On a bright sunny mid-December morning in 2015 the Hollywood Museum was all a bustle and bustled from floor to ceiling with garlands galore; courtesy of museum founder Donelle Dadigan and Steve Nickelmore.
Gathered together were state and city officials, TV and Movie actors from Mr. Belvedere, Austin & Ally, and E.T. (not Jaws); in hopes of each celebrity acting as Dolores Mission School students’ very own personal Santa Claus.
With speeches in waiting and a plethora of advice to spare; all were in great anticipation that said bevy of lucky 6th to 8th graders soon would be there!
Dolores Mission School students were nestled all snug in their buses amidst fumes and exhaust; and the ceremony would start just a trifle bit late as one such vehicle got lost!
But no, no they were on a field trip not playing hooky; and this is a good thing as, amidst all the pine fronds were quite the plethora of cookies!
In the mix, Tom Labonge, Dee Wallace and L.A.’s future mayor. (But no. No we did not need a time machine for such a projection, as Labonge’s prescience alone was quite enough to persevere.)
The speeches were all rousing, inspiring and given with good cheer from those comedic as a whip and sly as a fox; depending on each subject’s stature however, there may or may not have been use of an apple box.
The tall ones spoke at the podium proper, on various and sundry a matter; those shorter, on the apple box rather than ladder (as a prophylactic from falling down in such clatter!)
With a select number of teddy bears from Miss Wallace and gift bags galore; children’s enthusiasm could be felt from the first to fifth floor! (and the Hollywood Museum doesn’t even have a fifth floor so that’s really saying something!!!)
Proclamations were read by City Representatives Dan Halden, Ben Pak, and Tom Labonge with vast care; exhibiting elocution skills mirrored by constituent participation partaken with great flair!
With enough kids to make-up several casts of the Brady Bunch; it was then on to a full tour of the Hollywood Museum, and subsequent to that, Mel’s Diner next door for lunch!
“I’ve created this little bear to teach children to love themselves and feel good about themselves and I think that’s the most important thing we can do in the world for our children right now, teach them how to look in the mirror and go, ‘Aren’t I wonderful?’” affirmed Dee Wallace, everybody’s favorite movie mom from E.T. to Cujo. “Bullying leads to terrorism and we’ve got to start with our children. We’ve been taught that it’s self centered to do that, and I think it’s self centered not to embrace how wonderful you are!”
“[My favorite part of today is] sharing this amazing museum during the holiday time with a bunch of kids who probably didn’t know it was here and for them to be a part of the greater community,” declared one of my favorite sitcom moms from the 80’s Ilene Graff otherwise known as Marsha Owens from ABC’s Mr. Belvedere.
Chris Trousdale of the early 2000s boy band Dream Street and the aptly British-voiced Rupert on the Disney channel’s Austin & Ally had similar sentiments: “Oh my gosh, the kids! I mean to be able to talk to the kids, be here to support [them] and have the best day ever… Especially ‘cause I’m sure they’ve seen me on Disney Channel. They’re going to be a little excited, and I’m going to be just as excited to talk to them and make their day and make their day special!”
“I’m a mom so any time there’s something with kids involved, I’m here right away,” declared mother of six, and TV’s original Tabitha of the magical show Bewitched Erin Murphy. “I love everything about this. I love the idea about the kids coming to Hollywood for the first time. Then you hear about some of our shows that they might not have grown up watching. We’re just kind of going to say a few motivational words, not necessarily about acting, just about life in general, and then have them tour around The Hollywood Museum and then go out to a nice lunch. And it’s a great day…it’s the holidays and I’m really glad that they’re doing things like this!”
As far as motivational musings, TV’s original bad girl Alison Arngrim aka Nellie Oleson of Little House on the Prairie had her very own short speech planned considering the following, “Everything has changed [since I’ve been a child]. In fact that’s when they said, ‘What would you tell them?’ I’m going to talk about…how to deal with change and adapt to our changing society and changing technology. The speed with which everything has changed just in the time I’ve been alive has been insane! It’s like…I dozed off and woke up, and I’m in some weird sci-fi movie of the future. Where did all this stuff come from? And it’s only gonna go faster… I know people who went to school for a job and by the time they graduated, the job didn’t exist! I mean, what happened if you went to school a few years ago to be a journalist for a newspaper—like a print one—oh well, I mean like ‘whoosh’! I have a friend, a projectionist in France. He’s kept up with [the technology] because…it changed from being projectionist to, ‘put in the DVD’ and now you get on the phone and ask them which thing you’re downloading!”
