|Why? Because We Still Like You
by Jennifer Armstrong
Grand Central Publishing, New York, NY, Oct 2010
256 pages, Photos, Appendix, Notes, Index
Reading this book is like attending a reunion of friends from your childhood - a pleasant hour or two of reminising old times, catching up on what everyone is doing now, and generally avoiding deep discussions on personal issues.
The book's tone is set in the first two pages as Jennifer Armstrong relates the male Mouseketeers teenage angst and rebellion over the producer's orders to completely cover up their "cool" wavy hairstyles with the mouse ears.
Jennifer Armstrong is a good story teller and draws the reader right into this teenage dilemma as she does with many other incidents throughout the book. Athough the book briefly discusses some serious issues like the difficulty of dealing with different directors, and the emotions of being released early from the show, most of the stories are light hearted and fun. The result is a fast paced, easy read that evokes the same comfortable, friendly feeling that the original show created for its viewers.
That being said, reactions to this book will vary. Those whose interest in the Mickey Mouse Club has just been reignited by Disney DVD releases and the 50th and 55th MMC reunions will enjoy hearing for the first time stories of Mouseketeer auditions, first day on the set jitters, off stage antics, and teenage crushes.
Longtime fans, however, who have kept up-to-date with Mouseketeer interviews and appearances will be disappointed to find that the majority of the material consists of stories told over and over again. To be fair, Jennifer conducted several new interviews with some of the Mouseketeers, as well as researching previously printed material. This has resulted in some quotes from rarely interviewed mice such as John Lee Johann and Eileen Diamond, and some new material from oft interviewed mice. Tommy Cole, for example, relates a poignant story of being ejected from the closed Disney set where Annette is filming Babes in Toyland showing how his status had been downgraded from "star".
However, the book missses some obvious opportunities. Why not ask Eileen how she felt having an uncredited role on that same movie with Annette? Or why not ask Ronnie Steiner or Mary Sartori how they felt about returning the second year to perform one time on Talent Roundup Day?
The more important question is why Ron Steiner and Mary Sartori are not even mentioned in the book. More than half of the Mouseketeers including first year A team members Nancy Abbate, Johnny Crawford, Don Underhill and Mike Smith are totally ignored. Jennifer may have felt that limiting the number of Mouseketeers would make a tighter book, the narrative easier to follow. However, this ommission is not only frustrating, but a real loss. At the very least, an update on all the mice could have been included in the appendix.
As the book is promoted as an "oral history", it is odd that this "history" does not list all the Mouseketeers. In addition to the claim of "history", Jennifer states that the book will discuss the influence of the show on the entertainment industry. Although there is one chapter on the history, and a brief and awkward attempt at the end of the book to tie it to entertainment today, the book concentrates on eighteen Mouseketeers and two stars of the Spin and Marty serials.
This book is a good introduction to the Mickey Mouse Club for those who have never or rarely read or heard anything about the show since it was originally on the air. More serious fans can still enjoy the book as it is a "fun" read and these fans will enjoy looking for the few snippets of new material. However, anyone wanting a serious discussion of the Mickey Mouse Club with an in-depth look at the Mouseketeers will have to wait for someone else to tackle this subject.