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Growing Up in Disneyland Paperback – July 15, 2019

4.4 out of 5 stars 142 ratings

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Editorial Reviews


5 Star Rating:If you are curious about life in Hollywood, if you're curious about the American institution known around the world as Disneyland,and if you're fond of history behind the headlines, you should read Growing Up in Disneyland by Ron DeFore. I'm sure you will find it just as fascinating as I did. I found it so fascinating because I remember Ozzie and Harriet and the next-door neighbor "Thorny." I was a kid, so I never knew who played that role, never even cared. It was just funny. The same thing with the character of "Mr.B" from Hazel; I was too young and too busy laughing to know who he was. It is good to find the behind the scenes details of someone who simply added joy to my young life. It feels good. Those shows are golden classics now and I date myself by saying I remember them, but I loved those shows.

Growing Up in Disneyland is well written. It is organized in a way that helps the story simply tell itself. The writing is good but in no way pretentious. I enjoyed the inside view of a life and family that seem magical to the rest of the world. There are names from recent history here like Ronald Reagan and Norma Jean Baker, even the Beatles. It must have been great to grow up surrounded by so much talent and beauty. To grow up surrounded by people doing so many great things. Ron gives us an inside view into a life that is destined for a lucky few. To grow up in Disneyland must be a great thing. I liked this book a lot. It shed light on people and places I will never experience. I'm glad Ron took the time to share it with us.
- Ray Simmons for Readers' Favorite

5 Star Rating: Growing Up In Disneyland is a work of biographical non-fiction penned by Ron DeFore, which tells the tale of his father Don DeFore as well as his own experiences growing up in a famous family. Don was a very well known star during the 1950s and 1960s for his work on stage, screen and television, and his son transcribes and reprints many extracts from his father's own unpublished autobiographical work. For Ron, the book's title comes from his own experiences at his father's barbeque restaurant in Disneyland, and how his own rise to notoriety and adventure started because of the influence of the DeFore name.

I found the life and works of both author Ron DeFore and his father Don to be a truly fascinating tale of legacy, the surreal nature of fame and the bubble-like existence which that kind of family life brings with it. Ron writes with a candid nature and kind words, recalling many adventures with a nostalgic tone that is sure to hit the hearts of those who were living during the time of the Beatles and the Beach Boys, to name but a few. For me, it was a glimpse into a past I'd no experience of, and the recollections by both Don and Ron brought everything to life with fascinating detail and authentic voices. I learned an awful lot during this heartfelt tale, and I would certainly recommend Growing Up in Disneyland to readers who remember the fifties, but also those who would like a true portrait of Hollywood lives at the time.
-K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

5 Star Rating: Growing Up in Disneyland is a wonderful biographical tribute to Broadway, movie and television star Don DeFore by his loving son, Ron DeFore. The biography is divided into six parts. Part I deals with the identity of Don DeFore, from his modest origins back in Cedar Rapids, Iowa to his arrival in Los Angeles. It recaps his various acting credits, both in movies and in television during the Warner studio heyday and when television was still in its infancy. Arguably, DeFore's most well-known roles were in The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and his co-starring role in Hazel, with Shirley Booth in the 1960s. Part II is a short chapter on his mother, former singer Marion Holmes. Part III recounts with fondness the author's days growing up in Hollywood - on Mandeville Lane in Brentwood in a sprawling house built by his father, to be exact. Celebrity neighbors included Dick Van Dyke, Carl and Rob Reiner, Lorne Greene, Richard Widmark, Steve McQueen and Esther Williams (whose home was later purchased by Mark Harmon). Part IV is about growing up in Disneyland, quite literally, from age seven to twelve. Don DeFore had the auspicious honor of owning a restaurant in Disneyland, thanks to his friendship with Walt Disney. There are several more parts to DeFore's biography as well.

