Cast Member Stories – Disneyland Hotel Days
One of my first jobs out of college was doing audio visual work at the Disneyland Hotel. I had already done some lot labor work at a studio in Hollywood, but those stories are for another time (maybe even a book). I worked for an A/V company that had a contract with the hotel, and also many other hotels in the area. We would work in the others every once in a while, as well as other venues. We kept a certain amount of equipment on hand and ordered more for bigger shows and events. Some requirements
were basic, while bigger events became more involved. That’s where it got to be more fun.
Although I wasn’t working directly in television, I was able to use many of the technical skills I had learned in school. Understanding signal flow is always helpful. I’ve always known my limits and when to ask for help. Certain things are just too technical, but someone else may already know more and need to be called in. Lap top computers were still a fairly new thing in the mid 80’s and interfacing one with an overhead projector was definitely a higher level operation at that time. Fortunately, we had good
people on our team. It has always been fun to learn new things, too. Every one of us had to go through certification classes on some different brands of projectors. Setting up any projector was a highlight – needing the lights down, working alone in the room, getting the grid for the alignment just right… It’s amazing how far they have come and what they can do today. The only thing better was when a client ordered a laser pointer. Big or small, the cool factor of playing with lasers will never go away.
Equipment would be set up, checked out, then checked out with the client. Usually that was enough, but sometimes they would have a tech on hand to operate equipment or for support, as part of their order. You can learn a lot about different businesses or interests that people have, by sitting in on their meetings and conferences – some more exciting than others. For example, I learned about Quarter Horses, as an animal and an industry. I also had the opportunity of being in the room during the SIGGRAPH conference in 1987. (The year before in Dallas had featured the premiere of Luxo Jr. from Pixar.) Seeing what could be done with computer graphics at the time was very exciting – all about fractals!!
Sometimes, equipment would be delivered to guest rooms, for business meetings or personal use. Video tape players weren’t a standard thing in hotel rooms, yet. If someone wanted to watch a movie, they would rent a machine. Standard procedure was to set up the equipment, get them to sign for it, then we would go to the front desk to post it to their account. Michael Jackson was a regular guest in the very nice, top floor suites, overlooking Disneyland. The debate between Beta and VHS had not been settled yet, so he would get both. We would usually set up his AV system when he wasn’t in the room, and it was known and approved that this could be charged to his account. Once, I happened to be going to the front desk with his unsigned purchase order, when, he happened to walk out of the elevator, on his way to the park. I could have legitimately asked for his autograph (sign his receipt), but decided that it would be better to just leave him alone.
Having three hotel room towers, garden rooms, meeting rooms over the shops near the Monorail station, etc., it could be a challenge at times to get the equipment around. We had access to an electric cart for getting around the property. To be allowed to drive this cart, we had to be trained, tested and given a special Disneyland Hotel Electric Cart License. Getting to the different towers was made a bit easier, and out of sight of guests, by using the service corridors. For bigger shows, we would have to just
roll everything around to where it needed to go, in road cases and on carts. The worst thing about the work was having to look professional – slacks (yes, I said, and wore, slacks), coat and tie. I have many shredded ties from those days. Especially difficult was having to tape down cables, for safety, while dressed this way. At times, we could get away with not wearing the coat, but we did try to look our business best. Called away once to the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Beach area, I had left my coat at the
Disneyland Hotel, and was told to just stay in their AV office all day. Going to lunch, we had to take back hallways, so that I wouldn’t have to be seen without my coat on.
Other responsibilities of our department included hotel services such as taking care of the information channel. We would use the Chyron (text and graphics) to show meeting groups and times, weather, and anything else that was needed. To get the current weather, we used the newspaper. At slow times, between things, we would also use the paper to sharpen our minds, with the crossword puzzles. It is so easy to get addicted to those things. Sunday mornings were typically slower and we were entertained by the more difficult puzzles, Charles Kuralt, and Pee Wee’s Playhouse. Fun times. In those days, the hotel was still owned by the Wrather Corporation. I remember going into the family office and seeing an incredible signed baseball collection. We were always treated very well by hotel staff. Convention services people would take us to lunch at Christmas, at Steakhouse 55 – very nice.
Toward the end of my career there, the Disney company bought and took over the hotel. The cast member rules now applied, to everyone, including positions like union electrical workers. Some of their unions tried to fight the new rules, but there was a new “boss”. As an outside vendor, our company decided to also comply, to not ruffle any feathers. A couple other guys shaved their mustaches right away. I thought mine made me look a bit older and didn’t really want to shave it. I was transferred to the Anaheim Marriott instead. I should have shaved it. I have the pictures to prove it.