Friday, August 29, 2014

Pheaturing Lonnie Burr

Hey there, welcome back to the Phile. Labor Day, people, is just around the corner.  This Labor Day, try not to think about how your next holiday isn't until Thanksgiving.  Nine years into their much-paparazzied and gossip-magazined relationship, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were officially wed last week at their wine castle estate in the French countryside. I'm assuming that they did it so that one of them could get one the other's health insurance. That's what put most of my friends over the edge. 
Thank goodness they finally tied the knot and their billionaire adoptees no longer have to live in shame.  It was revealed recently that the iconic Hello Kitty cartoon figure is not who, or what, we thought she was. "Hello Kitty is not a cat," a curator of an upcoming retrospective exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles explained. "She's a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat. She's never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature." So, I suppose that means she's either some kind of a weird cat-like monster or a regular little human girl with a terrible facial disfiguration. Choose whichever one you think is less horrifying.  In an obvious attempt to shut people up and get them to stop asking whether or not Tony Soprano died at the end of the series finale seven years ago, an exasperated "Sopranos"-creator David Chase gave an answer of sorts an interviewer from Vox, who asked if Tony was dead: "He shook his head 'no.' And he said simply, 'No he isn't.' That was all." Now, can we all please move on with our lives? Can't believe David Chase finally revealed Tony Soprano isn't a cat.  Residents of the St. John the Baptist Parish of Louisiana have been warned that their water supply has tested positive for Naegleria fowleri, a brain-eating amoeba that can cause "devastating infection" that usually results in death or the election of Rep. Bill Cassidy to office.  The United States Copyright Office has just overhauled copyright law so that photographs taken by monkeys and other animals, which apparently is a thing worthy of consideration, cannot be copyrighted. "The Office will not register works produced by nature, animals, or plants," according to the government office. "Likewise, the Office cannot register a work purportedly created by divine or supernatural beings, although the Office may register a work where the application or the deposit copy state that the work was inspired by a divine spirit." So, any tasteful nudes taken by spooky ghosts are fair game. You know, if you put one monkey at one typewriter for one hour, it will write a Bud Light commercial... or this blog.  Florida Man sure has had his share of adventures, but he's about to enter into the most exciting adventure of all: true love. This week, a federal judge declared the Sunshine State's ban on same sex marriage to be unconstitutional. Florida's gay marriage ban has been ruled unconstitutional. Hanging Chads will finally be able to wed Daytona Dans.  So, I mentioned that Hello Kitty is not a cat, right? Well, I don't know if Lonnie Burr knows this or not, but did you know that Mickey originally wasn't a mouse? Check out this rare Walt Disney drawing of what Mickey originally looked like.

Haha. That is so stupid.  Keeping with the Disney theme, Disney and Pixar are making their own Avengers movie. Don't believe me? Take a look...

It might be good.  Hey, do you guys drink Sprite? I don't, it gives me a headache. Anyway, Sprite has a new ad which I thought was weird... and to me does not make sense.

Skittles taste like Sprite? Hey, did you know what the original name of Sprite was? Spit. No one would buy a drink could Spit though.  As you know, one thing I do when I'm bored is to go on Twitter and look up certain words. One of those words I look up is Foghat, and here is a Tweet I recently found.

Arcade Fire is a pretty good band. And now from the home office in Port Jefferson, here is this weeks...

Top Phive Reasons Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Would Divorce
5. Affair with Clooney 9though unclear who was having the affair).
4. Brad wanted more kids, Angelina wanted to cap it at 20.
3. While couch-shopping at IKEA, argument over whether to go with the Knopparp or Ektorp finally pushes them over the edge. 
2. Brad never, ever putting the bloody toilet seat down. 
And the number one reason Brad and Angelina would divorce is...
1. Every time he's mention his Oscar, she's always quickly point out that it was for "producing"

