Scan of Wally Boag: Clown Prince of Disneyland book cover Book Review:
Wally Boag
Clown Prince
of Disneyland

Wally Boag
Gene Sands
Bruce Gordon
Disney Editions
Reviewed by
Werner Weiss
Feb. 19, 2010
There was a curious place in Frontierland—the Golden Horseshoe, a saloon with a stage, finely decorated with the golden luster of an Opry house. The place was curious because it was free. All you had to do was stand in line, and in a few minutes, you were taken inside and treated to a very big show. There was a small band, waitresses in 1890s garb, some racy can-can dancers, a singer, and something I had never seen before: a live comedian in front of a live audience. The comedian’s name was Wally Boag, and when he came onstage, I and every other member of the audience laughed ourselves silly.
— Steve Martin, reminiscing about working at
Disneyland as a ten-year-old, in the foreword
to Wally Boag: Clown Prince of Disneyland

The Golden Horseshoe Revue ran at Disneyland from 1955 until 1986. Until his retirement in 1982, Wally Boag played the Traveling Salesman and Pecos Bill. His high-energy act included balloon animals, high kicks, comic lines delivered with impeccable timing, and a seemingly unlimited number of dislodged teeth.

Scan of Wally Boag: Clown Prince of Disneyland back cover Hardcover
9" x 11"
188 pages
Release date:
Aug. 1, 2009
Color photos
and artwork

I grew up in Orange County and had the privilege of watching the Golden Horseshoe Revue numerous times. Wally Boag was always hilarious.

Now Wally is the subject of a book which has been in the works since 2001. For several years, I heard and read that the book was coming “soon.” When it was finally published last August, I somehow missed it. Or perhaps I read about it, but promptly put it out of my mind. After all, regardless of Wally’s considerable talent and stage presence, how interesting could a book be about a guy who worked for the same employer for 27 years, primarily doing the same show?

The answer is, highly interesting... and entertaining, enlightening, often funny, and sometimes sad.

The book begins with four forewords: “Foreword” by Steve Martin; “Introduction” by Walt Disney’s daughter, Diane Disney Miller; “Originals” by Disney Legend Marty Sklar; and “Welcome!” by co-author Gene Sands. They set the stage for what follows: Wally Boag’s life and career, told in first person.

Wally Boag window on Main Street
Wally Boag is honored with window above the bakery.

Wally was born September 13, 1920, in Portland, Oregon. (Yes, he’s now 89 years old.) He began performing at the age of five. At sixteen, he opened a dance school. When Walt Disney offered Wally a two-week contract to launch the Golden Horseshoe Saloon at the soon-to-open Disneyland, Wally was not yet 35 years old—but he had already been involved in show business longer than the 27 years he would eventually work at California’s Disneyland and Florida’s Magic Kingdom.

The first third of the book is about those pre-Disneyland years. I enjoyed that part of the book as much as what followed.

Wally Boag window on Main Street
“Golden Vaudeville Routines”

As I read the book, it seemed as if I were sitting with Wally, going through a scrapbook of photos and other materials from Wally’s long life on and off the stage, and hearing stories told with wit and carefully chosen words. The final product probably owes a great deal to the writing skill of Gene Sands, but the book comes across solely as Wally’s—probably just as the two authors intended.

The next three images are stills from a television episode originally broadcast on Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color on NBC on September 23, 1962. The episode was billed as the 10,000th performance of Disneyland’s popular Golden Horseshoe Revue. With the addition of guest stars, including Annette Funicello and Ed Wynn, the television version was twice the length of a usual performance at Disneyland. The episode is on the DVD Walt Disney Treasures - Disneyland: Secrets, Stories & Magic.

The Golden Horseshoe Revue on Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color
In each show, Wally would play the Traveling Salesman and then Pecos Bill.
The Golden Horseshoe Revue on Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color
Wally’s tooth spitting routine always got a lot of laughs.
The Golden Horseshoe Revue on Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color
Audiences could get wet during the Pecos Bill number.

Although the book is published by Disney Editions, it’s not available through any Disney retail or online sources. There’s a D23 logo on the dust jacket, but it’s not even available to D23 members through the online D23 boutique. The major online booksellers, such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, don’t carry it either.

If you want his book, I know of only two places you can buy it. Actually unless the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco is convenient for you, there’s only one place: Despite the $35 price printed on the dust jacket, the website price is $45, but that includes shipping, handling, and any applicable sales tax.

For $68, you can get the signed edition of the book with a signed Wally Boag vintage balloon kit.

