The Mousekeeters are finally coming home for a grand reunion to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the show’s debut episode and the 90th birthday of Mickey Mouse himself. Featuring cast from all seven seasons of the Mickey Mouse Club, #MMC30 is organized and produced by alumni Dale Godboldo, who is behind the Always In The Club Foundation, and Chasen Hampton in support of Give Kids The World Village, and onePULSE Foundation. Hosted by Joey Fatone, the event is happening on May 18-19 at Walt Disney World® Resort in Orlando, FL.
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down for a series of interviews with some of the Mousekeeters who are going to be part of the event, one of whom is Tony Lucca who won third place in the second season of The Voice. He is currently making waves in Nashville as both a singer and songwriter.
Tell us the story of how you became a MMC member.
You know, it’s kind of a funny story that’s been told numerous times by now, I’m sure, but I had gotten a call about an audition for Newsies—when Disney was casting for that musical, Newsies, that they did. I was like, “Could be kind of cool.” I wasn’t in theater. I wasn’t in film and television at all. I was in a garage band up in Detroit. So I went to go in for the audition and they didn’t have me on their roll call. They just weren’t expecting me and they said, “You might be here for the Mickey Mouse Club.” I said, “I’m not here for the Mickey Mouse Club, I can promise you that.”
“Meanwhile, you’re not really what we’re looking for right now. We’re casting for other underaged kids and you don’t really quite fit the description.” Wow. Ouch. Well, okay. Then I was like, “Let’s go.” My Mom said, “Well, we should at least check in with the Mouse Club people and see if they are expecting you, out of respect. So we went and sure enough, they were expecting me and I was like, “Okay, well fine. I’m not going in and I’m not doing it. I’m not going to audition for the Mouse Club.” It was my sister, who was there, who was like, “Come on, don’t”—I think her words were—“don’t be a jerk.” I was like, “I want to be a jerk. I don’t want to audition to this.” But I went in for the audition and met Matt Casella who I’m sure everyone’s kinda mentioned.
Matt is just—my God, what an eye, huh? He really saw us and talent. I was just so happy and honored to have been one of the kids in his path. But it’s funny because I remember standing there. I was chewing gum and he puts me on camera and said, “Just state your name and where you’re from and okay, we’re going to shoot you so can you spit your gum out?” And I said, “No, I’m good.” He thought that was the funniest thing. The really last one, he goes, “Let me get this straight. You’ve done absolutely nothing before this, right?” And I’m like, “Well, no, I’m in a band and that’s it.” But then I spent the next 40 minutes in his casting room there with him and he was basically spelling out what the show looks like and what it’s like, that’s something you want to do. At the callback the next day, they sent me out to that audition camp that year, which was basically—they call it an audition camp—very kid-friendly.
But really, it was a major studio executive callback. I went out there, kind of thinking like I already had the part based on the way he was describing it. And then I got out there and everyone was freaking out and hoping that they get the part. What I realized was, “Okay, this is it. This is game time, man.” So yeah, that was it. That was when I joined the cast of Season 4.
What was one of the most important lessons that you got from that experience that helped you get to where you are today?
All of this is vivid technicolor in hindsight, but we realized that we had a pretty legit work ethic coming into this. We all were very enthusiastic about getting after the work to the tune of it not even being regarded as work, really. It was just get to go to work. You know, we were all excited to go to work and when we got there it was just a really wonderful spirit of competition that wasn’t your average competition. It wasn’t like some athletic realm of competition, but it was like we really did enjoy watching each other grow and encouraging each other.
And you know, my God, I can’t tell you how awesome it would be to be in a dance number that Britney was in because I knew I could ask her, “How does it go?” Knowing who you could go to and lean on for certain things and when you could lift somebody up. And again, the older we get and the more you’re going to see life beyond our little sandbox there, you really start to see that, like that was something really wonderful and truly unique. And I think that’s what it has galvanized our bonds all these years. It’s no surprise to me that Dale [Godboldo] and Chasen [Hampton] have seen so much for doing this, like serendipity in putting this whole event together because they’ve earned it. We’ve all sort of earned it. And by that, I mean like we were made for this and were qualified to do this and we’re capable of it. And it’s been really awesome watching it all come together. I’m so proud of them and had been as available to them as I can be for input and insight and help.
Tell us what you’re doing as an entrepreneur or business person today.
I had definitely always grown up with the dream of making music, of making records, and this quickly became an obvious path, a potential path, on the heels of the show. I dabbled with the acting thing for a while just because some of those opportunities opened up a bit sooner, but that wasn’t what brought me. The music was definitely what got me in the door and that was where my passion always resided.
