Then: Amateur talent contest champion Bobby Burgess (seen waving at the top of this group photo) first auditioned for The Mickey Mouse Club serial Spin and Marty, but found a better fit as one of the Mouseketeers’ greatest dancers. The gig thrilled the 13-year-old from Long Beach. I was so happy to have a job where I was just dancing my head off,” Bobby recalls. “You see me the first year, I’m this wild, jitterbugging, extremely nerdy kind of guy. That’s because I was just so happy to be there.” As part of the Red Team — the elite group of featured Mouseketeers who appeared in the program’s opening Roll Call — he often teamed with Sharon for some truly outstanding dance numbers. As second-year Mouseketeer Jay-Jay Solari would later tell OriginalMMC.com, “Watching Bobby Burgess dance was fantastic; it was like watching Gene Nelson or Fred Astaire. He was much older than the rest of us, and he effortlessly learned the routines, helped the younger kids get their act together.”
Now: Bobby moved back to Long Beach upon the show’s end and finished out school at Long Beach Polytechnic High. He went on to Cal State Long Beach and dated his first dance partner, Barbara Boylan, with whom he’d performed during a Mickey Mouse Club Talent Round Up segment. He studied drama and pledged the Sigma Pi fraternity, but quit school before graduating when he landed a regular spot on The Lawrence Welk Show. He and Boylan entered a dance contest to win a chance to appear on Welk, and viewers loved them so much they stayed on the program as partners for six years. Even after Boylan left, Bobby stayed, featured with a revolving set of partners all the way until the show ended in 1982. He’s still nine units short of his degree, but he now runs his own ballroom dance classes for kids through Burgess Cotillion in Long Beach.
For more on the Mouseketeers’ lives on The Mickey Mouse Club and beyond, check out my book Why? Because We Still Like You.