No Central Floridian of any species is more beloved than MICKEY MOUSE. He’s an icon of fun, a symbol of all-American moxie and a goodwill ambassador for the Orlando area. Mickey came up the hard way, in the early days of the movie business, eventually conquering television, theme parks and other fields. Through it all, he’s never lost the spunk or humility that help to make him a star. For “In Their Own Words,” we’ve interviewed many movers and shakers but never Mickey Mouse (perhaps due to the stigma that being “fictional” once carried). So on the occasion of his 80th birthday—which the Disney company calculates from the premiere of his first short, Steamboat Willie, on November 18, 1928—we’ve asked our favorite mouse to reflect on his storied career.
The son of concert musicians, Hungarian-born TAMAS KOCSIS was destined to follow in his parents’ footsteps. His ascension as a classical violinist took him away from the Soviet-era Eastern Bloc and to the United States, where he furthered his music studies under the direction of prestigious instructors. Kocsis went on to land the concertmaster post at the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and, in 2004, joined the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra in the same capacity. Kocsis, 37, is a frequent soloist in the OPO’s concert series. He also is a knight, a title bestowed upon him during a visit to his homeland in 2006. His recordings of the complete violin sonatas and piano quartets of Brahms are released under the EPR label.
Considering Daisy Lynum's love of reading, it seems fitting that her life story would make a great book. Her thirst for knowledge (plus a well-timed letter to President Lyndon Johnson) helped elevate her past poverty in rural Leesburg and into the upper class of education. After completing studies at Bethune-Cookman College, she attended Bryn Mawr, the prestigious women’s college near Philadelphia, and Florida State University, where she earned a master’s degree in sociology. A former state social worker, Lynum, 62, entered public life as an Orlando city commissioner in 1998. As the District 5 (Parramore neighborhood) Orlando City Council commissioner, Lynum has been a controversial figure.
A product of land-locked West Texas, Mark McHugh, 49, grew up as an unlikely prospect to one day get a master’s degree in marine biology and go on to work at SeaWorld Orlando as a whale trainer. At SeaWorld McHugh met and married Diane Godwin, whose grandparents started Gatorland in 1948. McHugh took over the reins at Gatorland in 1996, and he has been a presence in the Orlando-area tourism industry ever since. He is the former chairman of the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau’s board of directors. He and Diane have two daughters, Chelsea and Taylor, and live in Orlando.
Alan Grayson grew up in a high-rise apartment in the Bronx with views of Yankee Stadium and the Manhattan skyline. His parents, both public-school teachers, strongly supported his academic achievements. He graduated from Harvard in three years and went on to get a law degree from the prestigious university. As an attorney, Grayson, 50, gained wealth and recognition from his lawsuits against Iraq war contractors, claiming they had defrauded taxpayers. He and his wife, Lolita, moved to Orlando 12 years ago because they wanted to raise a family here. In November, Grayson, a Democrat, unseated Republican Ric Keller in the 8th Congressional District race. He will split time between Orlando, where he and Lolita live with their five children, and Washington.