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That was Then

The Lost Story of Pleasure Island

In 1911, a Mississippi side-wheeler steamed into Lake Buena Vista and dropped anchor next to a low-lying hummock of saw grass.

The skipper was exultant. What Menlo Park was to Edison, what San Simeon would be to Hearst, this island would be to him. It would be a one-man, dominion-manufacturing center, research lab and development facility, a social nexus for the famous and well-to-do. In short, it would be a place to make his dreams come true. Crying "Fun for all, and all for fun!," this eccentric inventor, industrialist and bon vivant named Meriwether Adam Pleasure leapt ashore.

Pleasure had come to Florida to become the world's foremost supplier of sails. This seemingly hare-brained scheme, hatched at the end of the great era of merchant sailing, was in fact a gold mine. After four years of successful manufacturing, the outbreak of World War I brought a huge world demand for canvas, and Pleasure's fortune was assured.

Living on the boat with his wife, Isabella, his sons Stewart and Henry and his daughter, Merriam, Pleasure began to build his island empire. Cast iron, cement block and timber appearing on the island alerted the local populace (which at that time were simply a couple of alligators and a family of herons) not only that something was up on Pleasure Island but that something was going up. Buildings were built for the manufacture, assembly, and distribution of Pleasure Canvas and Sail making, Ltd's products.

First to dominate the Pleasure Island skyline were the imposing canvas fabrication plant (which became the home for "Mannequins") and the sail making factory, both constructed in 1912. They were followed in 1913 by the power station and the administration building (now known as the "Island Depot"), a wooden shack housing Pleasure Island's paymaster/accountant/bookkeeper who operated it as a telegraph office, mailroom, first aid station, and social center.

The low-lying buildings of Chandler Row were constructed as Pleasure extended his business to refurbishing the yachts of the rich and famous. Along the Row were a brass foundry, upholstery shop, tool crib, and graphics shop, all dedicated to the "Pleasure Principle" of lavish, unique yacht ornamentation.

The Pleasure family soon outgrew their showboat home. In 1918, they moved to a Bermuda-style mansion overlooking Lake Buena Vista (now known as the "Portobello Yacht Club"). However, Pleasure hadn't accounted for his own magpie impulses. Soon, the house was overflowing with booty collected from his exotic voyages. By 1920, the exasperated Mrs. Pleasure threatened to eject her husband from the house unless he found a place for the books and artifacts collected on his journeys.

Pleasure built himself a large library on the opposite side of the island. The place became the headquarters for "The Adventurer's Club," where Pleasure's zany band of yachting cronies and globe-trotting hangers-on swapped tall tales and displayed exotic souvenirs from their travels.

The boom of the 1920s brought prosperity and experimentation to Pleasure Island. A new canvas mill was built, the island was electrified and the former power station became home to the Pleasure Thespian Players (now, known as the "Comedy Warehouse"). In 1924, Pleasure sent to China for the world's leading fireworks expert, the Bang Master. Together they built fireworks in a combination laboratory/bunker until a stray spark from Pleasure's pipe leveled the place (it later became a barbeque restaurant known as the "Fireworks Factory").

So Meriwether quit smoking and turned to less combustible hobbies. By 1927, his collection of desert plants was in danger of overrunning the fragile Central Florida ecology. After a personal visit from the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture (who dubbed his host "The Grand Funmeister"), Pleasure built a greenhouse to contain his "prickly pals" from around the globe (this showcase became the country-western club called the "Neon Armadillo").

Meanwhile, Pleasure's sons were proving to be "chips off the old blockhead," as their mother often said. While "Awkward Stewart" Pleasure pursued the sporting life (when not nursing an injury), Henry, who was known as "The Mad Genius of Lake Buena Vista," began development of a Cellular Automaton, a sort of of computerized robot, inside the Artificial Intelligence Lab, built in 1929 (the automaton was still alive and thriving in 1987 and guided the rebuilding of its home into "Videopolis East").

Demand for the outfitting of luxury watercraft came to an abrupt end in 1929 with the catastrophic decline of the St. John's Aquifer. Meriwether immediately commissioned the J-Boat "Dominoe" and after formally turning over his business to his two sons, set off for a series of around-the-world adventures with his daughter, Merriam.

Between journeys, Pleasure returned to his beloved island and devoted himself to a quest for reusable energy. He was so convinced that "the Power of the Planet" could be harnessed that he converted his canvas-making factories to labyrinthine laboratories.

The mysterious Building X, which was part wind tunnel, part foundry, and part laboratory, was built in 1937 for constructing the "X-Thing," an experimental flying vessel that could harness the power of the wind. The first and only test flight on September 1, 1940 prompted Pleasure, the plane's pilot and sole passenger, to begin broadcasting to outer space from the roof of Building X. The message in Morse Code was "Welcome" (the building later became the "XZFR Rockin' Rollerdome").

In 1941, the Grand Funmeister's favorable fate reversed itself. While circumnavigating Antarctica, the Dominoe pitch poled in a savage summer storm. It was later reported that all aboard including Meriwether and Merriam Pleasure were lost at sea.

