If anyone is sensitive to the needs of child actors, it’s Eileen Rogosin, who began her professional career as a ballet dancer at the tender age of 12.
When Rogosin was a student at Rainbow Studios in Hollywood, her teacher encouraged her to audition for the New York City Ballet’s production of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. Rogosin was hired, and for the next two summers, she worked with the company in both Los Angeles and San Francisco. At 13, she auditioned for Walt Disney’s wildly popular television show The Mouseketeers and was hired as an original cast member.
“To this day,” Rogosin said, “when people find out that I was a Mouseketeer, they all ask me if I knew Annette Funicello.”
Rogosin worked alongside Funicello and 16 other children, ranging in age from 10 to 17. For the next year, the ensemble performed three hours a day for the cameras — the maximum amount allowed. They spent much of their time in classes in Little Red School House trailers, located on the studio lot. But the schooling there was far from rigorous.
“We didn’t get much of an education,” Rogosin said. “The studio was more interested in having us perform.”
In addition to working on the show, the Mouseketeers attended publicity events on weekends at Disneyland and at the San Diego Zoo, and they attended events for organizations like the Boy Scouts.
“It was a grueling schedule, but I was paid $185 a week and loved the work,” Rogosin said.
After leaving The Mouseketeers, Rogosin spent several years as a dancer in movie musicals. In 1960, she had the opportunity to work again with Funicello in the movie Babes in Toyland.
“Annette was always very sweet and unassuming, even when they were grooming her to be a star,” Rogosin said.
In 1965, another impressive opportunity came Rogosin’s way. She was hired as a dancer in the movie Haram Scarum, which starred Elvis Presley.
“I remember when we were filming one scene, and the director wanted to stop at 5:45 p.m. But Elvis knew that if we worked past 6, the dancers would get paid overtime. So, he told the director that he wasn’t satisfied with the scene and wanted to do another take. He was such a down-to-earth nice guy,” Rogosin said.
Rogosin said her career took a definitive turn when “I discovered I could sing.” She became a touring performer in stage musicals throughout the country.
“I really loved performing in front of a live audience when I could combine acting, singing and dancing,” she said. “I also loved the fact that I was getting instant feedback from the audience. When you’re working in television and film, the whole process is disjointed, and you don’t have the satisfaction of building your character.”
Eileen Rogosin was born in Los Angeles in 1943. She was one of two daughters born to Harry Diamond and Hanna Thurschwell. Her father worked in real estate, and her mother was a housewife. Her sister has since passed away.
When she was 27, she met Roy Rogosin — her husband of 48 years — who is a conductor, musical director, writer and producer. After the birth of their two children, Eileen Rogosin put her career on hold to raise her children. In the 1970s, she went back to work as a Hollywood casting director and talent agent.
“I was good at that job because I knew right away who had innate talent because of my background in the business,” she said.
In 1986, the couple re-established and revitalized two acting theaters and founded the children’s organization Creative Arts Music and Performance (C-A-M-P), which they opened in the Berkshires. But after working 24 hours a day for years, Rogosin said, they decided it was time to move to a place where they could “take deep breaths in clean air and care for ourselves.”
So, in 2006, they moved to Santa Fe. After adjusting to their new home and finding their footing in the community, the Rogosins launched C-A-M-P Santa Fe. They’re currently working on a production of Les Misérables that will be performed in June.
Looking back on her long career in show business, Eileen Rogosin takes great satisfaction in mentoring and staying in touch with C-A-M-P students who have gone on to professional careers on Broadway and in regional theaters around the country. “The most important thing I learned as a child actress is that reaching your potential requires hard work and dedication,” she said.
Ana Pacheco’s weekly tribute to our community elders appears every Sunday. She can be reached at 474-2800. Her new book, Legendary Locals of Santa Fe, has just been published. Follow her on twitter.com/anapacheco and on Facebook.