The Original Mickey Mouse Club Show

Road Trip #4: Meeting With Judy Harriet

"Road Trips" will be an irregular series of articles on contemporary visits to places and events of interest to fans of the original Mickey Mouse Club. Our correspondent Randall Nakashima catches up with Mouseketeer Judy Harriet at a restaurant in Studio City, California.

Meeting With Judy Harriet

My longtime dream of taking a Mouseketeer to lunch came true recently when I met Mouseketeer Judy Harriet Richman at The Daily Grill in Studio City. Of course, Judy Harriet (actually her legal name at one time) has been Judy Richman since the '60's.

Anyone who remembers that Judy towered over the other Mouseketeers would be surprised to find that she is only 5'1". As Mary Espinosa Goff noted, she used to think Judy was so tall as a Mouseketeer, but Mary was surprised to find she is taller than Judy as an adult. Judy looks very good and stays trim by watching her intake, and keeps active by taking care of her grandchildren during the week.

Believe it or not, Judy wanted to meet me and was somewhat surprised that anyone would take an interest in some of the "other" Mouseketeers from the First Season. Of course, much of the First Season material has not been seen or discussed in years.

Asked to name her favorite number as a Mouseketeer, Judy said it was her Talent Roundup performance with Darlene. Judy sang A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes, and it was the only time she had the opportunity to sing a ballad all the way through on the show. Unfortunately, we have not been able to find her performance from this show.

I told Judy that my favorite musical skit in which she appeared was the Mad Tea Party from the Jerry Colonna Guest Star Day (GSD) because she connected so well with her guest, playing straight-man to Colonna's outlandish personality. The cartoon aspect of the March Hare (which Colonna also voiced in the animated feature) seemed a perfect match for the "fun" theme of the Mouseketeers.

Judy said that she remembered it, but that Colonna was much more professional than his stage personality showed. Her personal favorite was the Hank Penney GSD because he really engaged the kids and had them in stitches off screen.

She recalls the early photograph of twelve Mouseketeers singing with Jimmie Dodd in the Animation Department of the Disney Studios for "A Day in the Life of Donald Duck". A color photograph of the Mouseketeers was made into a jigsaw puzzle in the 50's, and Judy's daughters bought one for her from an exhibitor at the D23 convention in 2015. She now has it framed and hanging on her wall.

She also recalls the photo of the pre-debut Mouseketeers (including Dallas) with the pony. It was taken on the Disney back lot because the Studio wanted a publicity picture with the Mice standing on the fence.

As far the Mouseketeers' own daily routine, Judy recalled that they reported to the studio every morning (couldn't remember exactly which building) and they would be assigned to various sets for the day. But usually school came first. She never felt out of place by being primarily a singer among several dancers. She preferred singing because she became the focus of the performance. Dancing wasn't a problem for her since the steps they did were fairly basic.

She did confirm something Lonnie said: most of the Fun with Music numbers were filmed in one day. First, discuss the steps, then practice them, then shoot. She said as kids, they picked these things up pretty quickly. She did recall going to choreographer Burch Mann's studio in Alhambra with some of the other Mice to work on tapping early in the season.

As it turns out, Judy and Second Season Mouseketeer Eileen Diamond Rogison are still close friends. Ironically, the relationship didn't arise on the set of the studio, but at a party Roy Williams hosted for the Mice as adults. It turned out that the husbands got along famously, and the wives had a great deal in common, not only in their interest in performing, but in their common experience at the Disney studio.

As in the case of the interview with Mouseketeer Ron Steiner, there was much more to Judy's professional career after she left the Mouseketeers, and indeed that took up a good portion of the afternoon. I hope to go into more detail with Judy in a follow-up meeting, and hopefully have an opportunity for a complete interview.

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