Betty Taylor dies at 91; Disneyland’s Sluefoot Sue
Hired by Walt Disney in 1956, Betty Taylor spent three decades portraying the singing saloon hostess and onstage sweetheart of another character, Pecos Bill, at Disneyland’s Golden Horseshoe Revue.
Her death was confirmed by her sister, Dorothy Fields, who is her only immediate survivor.
“Betty’s role as leading lady” helped turn the revue “into the longest-running stage show in entertainment history,” George A. Kalogridis, president of Disneyland Resort, said in a statement.
The vaudeville-style musical comedy revue closed in 1986 after more than 45,000 performances, a feat then unmatched by any other theatrical group, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
At the suggestion of an uncle with Hollywood connections, Taylor auditioned for the part of showgirl Sluefoot Sue in the revue, which had opened along with Disneyland in 1955.
Five times a day, Taylor led a four-dancer chorus. She sang “Bill Bailey,” tunes of the old West and the occasional blues number.
“I can truthfully say I’m never bored,” Taylor told The Times in 1981 when Disneyland marked her 25th anniversary in the show — and gave her a Mickey Mouse watch.
“She knew how to belt out a tune, in the storied tradition of an old western saloon,” Marty Sklar, a retired longtime Disney executive, said in a statement. “Betty was a true [trouper] who loved playing the part.”
Born on Oct. 7,1919, in Seattle, Taylor was taking singing lessons at 3 and performing professionally by 12, she later recalled.
At 18, she had her own band, Betty and Her Beaus, which included 16 male musicians. She later toured with the Henry Busse orchestra, the Red Nichols band and Les Brown and His Band of Renown.
“The big band life was tough — all of those one-nighters,” Taylor told The Times in 1981. “It was exhausting.”
Taylor also sang with the noted western group the Sons of the Pioneers and appeared with Frank Sinatra in Las Vegas.
At Disneyland, she donned gowns and a blond wig to play Sluefoot Sue, whom she later described as “not a hard character, but rather like a Mae West or a Kitty on the television series ‘Gunsmoke.’ ”
Her “girlish enthusiasm” for the role was reflected in the way actor-comedian Steve Martin — who worked at Disneyland in the 1950s and ‘60s — signed her autograph book, according to a Disney biography.
“How come,” Martin wrote, “I’m the only one who grows old around here?”
At 64, Taylor married for the first time. Her husband, fellow Disneyland employee Paul Brewer, died after 14 years of marriage.