Lonnie Burr was born on May 31, 1944, in Dayton, Kentucky, and would one day become one of the original Mouseketeers, starting on the show in the first season. When he was three years old, his family moved to Highland Park, California. Lonnie attended the Hollywood Professional School from first through twelfth grades, even while he was working as a child actor. In fact, the school was a private school for kids who were working in show business.
Lonnie’s parents were Howard Ambrose Babin and Dorothy Doloris Burr and were a nightclub act and vaudeville dance team who toured the country from 1934 to 1941. Their act was called “Dot and Dash.” Through his parents, Lonnie is of Danish, French, German, and Scots-Irish descent.
Lonnie took dancing lessons beginning at age four, with a legendary tap teacher named Willie Covan. As he had an aptitude for it, he was soon performing for live audiences and local TV in Pasadena, California. In addition to dancing, he also sang and did impressions of people. When he was six years old, he was already working on national TV, movie, radio, theater, and commercial projects. Unlike some of the other Mouseketeers, Lonnie had a pretty robust resume by the time he got on the show. He’d even had a recurring TV role in 1950 and 1951 on a show called The Ruggles, and made appearances on numerous other TV shows before Disney called him, including ten episodes of The Colgate Comedy Hour.
After being in numerous projects on TV, in the movies, on the radio, in the theater, and on TV commercials, Lonnie was signed to a seven-year contract with Walt Disney Studios in 1955, becoming one of twenty-four original Mouseketeers who were hired for the first season of the show. This was a huge honor, as thousands of kids had auditioned for the show. Lonnie was placed on the primary Red Team on the show and appeared in the opening roll call segment at the beginning of the show and in the Alma Mater song at the end of the show for its first two seasons. A prominent facial injury kept him out of those two segments during the third season, but he was otherwise used quite prominently on the show during its third season.
Among the original Mouseketeer, Lonnie was one of only four boys out of thirty-nine kids who were kept under contract for the entire run of original Mickey Mouse Club episodes. Lonnie was considered to be one of the top three best dancers on the show, and his singing voice, which was a bit husky and deep, along with his physical resemblance to singer Mel Torme, caused the other kids on the show to nickname him The Velvet Smog (a play on Torme’s nickname, The Velvet Fog).
After The Mickey Mouse Club was done, Lonnie took a break from showbiz and finished high school at fourteen years old. After that, he went to UCLA and earned a BA and an MA in Theater Arts. He earned the MA by the time he was twenty. Obviously, he was a bright guy. After obtaining his MA, he went on to obtain a Ph.D. in English Literature a few years later.
Lonnie went back to acting after obtaining his PH.D., performing in plays, movies, TV shows, TV commercials, industrial films, nightclub acts, and other types of live performances. He made the transition from child star to adult star pretty seamlessly, as compared to the difficulty that many other child stars have had making the same transition. Lonnie deliberately took roles in projects where he could stretch his performing muscles, and vary the types of characters he played. Lonnie did this so well that a columnist for The Hollywood Reporter in the 1980s called him “a master of disguises.”
Lonnie has had more than forty-five live theater roles, and more than sixty-seven appearances in guest roles on TV shows, including a few recurring guest roles. He has also appeared in soap operas like General Hospital and Another World. He has appeared as a guest on more than one hundred national and local talk shows, promoting all sorts of his projects, including Disney reunion projects, his plays, his poetry, his literary criticism, and his own books.
In addition to being a performer, Lonnie is a writer. He has written a memoir called The Accidental Mouseketeer. Another book he wrote is called Two for the Show: Great 20th Century Comedy Teams. He has published two collections of poetry. There are forty-eight of his poems that have appeared in literary journals and newspapers, and he has been awarded eleven poetry awards. He has also written four plays, and a musical play called Fantasies. Lonnie’s plays have been performed in Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington, D.C. As if that weren’t enough in the form of accomplishment for one man, Lonnie is the author of a lot of different articles, essays, and movie and theater criticisms that have been published in more than twenty national and regional newspapers and magazines.
This isn’t the extent of Lonnie’s career, either. He is also a choreographer, with a specialty in creating tap and jazz routines for singers, actors, and other celebrity personalities who are not trained dancers. Lonnie’s choreography work has appeared in live and filmed Disney and Disneyland/WDW productions. A swing dance he choreographed and performed with Hayley Mills appears in an episode of the TV show Good Morning, Miss Bliss (the show’s name was later changed to Saved by the Bell) that originally aired on TV in 1989. His dance routines have also appeared in TV commercials, plays, and industrial shows. In this capacity as a choreographer, Lonnie has worked with some of the best known names in dancing. In addition to all of this, Lonnie dated Annette Funicello when they were both on The Mickey Mouse Club. Decades later, when he read Annette’s autobiography, Lonnie also discovered that he was her first real kiss.