Friday, March 28, 2008


For those of us lucky enough to have memories of the 1950s, the name “Doreen” has a special significance. My friend Doreen is Doreen Tracey of the original Mickey Mouse Club.
Doreen has spent her entire life in the entertainment industry.
She was born April 13, 1943 to Sid and Bessie Tracey. The Traceys were vaudevillians entertaining the troops in England and Doreen was born in London.
The family returned to the States when she was four and moved to Hollywood, where Sid and vaudeville friend Ben Blue opened a place called Slappy Maxie on Wilshire Blvd.
In a move that would shape his young daughter's life, Sid also opened the Rainbow Dance Studio.
Growing up as a normal American little girl, Doreen had the advantage of an extended show business “family.” Her “Uncle Ben” Blue was a prominent fixture in her life and she lived with him for a time when her mother was hospitalized with tuberculosis and her father struggled to keep his business afloat. Jimmy Durante seized upon her childhood name of “Do-Do” and delighted in embarrassing her by announcing, “Look who's here – it's Sid's little DoDo bird!”
Growing up as an only child, her best buddy was her cat, Sylvester.
Doreen was answering the phone at the Rainbow Studios that fateful day when the call came from Lee Travers at Walt Disney Studios in early 1955 announcing the search for talented kids for the pilot of the Mickey Mouse Club.
She sang “Cross Over the Bridge” in a Little Bo-Peep costume for the initial audition in March.
One of the original Mouseketeers, Doreen remained with the show through its entire run.
After the Mickey Mouse Club ended, Doreen went to John Burroughs High School in Burbank where she fell in love with Robert Washburn. The two eloped to Tijuana and, a short time later, Doreen found herself pregnant with a son, Bradley Allen Washburn. The marriage was short-lived and Doreen soon became a single mother.
During the 1960s, she performed with the Andressi Brothers in Las Vegas and elsewhere and appeared on episodes of My Three Sons, Donna Reed and Day in Court.
She also toured Alaska and Vietnam with the USO. Her recollections of Vietnam landed her a job as a consultant on the film "Apocalypse Now!" where she contributed elements of the surfing-under-fire sequence.
Doreen fell out of grace with Walt Disney Studios in the mid-1970s when she did two nude photo layouts for Gallery magazine.
This photo is from the first of those photo shoots.
That's when I first made her acquaintance. About the same time as the first Gallery layout, writer Jerry Bowles published a where-are-they-now book about the Mouseketeers called Forever Hold Your Banner High. A press kit turned up on my desk at The Indianapolis News one day with a mail-back postcard to request phone interviews with Doreen and/or Jerry Bowles. I checked both boxes and, about a week later, found myself chatting with Doreen. We hit it off and have kept in touch ever since.
Since the Gallery flap, Doreen and the studios have been reconciled and she participated in a 40th anniversary special on the Mickey Mouse Club.
Doreen still lives in Burbank, a short distance from Burroughs High School and the Disney studios. Her son works in the equestrian industry.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

April 11, 14
In 1966 I met Doreen at a Marine/Army NCO club at Sukiran on Okinawa during the Christmas holidays. I was a Marine and she had just arrived that day to tour the military bases on the island with the USO. I joined her and friends at their table, we danced, talked and had a good time. After closing time I escorted Doreen in a taxi to her temp home, then I continued to my barracks. We were to go out later that day, but I blew it and slept through the time I was supposed to pick her up. (I Drank too much the night/morning before.) I did see her at a show during her tour. Wrote to her after she went on to other locations, including Viet Nam where I had spent time the year before.. She sent a nice answer to my letter. That was the last I saw or heard from her. She probably doesn't remember me, but it was a thrill to have met and spent a little time with a fun celeb.