Monday, July 22, 2013

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror Turns 19!

If you don't know me that well this may seem kind of crazy, but today I am truly excited for the birthday of a Disney attraction.

Long before I was a jewelry designer, and before I was an account manager, copywriter, photographer, bookseller and a barista, I was a bellhop. I've had a lot of jobs over the past 15 years, but having the opportunity to work as an Attractions Hostess at (in my opinion) Walt Disney World's best-themed attraction tops them all.
My first visit in August 1994. Thank goodness I'm too small in this photo for you to see my awful haircut and fanny pack!
It all started back in the summer of 1994 when I rode the Tower of Terror as a guest for the first time. It opened on July 22, 1994, and I visited with my family shortly thereafter in August. While waiting in the atmospheric queue, I was pretty much petrified. I'd always had a deep sense of fear of roller coasters and heights but I was also a huge fan of the original Twilight Zone television series, so I forced myself put my fears aside in order to see the full 13-story attraction. I was not disappointed – the detail that went into building that attraction is absolutely mind blowing. And that stomach-dropping feeling was actually kind of fun after all! My fear quickly turned into an obsession and I rode 13 times (a nice, spooky, round number) during that first visit alone.

That's me paying a visit to Rod Serling and the Tower in 1997.
On subsequent visits, I nerdily made it my mission in life to memorize the entire script of the attraction – from the library to the unload area. I even recited it proudly to my beaming grandfather who was the initial inspiration for my Twilight Zone/Rod Serling fandom. And on a later visit, I placed a tape recorder next to one of the speakers in the queue in order to be able to listen to the 1939 soundtrack after returning home to suburban New Jersey. Yes, I'll admit it...I was completely enthralled with the place.

When the time came to go to college, I set my sights on applying for a Disney College Program internship and eagerly expressed my desire to work at the Tower of Terror to the recruiter. I knew it was a long shot since they have several much less desirable positions to fill in the parks, resorts and back offices (custodial or food service, anyone?). Much to my surprise and amazement, my Disney wish was granted and I was off to become a Tower bellhop in January of 1999! Getting that letter in the mail with my work assignment was one of the happiest moments of my teenage life.

My first day of training!

You know how sometimes your expectations and reality don't align? Well, in this case they actually aligned perfectly. In fact, working at the Tower of Terror was everything I'd thought it would be and more. Getting to learn the inner workings of the attraction itself and spend time behind-the-scenes was literally a dream come true. The bonus I hadn't expected was that I made amazing lifelong friends at the Hollywood Tower Hotel. I stayed a bit beyond my internship and returned the following summer to try my hand at some positions in other parks, but I always returned to pick up shifts at the Tower where it all began. If I could go back to work at the Tower, I would in a heartbeat. The Tower of Terror holds a special place in my heart and always will.

Me & my fellow College Program bellhops, spring semester 1999.
The crew, summer 1999 – post Gay Day event survival pic.
A bellhop outing to Beaches & Cream!

Happy birthday to the greatest attraction on Earth!

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