The Original Mickey Mouse Club Show


Mary Espinosa         (Jan 16, 1945)

Upside Down Mary

Mary came to the Mickey Mouse Club having done one television show and some live performances. She was a Blue Team member who lasted the entire first season, and after leaving the show continued working in show business off and on while also pursuing a career in aerospace, and later as a Meditation Instructor.

Background

Born Mary Danella Espinosa in Los Angeles, she told webmaster Steve at the old MouseStars.com that she was of Spanish, Mexican, Chinese, and French heritage. She was the middle child of seven kids, having three brothers and three sisters. At age four, Mary started lessons at Burch Mann's University of Dance in Alhambra, specializing in tap. There she would meet other future Mouseketeers like Bonni Lou Kern, Don Underhill, Billie Jean Beanblossom, Dallas Johann, and Darlene Gillespie.

Prior to auditioning for the club, Mary appeared on an episode of The Loretta Young Show. Mary did a tap dance and sang some songs at her first club audition. She and Bonni Kern were called back for a second audition, and both made the cut then.

Performance

When the show first began filming in May 1955, before the color-coded teams were formed, the kids were put into equal-sized groups. The earliest Fun with Music numbers (Old Betsy, Animals and Clowns, Be Sure You're Right, Sho-Jo-Ji, and Pussy Cat Polka) used the same group of eight kids as performers. Mary was one of these pioneers, along with Nancy Abbate, Lonnie Burr, Dallas Johann, Billie Beanblossom, Bronson Scott, Mike Smith and Judy Harriet.

Having been trained at Burch Mann's studio Mary had strong dancing skills, but later on as a Blue Team member had few opportunities to show them off. She did get to do a short fast tap routine with Sharon Baird and Bronson Scott on live television for the Disneyland debut, and took part in a a variety of dances for guest stars, including a "saloon girl" chorus line for the stars of the Golden Horseshoe Revue, an Irish jig for the Sullivans, and a hoedown for Helene Stanley.


Mary was acrobatic, and along with other Blue and White Team Mouseketeers put these skills to use in Circus Day shows, tumbling and clowning with the adult professional acts. She also had several opportunites to engage in on-camera repartee with guest stars such as Hank Penny. The "hurry up and wait" atmosphere on the sound stage led a sometimes bored Mary to do cartwheels and handstands while awaiting her next turn to perform. The other Mouseketeers and their moms took to calling her "Upside Down Mary" to distinguish her from Mary Sartori. The producers evidently had no problem with two Mary's on the show, though later some other kids would use different names to avoid repetition among the cast.


Like all the Mouseketeers Mary had her turn doing the Mousekartoon introduction, revealing a pleasant singing voice. When the filming season wound down in October 1955, she went along with the other Mouseketeers to Disneyland's Mickey Mouse Club Circus. Here she performed an aerial ballet with the other girls, and took her turn in clown make-up for the two daily shows in the big top. Though her opportunities for solo performances had been limited, Mary remembers her experience as favorable though very hectic.

Aftermath

When her time on the club came to an end in January 1956, Mary said she felt relieved to escape the pressure. She went back to public school while continuing dancing lessons. The money she earned from the club helped buy a new home for her large family. During the sixties she was in two stage musicals and a drama. In 1964 she married John Adams. They had a daughter and son together, but divorced in 1974.

While still married Mary had attended Long Beach City College, and took a job in the medical field. By 1977 she had switched to aerospace, and would be employed for many years by McDonnell-Douglas, Hughes Aircraft, and Northrop. In 1980 she appeared on the televised 25th Anniversary reunion for the Mickey Mouse Club. After leaving aerospace in 1987, she resumed work in show business, doing bit parts in four films and six television series, including Star Trek - The Next Generation, Moonlighting, Cagney and Lacey, and L.A. Law.

During the nineties she resumed her business career, while also completing her college education. She married Michael Goff in 1994, and in 1996 received a Bachelor's degree from the University of San Francisco. In 2005 she took part in the 50th Anniversary celebrations for Disneyland and the Mouseketeers, while in September 2008 she was honored by the Disneyland Hispanic Employees Association (HOLA) for being the first Hispanic female child on an American television series.

For the 55th Anniversary of both Disneyland and the Mickey Mouse Club, Mary joined seven other Mouseketeers in a Q&A panel for 1400 fans at the Disneyland Hotel on the morning of September 24, 2010. She and her former colleagues then signed autographs for over 500 fans that same afternoon. Said Mary:

"We had such a great time remembering all our happiest, fun moments, and sharing them with folks (D23 fans & no press) who are truly interested in every detail. Imagine, the show was 55 years ago! Also, it was wonderful to meet children and grandchildren of our original fans who were just as excited to meet us. Many said that their Mother had been such a big fan that they naturally became one too."

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