The remainder of inspiring celebrity topics was left to suspense until the beginning of the ceremony pre-museum tour for which museum founder Donelle Dadigan had a most rousing and comedic introduction:
“I stand on an apple box behind the podium but when you’re in your own house you can have your own rules. So any of you folk that are on the shorter side, you’re welcome to share my box, right here. There wasn’t a double meaning there. But anyway, I thank you all for coming this morning. It’s really exciting to, once again, host a field trip of all the kids from the 6th 7th and 8th grades from Dolores Mission School. You all represent our futures and we are thrilled! And in case you didn’t know that, you are in the presence of many more school teachers than you think.”
When asked how many teachers were I the room, many raised their hands including Ilene Graff, Dee Wallace and a state official or two!
Political speeches commenced with city council deputy of district CD 13 Dan Halden, from esteemed councilman Mitch O’Farrell’s office:
“I want you all to give yourselves a round of applause, because I think it was a Hollywood writer who said, ‘At least half of success or ninety percent of success is just showing up.’ So thank for being here… Hollywood is a really special place. If Hollywood was the universe, the bright star at the center of the universe would be the Hollywood Museum and Donelle Dadigan because of what she does for the community, and I think it sets a really, really, really good example… I’m very lucky to be here and represent councilman Mitch O’Farrell… I’m sorry he couldn’t be here today… When you go around the museum today you’re going to see some amazing things and I hope that you really soak it all up and get inspired because the people that you see, their portraits, the things that you’re going to learn about, those are people just like you… They had dreams, they had aspirations; the most important thing is they worked really hard. They worked hard in school. They gave back to the community… Maybe this is the beginning of your Hollywood story, whether you’re on the silver screen, or the TV screen or you’re on the walk of fame or something, each and every one of you is a star! Today you’re a Hollywood star so I really want you to know that. ..and as my good friend Tom Labonge has said many times, ‘You are all truly angels in the city of angels!’”
In the interim, there were also rousing speeches from Ben Pak from Senator Kevin DeLeon’s office and Franklin Ochoa from Dolores Mission School’s very own district CD 14, but Tom Labonge aka “Mister Los Angeles” was a force to be reckoned with after having sussed out the next mayor of L.A. upon arrival!
“First I want to introduce the next Mayor of Los Angeles in 2031! Where’s Miss Morales…? When you all walked in this morning, she came right up to me, put her hand out; shook my hand. She’s got all that energy, all that kindness and she’s gonna be a leader!”
Labonge would go on to give the entire room a lesson in history and civics!
“You know how this city of Los Angeles was founded…? You know where people came from when they walked to Los Angeles–where they started from? It’s a mission. Not Dolores Mission. San Gabriel Mission. “ Labonge would echo as Miss Morales answered. “See that’s why she should be mayor. She knows all the answers. It’s San Gabriel Mission. It was 44 people, 11 families that walked from San Gabriel mission along Valley Blvd…and they stopped at the river before it was concrete, and they stopped at the river because there’s only two things you need in life. You need water to nourish the body and cleanse your soul, and you need relationships, and here today is a relationship that’s ongoing between the Hollywood Museum and Dolores Mission!”
Also stressing the importance of team work, after having called up another one of L.A.’s future finest, by way of its next City Attorney (and at the current age of 14, sporting a 6’ 1” frame, a basketball and future football player to boot!)
“All sports are very important. Team work is very important okay? I think I’m going maybe out of bounds here, but there’s a guy running for president who’s from New York named Trump who I don’t particularly like. But when I was analyzing him and the things that he said, I think he never was on a team… Team work is so important for all of us, in a classroom whether we’re in a dance group, whether we’re in a glee club, whether we’re on a sports team… So congratulations Mister City Attorney!”
Before Labonge’s speech drew to a close, he would feel compelled to select a city controller. “We need someone who balances the dollars and cents, ‘cause you only have so many budget dollars. Who’s the smartest in math…?” The title would go to the youngest on the panel; a sixth grader by the name of Mr. Cortez!
Before leaving everyone to the festivities, Mr. Labonge also offered to help sign everyone up for a library card “’Cause a library is a place that you can learn so much…” and attempt to fashion a subsequent Dolores Mission School field trip, but not before uttering some additional and inspirational words, “Take a chance. Jump in the pool. Swim. You’re gonna make it. ‘Cause that’s the key. And in our city, we have many opportunities to help in neighborhoods and I know all your schools do community projects to help the neighborhoods which are so important and something to be proud of!”
