May 8, 2015

Voice over moment in B-town

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 12:36 pm

tight crop of bell with megaphone

A life-long tendency to pay attention to people’s voices had spawned a long dormant project for expanding into radio features by taking a tape recorder around and talking to the owners of some very interesting voices, but that idea had been languishing in the bullpen for years and was not on the day’s agenda when we walked into Top Dog on Center Street in downtown Berkeley, earlier this week. When the young lady, Tiffany Case, at the counter took our order, we suddenly wished that we were carrying our micro-cassette recorder because her kewpie doll voice made us look around expecting to see an animated Canadian Mountie proclaiming: “Don’t worry, Nel, I’ll save you!”

We acknowledged our intention of getting a hot dog to slather with mustard and sauerkraut by responding: “If I were doing a radio commercial, I’d hire you to do the voice” and she enthusiastically replied: “I’m in the process of applying for a chance to do voice-overs for Pixar (an animation movie studio located in near-by Emeryville)!”

Her enthusiasm level reminded us of the old Clint Eastwood line: “Go ahead; make my day.”

When we were young we had compiled a list of our favorite voices and if someone ever assembles a Hall of Fame for voices, we would insist on nominating these voices from the past: John Carradine, Edward R. Murrow, Orson Welles, Bill Boyd (better known as Hopalong Cassidy), Winston Hibler, Jack Webb, Rod Serling, Senator Everett Durkson, Tony Marvin, and Mel Allen.

Some voices can cause pandemonium just by saying the name of the source. Such as? “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.”

“They say” that a baby girl will pay more attention to the voice of a male stranger than to that of her own mother.

The women’s voices that caught our attention back when our voice (and attitude about girls) was changing were Julie London, Mercedes McCambridge (she provided the voice for the demon in “The Exorcist”), Rosemary Clooney, and Annette Funicello.

Back in the day, we had heard a bit on radio for Mothers’ Day that was a poem that started out “M is for the morphine that you gave me. . . .” We thought that the source of that bizarre bit of entertainment had been Lenny Bruce, but after a futile search of the Internets, we had asked the librarian at the Berkeley Public Library’s main branch and even then we still hadn’t located the source for those words.” So much for the theory that you can find the answers online to all questions.

We couldn’t pin the rap on Lenny Bruce but somehow we were obsessed with the idea that our column for the Mothers’ Day weekend had to include Lenny Bruce. He did say the word “mother” a lot, didn’t he?

In the past, we have suggested that reality TV do a voice-over competition.

We have personal knowledge of an event that took place many moons ago on the campus of a large University in Southern California made famous by Coach John Wooden. A young lady who was being paid to do interviews for a study called a phone number in New York City. The guy was so intrigued by the voice he asked the caller if she wanted to go out with him on the weekend. She demurred by noting that he was in New York City and she was in Los Angeles county. He then restated his offer. She declined again but he wouldn’t have been disappointed if had taken her out for dinner.

On Tuesday, May 5, 2015, we splurged and had a French breakfast at Le Petit Cochon in Berkeley and the experience of having a great meal was enhanced by the fact that while there we heard two song tracks by Johnny Cast that we had never heard previously.

When the Internet was in its formative stage, optimists were gushing about the fact that it would provide a way for people to hear new voices in various national debates. Pessimists responded that corporate America would use their clout to monopolize the new means of communication and shut down any chance for fresh blood in punditry game to gain a following.

We make a point of tuning in to the Armstrong and Getty radio show every Friday at 6:20 a.m. just to hear their sound clips of the week segment.

In the Los Angeles area, sportscaster Jim Healey used to play bleep filled rants from Tommy Lasorda, the manager of the Dodgers baseball team. It was fun to listen to them and attempt to fill in the bleeps (so to speak – as it were).

At one point, radio disk jockey, Wolfman Jack, bragged that his program was heard in 38 states because the signal (coming out of Mexico) was “coast to coast, border to border, wall to wall and tree top tall.” As the Sixties drew to a close, if you lived in the Lake Tahoe basin, there were only three reliable radio signals. Two were local and the third was the Wolfman’s show. It was an unforgettable listening experience.

On Wednesday, May 6, 2015, just after 9:30 a.m., we heard a story on KCBS news radio that started with a Berkeley Farms commercial that featured the legendary voice of San Francisco born Mel Blanc. They then transitioned into a story about how Clover of Petaluma is conducting an online search for a voice for their cow. (Google hint: Cloverpetaluma dot com and then click on the “Be Herd” link.)

In Los Angeles, our friend who called himself Chef Teddy B. Owen used to brag that the voices in his head had their own variation of the call waiting feature.

Berkeley area political activist Mike Zint reports that when he was working in the Santa Monica area as a retail clerk, he received several offers to do work as a voice over.

Our fact finding for this column indicated that June Foray, the voice of Rocket J. Squirrel is still alive. Her work is featured on a site called “behind the voice actors” dot com.

Whatever happened to the San Francisco radio station KFOG and their signature use of a sound clip of a foghorn?

According to Hollywood legend, Allen Ladd was working as union projectionist and when he asked a director if he wanted to see the dailies again, he suddenly was offered a chance to change careers and become an actor. The rest of the story (as they say) is history.

Maybe after we post this column, we should do some fact checking about how to submit pitches or material to NPR. If they like the idea, maybe it could be just like Rickey Blain says at the end of the movie “Casablanca:” “This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship!”

Tune in again next week to see what happens to the columnist who seeks to become a distinctive voice in an overcrowded market.

The end quote for this particular column, just has to be the most famous movie line of all time. In “Gone with the Wind,” Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) said: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!”

The disk jockey will now play Rosemany Clooney’s “Manniana” (which is banned on radio and not available on Youtube), the Guess Who’s “Clap for the Wolfman” and “You’re nothing but a nothing” (which allegedly included the lowest note ever produced by a human voice).   We have to go listen to KCBS to hear Kiffany report the evening traffic conditions for the SF Bay Area. Have a “Boop Oop A Doo” type week.


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