Wednesday, September 20, 2017


It was a rare gloomy and rainy day in Southern California in 1985.  The streets were so flooded many cars were not on the road.  I was driving to a job interview, determined to power through the blinding rain that my poor windshield wipers could barely keep up with, as my car limped toward the gates of the Magic Kingdom.  A month prior, I had snail mailed a resume and sat through the four-week agonizing wait to see if I would even be called, so of course, there was no way I was going to miss this interview. 

I entered the lobby of the Casting Office. Yes, a casting office – not “Human Resources”… I was applying for an ‘on-stage’ position as Disney liked to call it as a ‘cast member.’  When I entered the daunting room… I had never seen so many people in my life… it was packed like sardines.  I had wondered at the time, how I could possibly even be a blip on the radar with all of these applicants vying for a coveted spot at the “Happiest Place on Earth.” 

When it was finally my turn to be ‘seen’ I was assessed head-to-toe, interviewed by three different people. I felt like a drowned rat drenched from the rain unaware of what I was truly being considered for.  Though I had assumed it was culinary because my resume showed Bank of America’s scholarship to culinary school. I was just out of high school… and at the time Bank of America was a major sponsor of Main Street USA, the first street you step foot upon at Disneyland. 

The Universe had other ideas… at first, they wanted me to enter the mouth of Monstro the Whale through the Storybook attraction. 

But after I was handed the four page script, this gig was intercepted they had bigger plans for me. They wanted me to memorize SEVENTEEN pages instead for something called “Guest Relations” which was explained to me as a very exclusive group with sorority-like ‘initiation’ tests to qualify. 

Guest Relations was not an easy job to get. You had to be ‘invited’ from ‘casting’ to do so when applying for casual seasonal work back in the 80s. I don’t know if it is still like this today or not, but it was like this in the mid-80s.  

From here, my humble beginnings as a teenager started at Disney as a member of Disneyland Guest Relations aka “The Super Plaids.”  Yes, we wore plaid… some days were head-to-toe polyester plaid in triple digit heat in the summer and wool in the winter, though Southern California never got cold enough to warrant wearing wool plaid… we did with smiles Mickey Mouse ear-to-Minnie Mouse ear.

This was a full department of plaid ambassadors who had the most rigid diplomacy training courtesy of Disney University to understand cross-cultural non-verbal psychological behavior to know ‘how to respond’ in any crisis situation as well as how to deal with other customs.  We had to learn what was offensive like leaning, crossing our arms, smiling at inopportune moments, and taught listening skills for what was said and NOT SAID by those who did not speak English. 

THIS WAS SERIOUS STUFF.  We were the ‘first impression’ of the original park bearing the golden Disney name, which opened July 17, 1955.  More than just tour guides of the park, and VIP Tour hosts to presidents, kings, queens, and leaders of the entire world – we were more than just Barbies and Kens in plaid. We were walking-talking-encyclopedias sharing how opening day Walt had mushy sidewalks of concrete that were not fully dried, plumbing issues and a not-so-perfect picture of opening day at the Magic Kingdom. 

Beyond having to MEMORIZE a 17-page spiel VERBATIM for park tours, go through a “trial period,” we also had to officially pass a series of eleven interdepartmental tests before even being offered a temporary job. There were physical demands (like walking in heels for eight hours in short skirts and school-girl knee socks while holding a leather riding crop) having to ignore rude comments from guests.  We had to display the “Disney Look” where fingernails could not be more than ¼” over the tip of your finger, earrings could not be more than a ¼” in diameter, makeup, hair, shiny shoes…. All of this had to be in order... because the Disney name is what we were representing and we were proud and privileged to do so.

These rules were here for purpose – to show respect to the kind of ‘wholesome’ park, credibility, and reputation that was long fought for to become Disneyland.
We were City Hall on Main Street USA. We were also PRESS INFORMATION… after all, we didn’t learn an encyclopedia’s worth of Disney history for nothing! 

But that was not all.  We were also the annual pass production photography/lamination center, celebrity hostesses, an information center at the other end of Main Street, and yes, the “Disneyland Information, may I help you?” switchboard, and we worked all the surrounding the hotels, prize redemption centers, the travel agency, and more. We took care of and comforted crying/screaming lost children, took injured guests to First AID, redirected Lost and Found items all over the park, and took new moms to the Gerber baby center for changings and feedings.  Since we were only one of two departments of the entire Magic Kingdom who were non-union, we had to know every position in the park to take over should one of the unions (food/hospitality, rides/attractions, etc.) decide to STRIKE so the park could remain open, since it is open 365 days a year. 

We worked with charities like Make A Wish Foundation, Starlight Foundation, Children’s Hospital, and all the special hosting opportunities making dreams come true for children.
The time I worked there was a super-uber-intense two year period. It was a very transitional time.  From the 30th anniversary of the park following the iconic Hands Across America, post L.A. 1984 Olympics and the Disney family putting power in the hands of Michael Eisner and the late Frank Wells.  

Fresh out of high school, I was already finding myself in Guest Relations meeting Michael Jackson and Francis Ford Coppola for Captain EO, Steven Spielberg for Indiana Jones and George Lucas for the Star Wars spin-off attraction, Star Tours.  Grand openings would bring Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, Drew Barrymore, Sylvester Stallone, and the legends like Stevie Wonder and Dick Van Dyke. We were not allowed to be ‘star struck’ and conditioned to be professional because EVERYONE IS A V.I.P. at Disney and we were to regard these folks exactly as equals to a family of four from Montana who were coming as tourists for the first time.