From here on out child stars, former child stars, and TV/movie moms alike had all manner of inspiring to entertaining advice to impart, starting with former Mouseketeer, founder of A Minor Consideration (L.A.’s prime support group for child stars and former child stars alike) founder, and most famously Jeff on The Donna Reed Show, Paul Petersen. “I’ll share with you briefly: I had an amazing young life. Being on a television show was fun. Then you get a bill. For the advice I have to impart today, since I remember every field trip I took when I was in regular school… From the Carnation Factory to the La Brea Tar Pits… [My advice is this:] You were born with two ears and one tongue, so you should listen twice as much as you talk.”
Romi Dames aka Tracy Van Horn of Hannah Montana had this to impart: “We were asked to give one piece of advice to everybody and [mine] is never stop doing things that scare you. One of the things that scares me is singing in public. It totally freaks me out, and so I decided to take classes from my friend and television star Ilene Graff… I also think it’s very important to always study. So even at my age now, I’m 36, I always take classes and I always do things that scare me!”
Alison Arngrim would continue her musings pertaining to perpetual change and technology as per her erstwhile preview: “I got my first job at 6, and by 12 I was on a television series and actually famous as the most hated person on Television. It’s a heck of a job. So I’ve had a very interesting life… [That said] don’t be afraid of change. I’ve learned that the only thing constant in the world is change and what you’re getting is a great education and the most important thing they say is ‘Keep learning.’ I’m 53 and I can’t count how many times I’ve gone back to school and signed up for classes… When I think of how society has changed and technology has changed just in the time I’ve been alive, it’s mind boggling… In five years your lives and you will have changed so much it will be unrecognizable. Not only are you going to change drastically ‘cause you’re young and in five years you’ll be different people, but the world and technology and everything as we know it will change completely in 5 years, 10 it’ll be completely mind blowing! You have to adapt to the change. It’s the biggest obstacle I see for people my age in show business…”
TV’s original Tabitha from Bewitched, Erin Murphy had some sage observations regarding attitude: “I started acting very young…when I was 11 months old. I did commercials before I was on Bewitched. One of the first commercials I did was with someone who used to be an actor named Ronald Regan. He went on to be president but then I went on to do that show Bewitched. You may have seen it. I know we filmed it back in the sixties and seventies. It’s still on TV, if you can find it. It ran for 8 seasons. I am the mother of six children, so I will probably give you guys the same advice that I give my kids. And it’s that you can’t control how other people act. I mean your parents might be having a bad day, maybe your teacher’s a little grouchy or your friends aren’t happy, but you can totally control how you react and you can choose to be happy. So it’s kind of all about perspective and kind of seeing the best in everything and as far as the best of everything…
Murphy would then go on to make a magical recommendation pertaining to the perusal of the museum itself: “This…is my absolute favorite place in Hollywood…and I want each of you guys while you’re looking around today to pick out your very favorite thing in the Hollywood Museum and my favorite thing by far is the Ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz. They’re here and when I saw them I was like ‘Oh my God the Ruby slippers!’”
A surprise appearance reared its fascinating head with the later arrival of little Howie Borden from The Bob Newhart Show, John Denver’s son Adam from the movie Oh God!, now TV director Moosie Drier: “Hello younger people. (laughter) I figured you wouldn’t recognize me for obvious reasons but I was an actor. I started when I was five years old, and I did a bunch of stuff when I was a kid. I enjoyed my life and I ended up deciding that I would rather direct. So I chased my dream… The first show I directed was called Kids Incorporated…and I directed Fergie, Mario Lopez, and Jennifer Love Hewitt…and the one thing those three had in common is that they always had a back-up plan. I know…you’re going to hear a lot of this ‘Stay in School’…You know you’re going to have an education, you’ll have something to fall back on but also don’t give up on your Hollywood dream, or if you to be an athlete… And lastly what I wanted to say is—I have a ten year old and he’s heard this a lot. This has nothing to do with industry or anything…but anything I want to say to a younger generation is just be kind, be loving, be respectful. You’ll have a better life… I mean it and happy holidays for whatever you celebrate!”
