Doreen Isabelle Tracey was born on April 13, 1943, in London, England. Her parents were Sidney Tracey and Bessie Hay, and together were a vaudeville dance team from America who performed for Allied soldiers during WWII. Her mother was a native born American, while her father emigrated to the United States from Russia with his parents when he was still a baby. Her father’s original name was Murray Katzelnick, and his family from Russia was Jewish.
Doreen lived with her family in England until she was four years old when they all moved back to the United States, where they settled in California. Her father initially ran a nightclub, then later opened a dance studio in Hollywood, California. It was at this studio that Doreen learned to dance and sing when she was still quite little. She was able to take advantage of the expertise of the many professional instructors who worked at her father’s studio. In fact, she had her first professional performing gig, though it was uncredited, when she was ten years old, doing a singing and dancing bit in a musical film called The Farmer Takes a Wife in 1953. Later, when Doreen was twelve years old, she auditioned for The Mickey Mouse Club at Disney Studios and was hired to be on the show. Doreen appeared in all three seasons of the show’s original appearance on TV.
Doreen kept up her association with the Disney Company for most of her life, even after the TV show was done airing original episodes. She appeared in a spinoff serial show with Annette Funicello called Annette, and appeared in such Disney Studio films as Westward Ho the Wagons! With Fess Parker. Doreen was also cast as Scraps the Patchwork Girl for the proposed Disney movie Rainbow Road to Oz and even appeared as this character in a musical number on the Disneyland TV show in 1957. The movie never got the green light to be made, though, and The Mickey Mouse Club was canceled in 1958. After this, Doreen moved to sing at teen nightclubs and at live concerts.
Doreen also made appearances in guest roles on other TV shows after The Mickey Mouse Club was done airing its original episodes. One notable appearance she made was on an episode of The Donna Reed Show that aired on April 1, 1959, which was appropriately titled “April Fool.” Actor James Darren was also a guest star on that episode of that TV show.
After doing a few TV guest appearances, Doreen assembled a band called Doreen and the Invaders, in which she sang the lead vocals. The band performed as a touring band at American military bases in South Vietnam and Thailand. The group toured Vietnam in 1968, just after the Tet offensive.
After effectively ending her professional performing career, Doreen worked as a publicist for Warner Brothers Records. In this role, she promoted such well-known musical acts as Frank Zappa and the Doobie Brothers. On the side, she briefly performed a few novelty shows as an amateur weight lifter.
Doreen later described herself as the “black sheep” of the kids on The Mickey Mouse TV show. This is likely because she posed nude in nothing but her iconic mouse ear Mouseketeer hat twice, once in 1976 and once in 1979, both for a sex magazine called Gallery. Because of these nude pictures that she allowed to not only be taken, but published, she was excluded from Disney projects for a time after this. After all, nude former Mouseketeers was not an image the Disney Company wanted to associate itself with, as this did not fit the Disney brand image of being “family friendly.”
Doreen also wrote an autobiography called Confessions of a Mouseketeer. In 2001, an excerpt from this book was published in an NPR anthology book called I Thought My Father Was God.
Doreen later came to regret choosing to pose nude in her mouse ear hat. After a time of being estranged from the Disney Company because of it, she was later reconciled to the Disney Company, once enough time had passed that the image of a nude Doreen had mostly faded from the public’s memory. Once they felt it was safe for their image to welcome her back to the Disney fold, Doreen became a regular at Mouseketeer reunions and conventions, where she enjoyed meeting her fans and loved the fact that so many people remembered her work as a child fondly.
As far as her personal life went, Doreen was married once, to a man named Roger Washburn. The marriage did not last long, though. They divorced only a year after getting married. It was long enough together for them to have a son, who became Doreen’s only child. Doreen never got married again after this one experience with matrimony. It seems like for her, once was more than enough as far as marriage went.
In her later years, Doreen kept up her work as a publicist at Warner Brothers Records. This was a consistent type of career in her life, and she enjoyed working in the music industry, even if she was not performing, as she loved the industry so much. She never did lose her love of being a performer and enjoyed being around other people who were performers. It seems that she performed this job well and that the other performers whom she worked to promote liked her and enjoyed their working relationship with this former Mouseketeer. Doreen eventually became ill with cancer later in life. She eventually came down with pneumonia as a result of the treatment she was undergoing for cancer, and it was of this pneumonia that she passed away at the age of seventy-four on January 10, 2018. She was getting treatment at a hospital near her home in southern California when she passed away. Doreen is survived by her son, and by her two grandchildren by this beloved only child.