Monday, September 09, 2019

Cap'n Mike, 1977

You don't have to tell me, I already know - you have been hankerin' for more photos from the Mysterious Benefactor! Ol' Major Pepperidge is nothing if not generous, brilliant, and humble, so I will make your MB dreams come true. 

(Note: about a month ago, TokyoMagic and Mike Cozart informed me that the genial gentleman in today's photos was Mike O'Brien, a beloved cast member for many years).

Among the hundreds of scans are quite a few featuring a gentleman ("Mike") who looks like he came directly from Central Casting. "Thelma Lou, we are looking for a man to portray a riverboat captain. He should be between 50 and 65, with a cheerful disposition, but he should exude a quiet authority".

Mike knew every inch of the Rivers of America, even if it jumped its banks and change course overnight! Treacherous snags and sand bars didn't bother him. Boiler explosions? Don't make him laugh. Why, he could navigate the entire route using only his sense of smell.

These slides were pretty dark, so it might be hard for you to see how much Mike resembles Alan Hale Jr., aka the Skipper from "Gilligan's Isle". Suddenly I wish I wore a red string tie every day.

I would love to know Cap'n Mike's story... how long did he work at the park? There are photos of him aboard the Columbia as well, so he could pilot any vessel, probably. He'd ring the bell, and blow the whistle, and spit tobakky juice with deadly aim. 

Cap'n Mike loved to meet the guests, and regale them with stories of his years on the river. The guests smile and nod, and wonder if he realizes that he works at a theme park. 

Don't be sad, you'll be seeing more of Cap'n Mike real soon.


Nanook said...


Some lovely shots of the 'ol Captain - especially that first one. (And not a single drop of Fantasmic! to spoil the show, neither-!) Just as it should be.

Thanks, Major & MB!

TokyoMagic! said...

I don't know if Mike Cozart or I mentioned this in your last "Captain Mike" post, but in a 1977 article, it stated that he had already worked at the park for 17 years. However, I'm not sure when he left Disneyland. The article also stated that he lived aboard his own boat, the "Bora Bora Belle," which he kept docked in Dana Point Harbor.

Andrew said...

Looks like a REAL "character" of Disneyland! ;)

Melissa said...

Any day now they'll be making a Cap'n Mike movie, with Cap'n Mike's face digitally mapped onto Andy Serkis's face. Then, they can insert a Cap'n Mike figure into every room in it's a small world for the interactive Find Cap'n Mike Adventure smartphone app. The lyrics to that tired, outdated old song will be updated to, "There's so much that we share, that it's time we're aware, you can find Cap'n Mike everywhere!" Because as Walt Disney said, "The best thing about a great song is that it's never finished being written, and there's no such thing as a bad lyric."

Anonymous said...

I work in an elementary school, which is very much like working in a theme park...without all the fun bits, of course. However, I don't have a riverboat nor a river to steer it. So, I seriously doubt that there will ever be a blog post about "Cap'n Stu." I'm at peace with that.

"Lou and Sue" said...

Cap'n Mike had a great job, during the best Disneyland years, too! I can only imagine all the interesting people he met during his travels. Does anyone know if he wrote a book? I'll have to do a little searching on the internet . . .

Thank you, MB and "generous, brilliant and humble" Major!


"Lou and Sue" said...

Cap'n Stu, if you send the Major some of your in-action pictures at work, I bet he WOULD make a post about you! Maybe a bring-your-fellow-gorillas-to-work day post. And I'd love to see it!


Stefano said...

If Disney had decided to remake "Show Boat" at this time, Mike O'Brien would have made a perfect Cap'n Andy, as good casting as Charles Winninger in the 1936 version, and Joe E. Brown in the '51 remake. The Mark Twain was ready for its close up as the title vessel; the Rivers of America area was just as good as any movie backlot for the settings.

And give Marge Champion a cameo: she danced in the 1951 version and just turned 100, and famously was the model for the animated Snow White and Blue Fairy.

Anonymous said...

What Stefano Said.

Melissa, please, don't commit those thoughts to writing. Someone at Disney may read them, and it would be all over.

Thanks Major. I don't remember Cap'n Mike, but from the sounds of it, he was the Captain for more than one of my river trips. Your description of his skill set is straight out of "Life on the Mississippi", which I am sure is intentional.


Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, you take that back - Fantasmic! is the greatest thing to ever exist.

TokyoMagic!, I don’t think you mentioned Captain Mike’s “Bora Bora” boat. That guy was living the dream! Man, if he started in 1960, I can’t help wondering if Walt noticed him?

Penna. Andrew, yes, it’s like he was already a steamboat captain, and then got a job at Disneyland.

Melissa, they should do a whole planet of Captain Mikes; a post-apocalyptic world where the few remaining people struggle to survive as they clash with whole tribes of Captain Mikes.

Stu29573, ha ha, all we need is some pictures of you wearing a little hat while you’re aboard a boat, and we can cook up something for you!

Lou and Sue, it does seem like Cap’n Mike was doing what he loved, and presumably getting paid enough to actually live a good life. I’ve always believed that all of those adult men that used to work the Autopia probably owned little Orange County homes. I’d love to read a biography of Mike O’Brian!

Lou and Sue, ha, that’s pretty much what I said to him!!

Stefano, I saw a production of “Show Boat” in Chicago many years ago, with Eddie Bracken as Captain Andy. Since I’m not a huge musical theater guy, it was a fun thing to do. And yes, I recently saw a photo of Marge Champion at 100; if you’d told me that she was 70 I would have believed it. She looks amazing!

Major Pepperidge said...

JG, trust me, I’m wondering if Captain Mike actually piloted the boats, or if he was more of an ambassador - greeting the guests, taking photos, and generally adding to the atmosphere?

Anonymous said...

Coming in late here being away on a trip. Yes folks, Capt. O'Brien was a real CM who played the role of the Captain of the River to perfection. He kept a tight ship but was a softie inside. Those of us who worked with him remember him to this day. KS

Jeff said...

I met captain Mike in 1977, shortly after these pictures were taken. We became good friends and I ended up taking his spot on "The Mark" as we called it when he retired around 1980. He had a very interesting life: A tennis Pro, Expert skier, he was on the U.S. Olympics team one year if I remember correctly although can't remember which event(s). He was a tennis instructor to many Movie Stars of the 40's and it did not take much prodding to get him to wax nostalgic about playing tennis with "Hollywood's Royalty". He was also a master sailor and kept his "little ship", Bora Bora Belle in ship shape and Bristol fashion at all times.

He did write two books that I know of, the first- "Club 55" was written in 1975. I was commissioned by the park and was a kind of "year book" (Mike hated that term") that featured a biographical sketch of each cast member who had worked at the park in 1955 and was still employed. There were 100 members at the time, the book had 200 pages and featured a photo of each CM. His second book was never published. It was the story of a sea captain who left the seafaring life to become a frontiersman in the 1700's. The book was several hundred pages long and Mike tried for many years to find a publisher to take it on, but to no avail.

Captain Mike was a legend at the park, and he taught me so much about sailing,seafaring lore, and life in general. He was annoying & gruff at times, but he loved the park and was very knowledgeable in all aspects of the park's "river operations". I was proud to call him my friend.

Major Pepperidge said...

Thank you for your great comment, Jeff!