Monday, June 5, 2017

And now for something completely different…

The Summer of Love wasn't just about The Beatles and The Doors, Vietnam or LSD. The summer of '67 marked the opening of Disneyland's new Tomorrowland. The [now] retro mid-century modern look of the original Tomorrowland, iconic as it has become, gave way to an idea of the future that we've held onto now for 50 years. The 1967 version was a sleek white architecturally soaring affair that featured the Adventures Thru Innerspace – still my favorite Disneyland ride – sponsored by Monsanto and featuring the iconic voice of Paul Frees (Boris Badenov, John and George in the Beatles cartoon series, the Ghost Host at the Haunted Mansion) and the Carousel of Progress, featuring the voice of Rex Allen. The ride still exists in an altered form in Disney World, but it was there, in Disneyland in the Summer of Love, that we first began singing about a great big beautiful tomorrow. The iconic attraction featured a theater in which the stage remained motionless while the building itself was the carousel. It was sleek, modern and, best of all, air conditioned and 20 minutes long. The premise was how we’ve changed over the years from the turn of the century to the 1960s. Let’s recap: 


Father: "Welcome to the General Electric Carousel of Progress. Now most carousels just go 'round and 'round, without getting anywhere. But on this one, at every turn, we'll be making progress."

Act 1 (just before 1900)
Mother: "But with my new wash-day marvel, it takes only five hours to do the wash. Imagine!"

Father: "That's right, folks. Now Mother has time for recreations like, uh..."

Mother: "Like canning, and polishing the stove?"

Act 2 (twenty years later)
Father: "Well, the days of lugging heavy, hot irons from an old stove to an ironing board are gone forever. And with an electric iron and electric lights, Mother has something to do to fill in her evenings. Now it’s no problem at all to get my collars smooth, right Mother?"

Mother: "Yes, dear."

Act 3 (the 1940s)
Father: "Radios and automatic record players are now combined in one unit. And Grandma has a new hearing aid."
Grandma: "Hmmm?"
Father: "Nothing, Grandma."
Grandma: "Oh, I thought you said I had a new hearing aid."

Act 4 (some time beyond 1967)
Father: "Our television console is more than just a TV set. It has a built-in video tape recorder."
Mother: "Now we can record our favorite shows for viewing at a more convenient hour. And television programming is so much improved today."
Father: "What Mother means is, they're still shooting it out, but now it’s in color."

We were then whisked upstairs to the 6900 square foot "City of Tomorrow":

Progress City (sometime around the year 2000)
Mother: "Today our whole downtown is completely enclosed. Whatever the weather is outside, it’s always dry and comfortable inside."
Father: "General Electric calls it a climate-controlled environment. But Mother calls it..."
Mother: "A sparkling jewel. Now far off to your right, we have a welcome neighbor..."
Father: "Our GE nuclear power plant, dear."

For the past several days, AM has been all about Sgt. Pepper and the hippie era. The Carousel of Progress, though, was one last glimpse at a postwar world that wouldn't last. 

If you're not singing it yet, let me help: "There's a great big beautiful tomorrow; shining at the end of every day. There's a great big beautiful tomorrow, and tomorrow is just a dream away…"

On a rock n roll note, Tomorrowland had always been a venue for bands as iconic as The Turtles, The Sir Douglas Quintet ("She's About a Mover") and John Denver, but the new Tomrrowland would famously host Linda Ronstadt with backing band, The Eagles (1971). Ronstadt had established herself as a star with the Stone Poneys in the late-1960s ("Different Drum," penned by Mike Nesmith), and was booked for a week of shows at Disneyland in 1971. Only problem, she didn't have a backup band at the time. She invited four musicians she'd met through her regular appearances at the Troubadour in West Hollywood to join her for the Disneyland shows. It was the first time that Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner performed together, and it wasn't long until they'd flown the coop as Ronstadt's supporting group to take flight as the Eagles.

Jay and the Americans visit Disneyland throughout the memoir, For more of Jay's journey, buy the book here.