I’m a Disney collector, and I’ll be first to admit we sometimes do strange things. Not that they seem strange then, but looking back in hindsight, they can seem, well, just kind of weird.
For example, I attended the Official Disneyana Convention at Walt Disney World, September 6-10, 1995. If you never attended any of these conventions organized by the Walt Disney Company, there were usually some special programs offered to the “ConventionEars.” These were never part of the basic agenda, but were extras, and one could sign up for as many as the schedule permitted – and there was time set aside for these – with payment of the required fee. This 1995 convention was no exception; in the convention paperwork I still have, I counted 18 such offerings.
Some were clearly promotional: “Bon Voyage! — Discover Disney’s newest world of adventure as the Disney Cruise Lines get ready to launch (one hour, free).”
Some educational programs were promoting the Disney Institute, which opened in February, 1996 and has since closed: “Windowsill Landscape — Create a kitchen windowsill garden with edible herbs (one hour, $30).”
But most were specifically designed for the Disney fanatic: “On Stage at the Magic Kingdom — Have you ever dreamed of meeting all forty-two United States presidents, dancing with ghosts, or simply riding Space Mountain with the lights on? Here’s your chance… (two-and-a-half to three hours, $100 including a special character breakfast).”
As I examined the list, my eyes fell across the following:
I) “Wine Tasting with Fess Parker” Join Fess Parker for this exclusive experience in the newly remodeled “California Grill,” located on the 15th floor at the Contemporary Resort Hotel. Fess Parker will be showcasing wines from his vineyard in Santa Barbara, California. Enjoy the beautiful view as you sample delicious foods and wines (two hours, $35).
I have little interest in wine. But as I continued to read down the page, I heard this little voice from somewhere in the back of my brain say “You call yourself a Disney fan, and you’re going to pass up an opportunity to meet Fess Parker, the actor who played Davy Crockett?”
So my eyes returned to Item I. It wasn’t that expensive. It certainly seemed a better value than, say “Pluto’s Pursuit,” a three-hour scavenger hunt through Pleasure Island for $60. And I always had been a big fan of Davy Crockett. In fact, as a grade-schooler, it was the only television show my mother had actually encouraged me to watch.
I immediately called to place my reservation. When I confessed to the operator that my sole motivation was meeting Fess Parker, her reply surprised me. “Save your money.” She quickly explained how Fess would be appearing at an autograph session in the gift shop on the Contemporary Resort’s Grand Canyon Concourse on the convention’s public day. In other words, I could meet him for free!
And I was dutifully in line at the appointed place and time. I even had something appropriate for him to sign: a copy of Tomart’s DISNEYANA Update magazine (for which I worked until recently) with a “Merchandise of Davy Crockett” article. I was all set!
This is where my carefully laid plan began to go out the window. First, we were told that Fess would sign up to three items. Then an enterprising dealer appeared with a stack of 8 x 10” glossy photos of Fess as Davy for only $10 apiece! That seemed reasonable. I bought one without hesitation. Now I could get two signatures!
Then I saw the lithograph. Just inside the gift shop was “Fond Memories” by legendary Disney artist Charles Boyer. It depicted Davy Crockett (Fess Parker) signing an autograph for an adoring Minnie Mouse as Mickey, Donald, and appropriately dressed children crowded around. What an image! As he had so often done in his remarkable career, Boyer had captured the perfect scene. And it would be exactly the right souvenir for what would probably be my only chance to meet Fess Parker.
Although I don’t remember anyone mentioning it, now I’m sure the availability of this lithograph was the real reason for the signing. And it worked, at least on me! Of course, the litho’s price of $195 kind of defeated my original purpose, but at that moment I was convinced buying it was the right thing to do.
When I finally got to meet Fess Parker, he was very gracious. And I took full advantage: sign my magazine, sign my picture, sign my new lithograph, pose for a picture, a little small talk, and I was happily on my way.
By the time I got home, I couldn’t wait to put my lithograph on the wall. But first it had to be framed. And no ordinary frame would do for Davy Crockett! I found a custom framer in a western shop, and he did a beautiful job: wide, rich brown wood with an embedded rope and cutouts in the mat for my picture with Fess and other convention souvenirs. Once again, such work was not cheap; in fact the frame cost more than the lithograph itself! But I didn’t care anymore, such a treasure had to be done right.
So now I have two great souvenirs of my meeting with Fess Parker proudly displayed on my living room wall. I just try never to think of my blown budget: a photograph, a lithograph with custom frame… it ended up well north of $400.
But hey, I did save the $35 for the wine-tasting session!
Since this is a column about Fess Parker, I can’t resist the temptation to repeat one story. Fess had been a speaker at the Special Edition Disneyana Convention, held February, 1995 at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, CA. He closed by saying “…and I wanted to share with you a story I don’t tell often any more, but it was my first brush with fame.”
After shooting “Davy Crockett,” he had returned to Texas to visit family and friends. During this visit, he had gone out to eat with a close friend and fellow actor to compare notes. This is what happened (in his own words):
So we went to a small roadside hamburger place, and we went in and we ordered our hamburgers … and enjoyed our visit. And I noticed that there was an elderly lady sitting behind the cash register not too far from my table, and she kept looking over and staring at the two of us. One of the things that I was sort of unaware of was that my hair had grown long for the part, and I still had the possibility of retakes. So long hair on a man was just not too often seen in those days. We went up to the cash register to pay the bill, and finally this lady looked up at me and she said, “Young man, have I seen you on television?” Thinking maybe she’d seen the first episode of “Davy Crockett,” I said “Yes, ma’am, you may have.” And she said “I knowed it! I watch wrasslin’ every Saturday night!”
This was first published on the website LaughingPlace.com in 2007.