You want the bad news first? I think getting it out of the way is the preferred course of action. Then we can all focus on making the best of a glass that’s half-full.  Sylvester Stallone’s career-rejuvenating franchise chugs along, adding fresh young faces to the gang in the form of Kellan Lutz, Glen Powell, MMA fighter Ronda Rousey and boxer Victor Ortiz. Their cartoon mission is to hunt down former Expendable Mel Gibson, now a black market arms dealer. The kids, though, they’re green and easily subdued by bad people, so they’re going to need help from the olds. You get the rest. This time around the on-again-off-again relationship the first two R-rated movies had with violence has been moved squarely into the PG-13 friend-zone. Plenty of guns are brandished and plenty of anonymous victims are mowed down by the prop department's big, bad arsenal. But point-of-contact brutality and bloodshed are dialed way, way down. You can see crazier gut-spilling on most TV cop shows.  The bigger problem remains its creator. Stallone, in attempting to capture a bit of 80s lightning and sell it to people born during that decade, has relied on his own calcified understanding of how action audiences respond to the genre. For better or worse, we live in a cinematic moment of increased self-awareness, and the film's attempt at straddling old and new turns weird and off-putting. The jokes (thankfully fewer than last time) are still stale, the beats are still awkward, the boilerplate machismo still suffers from a sort of conceptual erectile dysfunction. It's all been satirized elsewhere for so long now that simply pretending otherwise makes you wonder if the writers have been asleep for twenty years. And the inclusion of Rousey, at first providing the film with a chance to mock the idea of women fighting in high heels (and it does, sort of), becomes an opportunity for the film to then go gender-dumb and strip the warrior woman of the same protective battle gear that, say, Jason Statham is wearing, putting her in something to better show off her cleavage. Seriously.  The gloom, then, is an identity crisis, one that won’t sink the series, but may water it down to the point of even lesser relevance than the already barely-important cultural niche it occupies. To provide its veteran stars with fresh job opportunities is enough for them, sure, but thoughtful action fans who refuse to kid themselves know that any single vintage film from any one of these screen personalities is most likely going to be more fun than the combined (and too frequently underused) efforts of the assembled cast. Now the good news. What Expendables 3 lacks in mayhem or fresh understanding of the world in which it lives, it compensates for with the most competently directed action sequences of the series. The stunts are impressive, the explosions are big, the flying bodies outlandishly lucky when they land on this or that impossible target. It's not impossible to tell who is fighting whom and where they are in relation to other people in the same battle sequence.  And while the new cast members struggle to find individual voices, while Terry Crews and Jet Li remain mostly sidelined, and the husk of Schwarzenegger lives in a perpertual state of checked-out boredom, appearing a couple times to walk from point A to point B with a cigar permanently stuck in his face, a few of the old-timers are having real fun. Statham remains in command of his brand; Antonio Banderas zips around the screen fake parkouring and talking a mile a minute like a live-action Puss In Boots; Gibson clearly enjoys his new direction playing characters who are tormented (Edge of Darkness), crazy (The Beaver), and now evil; and best of all, Wesley Snipes is loose and relaxed, crazy eyes flashing every time he steals a scene. Having him back is almost worth putting up with the rest.

This is a really hard one, kids. If you spot the Mindphuck email me at I'll be surprised if anyone gets it. Well, last week there was a really bad earthquake in California, and a friend of the Phile wanted to say something about it. He's a singer, patriot and renaissance man. You know what time it is.

Random thought of the day... We can figure out a way to have drones deliver champagne to us at a swanky party, we can develop a missile that can hit a mosquito on a yak's ass from a thousand miles away... but we can't come up with a functional early earthquake warning system that gives more than a 10 seconds in advance warning ? Sad news is... my freaky little darlings? We CAN... we DID... we HAVE it. But the state of California can't foot the 80 million dollar tab for it's purchase and startup. Same state where Hollywood can churn out a 495 million dollar box office smash about a fucking RACCOON that saves the galaxy. 

Hey, I love that raccoon. But, you do have a point, Laird. 

Today's pheatured guest is not only one of the original Mousekeeters on the "Mickey Mouse Club", but is the author of "The Accidental Mousekeeter", the 33rd book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club. Please welcome to the Phile... Lonnie Burr!

Me: Hello, Lonnie, welcome to the Phile, sir. How are you? 

