Books About The Mickey Mouse Club
The best part of the book is Lonnie Burr's account of his loveless upbringing by former Vaudeville dancers, a childhood dominated by a mother and grandmother who respectively rewarded performance success and behavioral compliance with permissiveness and a spoiling materialism. His father was a distant figure who early on withdraws physically and emotionally from his son's life, yielding control to his wife's need to live vicariously through their son's celebrity. Lonnie reveals regrets about their lack of parenting skills but no bitterness, and the most human character portraits in the book are these survivors of the Great Depression.
His father's withdrawal and mother's psychological tactics, followed by their physical abandonment of him to his grandparents upon divorcing, induced in Lonnie an obsession with betrayal, a theme that permeates his life and of which he is fully aware. He lets us see this unlovely facet of his nature (self-betrayal is the most exquisite form after all) dominating many of his personal relationships. His eidetic memory is a curse for him in this regard, for he retains the full particulars of every injustice ever visited upon him, and he lets us know the details as well. The flip side of this is his staunch loyalty to the memory of folks now voiceless and forgotten, like Bob Amsberry, Hal Adelquist, and countless others whom he remembers with gratitude and fondness.
Also remembered by the author, with a different sort of gratitude, are a host of beautiful women who came into his life for longer or shorter (some of them very short) periods of time. Lonnie's childhood training as a Jehovah's Witness could only slow down, not stop, the raging hormones of his youth. Some of the more surprising and amusing parts of his teenage years touch on the battles in his conscience between religious indoctrination and the biological imperative.
"To get down to it, not coveting women was beyond me. I noticed that many of the commandments, for that matter, seemed beyond adherence by more than one or two of the Witnesses I encountered--- the flesh be horny.
If not in mortal fear of screwing up my continuing-to-live pass from god, I would have coited by at least thirteen if not younger instead of merely having a wallet with a raised circle the size of a silver dollar..."
There is also a wry account of his early professional dance training, while his opinions on choreography and various aspects of stage, film, and television dancing are both informative and accessible to non-performers. Unlike many of his Mouseketeer colleagues, Lonnie Burr was aware of and well-informed about the political and social issues of his time, and he gives his take on the major events in these spheres that impacted his life.
Perhaps the truest words ever spoken of Lonnie Burr came from his friend and fellow author Jerry Bowles, who long ago wrote that "Lonnie comes into every conversation prepared to do battle". From Lonnie's own testimony in this book, it appears that he made an effort to overcome this tendency in his thirties, with perhaps mixed success. A far harder struggle has been his lifelong battle against depression, and his self-confessed weakness to overmedicate as compensation. He opens himself up this way to try and show the results of pushing children into the performing life to gratify the parent rather than the child.
There is a lot in here about Disney, The Mickey Mouse Club, and the Mouseketeers, much of it dealing with times long after the show finished. Lonnie is obviously fond of some of his former colleagues, but others come in for some hard words. Social hypocrisy, however, is not one of Lonnie's failings, and if he is abrupt in writing of others, he is even more merciless in exposing his own shortcomings. Only at one point, towards the end of the book, does he throw a boomerang. While trying to justify an acrimonious falling-out with the guy who was his best friend on, and sometimes off the show, Lonnie succeeds only in depicting a sad picture of his own behavior.
Stylistically, the book seldom obliges with straight chronological progression and a taut narrative. After a few chapters Tristram Shandy came to my mind, though I think the author would regard Proust rather than Sterne as an exemplar. His frequent discursive asides, which always just manage to meander back to the mainstream at chapter's end, are his own unique style however, as are the bawdy anecdotes and overwhelming mass of detail. Sixty years is a long time to be in show business, and Lonnie remembers every performance, every credit, every co-star, every triumph, and every obstacle encountered. It goes beyond intimidating, and it is no reflection on his ability as a writer to say that he could easily have cut a hundred pages and still impressed.