Boag, Wallace Vincent
September 13, 1920 - June 3, 2011
Wallace Vincent "Wally" Boag, star of Disneyland's long running stage show, the Golden Horseshoe Revue, cited in The Guinness Book of World Records as the longest continuous running show in history in which he performed over 43,000 shows, has died in Santa Monica. He was 90.
He began his career when he was eight years old taking dancing lessons that quickly evolved into professional appearances. At 16 he opened his own dance school and at 19 he won a talent contest that resulted in a trip to Hollywood. He put together an act that included dancing and comedy honing his skills playing venues around Los Angeles. It was during this phase that he learned how to make a dog out of balloons from a fellow performer which would evolve into his signature.
From New York, his agent, Mark Leddy, booked his act in top-notch clubs and hotels in both the U.S. and around the world. During those years he entertained Royalty, U.S. presidents and U.S. troops. He toured the world's stages in hotels, theaters and nightclubs, including a command performance for the King and Queen of England in 1947. While appearing at the London Hippodrome, he would bring a 12-year-old girl on stage to help with his balloon act. The girl, Julie Andrews, astonished the audience with her singing voice.
It was while performing at a Boston hotel that he met Ellen Morgan, a young actress who was appearing in "Without Love" with Katharine Hepburn. Ms. Morgan, a native of Hollywood California and Boag saw each other whenever they were performing in the same city and, in 1943, they married.
In 1955 an old friend, tenor Donald Novis, called to let him know that Walt Disney was looking for a comic to appear in a western revue in the soon-to-be opened "Disneyland". Boag auditioned for Disney a few days later. He was hired on the spot for a two-week contract... which lasted 27 years.
Boag's Pecos Bill/Traveling Salesman character performed a fast-paced comedy routine featuring slapstick, squirt guns, bagpipes, eccentric dancing, a seemingly endless supply of broken teeth, which he would spit out, and his signature balloon animals. Wally's performances influenced many performers, most notably, Steve Martin, who studied and memorized Boag's act while working at Disneyland as a teenager.
In addition to performing at Disneyland, Wally hosted his own radio show, "Your Happy Holiday," broadcast live from the park daily, on ABC. He also voiced the talking bird, Jose, in The Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland and wrote much of the script for the attraction. He appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Mickey Mouse Club, in the films It's Always Fair Weather, The Absent-Minded Professor, Son of Flubber and The Love Bug and was guest star on The Muppet Show.
In 1971, Wally took his Pecos Bill character to the newly opened Walt Disney World in Florida. After three years, he returned to Disneyland and eventually retired in 1982. Wally was inducted into the ranks of the Disney Legends and has his own window on Main Street in Disneyland. The inscription reads, "Theatrical Agency - Golden Vaudeville Routines - Wally Boag, Prop". His autobiography, "Wally Boag, Clown Prince of Disneyland," was published in August 2009.
He is survived by his loving wife, Ellen Boag, his son Laurence Boag, his daughter, Heather Dinkins, his three granddaughters: Morgane Van Voorst, Celine Rice, and Camille Boag, and his great grandsons, Ezra and Griffyn Rice.
Published in the Los Angeles Times from June 4 to June 5, 2011