Growing up in Disneyland by Ron DeFore
Publisher: Waldorf Publishing (July 15, 2019) | 348 pages | ISBN: 1643166263
Category: Memoir, Disneyland, Entertainer Biographies, Coming of Age
Tour dates: Oct-Nov, 2019
Growing up in Disneyland by Ron DeForePart biography about TV and movie star, Don DeFore, and his son’s accounts of life in a celebrity family and beyond. Don DeFore made more than 35 movies in the ‘40s through the ‘60s and co-starred in more than a dozen. He is best known for his role as “Thorny” the first next-door-neighbor on “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” and “Mr.B” in the 1960s TV sitcom, “Hazel.” The book includes much of Don’s unpublished autobiography, ‘Hollywood-DeFore ‘n After.’
‘Growing up in Disneyland’ is a metaphor for Ron’s life growing up in a celebrity family filled with Fantasyland adventures he equates to a Forest Gump type life, from meeting the Beatles, Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin, and other celebrities as Associate Director of the Steve Allen Show. His nearly 20 careers include a mid-life crisis as the Flying DJ at an L.A. discotheque to political positions within the Reagan Presidential Administration to establishing his own company. ‘Growing up in Disneyland’ is also to be taken literally, as Ron spent much of his youth in Disneyland where his father owned “Don DeFore’s Silver Banjo Barbecue” restaurant in Frontierland. Ron and his brother, Dave, have given presentations to various Disneyland interest groups after which many attendees suggested, you should write a book.
‘Growing up in Disneyland’ will be enjoyed by any age group from baby-boomers that remember Don DeFore’s many beloved acting roles to those that don’t but are curious how life was in the good-old-days, especially growing up in a Hollywood celebrity family. Ron has had so many careers and adventures along the way that readers will have much to keep them from putting the book down.
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REVIEW by LAWonder10:
Son of celebrated actor, Don De Fore, Ron delights readers with his memoirs, He relays a portion of his life as Don De Fore's son. Unlike many celebrity's children, he and his siblings felt very loved and an important part of their dad's life.
He makes a brief introductory to his mother, a former singer, and his siblings.
The majority of his book is taken from his father's, unpublished, autobiography. Both his and his father's memoirs are written in an entertaining way, with a whole chapter of photographs.
Many reader's are not aware of the many "Stars" he worked and co-starred with. Many more will be surprised what part in politics he played.
Don De Fore was one of "Hollywood's Greats" and who better to share him with readers, than his own son?
Ron' s writing style is very impressive. Often memoirs tend to ramble on but this one, mostly, retains his/her interest.
*I offer a Four and a Half Stars for this non-fiction story.
*Although this book was gifted me, there was no pressure for a possitive review. This is my honest review.
Praise Growing up in Disneyland by Ron DeFore“I enjoyed the flow of the book and how the author kept the momentum going, allowed the reader to adjust and then took them on a journey where they experienced the larger than life personality of Don DeFore. The language was simple yet encouraging. Ron DeFore draws the reader in and once they have entered the colorful world of the DeFore family, they won’t want to leave. Incredibly vivid and entertaining!” – Rabia Tanveer for Readers’ Favorite
“I found the life and works of both author Ron DeFore and his father Don to be a truly fascinating tale of legacy, the surreal nature of fame and the bubble-like existence which that kind of family life brings with it. Ron writes with a candid nature and kind words, recalling many adventures with a nostalgic tone that is sure to hit the hearts of those who were living during the time of the Beatles and the Beach Boys, to name but a few. For me, it was a glimpse into a past I’d no experience of, and the recollections by both Don and Ron brought everything to life with fascinating detail and authentic voices. I learned an awful lot during this heartfelt tale, and I would certainly recommend ‘Growing Up in Disneyland’ to readers who remember the fifties, but also those who would like a true portrait of Hollywood lives at the time.”-K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite
“A must Read Biography of a Film Star and Television Icon. A fascinating read to hear his story from the viewpoint of his son, Ron who experienced every kid’s dream/ a wonderful childhood who had a golden pass to Disneyland”-Rick Lertzman, Amazon Review
This is not a book all about Disneyland. It is more of a metaphor for my entire life beginning with growing up in a “Hollywood” celebrity family and into adult life filled with countless jaw-dropping experiences and career changes I equate to the life of Forest Gump. However, the title is a double entendre–it is to be taken literally as Dad was the only person to ever own a concession inside Disneyland bearing the name of a real person, “Don DeFore’s Silver Banjo” barbecue restaurant in Frontierland from 1957 to 1961 (see Chapter 32, “Gee Do We Have to Go to Disneyland, Again?”)