Lonnie: Not well. Injured my back, pain for a few days, recovering and almost back to normal so that I may go back to exercise schedule: 1) two aerobic three mile hikes a week and 2) one advanced ballet and jazz dance, head to toes, exercises with a little weight work, push ups and two sets of crunches (110). 

Me: Well, I am sorry to hear you're in pain. I have to say congrats! You just recently received the Disneyana Legends Award, am I right? It was last month?

Lonnie: Yes. On the 18th. 

Me: That must of been a big honor for you, Lonnie. Do you do a lot of events for Disney, and conventions and stuff? 

Lonnie: Not really. I do some events but it is not common for me but with my new memoir out, the 2014 update from 2009 and retitled as "The Accidental Mouseketeer" that might change. 

Me: Better than the Disneyana Legends Award, your new book "The Accicental Mousekeeter" is the latest book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club. When did you decide to write a autobiography, Lonnie? 

Lonnie: Although it is a memoir, many call it what Annie wrote in 1994 and Bobby more recently, although his is only 140 pages, an autobiography. I began writing it in 2007, put it away for a while, and finished it in 2008. 

Me: You're very honest in the book, was there anything you put in the book you regret or is there anything you wished you put in the book but didn't? 

Lonnie: I would not change what I wrote but two or three Mouseketeers have objected because telling the truth is what people say they want but it is not WHAT they want. I first realized this by their action at the Disneyana celebration but I managed to retain my dignity and rise above their childishness. People in their late 60s and early 70s should have learned how to act prior to becoming that "mature". There are MANY things I could have included which I did not that would embarrass other Mice but I decided they were private. 

Me: How long did it take you to write, Lonnie? 

Lonnie: Altogether about ten months. 

Me: How many original Mousekeeters were there altogether, Lonnie? About 30, right? 

Lonnie: Thirty-nine precisely. 

Me: Do you still keep in touch with any of them? 

Lonnie: I did with the late Don Grady from the third season and Tommy and I were close friends for a long period but I had to exit from that relationship to keep from being injured further. 

Me: What did they think of the book? 

Lonnie: Not one of them has had the decency to tell me they liked it or hated it EXCEPT for Don, near the end of his fight with cancer. He did not finish more than the first chapter but he was quite impressed.

Me: Lonnie, where are you from and where do you live now? 

Lonnie: Born in Kentucky, left for California at three, grew up there, started in showbiz at five, high school graduate at fourteen, AB & MA before twenty. Later, two semesters to PhD, different major; first degrees in theatre arts, PhD in English Literature. Later, in my late 30s two semesters of my favorite subject Philosophy. 

Me: Did your family move to California because of the "Mickey Mouse Club"? 

Lonnie: No. Moved so I could get into showbiz, my mom's hope, in 1946, first professional job... doing radio drama and local TV dancing with female partner without pay at 5 in 1948. 

Me: Your parents were entertainers as well, so it must of been in your blood to be an entertainer. My dad was an entertainer but I never became an entertainer myself, unless you count this stupid little blog. 

Lonnie: Parents were dance team Dot and Dash in night clubs and vaudeville. 

Me: How old were you when you realized you wanted ti perform? 

Lonnie: I performed stuff around the house before I left Kentucky at three. 

Me: Okay, let's get into this, as I was so surprised and happy for you when I found out... You dated Annette Funicello in your time on the Club. I have a picture of you two here...

Me: How did that start out? 

Lonnie: We fell in love, not just "dated", and pretty early on. She writes about it in her 1994 autobiography and I do in my memoir. Given the '50s, we lasted a long time: April, 1955 to January 1956 after the Mickey Mouse Club Circus at Disneyland. I turned 12 in May, she turned 13 in October... a slightly older young lady. 

Me: Was there a lot of inter-dating on the Club? 

Lonnie: Some inter-dating but nothing that lasted more than a few weeks. 

Me: Did Walt Disney and the executives approve? I'm guessing they did. 

Lonnie: I have no way of knowing because it was never mentioned. IT WAS NOT a publicity event so it did not concern them, which I preferred. 

