Legacy Content

Legendary Golden Horseshoe Performer Fulton Burley Passes Away

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Fulton Burley, the wisecracking Irish tenor who entertained millions of Disneyland guests for 25 years as the popular star and master of ceremonies at the long-running Golden Horseshoe Revue, passed away on Monday May 7th at Sunrise Assisted Living at La Costa in Carlsbad, California. The cause of death was heart failure. He was 84 years old. Burley also provided the voice of the Irish parrot, Michael, for the Enchanted Tiki Room attraction at Disneyland, and toured the country on numerous occasions hosting live shows to promote theatrical reissues of such popular Disney films as “The Jungle Book,? and “Cinderella.? He was honored as a “Disney Legend? in a special ceremony at the Studio in 1995.

Commenting on Burley’s passing, Wally Boag, Burley’s longtime Golden Horseshow partner, said, “Working with Fulton was a joy; it was never work for us. We loved what we were doing and we genuinely enjoyed performing for the guests. I loved his humor and it was always fun to be on stage with him. Every time you passed his dressing room, you would hear laughter going on. He was always pulling a good gag, and he was popular with everyone. I’ll miss him and cherish the wonderful times we had together.?

Marty Sklar, executive vice president and Imagineering Ambassador, said, “Fulton was more fun to be around than an Irish jig. With his leprechaun smile, he was the perfect foil for Wally Boag’s humor. And he could really belt out the ballads!?

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Burley was working at the Hacienda Hotel in Las Vegas in 1962 when he got a call from Boag inviting him to join the Golden Horseshoe Revue. He remained one of the stars of that popular show until it ended its run on October 12th, 1986. It ran five times a day, 52 weeks a year. The show marked many milestones and was even included in the 1979 Guinness Book of World Records as “the longest running production in show business with over 42,000 performances before a total of nearly 9 million people.? Walt Disney himself was a big fan of the Revue.

Born in Toronto, Ontario, Burley was raised in Windsor, Ontario. At age seven, he was singing in church weddings, and by age 14, he was performing three mornings a week before school on the radio in Windsor. This led to a singing role with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra.

He came to the United States in 1943 after auditioning – by telephone – for the singing lead in Billy Rose’s “Diamond Horseshoe Revue? in New York City. While still appearing in the show, he was spotted by scouts from MGM Studios and put under contract. At the Studio, he met fellow contract player Wally Boag (who would go on to become his stage partner at the Golden Horseshoe Revue), and appeared with him in the 1945 film, “The Thrill of Romance.? Burley also appeared as a supporting actor in such films as “Without Love? and “Homecoming.?

During World War II, Burley was a member of the 40th Special Services Division and traveled to China, Burma, and India under the command of Melvyn Douglas. He spent several years after the war touring the States with various musical productions. It was during this period, that he had a chance to develop his instincts for light comedy, and built an almost legendary repertoire and variety of jokes.

Burley’s beloved wife of 62 years, Terry (the first female AFL-CIO delegate to represent I.A.T.S.E and the Motion Picture Machine Operators), passed away on January 3rd, 2007. He is survived by his sister, Betty Doggrell of Scarborough, Ontario, and two great nieces: Terri Mettie of Palm Springs, California, and Cheryl Hanson of San Diego, California.

Burley was cremated and his ashes will be interred at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to WAIF (World Adoption International Fund). Plans for a life celebration will be announced shortly.

-- Posted May 11, 2007