by Richie McNanna
This column is about food – food I get at home that is so uncannily reminiscent of the cuisine and treats I indulge upon at Walt Disney World that they take me back to my “Orlando happy place” whenever I experience them.
At least, that’s what I’ve been told.
Of late, I have strayed a bit from original format to suggest food that should be served at Walt Disney World, and I’ve even taken a reminiscent stroll down the ol’ “Disneyana Lane”…today, instead of returning to the focus for which this column was intended, I combine the two alternate approaches mentioned above.
While the 2013 D23 Expo is now a distant memory – can’t wait to listen to your retrospective podcast, Lou! – I still find myself pining for Disney nostalgia. Last week, I trekked over to the lovely borough of Queens, NY, for a brief jaunt in Uncle Walt’s footsteps at the 1964 World’s Fair; this week, I thought I’d take another trip to the Big Apple for a similar goal … and, boy, was I in awe of what I discovered.
It all started while I was listening to WDW Radio, Episode #332, “Listener E-mail: Disney Dining, Aulani, Disney Cruise Line, Yours, Obscure Disney Movies in the Parks,” this past week, and I heard Lou read a listener e-mail referring to his famous Julie Andrews episode; the detail piqued my interest, and I looked Dame Julie up on the D23 website. On the site, a brief biography of Ms. Andrews may be found on the “Disney Legends” portion of the site; within the bio, it was the following paragraph that struck me as particularly interesting:
Walt Disney first spotted Julie in the early 1960s when she was starring as Queen Guinevere in Camelot on Broadway. After seeing Julie perform, Walt made a beeline backstage to offer her the title role in his upcoming musical fantasy. Mary Poppins went on to garner 13 Academy Award® nominations and win five, including Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Film Editing, and Best Visual Effects. Julie’s award for Best Actress in a Leading Role was the first competitive Oscar® ever won by an actor in a Disney film.
Wait a minute… Julie. Walt. Broadway. First meeting. Are you kidding me?
A simple Google search showed that the original Broadway production of Camelot – the setting of the beautifully fateful meeting mentioned above – took place at the Majestic Theatre on 44th St… hmm, not far from some of the best proprietors of my favorite New York City food of all time: dirty water dogs.
I needed to take another road trip.
So, the next day, I packed my six-month-old son, Dean, securely in the family adventure wagon, and set out on a journey of mammoth father/ son proportions. These are the days you look forward to as a parent.
Now, the journey from New Jersey to Manhattan, for those of you that don’t know, is fraught with pain, anguish, frustration, and aggravation. It’s brutal. Between crossing the Hudson River through tunnel or over bridge to managing the gridlock of weekday traffic, driving in the City is about as relaxing as waiting on a 120-minute queue for Soarin’ while having sunburn on the bottoms of your feet. However, as our journey developed this day, I knew luck was on our side; for immediately upon cruising through the Holland Tunnel into lower-Manhattan, Dean and I were confronted with this sight:
Mmm. An omen? Today was going to be a good day.
Thirty-five red lights and $40 in parking fees later, Dean and I were on our feet. Destination: the Majestic Theatre, with a weenie stop along the way.
Now, before I go any further, this is the place where I need to make the food-related public service message: I have, in the past, suggested that the New York street section of Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ Streets of America needed a Jewish deli; I absolutely stand by that opinion, but how could I possibly have missed this suggestion, too? – a hot dog cart! I realize that hot dog carts exist throughout many portions of our fair country, but New York carts are unique. Often manned by immigrant workers or large native New Yorkers with insanely stereotypical accents, these hot dog carts are the epitome of class: dogs boiled in day-old water, hot sautéed onions, spicy mustard, sauerkraut, chips…
Dr. Brown’s soda! Oh, and if you’re lucky, the can of soda won’t even have black grime all around the lid!
I state this unequivocally: the New York Street in Disney’s Hollywood Studios needs a hot dog truck!
As we walked along the ten or so blocks to our destination, I couldn’t decide which prospect I was more excited for, my dawg or Disney history. But then, it dawned on me; I needn’t worry about such trivialities, for among the dirt and grime of a New York afternoon, I might as well have been in a chalk-pavement picture. It was a sunny day, I had my little boy, and we were on a “jolly holiday” of sorts where taxis beeping could have been replaced by geese honking, and tourists chattering were changed into talking penguins.
As chance would have it, when I turned the corner of Broadway and 44th St, it became clear that I could have both of my experiences at the same time – with the Majestic Theater now in view in the distance, a proper hot dog cart emerged, as well.
So, I grabbed my dog —– my stomach feasting upon it as my eyes feasted upon this:
Looming in the distance – my son clearly impressed – lie our goal. Striding in Walt and Julie’s footsteps along the busy thoroughfare, my heart began to quicken as I approached the old Majestic, and I reflected upon the profundity of what happened here – in this space – in another time – when Mary Poppins was simply a storybook character created by a writer, P.L. Travers, whom Walt’s daughters adored and Dick Van Dyke was busy somewhere not practicing a cockney accent.
And before I could second guess my increased heart rate and attribute it to the nitrates in my street weenie, I stopped.
Here, beyond this backstage door, Disney history was made. A “Mr. Disney” had darted to the dressing rooms of this theater and asked to see “Ms. Andrews” about her performance in a show by Lerner and Loewe. Pleasantries were provided, an offer for a role in an upcoming film was proposed, and I guess that was it.
Goodbyes were given – promises to consider were given – and I imagine the man we’ve all grown to love and adore, exited this doorway and got into a waiting limousine bound for his hotel.
It was at this moment of refection that I snapped the final shot of the stage door, polished off the last of my lunch, and took a deep breath. The kid you see in the stroller has no idea that this little trip to Manhattan to see a Disney artifact of poignant significance is only the tip of the iceberg – the road ahead will be filled with Disney trips, journeys, and pilgrimages. This was a good day, even if my kid did sleep through the whole thing. But he has a right to snooze as he is half-a-year-old – and because he’s already promised to buy me a loaded hot dog at Disney World when that hot dog cart opens.
Citation: “Disney Legends: Julie Andrews.” D23.com. Disney, 08 Aug 2013. Web. 22 Aug 2013. <https://d23.com/julie-andrews/>.