Disneyland opening day choreographer Miriam Nelson, 91, is still tap dancing years after all these years.
Miriam already had an impressive career as a Hollywood choreographer, working with the likes of Judy Garland, Fred Astaire and Betty Davis, when she was hired to choreograph the performances for Disneyland's televised grand opening on July 17, 1955. A then-record-breaking television audience of 90 million watched the live broadcast.
Miriam, who visited Disneyland Park last month (August), recalled seeing Walt Disney during rehearsals, which were moved to Disneyland just before opening day.
"When I was rehearsing out here it was so hot, so my gals were just wearing little shorts and halter tops to stay cool, and Walt wandered by to see what we were up to,"she said. The next day,she received a note from Walt. "It said, 'Would you please ask your girl dancers to cover up a little more? The workman are all stopping by to watch and we are never going to get this park open!'"
When it came to go live, the production was not without some hitches. For the Fantasyland shot, Disney characters were staged and instructed to help a few childern onto attractions. But as soon as the Fantasyland drawbridge dropped, Miriam said that hundreds of childern descended upon the unsuspecting characters.
"It scared the characters to death," Miriam recalled. "They turned and ran into the castle!"
Miriam also choreographed the opening day parade and frontierland appearance by "Davy Crockett" stars Fess Parker and Buddy Ebsen. Years later, she worked on "Fantasy on Parade," "On Stage U.S.A.," "Disney on Parade" and even a special performance of "The Golden Horseshoe Show" for the Foreign Correspondence Dinner with President Richard Nixon in 1969.
Miriam continues to travel the world teaching others how to dance and is an actice member of the nonprofit organization SHARE, which raises funds for disable and adused childern, which she helped found in 1953. In 2009, she published her autobiography, "My Life Dancing with the Stars."
On opening day,I was 3 years, 3 weeks,and 2 days old, born June 20, 1952...Dr Lee