Ever since I moved back to Minnesota, my parents have slowly been giving me things that have been hiding in storage at their house for the past 15 years that they want to get off their hands. The most recent box my mom gave to me contained something I completely forgot I ever had.
Sometime around the middle of 1993, I realized that there was a void in my life. My Newsies obsession had ebbed, as had my obsession with swing music and Stephen Dorff. I needed something to fill that void besides afternoon reruns of Salute Your Shorts and Hey Dude.
And then came The Mickey Mouse Club.
Back in the day, The Disney Channel was a premium channel, which meant that you had to have a subscription for it just like HBO and Showtime. I was lucky enough to have access to The Disney Channel, even though I didn’t watch it very often. That is until I was flipping through the channels one day (this was back when you had to flip through to see what was on – you couldn’t just look at a menu – and chances are you had no idea what you were watching anyway because the name of the show didn’t pop up on the top of the screen) and I landed on The Disney Channel and saw a music video by a group called MMC.
Now, I was in the know enough to figure out that MMC stood for The Mickey Mouse Club and that this must be some kind of spin-off group the show created, the same way they had created the music group The Party (I had a friend who was a fan). Normally I would have just moved on from the channel to something else, but something caught my eye.
Since I was 14 years old, cute boys were very important to me, and I tended to notice them everywhere. Right away I noticed two of them, and although I didn’t know their names, I was determined to find out more about them. And this is what I found out:
The Mickey Mouse Club had indeed formed a group called MMC, which was made up of seven of the members from the show. They were getting ready to not only release their first studio album, but also getting for their national tour to various Target stores, aka FREE CONCERTS WITH CUTE BOYS AT TARGET.
An actual newspaper clipping from the event that I pasted into my journal.
I was so going.
So I told my friend Kate about it and she was totally on board because we were way in sync (hahaha….no pun intended….) when it came to cute boys. MMC was performing at the Arden Hills Target Greatland on October 3 AND WE WERE GOING. Because we were totally convinced that the boys from MMC were going to fall in love with us.
The boys I’m referring to were Tony Lucca, JC Chasez, and Matt Morris. The Disney Channel showed enough behind the scenes clips from the making of their album and the upcoming season of The Mickey Mouse Club for us to know all about the show before we went to the concert, and to get us excited about being able to see these cute boys when the show started.
Well, the concert was awesome. My mom drove us and I think we were all surprised by how many people were actually there. Turned out other girls thought those boys were cute, too. During the concert they threw out t-shirts and patches to the crowd, and my mom was cool enough to grab a patch that had fallen on the ground before some stupid chick was able to grab it. Yay, mom!
After the concert we had a chance to get autographs, but they split the group up into two tables opposite from each other, which meant two long lines, which meant you had to pick which table you wanted to stand in line for. And OF COURSE Tony and JC were on opposite tables.
Seriously had a Sophie’s Choice moment.
Kate and I decided, however, that JC had our heart, so we waited in JC’s line while my poor mom waited in the other line to get Tony’s autograph for us. I’m sure she hated us that day, but I’m pretty sure I thanked her at least once.
From that moment on, Kate and I were DIE-HARD Mickey Mouse Club fans. We loved the concept of a teen variety show where the members put on funny skits and performed covered songs and made music videos. It was like the Glee of its time. The show was on Monday-Thursday, and each day had its own theme. For example:
Monday: Guest Day – a lucky fan gets to meet a celebrity of their choice and spend the day with them. I wonder what the girl who met Jonathan Brandis is doing now.
Tuesday: Music Day – a singer or group visits the MMC set and performs two songs. My least favorite day, because it took time away from the MMC members.
Wednesday: Anything Can Happen Day – um, where anything can happen.
Thursday: Party Day – the best day of the week. The group always performed their best songs on this day.
This particular season of The Mickey Mouse Club also had the addition of its newest and youngest members, four boys and three girls. Those people were Justin Timberlake, Ryan Gosling, Tate Lynch, TJ Fantini, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Nikki Deloach. You may have heard of some of them. I was personally not a fan of Christina and made fun of her and her hand movements while she sang all the time, and I hated Nikki Deloach because she was a THREAT to me (don’t ask).
Kate and I were fond of Britney because we thought she was a hilarious dancer. Kate was partial to Justin because he was adorable, and I was partial to Ryan because we was hot, even as a 12 year old. And just as I had done with Beverly Hills, 90210 and flip-flopped between Dylan and Brandon every week, I flip-flopped which MMC guys I liked. JC/Tony/Ryan/Matt…they all had their turn.