However, in 1986, I was gawking, excited and yes, star struck to see forty-one children from around the world who had written essays and poems about WORLD PEACE.  To me, these children were the V.I.P.s – literally bringing “It’s A Small World” to LIFE.

Never before, did I feel so much HOPE … so much promise for the world through their eyes as the Children as the Peacemakers Foundation entered the park. 

More than 5,000 entries were submitted just from the U.S. alone, and the entries from all of the other countries were in numbers still had not even been calculated at press time for the employee news publication, Disneyland Line, Volume 18, #47 November 20th, 1986 issue. 

Our entire Guest Relations Department worked this event and had gone over logistics for the children, the parade, photos with Mickey Mouse, and of course handling the crowds and media appropriately for this major benchmark event.  Children from Costa Rica, Ethiopia, New Zealand, Uganda, Kenya, Scotland, India, Russia, and all over the globe arrived in procession.  

 It was the most beautiful visual I had ever seen.  It was the kind of goosebump moment you get when you watch the Olympics and you see all the athletes from all over the world gathering together collectively in one place.  Only it was even better than that… because in all of their eyes, you saw innocent souls who held hope, vision and something greater than any gold medal… it was a pure altruistic offering of their heart to share their hope for the world.


It’s a visual that has remained like microfishe archived in my brain, but something much larger in my heart, which is truthfully what keeps it pumping as I refuse to let the last remnants of pixie dust Tinkerbell has dusted me with to be forever lost.  

At the time, the Disneyland Line captured something special from eleven year-old Hardip Bansil of Nairobi, Kenya:
“Here in space, let us create a world of friendship, and love without end, to show and give an example to others so that they might do the same.”

I’ll pause here… if you have to go get a tissue.  

When you think that one child can give this truth from their heart and you look at the world, you have to know that in the eyes of other children who see the same, that they believe that PEACE IS POSSIBLE. 

This an important message.  We must hold onto it and somehow keep it alive. 

While all of the cast member ‘adults’ had dotted “i’s” and crossed “t’s” to ensure a smooth day ‘on-stage,’ while stressing inside about logistics, the mild-mannered children with wide-eyed wonder and ear-to-ear smiles, laughed, held hands, peacefully walking to take in all of the magic.  They looked around with joyful hearts, making brand new friendships, and YES….they were just as excited to meet one another as they were to meet Mickey Mouse.  What astonished me most was that they had already discerned in their minds and hearts that the other children were as equally if not more exciting than the theme park.  

Arm-in-arm, hand-in-hand, I would see these children embrace their special day and take with them an experience they were not taking for granted.  

What was on display as much if not more than their sparkling eyes and smiles? 

Yes, gratitude.

That day I worked a split shift – part of it was outside with the procession of children, helping to wrangle photographers and press to the right photo opps; the other part was inside City Hall.  At City Hall we normally receive ‘opinions/feedback’ – we deal with problem-solving for the most part.  But on this day there not only was much praise, but there was so much hope and a copious amount of love, expression and shared experiences.  Tourists who also happened to be there serendipitously that day to witness what I had witnessed were astounded by this event and witnessing a little bit of history-in-the-making of sorts.  These were a specific group of the world’s children in one place at one time who may never get to experience this moment with one another again in their lifetime.

The majestic magnitude of what this event represented to me, has forever resonated in my soul… and I cannot explain the depths of which it has touched it other than to say it is deeper than what we know the ocean to be and as far-wide as we know the galaxy expands. 

Truthfully, I feel humbled by the experience and honored to have had this be my “Launchpad” into the world as a teenager.  I don’t know how/why I was chosen to be one of the few to be part of this special event. Of course with Linkronicity – Where Your Journey & Destiny Link as my destiny along my journey, it may seem odd for me to question, when I know it was destined.  It’s just that when you are lucky enough to know this kind of love, this kind of peace, this kind of hope and not just see it or feel it but be part of it, your soul is changed and transformed in a way no words can articulate.  However, these are mine… and on International Peace Day (which I hope is every day) – I wish to share this with you.

Other entries that The Disneyland Line shared included Angela Davies, an eleven year-old from New Zealand who created a drawing depicting a space station “heart” machine designed to capture people’s hearts, recondition them and send them back to earth to make them care about each other with the result being peace on earth. 

Um…  I don’t know about you – but when we look into the eyes of these wise children who see we must end war, repair humanity and recycle hearts and create a world of unconditional love and friendship  by example…it makes me sigh.

Maybe for you, it makes you feel like it truly is a “Small World” after all, with LARGER THAN LIFE perspective on changing the world – IN A CHANGING WORLD, understanding what work it will take to make this world a peaceful, safer place to be to live, laugh and love.
That is my whole hope as I write this. 

I will appropriately conclude this blog by saying…

There is just one moon
And one golden sun
And a smile means friendship
To everyone….

For those of you who will have this tune stuck in their head and curse me because you cannot get it out of your brain, YOU’RE WELCOME.  :)

As a Disney Guest Relations “Super Plaid” – I rode this ride more than 200+ times during the time I worked at the park.  It is officially in my plaid blood forever just like the INTERNATIONAL CHILDREN OF PEACE who are the light, who are our hope and who have the largest hearts in what is a small, small world….