Lisa Whelchel beat out Courtney Love to become a member of the New Mickey Mouse Club
The course of grunge history might have been entirely different.
In an alternate dimension, grunge music is a lot cuddlier. Instead of fronting the band Hole, Courtney Love formed a twee group called Donut. Instead of wearing a torn and tattered baby doll dress, she sported round mouse ears. She had grown up a Mousketeer, after all, singing ditties like "Mousekadance Disco" and "It's A Small World" in the late 1970s as a member of the New Mickey Mouse Club. Her Disney days led to a role on a sitcom, playing a wealthy blonde in a boarding school. She had a friend named "Tootie." After the show wrapped, she rediscovered her passion for pop.
Of course, none of this happened in our world. Here, Courtney Love married Kurt Cobain and made provocative statements in the press.
But it might have gone much differently — if not for Lisa Whelchel.
You know Whelchel as Blair Warner, the spoiled rich Eastland student on The Facts of Life. You might also now know her as the host of our original series Collector's Call. But before all of that, in 1977, when she was 12, Lisa appeared as a cast member on The New Mickey Mouse Club. The syndicated Seventies revival often goes overlooked, sandwiched between the original Annette Funicello crew and the later Britney Spears-Ryan Gosling gang. But the show offered the same sing-along joys, albeit with a pronounced disco beat. The New Mouseketeers performed at the halftime show of Super Bowl XI.
When we recently had Lisa in the office, she played with a Lite Brite for one of our Nostalgia Trip videos. As the cameras rolled, the Texas native proceeded to tell the tale of how she became a Mousketeer. And that's where Courtney Love comes in.
"[Disney] did a nationwide talent search," Lisa explained. "And they had already done the search. I assumed they would come to Dallas, but they didn't." Still, she did not let the opportunity pass her by. She wrote and said her father would pay to fly her out to Los Angeles if they would just give a chance to audition. The producers told the Whelchels that they were already at the call-back stage, but allowed the two to come to California and try out.
As you know by now, she landed the part.
"I found out later that Courtney Love had made it to the call-backs and was going to be cast as a Mouseketeer," Whelchel told us. "But she found out some little kid from Texas flew in and got her part."
So, yeah, Courtney Love was slated to join the New Mickey Mouse Club. Basically, Lisa Whelchel altered the course of pop history in her tenacious pursuit of Disneydom.
Love tells it a slightly different way. "I tried out for the Mickey Mouse Club when I was 11," she said in The Independent. "But I read a Sylvia Plath poem… so that wasn’t really flying with Disney."
Which side to believe? As a famous song once said, "You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have…"