"Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mr. Disney next to camera. I kept blowing the line because he was making me nervous. I'd see him there smiling, watching what I was doing. So I called the AD over after one of the takes that I'd blown and said, 'could you ask Mr. Disney if he could please move out of my eyeline?' I didn't want to be disrespectful, but could he move just a little? I saw the AD go over to Mr. Disney and whisper in his ear, and he looked at me, waved and left. I got through the intro. The next day in the trades: 'Mouseketeer Throws Walt Disney Off the Set.'"
About This Interview
Tommy Cole was interviewed for three-and-a-half hours in Sherman Oaks, CA. Cole spoke about his early introduction to the entertainment industry as a child, singing and playing the accordion on television and radio shows. He spoke about his casting as one of the Mouseketeers (as one of the main singers) on the original Mickey Mouse Club in the 1950s. He described the audition process, learning to dance for the show, bridging the gap as an adolescent when his voice changed (with his contract in jeopardy), described a typical workday, related a story about forgetting a song and creating one out of thin air (a hit in dailies, but unaired), and spoke about his co-stars on the series as well as how the show was ever under the watchful eye of Walt Disney. He spoke about his transition into acting following The Mickey Mouse Club in some series television, in bit parts, and performing as a singer on tour. He related how he got started in his second career as a make-up artist, starting in the mid-60s, on several daytime programs. He looked back on such series as Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, while working as a staff make-up artist at NBC for seven years from the late 60s. He recalled his freelance work on the pilot of Charlie's Angels and The Captain and Tennille Show. He noted that he made his living from his beauty work (with such personalities as Raquel Welch and Barbara Walters, but that his awards were usually given to his work in old age or other kinds of prosthetic work (Emmy-nominated for Masquerade Party, in which celebrities were disguised; and his Emmy win for the old-age make-up-heavy Backstairs at the White House). He acknowledged being given the moniker "the Sitcom King," since he worked prolifically on sitcoms, starting with Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. He spoke in some detail on the popular 80s and 90s series: Designing Women, Perfect Strangers, Wings, and Evening Shade. For Designing Women, he described the make-up he did for three-of-the-four leads: Delta Burke, Jean Smart, and Delta Burke. For Perfect Strangers, he spoke about taking over from make-up artist Bob Ryan. For Wings, he spoke about his impressions of several actors in the ensemble. For Evening Shade, he talked about working with Marilu Henner and Burt Reynolds (and Reynolds' relationship with the crew). He commented on his "third career" in union politics and as a governor of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. The interview was conducted by Karen Herman on November 1, 2008.