Theme park cast member stories: Boozy McTourist and the Giant Mickey Mouse
Written by Robert Niles
This week's story is for all the former and current merchandise employees out there. Let's talk about the most outrageous sale you ever had or witnessed.Tweet
Here's the story of mine. In the summer of 1987, I worked registers at what was then Mickey's Mart, in Tomorrowland at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. Mickey's Mart was one of the largest stores in the Magic Kingdom, second only to Emporium in sales, I was told. Despite the Tomorrowland location, the merchandise was pretty much the standard Disney theme park fare - shirts, plush, toys, candy, even cigarettes under the counter. (But no gum - no one on Disney property could sell chewing gum.)
The biggest item in the store was an enormous stuffed Mickey Mouse, perched on the ledge under the store's ceiling, opposite the windows where the People Movers rode past. This Mickey stood close to five feet tall, and cost around $300, if memory serves. Mickey was graying with age, thanks to a layer of dust building up on him, due to the fact that no out-of-town tourist would be fool enough to buy something so big. If one did, I was told, there was a second GinorMouse waiting backstage, since it'd be too much hassle to move the Big Mick from his perch.
You can see where this story is going, can't you?
One late July evening, just after the fireworks and about an hour before close, a middle-aged man stumbled up to the register next to mine, and bellowed, waving toward Big Mickey, "How much for that Mickey Mouse up there?"
This was not an uncommon question, as tourists often gawked at the Big Guy.
"That Mickey is $300," the CM next to me replied.
"I'll take it."
Stunned silence. It was like a real-life version of one of those old stockbroker commercials. Every CM in the room, it seemed, plus a whole lot of tourists, turned to look at the guy. (Hey, he was pretty loud.)
One those onlookers was the man's daughter, who appeared to be in her mid-teens... and looking very forward to the day when she wouldn't have to be seen in public with her dad ever again.
"No way, Dad. You can't buy that. We'd never get it home."
"Hah," the man cut across her. "You wanted a Mickey Mouse. I'm going buy you a Mickey Mouse."
She looked like she'd prefer being killed on the spot, but Daddy was getting his way. As he handed over his AMEX card, both the CM on his register and I got a whiff of the beer he'd been drinking. Hey, we'd long suggested that the only way someone would be fool enough to buy the Big Mick would be drunk.
But given that the Magic Kingdom didn't serve alcohol, we figured someone would have to have gotten pretty loaded at Epcot to make it all the way back to the MK to buy Mickey and still be buzzed enough to do the deal. Well, that night, Boozy McTourist came through.
Of course, it took a while to explain to Boozy that he wasn't getting that Mickey, but a clean one that we'd stored backstage. And that he couldn't just carry something that large from the store, that he'd pick it up at the park exit, where we would deliver it. As we explained all this, I could see the slosh in his expression turning to stupor, as well as his daughter's embarrassment mutating into an anger that I am sure would fuel many therapy sessions in the years to come.
Backstage, the stock guys were fighting over who got to drive Mickey on the cart through the tunnels to Main Street, where hosts at the merchandise pick-up location already were gleefully awaiting Boozy McTourist's arrival. I never did hear what happened there, but the next night, there was another Big Mick waiting backstage, for the next drunken tourist with too much money and a child to embarrass.
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