Thursday, March 20, 2008

First Dollar

I had a post all set to go for today and then realized the date. I would be negligent if I did not address an anniversary happening today. Redd Rockett's Pizza Port opened ten years ago this morning, March 21, 1998, at 11 AM. I remember, because I was there! I had gone to the Cast Blast in February, where previews of the New Tomorrowland were offered. Pizza Port really caught my attention there because of its location-specific packaging. (This was at a time when the Park was undergoing homogenization, as with distinctive merchandise being replaced by plush EVERYWHERE.)

(I apologize for the low-resolution of these photos. Some are screen captures from video, some are scans of photographs I borrowed in 1999 and didn't scan properly, and others are my own photographs which are not immediately accessible to me.)

On Sunday, March 15, the restaurant had a Cast Member preview. Thanks to some CM friends, I was able to sample some of the food:


I knew a soft opening was planned for the following Saturday and showed up about half an hour before the restaurant was scheduled to open. There were some management types talking, but I really should have just slept for thirty more minutes!

At about 11 AM, they selected a small child to be the first Guest in the restaurant. This offended me greatly, but what could I do? I took small comfort in the fact that Disneyland is a place for families to have fun together, etc., and here I was as an individual. It must have been at a couple minutes past eleven that they took down the barrier:

Having already been inside the restaurant the previous month for Cast Blast, I knew my way around. The salads seemed convenient; I picked up a Celestial Caesar Salad. I then picked up a Coke and looked around. "Can I help you?" a cashier inquired. I guess so! I forget how much my meal came to (I had the receipt in my backpack for months afterwards but believe I have lost it forever), but it was a little under $10. I tried to pay with a $10 bill, but they wanted a dollar bill too--and luckily I had one! It was at this point I realized at 11:05 AM I had become the restaurant's "first dollar." I got my picture with restaurant manager Rona Kay, who to my knowledge is still at the Resort:

Note how the lights in the background blur to form a Hidden Mickey! I have no idea how that happened. The dollar was framed and hung in the manager's office and is likely still there. This is the first Guest and family with her brand-new Opening Cast T-shirt:

I didn't know that that Guest had gotten a T-shirt at the time, but I certainly would have wanted one! The next weekend I did find this information out through the grapevine. I sort-of knew a Cast Member who worked there and I inquired... Rona soon came out with both a license plate frame AND the shirt! I still wear the shirt frequently--and always when I eat at R2P2 on its birthday. I ate there every March 21 from 1998 through 2005 (and many, many more times in between), but my distance of several thousand miles the past several years have kept me from celebrating the anniversary at the restaurant. So, if anybody reading this visits the Park today, raise a glass (cup) at Pizza Port for me!

4 comments:

David M. said...

Ms. Kay is the Manager of the Disneyland Hotel.

Major Pepperidge said...

I eat at this restaurant every time I go to Disneyland (for one of several meals, of course). There's a chicken alfredo dish that is the cat's meow!

Vintage Disneyland Tickets said...

WOW Jason, Super second post! First Dollar, you Lucky dog!!! Interesting how the open date is the same as the "conversion" date of the name to "Mission to Mars".

This used to be my favorite restaurant at DL, but the last couple of years the quality has gotten mixed. The pizza has a funky taste and the pasta isn't always fresh, In fact, It started to go downhill in 2006, I think you need to COME BACK!!!!

Eric Scales said...

We eat there just about every trip and always get the Chicken Fussili- which is why I can't stand it any more. Still, it's a nice alternative to burgers, not that I want an alternative. I do have some unused food packaging from there though, because you're right, they were pretty cool.