Damn you, Hammer, and your thought provoking posts!!!
"You know how bad you gotta f*** up to get thrown outta Chuckie's??!! Pretty damn bad."
Towards the pinnacle of my radio broadcasting career I worked for the mouse. That's right, Mickey. Michael Eisner's fave felching friend. Real generous, too. The inside joke at Disney on payday was, "Mickey Mouse, big ears...short hands!"
I spent a whole year working my figurative tail off for that company. I was downsized along with 4,000 'castmembers' (we weren't called employees, kid you not) so Eisner and his cronies could by new homes or yachts...or whatever trip to kiddie land in the Far East their profit sharing could afford. It was probably for the best. I missed out on some terrific hunts with my dad, and lost on some quality time with Swede. The only way I could spend a weekend with her is to have her help out (unpaid) at some of my remote gigs.
It pains me to say this, but I also remember wearing the outfits. I remember everything about it. I also remember signing a confidentiality agreement. I remember that I don't work there anymore. And I don't care. Did you know that there can only be one Mickey Mouse appearance nationwide at any given time? That's right. Aside from the parks, Mickey cannot be seen in multiple markets. It also costs something like $10,000 to have him show up anywhere. Same with Minnie. Mickey, Minnie and most of the shorter characters usually have a woman of small stature stuffed in the suit. There's a whole list of do's and don'ts that they have to abide by. About the only costumes I could ever wear are Goofy, and any of the taller characters. Thank goodness I never had to work in any park as a character. The autographs are genuine, though. When you train to be a character, they make you practice ad nauseum signing your character's name with those big arsed mitts on. They do practice, too. The autographs I've seen are good.
My local Disney affiliate had a contract with one of the now defunct big box stores for a little kiddie appreciation day. We managed to finagle an appearance by Minnie Mouse. This was during the back to school rush. We pitched a last bash at the beach theme for the store and they put up the extra dough to get Minnie in a bathing suit. The airline lost the luggage. The girl playing Minnie showed up in flip flops and a t-shirt. It took threats short of Disney pulling ad dollars from the airline for them to find the costume. Two giant duffels held the outfit. You'd think they were carrying the "football" for POTUS. Padlocks and tags all over that thing.
I digress. That gig went off without a hitch, but I think Minnie grabbed my butt while in costume. How kinky.
That whole mess of scheduling and getting revenue and venues for characters together put the idea in our radio station GM's head that we need to have our own costumes and sell our own character packages. Talk about timing. We received approval from the home orifice right before we started selling packages for Halloween. Wouldn't ya know it, one of the city's largest retail grocers bought our most expensive package.
Here's what a package entails:
-Fully produced commercials placed in strategic time slots
(when I say fully produced, I ain't just whistling zippedeedooda)
-Published spot on our local Disney Radio Webpage
-Appearances by the Radio Disney Party Squad at all of the grocer's "Signature" stores
-Two full Disney characters to play and pose for photos with the kiddies.
Guess who played the part of one of the characters? Guess who had little kids use him for a tackling dummy? Guess who received every snot ball and kid borne virus and illness?
My station manager thought it would be a good idea for everyone in the office to have costumes. This was so I could take my mandatory two days off in the middle of the week to recuperate. Not like it helped. She ordered them from the Disney store catalog. I was Bear in the Big Blue House. Did I mention how warm it was during the October of 2000? Have you ever seen Bear in the Big Blue House? Yeah, it sucked.
October started off nice enough. Clients were happy, kids were happy, and my boss was happy. I was not happy. I was hot and miserable in that outfit. Right out of the gate, some grocery store VIP sends his 4 year old merchant o' death screaming into my body. I honestly believe this kid blew out my left knee. He it it that hard, I was gimped out the rest of the evening.
I think I caught the first bout with influenza that night, too. As it stood, I thought I was dealing with bad allergies for the first couple of weeks. Little did I know. About halfway through October I developed laryngitis. Couldn't make sales calls, couldn't talk at sales meetings. Couldn't perform my on-air duties. My immediate supervisor kept bringing nasty home remedies for me to try. I told her if she tried to shove something else down my throat, I would shove my foot up her ass. Not nice talk from a Disney representative. She made me have a sit down with the GM over that one. Boss lady just sent me home until I could talk again.