Chris Trousdale of the boy band Dream Street and Austin & Ally had this to say: “I started off like most of everybody up here at a very young age but when I was 9 or 10 I remember being in Michigan, not in L.A. or New York but in the middle of America…loving movies, loving acting and wanting to do it so bad but thinking ‘I’m in the middle of America how am I gonna do that? And so my advice to you…is that you can do anything that you want to that you set your mind to… I don’t care if it’s your mom and dad saying you can’t. You can’t unless it’s a bad thing… ‘Cause I know I dragged my parents to New York City to audition for the Broadway show Les Miserables and moved there when I was ten and I begged my parents to do what I do and just never ever stop believing in yourself!”
The youngest member of the panel was a very precocious Hunter Payton. Best known for his work on A to Z and the eagerly awaited Who’s Driving Doug, he couldn’t have been more inspiring and adorable: “What I honestly have to say is that–you’ve probably heard this a lot–but that is to stay positive! You need to because it’s hard following your dreams and doing what you want to do. But life can always be worse. If things knock you down, remember that you should always stay positive!”
TV’s favorite Mom Ilene Graff would echo Payton’s childlike enthusiasm in her own way: “Advice: Everybody tells you the same thing ‘cause everybody’s right: Stay in school, work hard have a dream, follow your dream, it’s all true. My advice is maybe a little bit different: You’re a kid. Don’t be afraid to be a kid. Don’t be afraid to have fun. Don’t be afraid to be silly and giggle and laugh and roll around on the floor and act goofy and make silly faces and sing out loud at the top of your lungs! We need that in our world and we want that from you. We have so much time in our lives to be serious and to be facing all of these big things… Be a kid. Have fun, because we get so much energy from you when you do that… So, be a kid when you have the opportunity to be a kid, especially during this wonderful holiday season. We send you all our love for a great holiday!”
On that note, on the way to Ms. Wallace’s magnificent teddy bears Paul Petersen could only echo: “It was fun to be a kid. It’s also fun being old!”
During the course of the ceremony’s ultimate, most moving, speech, Dee Wallace would call all the sixth grade girls up to the stage and offer each one her new furry toy!!! “How many of you have seen E.T.? (clapping massive) Beautiful. Well you know the story of E.T. is really about getting back home, and being true to yourself and not giving up on your dream. But I think the core of what everyone has said up here today is what’s most important to me and my life and in my teaching. I used to be a school teacher… You have to love who you are. And my advice to you would be every morning when you get up, before you even get out of bed, you say, ‘My choice today is to love myself. What can I do today to love who I am even more?’… You can choose to be happy, and then you can choose to have fun, and then you can choose to work hard and then you can choose to pursue your dreams, but if you don’t love who you are and value who you are all those things are harder for you to do. Unlike everybody else on this stage, I didn’t get started until I was 27!” (‘Slacker’, quips a male actor.)
“I was raised in Kansas City Kansas… I come from a very, very poor family. My mom was working way before working moms even existed I think. My father was a severe alcoholic who ended up committing suicide. Fortunately I had a grandma who was strong enough to take care of me and a mother who would trade her services to get me dance lessons and from the time I was born, I wanted to dance and perform and act and teach and so I want you to know when you look around today at all these big stars a lot of them started in very poor homes with not a lot of encouragement probably saying ‘Oh my gosh, how can my dream be reality starting where I am right now?’ But you know, I just never thought I couldn’t… So… I wrote a letter to the biggest producer on Broadway…and took this stupid cheesy picture of me…and mailed it to him and said, ‘I saw in the newspaper you wanted an unknown for your new play. Well I’m a new kid from Kansas, just think of all the great publicity you could get!’ I’m not kidding. You know three weeks later, his assistant called me to fly me to New York to audition for A Little Night Music. But you see I didn’t have the thought, ‘Oh I’m just a poor kid from Kansas, they’re not gonna pay any attention to me, ‘cause I’m telling you, if you’ve got the brains and you’ve got the talent, and you’ve got the stamina and you’ve got the passion, people listen. They just listen and they get it. So this is my newest passion, his name is Buppalapaloo, but you can call him Bubba because I’m quickly learning that I should have named him something simpler. (laughter all around) And what it does is it teaches all of us to love ourselves… So, you press the paw. ‘I can be anything I want to be.’ This paw you can record your own message to encourage yourself… We’re going to give one to each of the sixth grade girls here… And I want to encourage you to get up and you tell yourself and you write down, and you feel all the great stuff you want to say to yourself. Because, bottom line, you’re your greatest teacher, you’re your greatest cheerleader and you’re the one who’s going to create who you are!”
All in all a festive inspiring, light filled cookie filled day!
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