The Original Mickey Mouse Club Show


Charley Laney         (1943-1997)

Can-do Charley

Dancer, musician, singer, and gymnast, Charley joined the Mickey Mouse Club for the second season as a Blue Team replacement. Though he had all the necessary talent, Charley was unable to break into the Red Team during his one season, and left show business behind with the club. A good family man, he passed away far too soon.

Background

Charles Leon Laney was born in Los Angeles County on June 18, 1943. He started dance lessons at age three, and won his first dance contest at age five. He could dance tap, jazz, and modern, played the trumpet and drums, and was a gymnast. At age twelve he took his chances in the show biz version of Musical Chairs, the cattle calls for the Mickey Mouse Club's second season. Each time he auditioned, the number of kids he competed against was cut in half, until at last he was the only one left standing.

Performance

Charley's first appearance was on the MMC's second season opening production number, All Alone at Coney Island. He did a brief walk-on bit in this unusual promotion for a non-Disney amusement park. You have to wonder what Walt Disney thought about this piece, celebrating the tawdry attractions of a place he intended for Disneyland to surpass. East Coast sharpies Sid Miller and Bill Walsh must have slipped this one past Uncle Walt.


Charley spent his six months (April-September 1956) with the show in the background, watching guest stars and circus acts, and getting an occasional opportunity to sing backup or dance with the chorus. For this, he had beat out thousands of other candidates in extensive talent auditions? But then, the auditions were an end in themselves, a publicity device to drum up interest in the show, and only secondarily a means to find replacement Mouseketeers. The producers already had their stars from the first season, and knew from the start they'd be cutting the replacements loose after the season ended.

If Charley, like some of the other second season mice, resented the invisible barrier between them and the first season stars, he gave no hint of it, on camera or in later life. He seemed delighted with every skit he got to do, grinning happily at a rare chance to dance with Doreen Tracey or introduce guests with Margene Storey.

Aftermath

Charley doesn't seem to have pursued a show business career after leaving the show in the fall of 1956. Indeed, for a long time the studio lost track of him, though he remained in Southern California. It was unable to find him for the 20th Anniversary celebrations at Disneyland in 1975, but did locate him in time for the 25th Anniversary. Charley took part in the televised program, the slender twelve-year old having become a bearded, muscular guy. Though little has been made public about his life after the show, it is known that he married and had several children to whom he was devoted. He was working as a supermarket manager in the La Jolla area of San Diego, when he died unexpectedly on March 9, 1997.

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