The father of a 9-year-old Michigan girl sued Disneyland Thursday, alleging that the park denied the girl a car as a prize last year because she is black.
Joseph Wright claims that on Jan. 3, 1985, park attendants took Jennifer Wright’s admission ticket, then made her wait before entering the front gate turnstile. Moments later, at about 7 p.m., a white teen-age boy in line behind the girl passed through the turnstile, was designated the 30,000th visitor to the park and won a Pontiac, the suit alleges.
A spokesman for Disneyland, which awarded a new car to every 30,000th visitor in 1985 as part of the park’s 30th birthday celebration, said the suit “sounds pretty silly . . . “
“Obviously, certainly, we feel there are no grounds for (the lawsuit) whatsoever,” said Bob Roth, Disneyland’s publicity director. He said that Disneyland gave away 391 cars in 1985 during the publicity program, and added that the winners were determined by computerized counters.
“How many black people won cars doesn’t mean anything because everything is coincidental; there’s no (human) selection process,” Roth said. “There was no conscious thought of race of winners--good grief!”
The Wrights’ attorney, Thomas Byrne of Beverly Hills, said the computerized counting of visitors through the turnstiles was not a factor because the girl was prevented from passing through them. Byrne said that the circumstances “sound bizarre” but that the lawsuit was not “frivolous.”
Joseph Wright is an attorney and dean of student affairs at the University of Michigan, Byrne said, and “the last thing they want is publicity. . . . But they stood there while someone made them wait and watched the kid behind them win a car.”
There is a discrepancy in the date. Roth said a 12-year-old girl from Walnut won a car at 1 p.m. on Jan. 3, and it was a Chevrolet Cavalier. But Roth said Tom Frazier, 19, of Garden Grove won a Pontiac Sunbird at 7 p.m. Jan. 4.
The suit is seeking the car, valued at a minimum of $10,000, and other damages.