Clearly, Ron DeFore had a great childhood growing up as one of five siblings to a famous father. They had certain perks that most kids can only dream about -visits to the studio to watch Jerry Lewis filming Cinderfella and enjoying employee access to Disneyland and riding all of the rides (without having to wait) as well as "test driving" the new ones and playing harmless pranks on park guests when they least expected it. And while Don DeFore's celebrity gave his family access to TV interviews and the meeting of influential people, just like any child that eventually grows up, the author had to carve his own way in the world and on his own terms, with the love and support of his parents - not something every child can boast as having. Growing Up in Disneyland includes excerpts from Don DeFore's own memoirs which he'd finished shortly before his death in 1993 and also includes some wonderful pictures that will raise the nostalgia quotient among fans of a certain vintage. Regardless of the reader's age, Growing Up in Disneyland is a great tribute to a wonderful actor and devoted husband and father and also offers us a fascinating glimpse into what was clearly a privileged childhood.
-Marta Tandori for Readers' Favorite

5 Star Rating:
Growing Up in Disneyland is a wonderful read. It can be considered a double book with a unique aim. When Ron DeFore decided to write his autobiography, he chose to include also excerpts from his father's unpublished memoirs. DeFore's father was actor Don DeFore, a well-known figure who starred in two popular sitcoms in the fifties and sixties. Both father and son are great storytellers. Their narrative comprises extraordinary events,meetings with legendary movie stars, politics, and the recollections of Ron's"20 careers." However, it is Disneyland, where the DeFores owned a restaurant,that is the primary inspiration of this book. Growing Up in Disneyland has the charm of a real fairy tale.

Growing Up in Disneyland is an enjoyable cross-section of American television and society at large. It is a pity that Don DeFore's memoirs have not been published before, but this book does them justice at last. Don DeFore's humor colors his portrayal of what it meant to be an actor in the early years of television. His anecdotes, featuring movie stars such as Bette Davis and Marilyn Monroe among others, are delightful to read. As for Ron DeFore, he is equally praiseworthy. He has been able to interpret Disneyland both as a physical place and as the symbol of his unique experiences as the child of a star. His account is as lively as his father's, and his recollections of politics and careers positively broaden the range of topics. Growing Up in Disneyland is the right book for every reader who likes to be entertained with vibrant stories. 
- Astrid Iustulin for Readers'Favorite

5 Star Rating:For the person who has never been to Disneyland and has wanted to go there,Growing Up in Disneyland by Ron DeFore gives insight into the wonderland ofdreams. This unique biography is a great book for baby boomers, especiallythose who enjoyed Don DeFore's acting and his stage presence. Ron DeFore, theauthor of the book, is his son and he shares some of his best memories of hisfather and the days of his own youth. Ron shares his instances of living in acelebrity family where he was part of a lively crowd. There was never a dullmoment in his life, especially if that moment included his father who seemed tocheer up any situation. Throughout the book, the author shares little anecdotesof his past where he met some amazing celebrities that we would love to seelive.

What really stood out to me in this book was the retelling of his days inDisneyland where his father owned a restaurant. Since he spent many years ofhis youth at Disneyland, Ron DeFore had some very interesting stories andmemories to share from when he and his brother used to give presentationsthere. I enjoyed the flow of the book, I enjoyed how the author kept themomentum going, allowed the reader to adjust and then took them on a journeywhere they experienced the larger than life personality of Don DeFore. Thelanguage was simple yet encouraging. Ron DeFore draws the reader in and oncethey have entered the colorful world of the DeFore family, they won't want toleave. Incredibly vivid and entertaining!
-Rabia Tanveer for Readers' Favorite

From the Author

I never thought I'd write a book.  Although I became an accomplished writer and editor through my career in public relations, writing a book was just not on my bucket list.  After twenty years of my brother David and I giving presentations to various Disney enthusiast groups including two at D23 (the bi-annual ABC-TV/Disney convention in Anaheim. CA) the number of people saying, "You should write a book" reached critical mass.I had titled our Disneyland presentations, "Growing up in Disneyland" because it was all about my Dad's restaurant in Frontierland, "Don DeFore's Silver Banjo Barbecue."  We would begin with "Who was Don DeFore?" to put everything into context. "The Banjo" was the only concession in the Park to ever display the name of a real living person.  This is because Dad was very good friends with Walt Disney.  My book goes through the history of their friendship which started when Dad was president of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and sold the first national broadcast of the Emmy Awards Show to NBC.  Walt wanted to meet the guy that was able to pull that off.  My book goes well beyond what we've squeezed into our 45 minute presentations.It was while I was on my semi-regular two-mile walk in the fall of 2017 that the decision to write a book came to me like a bolt of lighting and now being retired I would have the time to do so.  The book would be about Dad's major accomplishments and my amazing life growing up around that and my own amazing career path.What's truly inexplicable is that I was a at least a month into researching Dad's various acting roles when I realized I had his entire autobiography on my computer.  Duh!  Why try to tell his part of the story when I could use Dad's own words?  So the first part of the book is mostly his recollections and the remainder is my perspective growing up and moving through some twenty quite different careers and experiences.
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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Waldorf Publishing (July 15, 2019)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 348 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1643166263
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1643166261
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 13.8 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5 x 0.81 x 8 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.4 out of 5 stars 142 ratings

