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It Ain’t About Me…(Well, Maybe a Little…)

10 Apr

     No, I don’t think anyone’s ever accused me of having Adonis DNA, and I can’t even handle Dr. Pepper, let alone TigerBlood.  But I knew early on that the relative anonymity of being a Voice Talent and Actor could still have its rewards.

Cast, It's A Mystery

Fighting Crime and Craziness with "It's A Mystery"

     Sometimes there’s a tangible, immediate benefit:  like the talent fee and the wonderful dinner our It’s A Mystery group received from the Fayetteville Shriners after a recent performance.  But the good feeling that has lasted even longer was the news that we had a small part in helping them raise around $8,000  for a kids’ burn center.

RG with son Ricky (when he was a LITTLE boy)

Reading with my young son, Ricky, back when he was a LITTLE boy.

 More of my time has been devoted to volunteer reading lately for an outfit called Gatewave, which provides free audio content for the blind and visually impaired.  I’ve always loved to read, and used to get scolded by my kids when I didn’t “do the voices” as we went through the stories.  I agreed to do regular reads for Gatewave  at the behest of friend Melissa Exelberth, and the group’s director asked if I’d like to read old Science Fiction short stories from the pulps instead of news stories from current publications.

     I jumped at the chance for the more creative outlet, and of course immediately found out I’d been away from long-form reading longer than I’d realized.  Also, of course, I picked a story with lots of characters and a long runtime.  Still, thanks to my editing skills it all worked out fine.  And each successive story block I’ve read for them has become a little easier.

     The payoff…other than feeling good about doing something good for someone I’ll probably never meet?  I’ve noticed in the last few e-learning narrations I’ve been paid to do, that I’m doing them better.  I can handle the long-form without getting tired so soon.  And, I’m a better “teller of the corporate story”.  My friend Bob Souer is even encouraging me to add audiobooks to my demo list, based on what he’s enjoyed of my Sci-Fi tales.

     In some ways, things like these are instances where it appears you really CAN have it both ways.  So don’t diminish things you’re tempted to try just because of the pricetag or the amount of work for the fee.

     While I know a guy’s gotta make a living, and I fully subscribe to my radio friend Bob Inskeep’s motto “Ya can’t eat ‘Famous’…”, there sometimes CAN be something in it for you.   …even if it isn’t all about you.

— over and out —


Movable Wisdom

31 Aug

     A lot of times, the stuff people forward to you in an email is hardly worth the time it takes to delete.  But once in awhile a gem comes along that you’d never seen before.  I got one of those today from friend and fellow voice actor, Tom Jones.  You may already know it, but it was brand new to me:

     “Be Yourself.  Everyone Else Is Already Taken.”

     Man,  my teacher Nancy Wolfson would love it.

— over and out —

The Most Precious Gems Aren’t Always the BIGGEST.

21 Aug

…just stumbled upon a quote I wish I’d had all these years to fire back at those who thought I should be doing “something more important”:

“Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” – Bertrand Russell

— over and out —

For an Actor, There’s NEVER Too Much On One’s Plate!

18 Aug

     Another night out with the “It’s A Mystery” troupe reminded me all over again why I sweat through these evening-long half-improv sessions in a wool fedora and a trenchcoat (in August).  Aside from the delightful company of quick-witted men and equally witty and beautiful women, tonight’s “Motivation for Murder” included dinner for the cast at our host facility:  Ruths Chris Steakhouse!   And our personal host, Chris (no relation),  proved as quick on the quip as any of us, remarking about Kaki Carl’s rare steak, “You know, a good vetrinarian could probably bring that one back.”

The pleasant experience reminded me I hadn’t posted about another memorable dinner:  this one at the suggestion of another lovely and talented woman – Pam Tierney during the recent Dan O’ Day summit in Los Angeles.  That’s Pam on the left, with Bob Souer (center) as we Voice Actors dined at the legendary Musso & Frank’s in Hollywood.   (Pam’s suggestion.  Bob’s car.  I got to tag along.) 

I didn’t have to don the trenchcoat and fedora for that one…but it would have fit right in with the mood and decor!

And people wonder why guys like me continue to pursue the career we’ve chosen!

— over and out —

Why Keep On? One answer of many…

26 Jun

     This week has seen me working more for myself than anyone else.  In some ways it’s not as much fun:  the “boss” is a harder taskmaster, a perfectionist, can’t make up his mind, the hours are insane and the pay is lousy.