Three days later, I could talk and was back among the masses. I was a walking pill dispensary by this time. I couldn't get to the doctor at all, and was scrounging for any OTC cold remedy that would work. Three days after that, Halloween. The day before our big Halloween party at a Health Museum, I relapsed with laryngitis. By this time, I was in full-blown pneumonia mode, too. My immediate boss didn't care. We had clients to make happy and mucho ad revenue to cash in on. This was her deal and we weren't going to fail because I got a sniffle. She pretty much ordered me to show up for work. All time off including sick leave was cancelled.
I showed up. I held crying babies. I posed with rowdy toddlers. I endured six hours wrapped up in that damn bear costume with nothing but my face sticking out of it. I was dripping buckets of sweat. One of the sales reps caught me behind the stage drinking bottle after bottle of water. She put her hand to my forehead and tried to get my boss to send me home. No good. I found out later at home that my fever was near 103F. When I got to the doctor that following Monday, I found out that I lost close to 15 pounds. Most of that was sweated out on Halloween. One month of torture wearing that gawdawful outfit culminated into one night of Hell. Eighty degrees and rainy that night with a cold front moving through that dropped the temp another 40 degrees. I was only there in shorts and a t-shirt to begin with and left looking like I jumped into a pool. My shoes squished when I stepped out of the outfit.
I dropped my gear off at the station, went home and didn't show up in the office for another month. My doctor called into work to ream out the promotions director personally. I told him what I went through and he was pretty furious. According to him, if I took one week off early in the month, I would have scraped by with nothing more than a cold. He confined me to bed rest for two weeks, lots of good drugs, and I wasn't allowed to show my face in the station until I was absolutely 100%. The doctor's notes showed a rip-roaring case of pneumonia, laryngitis, severe weight loss due to illness, and mental and physical exhaustion.
The promo director was furious. She had to pick up all the slack in my absence. All the way through Thanksgiving. After a week she would call my house daily asking when I could return. Email to the GM stopped that harassment. I finally just shut off my phone and turned off the ringer at the house. Played lots of computer games for the first two weeks, and managed to get my Christmas shopping done early. I even managed to sneak to the deer lease for the Thanksgiving weekend.
I came back a different person. Weak and underweight, my boss thought I was the same and treated me as such. We didn't have a Merry Christmas. There were daily catfights between us. My stress level shot through the roof and I continued to drop weight. I did my level best to work with her, and finally threatened to leave her high and dry if she didn't back off. Cleaned out my office that day. Even caught laryngitis a third time. The week before Christmas, no less. We were booked solid through Christmas with parties and events all across town. This time no costumes, but we had to race all over town to different locations for the same toy store. I braced myself for the worst and in the end, I was waylaid through New Year's with pneumonia. The office didn't see my shining face until after my birthday.
I got a gym membership for my birthday and as my health improved my strength came back. Living the healthy lifestyle really kept the kid borne crud away from me. By that time I was back to fighting off the normal allergies.
I have mucho respect for anyone dealing with kids in any fashion. Costume wearing pizza slingers included. You don't get paid enough to put up with what those lil' booger munchers put out. Three months after I was let go, I received a call from the Dragon Lady as I liked to call my immediate boss. She wanted me to come back as a contractor to wear the bear outfit for her clients. She was offering minimum wage, I countered with go to hell. The GM called back and wanted to know why I was being hostile. I reminded her that I nearly died wearing that outfit. She just laughed and invited me to lunch.
I don't like reliving the glory days of my youth. It brings up too many bad memories of podunk county fairs, asshole sales reps, egocentric DJ's, and too many old toothless barhags looking for a quickie from the young radio station guy in the tight Wranglers (For the record, I am a Levi Strauss guy). Disney is just one giant memory I refuse to visit no matter who brings it up. They used me up and spit me right out on the street without so much as a howdy-do.
This one will get filed under the "Don't You Ever Mention This To Me Again!!!" category. When I get home, there will be a bottle of Bacardi waiting to rub this shit out.