follow us!

LISTEN TO BOOMTOWN RADIO!

“ALL the Music That Matters for the Generation That Created Rock 'n' Roll”

Listen while you surf!

 

Where Are They Now? The Mousketeers Part 3

Mousketeer Roll Call: Darlene Gillespie

The story of Darlene Gillespie is not one that would lend itself to a Disney movie.

She was the daughter of a Canadian song and dance team. In 1943, her parents relocated to the Los Angeles area when Darlene was just two and began grooming her for a career in show business. By 1955, she was already an accomplished singer and dancer. She passed her audition for The Mickey Mouse Club and became one of the core cast members who stayed with the show during its entire first run.

What we at home never knew is that she was involved in an intense backstage rivalry with Annette Funicello. Dueling sets of stage parents put their friends and relatives up to flooding the Disney studio with fan mail for each of the respective girls. While Darlene did get to star in one of the Mousketeer serials (“Corky & White Shadow”) and play a major part in the second “Spin & Marty” serial, as the show progressed (along with Annette’s bustline), it became obvious who was the top Mousketeer.

Gillespie did cut a couple of albums for Disney, just like Funicello, but they didn’t receive the push from Disney’s marketing arm that Annette got.

When The Mouse Club ceased production, Disney kept Annette under contract, but Darlene had to go her own way. Her acting career quickly fizzled. Over the years, she made a few stabs at re-launching a singing career, but nothing really came of those.

Darlene worked for many years as a nurse and, in fact, greatly assisted her fellow Mousketeer Karen Pendleton when Karen had the car accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down.

Sadly, her last bit of notoriety came in 1998 when she was arrested in a securities fraud scheme that she cooked up with her husband. Darlene was sentenced to two years in prison, but wound up only doing 3 months. In 2005, she and her husband were back in court on charges of fraud. Those charges were eventually dropped. The husband who landed her in the slammer passed away in 2008.

Darlene is still with us, living in relative anonymity having finally reached a financial settlement with the Disney Company after a years-long battle over royalties she claimed she was owed for her work on that TV show. Sadly, that protracted legal battle led to an estrangement with the rest of the surviving Mousketeers.

Shindig - TV's First Prime-Time Rock Show

Rock & Roll had only gotten a toe-hold on American television until the debut of Shindig, the first prime-show dedicated solely to rock music and Baby Boomers!

Prior to this, the only time you’d see a rock act in prime time was on The Ed Sullivan Show, but Ed would keep rock quarantined to a single act per show – and always intermingling with opera singers, plate spinners, Borscht Belt comics and singers who appealed to your mom and dad.

Yes, we had American Bandstand, but that aired in the late afternoon along with other “kid shows” like Huckleberry Hound. Shindig was the first time an entire 30-minute block was given over to appealing to the Baby Boom generation on a weekly basis.

Read on to discover more fascinating facts about this ground-breaking TV series!

Read more: Shindig - TV's First Prime-Time Rock Show

Rock Around the Clock (1956)

The very first “rock & roll” film is also one of the best. Rock Around the Clock was rushed into production to capitalize on the success of its title song. That song had been released by Bill Haley & His Comets in 1954 to almost total apathy. It was forgotten until it became the song that played behind the opening credits of the definitive film about 1950s’ juvenile delinquency, Blackboard Jungle, in 1955. Overnight, rock & roll went from a small following of teenagers in a few cities to a nationwide phenomenon.

Columbia Pictures, always one of Hollywood’s lesser studios, decided to jump on the craze and quickly threw together a film that would showcase the music industry’s newest stars. The film was shot in one month (January, 1956) and rushed into theaters in March. Apparently, the studio was taking no chances that the “fad” for rock would die before they got make some money off of it.

In addition to Haley, the film also featured the Platters (performing what turned out to be their two biggest hits, “Only You” and “The Great Pretender) and a never-was rock ensemble that billed themselves as Freddie Bell and His Bellboys for the kids. The also an act aimed at a little older demographic, Tony Martinez and His Band.

Read more: Rock Around the Clock (1956)

8 Things You Didn’t Know About "That Girl"

  1. It was the first network sitcom centered around a single working girl who was not a maid. Previously, woman who were sitcom stars tended to be a.) wacky housewives (see I Love Lucy), b.) family matriarchs (see The Donna Reed Show) or 3.) domestics (see Hazel). TV historians say her show paved the way for The Mary Tyler Moore Show just a few years later.
  2. Donald Hollinger was originally supposed to be Ann Marie’s agent as well as her boyfriend. After they filmed the series’ pilot, producers must have decided that agents can sometimes be a little sleazy. So Donald changed jobs and became a magazine writer. (He was played by Ted Bessell in that never-broadcast pilot and the subsequent series.)
  3. There was a connection between That Girl and The Dick Van Dyke Show. The Van Dyke show was produced by Marlo’s father, Danny Thomas and two of the show’s main writers, Bill Persky and Sam Denoff, became the creators of That Girl.
  4. Marlo Thomas came up with the show’s concept. She was the one who insisted that her character be a small-town girl who comes to the big city to try and find work as an actress. (Although her real life was that of the daughter of a rich, famous comedian, which made her entrance into show business much easier.)
  5. Her first next door neighbor was also a Broadway leading lady. Bonnie Scott who played her original next door neighbor, Judy Bessemer, starred on Broadway opposite Robert Morse in the hit musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Bonnie left the series because the shooting schedule took too much time away from her young kids.
  6. Ruth Buzzi and George Carlin made appearances on the show. Ruth played a neighbor of Ann’s in several episodes while Carlin played her agent (replacing Ronnie Schell) in just one episode.
  7. Marlo wanted to call the show Miss Independence. That was the nickname her father had given her as a young girl.
  8. The network wanted the series finale to be the wedding of Ann Marie and Donald. But Marlo Thomas thought that might send the wrong message to the single girls she felt were the series’ core audience. You know, she gets married and “they live happily ever after.” So, she and Donald did get engaged during the show’s fifth season, but the series ended with Ann Marie still single.

Finally, is there any human being who watched the show and thought Ann could really be a virgin living in New York City in the mid 1960’s, especially if she was working in show business?
Didn’t think so.

Our trivia question is temporarily out of service

Elton John function myFunction() { var x = document.getElementById("answer"); if (x.style.display === "block") { x.style.display = "none"; } else { x.style.display = "block"; } }
O'RyanCordes Marketing