But yeah, I think for me, it’s very simple. It was just the fans and the fan base. These days, in the music industry, I’ve got all these friends and people that I know that are trying to get started and starting a mailing list or starting to try and book shows. They want to go into it, but they don’t have any tour experience. It’s a little easier now with the Internet to make fans outside of your little neck of the woods. But man, even with those tools that are available now, I can’t fathom ever trying to have created a national fan base from scratch. I had a tremendous leg up and did everything I could there. Find those people, let them know I’m out there, that I’m making music, and find the chat rooms and seeing them back on AOL and Earthlink and Webcrawler and all this stuff before Google and Facebook and Myspace—you know, really trying to find these people and make that connection, preserve that connection, and to this day, cherish it. I am one of the fortunate ones that left the show and went on to make a full-blown, full-time career of making music. I know without a doubt that would not have been possible without the love and encouragement and support of the fans that I made 28 years ago.
What would you say to an aspiring entrepreneur to become successful in today’s age of tech and media? Please share tips.
I started doing some more public speaking and getting into that realm. It was kind of crossing over and it started a movement called Be What You Do, the business of being what you do. I have been in the business of Tony Lucca for 30 years and, like you said, that is it as entrepreneurs and that’s what it’s all about. I talk a lot about fulfillment and you what it takes to find it and, and what it takes to maintain it and let it drive your every decision as you go on.
I think as far as advice—this is something that I have given to a lot of people—when I look back on my career, it’s not like I would just give people the advice, “Well, this is working for me.” You can get a whole lot bigger and larger and more esteemed than myself, you know? But when I looked back and take a bat, the things that maybe I could have done differently, that’s the advice I try to give to people and say, “You know, I think the one thing I might have suffered from early on was affording myself a sufficient amount of accountability and finding a lot of entrepreneurs referred to it as finding a mentor or mentorship or a team of mentors and you really can’t put a price tag on having a respectable presence of a team member or someone in your corner and that you trust and that you respect, that wants you to succeed, that has your best interests at heart, but who’s also not a ‘yes man’ and that they’re going to tell you what’s up.
You know, I was always afraid to co-write and let other people produce my records early on and my ego made it clear that I didn’t need that. But in truth, my ego was scared shitless and it was like I was just really insecure, and I didn’t want anyone to get that close for fear that they may say my songs kind of sucked and that they need to be rewritten or that I should scrap them altogether. I couldn’t afford that kind of rejection and I think that’s why I didn’t work out so well in acting, you know, because it’s just like a pummeling of rejection on a daily basis. I got to write something or record something so I have something to show for my efforts and that’s how that all kind of came about. But definitely I would say you’re finding a trustworthy source of accountability for what you’re doing and a sounding board, someone who maybe is a little further down the road.
Why is it important for you to participate in the MMC reunion event? Why would someone want to attend as a guest?
Obviously again, the fans. They get back to the fans and say ‘thank you, guys’ and let them realize we’re so grateful that you made our lives possible. I mean, me specifically has been putting food on my table for 30 years. This is a big deal for me and I want to express that gratitude to them. But realistically, we’re close, we get to have more emails and Facebook messaging threads where everyone’s talking and communicating more and more. I’m just really excited to see everybody. I went to my 20-year high school class reunion kicking and screaming and I kind of had to drag me there, but it tends to be pretty cool. This is just the opposite. I feel like a little kid again.
I am really excited to try to catch up with everybody as much as possible. And, I think, if you’re a fan and you have been on the show and you’re going to see it, it’s going to be emotional. I can’t imagine it won’t be emotional, just a beautiful gathering of us all and to watch us genuinely—it won’t be acting when you get there. You know, us, as actors, even though we put ourselves on the show, it was our job to come out and say, “Hey, Welcome to Mickey Mouse Club. I’m Tony Lucca…” and then those are my lines. It was simple enough to say it, but when you come to this, we won’t be acting. We’re going to be genuinely in tears hugging and embracing each other and celebrating what we all shared in common. I wouldn’t miss that, if I was a fan. There’s no way I’d miss that. I’m not going to miss it. I am a fan.
Outside the world of Disney and the MMC, who is the one person you’d like to meet someday? You never know who might be seeing this!
Wow, that’s a big one, man. I don’t know. It would be kind of cool to shake hands with an Elon Musk type, Jack White type, you know, like Willy Wonka types—these guys that everyone’s just, I don’t know. I mean, people that just fascinate and really dabbling in the realm of ‘what if’ and ‘why not.’ And I think that that was part of who Walt Disney was, you know? And the whole concept of the imagineer is just such a cool, cool notion man. So, I would have to either say Elon Musk and Jack White.