Me: I wish I could interview Annette, Lonnie. How did you find out she passed? 

Lonnie: I kept in touch with Annie and Glen and I was contacted. My mom had MS, too, but not the horrid form of the disease that Annie had and only hits about 15% of the disease's victims. 

Me: Did you get to keep in contact with her for many years? 

Lonnie: Yes. 

Me: What did you think of those beach movies she made?

Lonnie: Glad for her but not my style. 

Me: Is it fair to say she's the most popular Mousekeeter? 

Lonnie: Unequivocally. She was the only star that came away from 39 kids. The great thing is she did not change and become a diva. 

Me: Before the "MMC", you did a lot of TV work already, and some radio work and had a career. How did you learn about the "MMC" and what was your audition like? 

Lonnie: Reading the book best answers this: I was a veteran of film, TV, radio, theatre, commercials and live performance BEFORE the "MMC". After finishing my last year of high school, my early degrees and some time to think, I came back into performing with a life minor in writing. 

Me: You didn't want to do the show at first, am I right? Why not and what made you change your mind? 

Lonnie: I didn't want to do the show at first because I was up against Johnny Washbrook for the lead in "My Friend Flicka", a TV western about a boy, his parents and his horse. The "MMC" was 23 other kids plus me and who knew what Mouseketeers were or what they would do. I had already owned my own horse and won ribbons in gymkhana; I rode a horse while being chased on "The Range Rider". 

Me: Gymkhana? I don't know what that is. Is that like gymnastics?

Lonnie: No ribbons in gymnastics, never applied myself. It is about my owning a horse and competing at nine and winning ribbons in a gymkhana with my second horse, Blue Boy, which is more skill than scary like a rodeo.

Me: Ahhh. I see. The "MMC" as supposed to last about seven years and lasted three years, Lonnie. How were you told the show was ending and how did you take it? 

Lonnie: Contract was seven years, shows run as long as they run. We were all told at the same time. Frankly, I was glad. I did not want to do the third, last year for many reasons. I would be going to college in a year and the show was for "kids"; I was never given the chance to read for any acting roles and I was the ONLY Mouse who was an actor. I had originally read for Marty on "Spin and Marty" and did not get the role. We made SAG minimum, they made about twice that amount. 

Me: I am guessing their were a lot of tears on set. 

Lonnie: Many of the girls cried. 

Me: Were you surprised when it came to an end? 

Lonnie: No. I knew enough about show business and life that things end. It may not be happy but you have to learn to live with it. 

Me: You were and I am sure still are very talented with singing, acting and dancing. Which came first, Lonnie, and which do you prefer? 

Lonnie: I prefer acting slightly, but I danced and sang first to player pianos and the radio. 

Me: Your cast mates gave you a nickname... The Velvet Smog. Who first came up with that nickname and did you like it? It's a compliment, right? 

Lonnie: One of the rare white, jazz singers, Mel Torme, was called the Velvet Fog for the breathy quality of the sound. I had not lost all my "baby fat' the first season so I resembled a very young Mel, too. Yes, it is a compliment. I have an autograph from Mel that reads: "From the Velvet Fog to the Velvet Smog - Mel Torme". 

Me: Is there a favorite skit or routine you have done on the show? 

Lonnie: There is a year two dance where Larry, our eldest, 2nd season only, Bobby and I do a jazz dance dressed in Navy whites that is very cool for our ages. We even do knee turns! 

Me: You kids got to go to Disneyland in the very beginning. When was the first time you went to and what did you think of it when you went? 

Lonnie: We were there opening day and it was overwhelming over and above our doing a parade down Main Street then a number and full roll call from the MMC Theatre in Fantasyland. There had never been anything like it in the world. 

Me: Lonnie, I have worked for Disney for 26 years, working at Disney World. It's a great company to work for, isn't it? 

Lonnie: It can be there are variances. It depends on what you do and what boss you have. 

Me: True. When was the first time you went to Disney World? 

Lonnie: I really don't remember but I believe it was to do a talk show. 

Me: So, what do you like better, Disneyland or Disney World? 

