Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Saga of the Gong

I joined the Disneyland Band in 1982, and stuck it out until 1994. The band was legendary in many ways, but internally it was a hotbed for practical jokes. One of our favorite targets was our drummer, Joe, who seemed to take it very well when he was the recipient of such frivolity.

One memorable, long-running gag began when Show Services delivered a new gong for Joe to use when we did a show calling for that sound. But Joe drove everyone crazy, testing out different mallets and sounds within the confines of the band room, which was sacrosanct. Band members used it for reading, study, napping; it was personal time and time for recovery from the rigor of performing. After Joe had been asked numerous to "cool it" with the gong, one of the band members (who shall remain anonymous) took it upon himself to "confiscate" the gong and remove it from the room. He took it upstairs, where wardrobe ladies were happy to be in on the joke and secrete it among the costumes.

When Joe was otherwise occupied (like taking a nap), the gong would magically reappear, the bashing of which would wake him up, but not quickly enough for him to catch the perpetrator. Once, when he was at a convention in Las Vegas, band members called his hotel, had him paged, and gonged him over the phone,

Disneyland hosted the "Circus At Disneyland," featuring acts from Ringling Brothers, including the turn-of-the-century wagon pulled by six magnificent Percheron horses. The band rode in the wagon and played appropriate circus-related music. The highlight, though, after the Human Cannonball, was Ricky Wallenda, tight-wire walking over Main Street. The anonymous gong thief talked Ricky into bashing the gong at the beginning of his show. The band was playing below, and Joe remarked, "Hey, he's got my gong!"

The coup de gras occurred when the band was taking their daily cruise on the Mark Twain on the Rivers of America. The band spent part of their day in "break down groups," splitting up the big band into smaller units. One was called the Frontierland Brass, and the members wore 1800s western garb: cavalry uniforms, sheriff's outfit with badge, etc. -- and one lone Indian. The one who shall remain anonymous hung back as the band assembled to march to the river, and then changed into his Indian outfit. He had access to a car, and drove himself and the gong to Videopolis, which conveniently abutted the Indian village on the river. He situated himself among the animatronic Indians and waited for the riverboat to arrive, with the band sitting on the prow. As the boat passed by, the analog Indian slowly raised his arm, and bashed the gong into the silence, just as the band stopped playing. As the boat disappeared around the bend, so did the Indian, and the gong was never heard again.