So I accepted the promotion and went to work straight away. The first thing I did was call in my team to let them know about my new position. Everyone seemed to be thrilled that I was going to be the “leader of the pack” going forward. Those in the Entertainment Division were also quite enthusiastic about my new role. I knew some of what I was going to be doing just from having observed so much in the past, but there’s really no way to know what you’re getting into until you’re already waist deep in it. While I was busy thinking about what Simple team building exercises I wanted to conduct and how I could open the lines of communication within the department, some of the unexpected aspects of my job were lurking just beyond my vision.
One of the problems we always had back then was the fact that the Technical Service Department was in the Facilities Division. It was always a challenge for the Entertainment Division not to have control of the Technical Services Department. They were happy about the promotion because I was considered to be one of them with a strong entertainment background, and they believed it would put their division in more direct control of the department.
The second thing I did was have my office moved outside of the tunnel and over to a spotlight booth at the Contemporary Hotel (which itself is a long story, so I won’t be getting into it here) where I didn’t have to listen to “It’s a Small World After All” all day long on an endless loop. My new job also entitled me to have a secretary, so I arranged to get one as soon as I could. The new office, as I mentioned, was a spotlight booth in the “Ballroom of the Americas,” located in the Contemporary Hotel. The reason for this was that the spotlight booths were poorly designed, with the spotlight openings placed inexplicably at the ceiling level. This meant that the spotlight couldn’t hit the stage or front of the room, nor could it hit the sides of the room for that matter. Its shortcomings made for the perfect office space. There were four booths in total. One of them housed my office, another the night auditor for the hotel, and the other two we used for sound and lighting control. It was far from ideal, but it did the job back then. At the very least, it far and away better than a musical tunnel.
I got a pass to be able to park in the back of the Magic Kingdom so I could attend the 8:00 AM meetings with the Facilities Division and make my rounds to meet with my team at the various live venues throughout the park. Technical Services (as I have probably mentioned earlier) was responsible for providing lighting, sound reinforcement, and were the operators for all live venues in the park and resorts. It also was required to provide all staging, lighting, sound, and operators for all in house meetings and special events held in the park and golf courses, as well as the resort division, campgrounds, and the Disney film library that the guests could rent from when staying at one of the Disney properties, all duties I loved performing and felt I was performing admirably, as well as others in the Entertainment & Facilities Division. As I had mentioned many times before, I was required to attend the Facility Division heads of departments every weekday morning at 8:00 AM, still to discuss the day’s activities and goals. I got along with everyone quite well with the exception of the Superintendent of Animatronics, who we will call “Mr Wonderful” for this chapter (I can’t remember his actual name anyway, so it’s necessary). He was always trying to get my department to hand over our Pargo (an electric vehicle) that we used to move performers, operators, and equipment throughout the tunnel during the days and evenings. Hardly a week went by where he wasn’t asking Neil to take the vehicle away from us and hand it over to his department. Neil always told him he wouldn’t do it. I have to give “Mr Wonderful” credit, as he never gave up trying to get his hands on that thing. He was nothing if not persistent. But Neil always denied him because he understood we needed the vehicle more than Animatronics did—we did far more work that required frequent transportation in our department.
As you can imagine, this went on for months between us. Then one day Neil Gallenger got promoted up the line and “Mr Wonderful” was the next employee to be the Manager of All Departments. You may not be shocked to learn this, but one of the first things he wanted was my department’s Pargo. Perhaps he felt that his new position and sense of authority entitled him to whatever he wanted from the rest of us. But I wasn’t intimidated, and quickly came up with a plan of my own. I told him I didn’t know where it was at the moment but would get him the keys the next morning. He probably figured that I was stalling and went out searching for it by himself anyway. His thinking, I imagine, was that if he found it he could simply lay claim to it and deprive my department of it for good.
Fortunately, after hearing that “Mr Wonderful” was going to be the new boss, I instantly got hold of my guy I referred to as “Fast Eddie” and had him and his team get a truck and remove it from the tunnel ASAP, which they did. They had it out within an hour of the request. Then we arranged to take it to the Disney Shop late in the evening and build a crate for it. We marked the crate “Staging Equipment” and took it to the Shader Brothers Warehouse for storage, where it sat for almost two years collecting dust until Disney’s new warehouses where completed. I can remember the great joy I felt when I handed the keys to AH and told him I still didn’t know where it was. I also told him that we would keep looking for him but by all accounts and appearances, it just seemed to disappear. My hat went off to all involved, as everyone was sworn to secrecy and maintained the crate fabrication and its location for years. In its own weird way, our hoodwink were sort of exercises for team building! We were so careful that there was absolutely no paper trail on it, and I’m confident that had a serious search been conducted it still wouldn’t have been found. I realize now it was like cutting my nose off to spite my face, but I was damn sure not going to give it to the Animatronics Department. We had to do without it ourselves, of course, but later we did end up getting another one. Perhaps it wasn’t the most professional thing to do, messing around with a co-worker like that, but at the time I thought it was needed to keep him in check. I had no desire to deny my department something that was vital to their duties just because “Mr Wonderful” snapped his fingers and said I should.
The next chapter will discuss the ultimate marriage of the Technical Service Department and the Entertainment Division, and all the changes that were brought about.