Even at $45, the book may seem pricey compared to similar books, such as Walt Disney’s Imagineering Legends and the Genesis of the Disney Theme Park, which is also from Disney Editions; which also has a dust jacket price of $35; which is also a niche book; which also a hardcover; and which is even the same size (but with around 16 fewer pages). Amazon sells it for $23.10. Shipping is free if it’s part of an order of $25 or more. In most of the country, there is no sales tax on Amazon orders.

But here’s something to consider: Wally Boag had a limited press run. Everyone involved with this book knows that there’s not a big market for it. When it sells out, there will not be another printing. If you want this book, and you don’t buy it now, it’s likely that it will only be available at much higher collectors’ prices in the future.

More importantly, if you’re interested in the subject, the book is definitely worth it.

Note (Feb. 21, 2011): The Walt Disney Family Museum no longer sells the book, but it is still available from the website.

promotional postcard
Promotional postcard

About the Authors of Wally Boag: Clown Prince of Disneyland

About Wally Boag, from the promotional postcard:

Wally Boag delighted audiences the world over for six decades. Although most of his fans associate his comic career with “The Golden Horseshoe” at Disneyland, his story really begins much earlier than this wonderful relationship with the Disney organization. This delightful book recounts the saga of a farm boy from Portland Oregon “making it big” in the world of vaudeville as a “hoofer” and a comic rolled into one. His early days were those of the quintessential artist struggling to find his niche in a world of talented artists all competing for the same spot. He, like all successful entertainers, stood out early and he soon found his way onto the “circuit.” He would eventually entertain kings and presidents, American troops at home and abroad, thousands of vaudeville and nightclub patrons on three continents, and millions of Disneyland guests.
The Disney organization appreciated Wally so much that it engaged his talents in a gamut of enterprises ranging from performing on its television shows and in its films, to script writing and show development. In these pages one can follow the adventures of a gifted man and see how he shared his laughs with the world. This is a must read not just for all of those interested in the Disney Legend, but in the path taken by a trail blazer in the world of Vaudeville and one man’s voyage through the labyrinth of the entertainment world of the twentieth century.

About Gene Sands, from the book’s dust jacket:

Gene Sands has been a Boagaphile since 1957, when he saw the Golden Horseshoe Revue for the first time (he was also in the balloon business, selling them at the Park’s front gate). He has always believed that Wally’s life and career would be of great interest to all those who have ever been mesmerized by his extraordinary performances. This book is the realization of that belief. Gene served in the U. S. Air Force as a career public affairs officer and was the senior public relations executive for several colleges and universities. He holds a doctorate in higher education leadership and administration.

MP3 Download:
Slue Foot Sue’s Golden Horseshoe Revue

In 1956, Disneyland Records recorded a souvenir album of the show—all in one take, according to Wally Boag’s book. In addition to the music and comedy from the Golden Horseshoe Revue, the album also included the Disneyland Strawhatters and the Mellomen. Of course, this vinyl album has long been out of print. In 2004, Disneyland Records reissued the album as a CD—but it’s out of print too.

In 2005, Walt Disney Records included the complete performance as one track of the six-CD box set, 50th Anniversary: A Musical History of Disneyland. The box set includes more than seven hours of remastered recordings from Disneyland park and a terrific hardcover book, The Sounds of Disneyland. Fortunately, the set is still available. The discounted price is around $100, which is a bargain for all that you get and how it’s presented. But it’s still a lot of money.

Golden Horseshow Review album cover
Release Date: February 23, 2010
Label: Walt Disney Records
Total Length: 31:29

The album Slue Foot Sue’s Golden Horseshoe Revue is available from Amazon as a digital download, CD, and vinyl:

Book: Knott’s Preserved
Book: Imagineering Legends

© 2021 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated December 28, 2021

Scan of Wally Boag: Clown Prince of Disneyland book cover (front and rear): © 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc.
Blue Ribbon Bakery on Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland: 2008 by Allen Huffman.
Wally Boag window at Blue Ribbon Bakery: 2010 by Chris Bales.
Promotional postcard, courtesy of Gene Sands.
Three screen captures from Disneyland: Secrets, Stories & Magic: © 2007 Disney Enterprises, Inc.
Golden Horseshoe Review album cover: © Disney Enterprises, Inc.
Disclosure per FTC guidelines: This is a book review of Wally Boag, Clown Prince of Disneyland. Werner Weiss received a free review copy of the book in 2010. Mr. Weiss does not receive any financial consideration from Disney Editions or the authors, nor any commission from sales of the book.
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