There are many differences in today’s Disneyland experience from that of Walt’s classic Magic Kingdom. And it’s not just a matter of old rides that are missing or replaced, but of a different tone and texture.
There was a time when the environments of Disneyland were more like a time-machine: the frontier, the turn-of-the-century, the future - - all these lavish sets were meant to transport the guest to that idealized time and place, to sort-of a living movie-lot - - not just a modern day “themed” experience, like Las Vegas or Solvang or Outback Steakhouse.
Part of that immersive show was the live entertainment that evoked the times portrayed, whether it was the Dapper Dans singing barbershop on Main Street or a wild saloon show in the old west.
Slue Foot Sue’s Golden Horseshoe Revue was the showplace of Frontierland from opening day clean through to the Eisner era, when it closed as the longest-running stage show of the day.
A passionate vaudevillian at heart, Walt Disney proudly presented a full-bodied, over-the-top, corn-fed interactive burlesque show right out of the history books, and audiences ate it up with a silver spoon.
With a saloon madam, her dancing girls, an Irish tenor and a cowboy comedian (and their band), The Golden Horseshoe Revue didn’t try to be relevant to the times in any way, but transported guests back into another era of entertainment; to the days before movies and television when seltzer and pantaloons reigned supreme.
Wally Boag, Betty Taylor and company made the show fresh for close to thirty years. During times of amazing political and social change and upheaval in the real world, the show continued to shoot from the hip. Despite the onset of several wars, civil rights, feminism, hippies, disco and rap, the girls of the Golden Horseshoe kept kicking their heels to the delight of the most diverse audiences…
Into the 80’s, Pecos Bill was still spitting teeth, the girls were still posing for the Police Gazette and Sue was still looking for her Big City Beau. Audiences never seemed to tire of the show.
Even though history had marched on, the old west remained the same – and so did the burlesque. It was, after all, supposed to represent another era. As spectators and participants, we learned about what that era may have been like. We didn’t look for our own social reflections and moog synthesizers in their frontier antics.
But the coming of political correctness and entertainment expense cutbacks (as well as the retirement of the original cast) finally called a halt to the old time fun.
Sadly, Frontierland has gone from boomtown to ghost town in the process. The Golden Horseshoe was the gold-digging, gunslinging heart of Walt’s old west. Now Frontierland more evokes Boot Hill.