Joel Sappell, the Times' business editor who oversees entertainment coverage, writes in the Column One slot today about his teenage years working as a Disneyland character. At various time he played a chipmunk (either Chip or Dale — who can remember 1968?), a Cinderella mouse name Gus, Pinocchio, Dopey and Peter Pan's Mr. Smee. But it all began with Mowgli, the boy from "The Jungle Book."
I wore tights and a loincloth, an embarrassing ensemble for a skinny 14-year-old coming of age in the turbulent 1960s...
In "The Jungle Book," Mowgli's dark locks fell nearly to his shoulders. Not mine. I had the loincloth, but Disney wouldn't let me have the long hair. My Mowgli looked as though he'd joined the ROTC, which led to some confusion.
Park patrons didn't know what to make of me as I stood between King Louie and Baloo in Adventureland, our assigned location to mingle with the crowds. Often, I was asked to step aside by someone wanting a snapshot of the ape and the bear. They must have thought I was just some weird half-naked kid, although a well groomed one. I stood my ground, proclaiming that I was Mowgli and that I wasn't going anywhere. Although defiant on the outside, I felt humiliated on the inside.
The story is pegged to the park's 50th anniversary and tells tales from the fraternity of performers, including the time one of the Three Little Pigs "got caught for sexually inappropriate conduct and was quietly told to leave."