The Pleasure enterprises encountered smooth sailing in the wake of the founder's death. Sail making and chandlery continued into the 1950s, augmented by a flying boat service. But by 1955, Pleasure's heirs were bankrupt. The final blow was inflicted by Hurricane Connie, which rendered the buildings un-sellable and their contents strewn across Lake Buena Vista by the winds of change (it was that same hurricane that created "Typhoon Lagoon" and a crate from the Fireworks Factory is in that location).

The once-bustling harbor community became a ghost town. But in 1987, Disney Imagineers discovered the island among the acres of Walt Disney World resort property. Some buildings were renovated and some were reopened. Pleasure Island became a nighttime hot spot with seven nightclubs, 12 shops, and a 10-screen movie theater.

Over 75 years had passed since Meriwether Adam Pleasure and "America's First Family of Fun" came ashore at Pleasure Island when the renovated nightspot opened, but according to the Disney Imagineers, "Along the streets of this reawakened Island you can sometimes catch a glimpse of a portly, but strangely ethereal man, dressed in a yachting cap and natty plus-fours. Or perhaps you'll be sitting in a restaurant booth or a cozy corner of a nightclub when you hear a voice murmur quietly, 'Fun for all—and all for fun!' "

Even this storyline couldn't include everything. "Superstar Studios" was originally "Mrs. Pleasure's Music Parlor" and the home to her gargantuan collection of 78 rpm Italian opera records. "Suspended Animation" was established in 1924 as "Navigational Pleasure Graphics Ltd." where R. North Camilpoter hand painted the bows of yachts that Pleasure refurbished. There are many more stories about the island left to tell, but sadly time has run out.     -"Fun for all, and all for fun!"

Goodbye Meriwether Adam Pleasure, Goodbye Pleasure Island and Thank You.

         
Above are a few of the eye catching decorations at Pleasure Island. (L) the entry archways with the crystal glass tubes filled with bubbling water that would change colors and the Moon man toppers. On the (R) the huge Jessica Rabbit sign that many people remember as one of the icons of PI

Pleasure Island's Jammed Packed Street, where it's New Year's Every Night, at least it was.
 
   
 Top (L) The Original Pleasure Island Stage  Top two (R) The Partially Enclosed WestEnd Stage was home to the Pleasure Island Dancers and many bands including the Popular Frankie and the WestEnd Boys (below) Frankie was a character, wasn't he?
 
 
The Comedy Warehouse
A great group of guys and gals making you laugh hysterically with their Improv style. Did you know that many of the Cast from The Comedy Warehouse also played a wide variety of characters at The Adventurers Club and other venues around Walt Disney World?
 
 
 
Outside the Comedy Warehouse waiting for the sun to go down and and the club to open. The Laffers Cantina top (L) also doubled upstairs as the control room for the WestEnd Stage. Below as you entered the Comedy Warehouse there was a large variety of props and signs, many from around the Walt Disney World Resort. Also below, inside the Club and even more props served as decorations.
 
 
 
 
Above (R) the stage and just below that, one of the few locations which still had the original Pleasure Island logo, The Moon Man. Bottom (L) a little song to get the crowd warmed up and to the (L) The Intro.
 
 
 
Above a few different shows all improvised and in many different styles like a blues song or even some help from an unsuspecting member of the audience via a phone call.  Below some of the Original Cast of The Comedy Club with Celebrity Guests
 
 
The Neon Armadillo/The BET Soundstage Club
 
 
 (Above) The Neon Armadillo was a popular Country Music dance club which was always packed, so much so that a larger Country Music location called the Wild Horse Saloon was built at the East end of Pleasure Island when Neon Armadillo closed and The BET Soundstage took over Neon Armadillo's Location.  (Below) The BET Soundstage Club replaced the Neon Armadillo. BET Soundstage club delivered urban contemporary entertainment consistent with the programming of the BET Cable Network, sounds of R&B and hip-hop on an expanded dance floor, and an outdoor terrace.
 
 
The Adventurers Club
Check out our Adventurers Club Tribute
 
Even during the day the Entrance Calls to You, Beckoning you to come in and Explore a little more.  Can you tell it's Our Favorite Club at Pleasure Island?
  
 
Top (L) Hathaway Brown really needs work on his Crash Landing.  Top (R) The AC Juice Cart
                      
Come in a Stranger, Leave a Little Stranger
 
At Last Opening Time, Let's Head In
 
As you walk in you notice the relics and archives from the World over. You also realize you need to head downstairs because that's where the actions at.
       
 
                     
Above (L) Colonel Critchlow Sutchbench runs up the Bar Tab
 
 
Above (L) Emil Bleehall in older outfit. Above (R) Otis T. Wren strangles the Colonel during the Holidays
             
      Above (L) The Goddess Babylonia Above (R) Emil Bleehall and Club President Pamelia Perkins Welcome potential Members     
         
Above the Adventurers Almanac which was mailed out to New Members that signed up during the first Year the Club Opened
            
Above (L) Hathaway Browne and Yes Ladies...He's Smokin'                              Above and Below at The Library
 
Above (L) a Doomed Ship in a Bottle at the Bar (Nightly Sinking's)
 
Above the famous Balderdash Cup
 
 
 
 
 
Above The Holidays at The Library                                  Below Proof that Atlantis Does Exists...The Atlantis Bar and Grill!
        
