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Cheryl Holdridge: The Mickey Mouse Club #12

Cheryl Holdridge: The Mickey Mouse Club #12
Cheryl Holdridge was a Mouseketeer on The Mickey Mouse Club, beginning with the second season and working on it on the third season, as well. She was put on the Red Team, but not used much in solos on the show. She married three times, with her first marriage giving her the title of Countess, and was widowed twice. A talented dancer and actress, she had an active acting career until her first marriage. This is her unique life story.

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Cheryl Lynn Holdridge was born on June 20, 1944. Her surname at birth was Phelps. Her mom, Julie Phelps, was a Broadway dancer with a dance partner named Dick Mason. To date, the identity of Cheryl’s biological father has never been made known to the public. It is not known if Cheryl herself even knew the identity. Her mom raised her as a single mom, which was unusual for the 1940s, until 1950, when she married a retired Army Brigadier General named Herbert Charles Holdridge. Cheryl’s step-father formally adopted her in 1953 and gave her his surname, which she used from that point on in her life.

Cheryl’s adoptive father was into politics, and was an idealist and visionary, with dreams of a national utopia. This made him a bit too “out there” for traditional politics, though this did not stop him from frequently running for President of the United States (which he obviously was never elected to). Because of his military background and well-known pacifist political views, he frequently made the news, including his adoption of Cheryl, which was reported in the Los Angeles Times along with a photo of the happy new family. Thanks to the adoption, Cheryl gained a brother John Holdridge, who was a career diplomat who was twenty years older than her.

Cheryl was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, but moved to Burbank, California with her mom shortly after she was born. This is where her mom and adoptive dad raised her. As a child in Burbank, Cheryl took ballet lessons with Joyce Cole in North Hollywood. Thanks to Joyce’s exceptional instruction and Cheryl’s natural talent, Cheryl was able to audition for the NYC Ballet’s LA production of The Nutcracker, which she was cast in. She also started performing in TV commercials when she was ten years old. When she was eleven years old, she was cast as an extra in the musical movie Carousel.

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When the Disney Studios were casting for new Mouseketeers for the second season of The Mickey Mouse Club, Cheryl took some initiative and called the casting director herself to arrange an audition, without telling her mom or her agent that she’d done it. The young girl’s ambition paid off, and she was cast as a Mouseketeer for the show’s second season. Like other cast members, she was officially “let go,” the third season, but was called after being released from her contract and offered a new one for the third season. This was a tactic the studio commonly used to avoid having to pay cast members raises for being continually employed from season to season. This way, the studio only had to pay her what they paid her as her starting pay when they first hired her.

Cheryl was put on the Red Team on the show right away. This was the primary “team” on the show, with the cast members who were given solos, and highlighted in other ways the most often. Cheryl, though, was surprisingly underused for a Red Team member. He only gave one solo song during her tenure on the show. She was an excellent dancer and a good actress, but because her singing voice was considered weak, the show kept her in the background for most of the musical numbers it did.

In addition to being on The Mickey Mouse Club, Disney Studios also cast Cheryl in two of the show’s specials. These specials were Boys of the Western Sea and Annette.

After the show ended, Cheryl went to high school at Van Nuys High School, then Grant High School, graduating in 1961. While some of the other Mouseketeers found fitting into high school after the show to be challenging, either being bullied or feeling like they didn’t fit in, this wasn’t true for Cheryl. She was accepted by her classmates as “one of them,” and was popular. She graduated early, too, at only sixteen years old, so she excelled as a student in both the social aspect and in academics.

While in high school, and for a short while afterward, she made appearances on popular network TV shows in guest roles. Some of her credits include Leave it to Beaver, The Rifleman, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, My Three Sons, Bewitched, Bringing Up Buddy, Bachelor Father, and The Dick Van Dyke Show. On Leave it to Beaver, she had a recurring role for a few episodes as Wally Cleaver’s girlfriend. She also went on the 1960 Mouseketeer tour of Australia.

In 1964, Cheryl married a race car driver named Lance Reventlow. With the marriage, she gained the title of Countess, as Lance’s dad was European nobility, while his mom was the heir to the Woolworths fortune. After getting married, Cheryl decided to quit acting, though Lance encouraged her to keep it up. On their honeymoon in Hawaii, Cheryl and Lance went to visit the former host of The Mickey Mouse Club, Jimmie Dodd, who was ill in the hospital there with an undisclosed condition (one that has never been made public to this day, though there are theories). She became the last Mouseketeer to visit Jimmie, as he passed away the day after her visit.

Cheryl and Lance were married until he died as a passenger in a plane crash in 1972. Cheryl inherited approximately ten million dollars from his estate, though his mom, Barbara Hutton, kept the bulk of the Woolworth fortune. There were newspaper articles at the time that claimed Barbara purchased family jewelry back from Cheryl that Lance had given her during their marriage, spending around one million dollars to do so.

Cheryl married twice more and was widowed a second time with her third husband. Her second husband owned a chain of used car dealerships. Her third husband was involved in Democratic politics on a fairly active basis in California. Her third husband was older than her and passed away at the age of eighty-two around the year 2000. Cheryl did not have any children with any of her husbands.

Cheryl passed away to the other side at her home in Santa Monica, California in January of 2009 of lung cancer. She was sixty-four years old.

About the author

Will Moneymaker

I enjoy collecting postcards as a way to inspire my own adventures. Over the years, I’ve found them incredibly valuable in sharing memories — places I've been and places my loved ones have sent cards from.

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