All photographs © Mel Birnkrant. Some of the images © the Walt Disney Company
It is Thursday evening, November fifteenth, 1973. From 6 to 8 o’clock, you are warmly invited to a Party-preview of Bamberger’s 6th Annual Holiday Exhibit: “A UNIQUE COLLECTION OF ORIGINAL MICKEY MOUSE TREASURES” on view for the very first time in a specially created Mickey Mouse-eum, on the fifth floor of Bamberger’s Newark.
The show is about to begin. My family and I got there early, so we could look around, and I could attempt to take some photos, before the crowd arrived. Now everything is ready, and in just a few minutes the red ribbon will be cut, officially opening the exhibition to the public.
Meanwhile, we were already inside. Here are Eunice, Samantha, and Alexandra, chatting with Bamberger’s art director. There was a palpable aura of Excitement and Magic in the air. Everything was pristine clean and glistening. Lights were twinkling and reflecting off the polished surfaces of a plethora of Plexiglas, much of which, in six short weeks, would belong to me. I was walking on air, quite literally. I remenber speculating: This must be happiness.
By the time the red ribbon was cut and the show began, I was already tired of taking photographs, but I managed to click the shutter a few more times. Nonetheless, most of the photos of this event were shot by Bamberger's official photographer, in high resolution black and white. The one below is my favorite, Toots and I, sitting together on the edge of Mickey and Minnie. What a lovely memory!
This was, clearly, Alexandra’s night. Wherever there was a camera, she was frolicking, and having the time of her young life. Here she is, shaking paws with Pluto!
Dancing with Goofy!
And hanging out with Mickey Mouse.
Toots was Master of the House, and she knew it. Here, is "Miss Congeniality," sharing her celebrity, and showing the other kids around.
There was an official Disney artist, drawing portraits of Bambi. What was that all about?
One of the highlights of the evening, was being interviewed for TV by the late Joel Segal. Joel had been the author of an impressive early article about Mickey, and he understood what he was seeing. In fact, he had requested the assignment specifically. The interview was painfully embarrassing. With cameras rolling, the first thing he asked me was, “Which of these Mickey Mouse items are you the most proud to have collected?” Oy, I blurted out, “I never thought of it as proud, a grown man obsessed with Mickey Mouse? I always found the fact that I collected Mickey, more than a little bit embarrassing. Joel cracked up. That was not the sort of answer he was expecting. Of course, I had to take his photograph. Here he is kindly posing, beside another frame that I finagled. This one contains the complete set of Mickey Mouse gum cards.
Here are Eunice and I together. She is looking rather ravishing, and I am simply looking weird. This is, clearly, not my best angle, and the haircut, or lack of one, isn’t helping any.
This is a more flattering shot of both of us.
Eunice was pleased to be among the audience at a Mickey Mouse Club Matinee.
As this Preview Party comes to an end, let me introduce you to Clarence, a man who became my new best friend. We hung out together, while I was setting up the show. During that time, I did my best to make a Mouseketeer of him, and indoctrinate him into the cult of Mickey. As I went home this evening, after all the celebrating was over, he promised me that, for the next six weeks, he would protect my treasures with his life, if need be. Of course, this was 1973, so that was unlikely to be necessary, even in riotous Newark, New Jersey. Nonetheless, I slept better throughout the Christmas Season, knowing that my Collection would be safe. And, thanks to this courageous hero, safe, is what it proved to be!
Well. That’s it, folks, all the photos of the show, save for this final one of Alexandra, who managed to be the life of the party.
When the MICKEY MOUSE-EUM opened to the public, officially, which was on the following day, It generated a lot of publicity. Articles appeared in all the papers. I managed to collect a bunch of these, many of which I seem to have misplaced. Nonetheless, some interesting ones remain, and appear on the next page.