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Realityland's David Koenig

Disneyland Loses Its First Tour Guide

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Bill Skiles, the Skiles half of the musical comedy duo Skiles and Henderson, who got their start at Disneyland, including stints as the park’s first tour guides, passed away Monday at age 79.

Skiles continued performing up until last year, and—even in his late 70s—was as frenzied and funny as ever. During my two meetings with him and several phone calls, it was hard to get him to share a straight story, free of vocal tricks, sound effects, and general zaniness, though I tried (recounting his tour guide days at www.mouseplanet.com/7593/First_Tour and his Disneyland Doodlers days at www.mouseplanet.com/7617/The_Disneyland_Doodlers).

Back in 2005, a great hope of mine was that Disneyland would bring back Skiles and Henderson as part of their 50th anniversary festivities. Skiles loved the idea, but—in a rare moment of seriousness—admitted he held out little hope anyone left at Disney would remember or appreciate Skiles & Henderson’s huge impact on Disneyland history.

“Eisner came in and ‘DeWalted’ the company,” he said. “He dropped off the good people and—boom, boom, boom—brought in the Hollywood people.”

Seconds later, Skiles was back to cracking jokes, a clown to the end.

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