 
Above and Below The Mask Room
Check out our Adventurers Club Tribute
 
8Trax  A 70's Club
 
Shake your Groove Thang!       Aside from being a great Club 8Trax also had several 70's Memorabilia Displays like the one below (R)
 
 
Mannequins Dance Palace
 
Above the Unique Revolving Dance Floor making Mannequins such a popular club. At one time Voted the #1 club in the Southeast. The ultimate contemporary dance palace throwin' the best dance music, a huge, revolving dance floor, the Pleasure Island Explosion Dancers and a state-of the-art light-and-sound system.
 
Below you can see the PI Dancers that performed at the club when they weren't strutting there stuff at the Westend and Hub Video Stage
 
Some Pleasure Island Tickets through the Years
 
 
 
Pleasure Island Jazz Company/Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant
 
Pleasure Island Jazz Club provided Live Jazz Music, a Small Wine and Cigar Bar along with some great appetizers like their great Key Lime Pie.
Below (R) is Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant which later replaced the Jazz Club.
 
 
Rock N Roll Beach Club
 
Above 'The Now Closed' Rock N Roll Beach Club is now just a shadow of it's former self.   Below you can see what detail went into the club with it's surf board railings and  life guard chair live entertainment and of course Rock and Roll Music
 
What was just Below the life guard chair?...Ice Block Shots of course!
 
 
The Fireworks Factory/Wildhorse Saloon/Motion
 
Above The Fireworks Factory was part Restaurant part Bar specializing in BBQ foods later replaced by Wildhorse Saloon
 
Above the short lived Wildhorse Saloon took over the Country Music Scene when The Neon Armadillo shut down. The Wildhorse Saloon later was replaced by Motion (below) a night club that played Top 40 Billboard Music
 
 
Below are photos of Pleasure Island in and around the Once Hot Spot
 
 
Above are the ticket sales booth and Below is the command center where the DJ's/VJ's play there music and videos the Hub Stage was also controlled from this spot
 
 
Did you know another Street ran parallel to the popular venue of PI? It was called the PI Waterfront. This area was used during popular occasions such as the Real New Year's and other Holidays and Peak times of the Year.
   
 
Below are some Original buttons including the popular Adventurers Club and Comedy Warehouse also the long gone Neon Armadillo and The Avigators Supply shop that sold Pleasure Island ONLY Memorabilia and Gifts. Below (R) is the concourse that let people move about from the Waterfront, Comedy Warehouse and 8Trax Club back to the Main area of PI.
 
Above the Original Sign (L) and the more Updated version (R)
 
Holidays at PI
          
 
   
 
PI celebrated numerous Holidays Including Christmas, Halloween, Valentines Day, St Patrick's Day, Mardi Gras and The Infamous New Year's Party
 
 
 
Shops
Below are just a few locations throughout PI that you could visit while club hopping like the popular SuperStar Studios a great place to make your own CD's and Music Videos. Avigators for Casual Clothing, Island Depot the place to get all of your PI souvenirs, a hair braiding and temporary tattoo station just below Rock N Roll Beach Club, other locations included Changing Attitudes A street wear store for Guys and Girls, DTV for Disney character merchandise, Music Legends Music memorabilia, T-shirts and more, Reel Finds Collectibles of the stars, and Suspended Animation Disney animation cels, posters and lithos. A few eating locations were also available such as Missing Link for Tasty treats, sodas and snacks and D-Zertz for Cappuccino, espresso or just a little something sweet.
 
       
    
 
The Famed Lights of Pleasure Island
 
Sadly The Lights are Long Gone and now the Lights have gone out at Pleasure Island
~
Disney's decision to shut down Pleasure Island, in our opinion is a horrible mistake. Disney has always believed in the more you keep guests on your property the more money you make. Originally when PI opened it was such a hit that Downtown Orlando Church Street took such a hit most clubs and bars took a nose dive. Ironically Downtown Orlando is now on the come back and what people can't find at Disney, they will at Universal's City Walk...Big Mistake. 
 
9.27.08   Marching Along.....Adventurers Forever!
 
10:00 AM                                                                        1230 PM
   
4:00 PM Line reaches BET Club and loops several times
Snoopy and Blondie just arriving and stopping to say hello
 
Hathaway Browne comes out to greet everyone
 
    
Sutter Bestwick, You Scoundrel is that really you?
   
Otis and Sutter top (L)   Pamelia top (R) interacting with a guest
 
Plenty of Room
 
Otis Finally wins the Balderdash Cup    Otis, Otis, Otis!
 
Otis King of the World
Emil   Jr. Adventurer
 
Intro to Hoopla
 
 
   
The Doors to the Library Open for Hoopla and the Heard rushes in
 
 
 
Emil sings the tear jerker of the night
 
 
Marcel lets the Adventurers know that he is taking them on a one Year Safari
 

Last Look at The Club 2:35 AM
 
Came in a Stranger ... Left a Little Stranger
HOOPLA!

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