About the author

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Ron DeFore is the second son of movie, television and Broadway star, Don DeFore. Don DeFore co-starred in more than 35 feature films and is perhaps best known for his TV role as “Thorny” in "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" and his co-starring role as “Mr. B” in the 1960s TV hit series, "Hazel." His mother was also an entertainer in the late 1930s and early ‘40s as the lead vocalist with the Henry Busse Orchestra as well as Art Kassel and His Kassels in the Air orchestra. She recorded with both and with the later made "I’m a Little Teapot" famous. Ron has a brother, David, and three sisters, Penny, Dawn, and Autumn. His upbringing in Brentwood, just outside of Hollywood—surrounded by celebrities—made for a life full of amazing experiences including having a father who owned a restaurant in Disneyland, "Don DeFore’s Silver Banjo Barbecue" restaurant in Frontierland. Ron’s exciting brushes with history continued all the way to his semi-retirement.

Ron DeFore’s life experiences and many careers were wide-ranging: television and film production; music coordinator, senior executive positions in the federal government; and co-owner of a successful public relations firm in Washington, D.C. Ron’s entertainment industry and political credits include Associate Director of the Steve Allen Show, Associate Producer of KTLA-TV’s first public service talk show, “The Gallery,” the Los Angeles TV station’s Public Service Director and Assistant On-Air Promotion Director. In the early 1970s he worked at Paramount Television as a Production Coordinator supporting several shows including "Happy Days," "Little House on the Prairie," "Mannix," "The Odd Couple," and various movies of the week. He then went to Billy Jack Productions working directly for Tom Laughlin who not only played the role of Billy Jack, but was also its writer, producer, director, and distributor.

His mid-life crisis came early in his mid-20s when he decided to stop climbing ladders in the TV and film business and returned to his true love: music. At the height of the disco craze, DeFore became the “Flying DJ” at Dillon’s discotheque in Los Angeles. He spun records at several other clubs including the famous Studio 54 in New York City, wrote a weekly top ten disco column for the Los Angeles Times, and by the late 1970s was hired as “the best DJ in the U.S” to open “Whispers,” Australia’s largest entertainment center at the time. He met his wife, Laurie, while under contract to Sitmar Cruises; she was a passenger, he was the DJ.

Ron prides himself in his ability to morph into a variety of careers. After getting married he decided to take life a tad more seriously taking on a federal government position—Manager of the Los Angeles Area office of the Peace Corps. Ron’s family ties to then President Ronald Reagan led to several political positions; the first being promoted to the Peace Corps’ Press Officer and Acting Director of Public Affairs in Washington, D.C. He held two other senior executive political appointments: Director of Public and Consumer Affairs for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the Department of Transportation.

After leaving the Reagan Administration, Ron joined a public relations firm as senior vice president specializing in transportation, energy, and environmental issues, and media relations. By 1995 he and two colleagues formed their own firm, Stratacomm, which quickly gained national recognition and had one of the largest automotive PR practices in the U.S. Many of their media accomplishments were rare in the industry including several positive front-page headlines in USA Today and press conferences carried live on CNN-TV. In 2004 they sold part of the firm to a multi-national communications company. Ron has since retired from his firm and continues to consult and write. “Growing up in Disneyland” being his major project since 2018. Ron is married to Laurie Gambino and has a daughter, Brittany, and son, John. Brittany and her husband, Jeff, gave Ron his greatest gift of all in 2009: granddaughter Jayden and as an added bonus to the publication of his book, a grandson due August, 2019.

Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5
142 global ratings

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Top reviews from other countries

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, A Fun Book
Reviewed in Canada 🇨🇦 on January 19, 2021
wil o the wisp
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read, one that all can enjoy..R.I.P Don DeFore, thank you Ron
Reviewed in Canada 🇨🇦 on May 28, 2020