Lonnie: I prefer Disneyland because there WAS a feeling of small town, intimacy. WDW was always huge. Now as of this last visit in July Disneyland has become a lot like a smaller WDW. 

Me: Okay, back to "MMC"... you were par of the Red Team, roll-call and Alma Mater. I am not sure exactly what that means. 

Lonnie: We sand a song at the beginning of the five days and we sang goodbye; the Alma Mater was goodbye. If you listen it is the same melody, slowed down to a ballad with different words. 

Me: Can you explain it? 

Lonnie: Meredith Wilson did the same thing in The Music Man

Me: Was it during the third season you were injured on set? 

Lonnie: In the rehearsal hall. Fell from a hand stand and took a lot of skin off by cheek. 

Me: In the three years the show was on air are you the only one that was injured? 

Lonnie: No, but they were all minor injuries. Mine just kept me out of roll call and Alma Mater for that year because they could not cover my injury and realized I would have the same look every repeats of the opening and closings while I healed and it was gone within a few weeks. 

Me: I was looking at pictures for research for this interview and there was this picture of you pushing a woman into a pool. I'll show it here...

Me: First of, who was this woman, and where was this? 

Lonnie: It is a Mouseketeer, not working pool party and the girl I LOOK LIKE I AM PUSHING into the pool is Doreen, 1 of the 2 girls I dated later in my teens; the other was the late Cheryl. 

Me: So, you didn't really push her in? 

Lonnie: No. Just a photo op. 

Me: Was there a lot of horse playing and pranking on the "MMC" set? 

Lonnie: Some but not while shooting. 

Me: Lonnie, you got to meet Walt Disney, which not many people can say they have. Well, a lot of people can say they have, but no one I interviewed. I did meet Roy Disney Jr. myself once. Anyway, when you met him what was the first thought that went through your head? 

Lonnie: You have got to read my book. On my site, which you have not gone to either, there is a picture on the first page with me and the late Roy Disney Jr. Walt was on the lot when he remembered my name... you have to buy the book to find out he remembered my name. 

Me: I did go through your website. Here's the picture of you and Roy Jr.

Me: Did you see the movie Saving Mr. Banks? How do you think Tom Hanks did playing Walt? 

Lonnie: He has done better work but the movie did not have much dramatic tension. 

Me: After "MMC" ended you continued acting, which I am sure you ere glad to. You got to work with Elvis. Was he cool, Lonnie? 

Lonnie: I did not work professionally until after my MA degree. Elvis was cool, very unaffected by his fame, or at least acted that way when we talked off camera. 

Me: What movie did you work on with him? 

Lonnie: Live a Little, Love a Little... 1968, which sometimes goes by a different title.

Me: You acted on shows like "The Beverly Hillbillies", "Hill Street Blues", "Murder, She Wrote." A lot of cop shows. Do you like acting on shows like that? 

Lonnie: Not especially, it just depends on the role. "Homocide - Life on the Streets" is more recent. 

Me: You also have a few degrees... You must really like learning. 

Lonnie: I do but only subjects I am interested in and that are well taught. 

Me: In the 70s and 90s the "MMC" was revived. Did you get to see any of those shows? I'm guessing you didn't, but of you did what did you think? 

Lonnie: Pleased that other kids could find something wholesome to watch rather than insulting rap lyrics, cable TV XX-films and so on. First the sixties, seventies, eighties for Disney Channel, 1997 - 2002 in the U.S. Other dates in about 30 countries, some beginning in '80s & '90s Russia & Warsaw countries. 

Me: Disney should release the old original shows again on Blu-ray or show them on TV. I doubt they will though. Do you have copies on tape of he show? Do you ever go back and watch them? 

Lonnie: They made tapes and then reissued DVDs of SOME of the shows, so I have those but many of them are not on those 10 discs. It is interesting and bizarre to see yourself that young with a very high voice but interesting. It is not something I do often at all. 

Me: I mentioned your book, but this is your second book, right? When did your first book come out? 

