Long, long ago…
Before the California Grill occupied the top floor of the Contemporary Resort Hotel at Walt Disney World, the site was home to the swanky, adults-only domain of the Top of the World Restaurant. It was an era of carpet with garishly-colored polygons, large glass lighting fixtures, and lots and lots of mirrors.
When the restaurant originally opened as the “Top of the World Supper Club” in 1971, it played home to a stream of real-world nightclub entertainers and musical acts brought to the wilds of Florida to entertain guests. Ads appeared weekly in local newspapers and magazines for that weekend’s hot acts; Disney intended to provide an upscale nightclub experience previously unseen in the area. And after the day ended at the Magic Kingdom, and kids were tucked into bed in their hotel rooms, parents could dress up (coat and tie for gents, please!) and head to the Top of the World to see Phyllis Diller, or Rosemary Clooney, or Mel Torme.
In 1981 the club’s act changed to a more Disney-controlled (and thus predictable and consistent) show called Broadway at the Top. This revue-style cabaret show ran until 1993, when it closed to make way for the California Grill.
For kids my age, the Top of the World had been an off-limits mystery back in the day. But now – thanks to the modern miracle of the internet, and the truly astonishing things one can find on YouTube – we can get an idea of what was happening up there.
And it’s… well… pretty amazing.
Here, from around 1982, is part of a performance of Broadway at the Top. Pouf up your hair, pad your shoulders, and put sequins on… everything, really. It’s about to get fancy.