by Peter Keogh | Release Date: March 8, 2015 | Availability: Kindle
In the 1950s, the heydey of Disney's Mickey Mouse Club, a group of Mouseketeers went on a little-known tour of Australia. There to meet them was young Peter Keogh, who rubbed ears a bit with his heroes both with their ears on and, more tellingly, with their ears off. This short Kindle-only book is a fascinating glimpse into an unknown chapter of Mouseketeer history.
Among the Mouseketeers who went down under: Bobby Burgess, Cubby O'Brien, Tommy Cole, and Doreen Tracey, plus their famous "club house dad", Jimmie Dodd. The ingenuity of Peter Keogh to make it backstage and meet his childhood heroes gave him his first dose of "show business", and he was to go on to work with some of the biggest names of the 1970s and 1980s.
Teen-aged Peter, however, is still coming to grips with his homosexuality in the strait-laced Australian society of the time, and finds himself drawn to the "Mouseketeer mystique" despite its conformity and vanilla values, as he:
Bargain priced at 99 cents, and featuring photos rarely (and in a few cases never!) seen, The Mouseketeers Down Under pulls back the ears on the adventures of Jimmie, Bobby, Cubby, and the gang in the land down under.
The Mouseketeers Down Under
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Peter Keogh was born in rural Australia during the 1950s. Growing up in a religious family, where homosexuality was considered anathema, he struggled to come to terms with his true identity.
After a string of jobs, Peter moved to London where he met and worked with some of the biggest names in show business, such as comedy actress Su Pollard, whom he married. For several years, Peter enjoyed the celebrity lifestyle, mixing with some of the most famous people of the day, including Princess Diana. When his marriage to Su Pollard ended, Peter travelled to the USA, where he went on to work with many iconic stars, including film legend Debbie Reynolds.
His autobiography, My Hi-De-High Life, was published in 2013, and the follow-up, Filling in the Gaps, will be released in 2015.
The Mouseketeers set down in Australia, with Peter Keogh waiting for them.
Suddenly the plane door opened and out they came—first Jimmie Dodd followed by Bobby Burgess, Doreen Tracey, Tommy Cole, Sharon Baird, Karen Pendleton, and Cubby O’Brien. The crowd erupted each time a new face appeared. I was a little sad that Annette Funicello, Darlene Gillespie, and Lonnie Burr were not with the group, but gosh—the others were all actually here—right in front of me! The first shock was seeing them in “living colour”; the show, of course, was black and white, and the episodes currently running in Australia were almost two years old. All the Mouseketeers were in their Mickey Mouse Club shirts (which were the deepest blue) and the next surprise was Doreen’s hair (which was a vivid red). Together with the blue shirt and luminous hair, Doreen was indeed striking—plus she was very “well developed”, shall we say, something not at all evident on the television show. Many a teen fell in love that day. Everybody else looked pretty much as I expected. The heartthrob was Tommy Cole—he certainly made my gay teenage heart skip a beat.
The frenzy that greeted their arrival surpassed anything the kids had seen before. Police and security were hard put to contain the crowds and get the Mouseketeers safely off the tarmac and into the waiting float (for the parade in their honour) and cars, en route to downtown Melbourne and followed by a parade of press and fans in all modes of transport blowing their horns and yelling greetings. Just prior to the Mouseketeers’ departure from the airport, my new pals in the press offered to give me a lift with them to the city to follow the float down the main streets. I think it was my unharnessed enthusiasm that charmed them—I still cannot believe their generosity.
It was about a twenty-minute trip to the downtown area, and when we finally reached the point from which the parade was to start, I was asked into a press van that preceded the Mouseketeers’ float and from which the press took all the shots and filmed for the television news and newspapers. By the time the parade started, the main streets were closed to traffic to accommodate the crowds that had swollen to a size that shocked everyone. It took over thirty minutes to move just three blocks—total Mickey Mouse Club hysteria! It was as big a crowd as any previous Royal visit to Melbourne and there I was, in the heart of it all. Now it was onwards, to actually meet my heroes.
Continued in "THE MOUSEKETEERS DOWN UNDER"!
The relationship between adult pop singer Lucky Starr and under-age Mouseketeer Cheryl became a sex scandal that was swiftly covered up.
Plans were made that evening to meet up for dinner. I can’t remember if everyone was there, but certainly Cheryl and Lucky Starr were in attendance, sitting side by side.
By this time the press had cottoned onto the fact that Cheryl and Lucky were having a relationship. This became a bit of a scandal because Cheryl was only fifteen while Lucky was nineteen. It was the talk of the town and threatened to derail the success of the tour. I certainly was not enamoured by Lucky’s charms—there seemed to be an edge to him that surfaced whenever I was around. The publicity that surrounded his romance with 15-year-old Cheryl certainly did not harm his career.
Because of my association with the television station, I was given free access to the cast and for some reason Cheryl really seemed to enjoy spending time with me. In fact, she gave me her address at the time—Sherman Oaks—and said that if I was ever in Los Angeles I was welcome to visit. I think that was when the first seed was planted for me to one day go to America and see the “stars”, especially Debbie Reynolds and now, of course, Cheryl. It would take over ten years for that to happen, but I was determined that it would happen. Sadly, by that time I had lost Cheryl’s address, but arriving in America was the realisation of a huge dream and the most amazing adventures (all of which I wrote about in my first book, My Hi-de-Highlife).
Continued in "The Mouseketeers Down Under"!