Lonnie: You mean the memoir, "Confessions of an Accidental Mouseketeer" just after Cheryl's death in Feb. 2009. This update, "The Accidental Mouseketeer " was my original title but threw in Confessions and got the chance to drop it was issued Feb. 2014. 

Me: I was thinking of your book about comedy...

Lonnie: If you mean "Two For the Show: Great Comedy Teams", it is about comedy teams... first in hard back, updated in paper 2000, and to be updated again by Theme Park Press, my publisher, later this year as "Great Comedy Teams: 1898-2014". 

Me: Yeah, that's it. Who is your all time favorite comedian? 

Lonnie: There is no way I can my favorite play, or film or comedian etcetera. George Carlin was the most recent comedian in the Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Shelley Berman area but Mel Brooks and Woody Allen are both amazing and hilarious. Of the teams: Laurel & Hardy. 

Me: You got to meet some cool people over the years... Robin Williams, Elvis, Steven Speilberg, Jimmy Stewart, Roy Rogers, Abbott and Costello... is there anybody who you met that you were really star struck? 

Lonnie: When you work with stars from the age of 6 it is hard to get star struck but the only thing that came to mind was one of my great heroes Cary Grant, along with Fred Astaire. Cary came to Cheryl's wedding to Lance Reventlow in the '60s and then when I was doing the L.A. company of "42nd Street" he came backstage to talk to us after bows. He always looked and dressed swell. 

Me: Is there anybody you met and worked with that you thought was disappointing and an asshole? 

Lonnie: Yes. 

Me: And is there anybody you haven't met that you would love to, Lonnie? 

Lonnie: No one comes to mind because meeting an actor or a dancer/choreographer or singer or author is an uncomfortable situation for both people and I have found often enough that someone's WORK may be fantastic but they may be amazingly unpleasant. Why spoil the magic? 

Me: Not only do you write a book but you also write poems and plays. What do you prefer to write the most, Lonnie? 

Lonnie: Poetry, plays, books, newspaper/mag/online theatre/film reviews, humor and anything else that makes money, although poetry does not make money even if you are John Donne or Shakespeare. 

Me: Oh, one thing I really wanted to ask you was the movie the "MMC" cast were supposed to make Rainbow to Oz. Why do you think that movie never happened? 

Lonnie: Not a clue. 

Me: Who were you gonna play in it, do you remember? 

Lonnie: I have heard different accounts. I danced with Darlene, who was to do Judy's role, in the show we did about getting Walt to make the movie for the fourth anniversary year of Disneyland which premiered in 1954, a plus year before us. 

Me: Lonnie, I have a million more questions to ask you, but I know you are very busy. I have to ask you this though, on the Phile I ask random questions thanks to Tabletopics. Here we go... what does your perfect day look like? 

Lonnie: Yes, this is a bit like being interviewed by Tolstoy, known for the length of his works. If I had to conceive of what a perfect day looked like it would not be a perfect day. 

Me: Haha. Lonnie, thanks again for being here. Will you come back again one day for another interview? Maybe when your next book comes out? 

Lonnie: Maybe. Start thinking "Catcher in the Rye" length versus "Anna Karenina" and we will see. 

Me: Go ahead and mention where a Phile reader can get your books. 

Lonnie: My website offers a comparable price AND THE ONLY PLACE TO GET AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY. I do not have a Kindle, though, so go to Amazon. Try Theme Park Press for they have both, too. 

Me: And one last question, Lonnie, if you could go back in time to meet yourself right before you got the part in the "MMC", would you say do it, or don't do it? 

Lonnie: Do it... because it has become something fantastic to millions of kids and no one thought it was going to be a big deal. However, if I had done the horse drama instead of Johnny, maybe it would have lasted and led me to other roles that I have not achieved. Still do it! Take care. I squeek, therefore I am!

Me: Thanks, Lonnie, you were great. Tell the readers where they can purchase the book.

Me: Good job. See ya real soon.

That about does it for another entry of the Phile. I do have to agree with Lonnie, that was a long interview. Haha. Anyway, thanks to Laird Jim and Lonnie Burr. The Phile will be back next Thursday with singer Sonali and then next Friday Phile Alum Mike Gent. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker.

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