While he joined Disneyland's publicity staff in 1963, Ridgway's connection to the theme park goes back to before its 1955 opening. As a reporter for the "Los Angeles Mirror-News," he frequently covered the park in its early years. A newspaperman at heart, he had a difficult time deciding whether to move to the other side of the desk and accept the Disneyland publicity position. Ridgway's journeyman writing and reporting skills helped him relate to the reporters and media reps he encountered through the years--and helped him craft a beguiling chronicle of his adventures.
In the days before computers, fax machines, copy machines, and satellite uplinks, Ridgway got the word out about Disneyland the old fashioned way: by building person-to-person relationships with media folks. He traveled around the country, as well as the world, meeting with reporters and sharing the latest news from the Disney parks. Ridgway shares some great stories about the ingenious publicity stunts he helped concoct. He also discusses the huge press events he helped pioneer, which brought hordes of media reps to the parks.
He blew Disney's cover
The narrative gets a bit choppy as Ridgway moves back and forth in time and occasionally repeats himself. And it would have been nice if the avid photographer included more photos from his personal collection. But these are petty annoyances. "Spinning Disney's World" will enthrall anyone who wants a front-row seat to the inner workings of Disney's publicity machine.
At Disneyland's 50th anniversary celebration, I saw Ridgway, camera in hand, snapping photos of the VIPs coming down the red carpet. I thought that he belonged among the VIPs, but it was somehow fitting that Ridgway, who has the honor of his own window on the Magic Kingdom's Main Street as well as the recognition of the Disney company as a "Disney Legend," would prefer his everyman reporter role.