikes and I was out of there.
I was devastated. I had a job I really liked. I got to go to work and play, everyday.
At 22 years old, I had forty hours a week, and enough status to have some benefits. I was able to support myself with this fun job.
I felt, for the first time, like I had had the rug pulled out from underneath me.
Did my life get better after that? You betcha'! And only a mere five months later when I landed my first performing gig as a human entertainer.
Did I try to get back into the Mouse House? Almost constantly. And I was turned away, eventually, at every audition for Disney after that.
Six years after being fired, they finally let me back in, as a union dancer for one of their stage shows. But I had a bitter attitude toward Disney for a long time. I had bought into the idea that Disney was about making your dreams come true. My dream was to work as a dancer for Disneyland. But when you get in the Mouse House and you're backstage, you soon realize that Disney is more about making a profit than they are about fulfilling dreams. It is all fantasy, all pretend, not real.
Disneyland has always been like an ex-boyfriend that I'm always yearning to get back together with, against my better judgment. It had been a bittersweet love-hate relationship for me, for the better part of two decades.
And as with any broken relationship, all it took was time, and more time, and then even more time, to get over the heartbreak of it all and truly move on.
And what if the whole world farted at once? I received several interesting and slightly varying answers from children, but my favorite came from a very serious and calm looking girl with glasses: "My, that would certainly be a coincidence."