Don DeFore, was a well-known celebrity in the 1940s through the 1980s, a beloved actor of his time, along with Ozzie, Harriet, David and Ricky Nelson, Hugh Beaumont and Barbara Billingsley (“Leave it to Beaver”), Robert Young and Jane Wyatt (“Father Knows Best”), Shirley Booth and many others, because they were America’s first TV families when television was in its infancy. TV was a small box with black and white images that offered up good, wholesome entertainment that post-World War II families savored.
So, my book is a combination autobiography and biography of my celebrity father and yet it’s also his autobiography because for the first time his unpublished memoirs are here for his many fans to enjoy. We start with one of Dad’s better-known roles as “Mr. B” in the 1960s TV series, “Hazel.”
The chemistry between Dad and Shirley Booth (as Hazel) was magical. It wasn’t just good acting—you could feel the chemistry—something very rare in any production. I got to be in the first episode of “Hazel” playing the part of one of “Harold’s” friends all decked out in football gear—no speaking, just a lot of cheering. Some of my friends got to join me, including one of Dick Van Dyke’s sons, Barry. So that’s what they call being an “extra” and for that day’s work we got what all extras got: $36. A few years prior, my brother, sisters and I also were extras on the “Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.” As brother Dave reminds me, we each got $20.
Being in the first episode of my father’s own TV series was an important event in my life for a number of reasons. I learned a number of things that would be helpful later in my own TV production career. First, it can take several hours to film 20 seconds of what you see on the screen; some actors learn their lines before shooting the scene and some do not. Dad did; Shirley, not always. I learned how they can fake a shot. One of the scenes I watched them film was a character kicking a football clear across the field into somebody’s chimney. Well, the actor really didn’t have to do that—it was done later with special effects.
I also got to be at work with my father for a day, something not all kids have the opportunity to do. I got to know the assistant director and second assistant director, both of whom would later be my supervisors at Paramount Television—Herb Wallerstein and Bob Rosenbaum. They were some of the best bosses I ever had. Besides being vice president of Paramount TV production, Herb directed several episodes of “Star Trek” and “Happy Days.”
The role of “Mr. B” lasted four seasons, from 1961 to 1965. In Dad’s contract for the last season, his agent was able to negotiate a ten percent participation of the ’65 season for which the estate still receives royalties. However, beginning with the fifth season, NBC sold the show to CBS and presumably, as part of a cost-cutting move, the network switched the format eliminating the roles played by Dad and Whitney Blake as Mrs. Baxter. History has shown, and many comments on my Don DeFore Fan Club Facebook group have proven, removing them
from the show was not such a wise move. As proof, “Hazel” lasted for only one more season with the new cast as ratings plummeted.
Speaking of “Hazel” royalties, I was contacted in January of 2018 by a film production company preparing to produce a documentary about the late singer and actress, Whitney Houston. There have been a number of Houston documentaries produced, this was the 2018 production directed by Oscar-winning director, Kevin Macdonald. They wanted to license the use of about twenty seconds of a “Hazel” scene with Dad and Whitney Blake. What the heck would that have to do with Whitney Houston? It turns out her parents named her after Whitney Blake! Talk about out of left field! Sure, just make the check out to the DeFore Family Trust. Thanks Dad!
About Ron DeFore
Ron DeFore is the second son of movie, television and Broadway star, Don DeFore. He has one brother, David and three sisters, Penny, Dawn, and Autumn.
He has had nearly 20 careers from TV and film production, real estate, Disc Jockey, senior executive in the Reagan Administration, to forming his own successful public relations firm in Washington, D.C.
Ron has since retired from his firm and continues to consult and write, “Growing up in Disneyland” being his major project since 2018. Ron is married to Laurie Gambino
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