When the season ended, The Disney Channel began playing reruns of older seasons, starting with 1991. This was back when Tony and JC and others like Keri Russell and Marc Worden were first on, and we were full-on obsessed with this show. I recorded every single episode (which I still have somewhere in my parents house), and since this was way before iTunes, we had no way to have the songs they performed (which were awesome), so we would use this huge boom box stereo thing of Kate’s, put a blank tape in it, press record, and hold the damn thing up to the TV while the performance was on.
You can imagine how time consuming this was. But we recorded every single song from every single episode, and the best part is that because we were recording LIVE, you can hear us laughing during the songs, usually when Christina would sing or when Keri Russell would flip her ginormous hair.
For about two years, MMC was our life. Kate and I even taped our own episode (written and directed by us) which, looking back, was a little horrifying. We lip-synced to the MMC’s version of Ace of Base’s “The Sign” while wearing white t-shirts and black spandex shorts, and choreographed the whole, embarrassing thing. You’d never know by watching that Kate went on to become a professional dancer (though it was totally obvious that I lacked any kind of dance ability).
And don’t forget about the MMC Quiz I made…containing only 254 questions.
You fail, you suck.
When the 1994 season began, the show took on a whole new look – a more mature look to attract an older teen demographic. They began to perform all their songs live (before that it was always pre-taped), and the entire set of the show changed.
And the boys got cuter!
The same cast was on, minus the two adult hosts Fred and Terri from previous seasons and minus Keri Russell because apparently she wanted to do real TV (whatever, like that was going to work out), and they brought back an old member from The Party, Tiffani Hale. They continued their “show within a show” called Emerald Cove, which starred various members of the show old enough to have love interests (which meant Ryan and Justin and the young’uns weren’t on it) which, unlike past “shows with a show” that The Mickey Mouse Club did (My Secret Bodyguard anyone?), I really liked this one. Mainly because Tony was the main guy on the show, and he was the hottest guy on the planet according to me.
Keri actually remained on Emerald Cove even though she wasn’t on MMC anymore, and I’m pretty sure it’s because Tony was her real life boyfriend at the time, and it was their chance to spend time together. Aw, how cute.
Kate and I always had these love/hate relationships with the girls on The Mickey Mouse Club. Basically we hated any girl who was pretty because they posed a threat to us. Keri, of course, was on our hit list, as well as Mylin Brooks and Ilana Miller, even though I totally wanted to be Ilana because she was short and had long hair like me. We loved Britney because everything she did was hilarious, and it didn’t even matter that she and Justin were a thing.
Despite the show’s efforts to become trendier and edgier, the ratings were crap. The thing that sucked for this show was its timing. In 1994, no one over the age of 13 was listening to sugary pop music anymore. Grunge ruled the airwaves, and teens no longer had an interest in cheesy variety shows.
So the show was dropped after the season ended in 1996. And to be honest, I wasn’t TOTALLY heartbroken. I was 17 now, and even I had started to move on. And a few of the cast members were hitting 20 – they were definitely ready to move on.
Thank God this guy moved on…
But I’ll always hold a special place in my heart for the show and the people to show introduced me to. I mean, seriously…look at where some of these people are today. Ryan Gosling is uber hot and has been nominated for an Oscar (but not for Drive, which is totally jacked up). Tony Lucca was a finalist on The Voice, which Christina Aguilera is a judge. Keri Russell won a Golden Globe for her role on Felicity. Matt Morris is now an awesome songwriter and has worked with a ton of singers, having recently just collaborated with Sarah McLachlan. Justin Timberlake and JC Chasez were members of ‘N Sync, both went solo, and now Justin has a huge music career AND acting career.
Britney Spears needs no introduction.
Other members have gone off to do smaller things, all of which I’m now aware thanks to Twitter. And the awesome thing is that they’re all still close and still support each other in their careers. Even though Christina was a witch to Tony on The Voice, she was just jealous that he was getting all this support from his old MMC friends and her contestants weren’t.
Just think: if it hadn’t been for this little show on The Disney Channel 20 years ago, we might not know who any of these people are. I might not be listening to a Britney Spears song on my iPod right now. I might not have ever seen Ryan Gosling’s abs. I wouldn’t have gone to see Tony Lucca perform at random bars in LA ten years ago. And I definitely wouldn’t have gone to that ‘N Sync concert back in college.
So thank you, Disney Channel, and thank you, MMC for giving us these awesome gifts. That I can’t even watch because they’re all on tape and I don’t have a VCR (who does????).
Happy watching (if you can find them!)