     Working on updating your own promotional material does have its rewards, though.  For one thing, you discover things you hadn’t thought of in awhile (“Gosh, was I ever this good?”).  This usually offsets the discovery of things it turns out you remember being better than they actually were (“Gosh, how do I ever get hired?”).

     Talking by phone with friend Bob Souer during this process, and getting some automatic encouragement by the mere fact of doing so, I wondered aloud about the reason for putting so much continuing effort into promotion this late in life.  Of course the obvious answer is twofold:  One – if I had known how to do this early in my career and had the tools we do now, I probably would be farther along.  Two  – the alternative now is to do nothing and quit (not an option). 

     Whenever I get a little envious of the younger, more energetic, more “with it” talent I see out there making the big splash, I temper my thoughts with the comfort that even one of my favorite character actors didn’t really hit it big until he was in his 60s.

     That would be Sydney Greenstreet,who became a star with his portrayal of the aptly-named Mr. Gutman in the definitive film version of “The Maltese Falcon”.  He was 62.  I often wonder what he thought about his career choices during his younger years.

     I know most people, if they have any knowledge of film and radio history, would rather think of themselves as another Orson Welles:  New York stage genius and network radio star in his early 20s, and creator of what many claim as the best motion picture of all time not long after that. 

     I can claim a small sliver of that Welles feeling with my own career highlights…on an admittedly much smaller scale.  Along the way, I’ve done regular on-air work in Radio, winning fans with what amounted to an unseen puppet character (Zoot) on a top-rated morning-show, collecting awards for creative writing/production in advertising, co-hosting a local kiddie show on TV doing the puppets and some on-camera cartooning (“Time for Uncle Paul“), enjoying favorable acclaim with local/regional onstage efforts (“Greater Tuna” and the It’s A Mystery troupe) and even snagging a slot somewhere between “extra” and “featured player” in two motion pictures with the Muppets.  If you’d asked me as a kid what I wanted to do with my life, these are the kinds of things you’d hear me mention.  They just didn’t take on quite the national prominence they might have done. 

     I’m cool with that.

     Meanwhile, with that experience, and what I’m gaining through resources never before available, and encouragement from other friends in the business, I see no reason why I couldn’t at some point hit my “Sydney Greenstreet” stage.

     I’ve still got a few years to get there.  Why stop now?

— over and out —

A Day At The Museum

14 Sep

     One piece of advice I’ve received about marketing and self-promotion is to get out in public and show what you know. So when my friend Shawntel Landavazo at the Museum of Life and Science (Durham, NC) called to ask if I’d participate in their Hollywood Special FX Day, “Heroes, Villains, and Special Effects”, it seemed like the right thing to do. It was, too!

     But be warned: demonstrating live sound effects and foley, on your feet for five hours, is physical exercise! I hadn’t thought of that. “Ready for my Icy Hot pain relief creme commercial, Mr. DeMille!

     The Museum show was a big hit, with larger-than-expected crowds. There were stuntmen doing stage combat, a pro make-up artist creating zombies, and computer SFX software developers. I spent my time showing how both recorded and foley (live to picture) sound effects made the visuals more fun to watch. I was surprised that my semi-ad-libbed flow held the attention of both kids and adults. There were a few questions about voiceovers as well.

     RGatMuseum_GunshotSpeaking of Big Hits…the part of my routine which made the biggest hit, literally, was how to have a pistol that never runs out of ammo! Take one cardboard box, one yardstick, and careful aim. After trying to synch it to an old cowboy movie, I would offer the kids a whack at it…literally.

I’m sure there are many parents now having second thoughts about letting their kids near that crazy old guy with the cornstarch snow-footsteps, the swordfights made with kitchen spoons, and the recording of a woman clearing her throat he slowed down into a dinosaur growl.


"Empire Rules!"

"Empire Rules!"

     The only bad part for me was that I didn’t get much time to check out the other presenters. But I did realize my hope of getting a picture with one of the Empire’s Best! The Stormtrooper was part of The Carolina Garrison. It’s the North Carolina/South Carolina chapter of the 501st Legion, part of a world-wide group of enthusiasts who craft their own Star Wars costumes and props, and make appearances at charity and community events with the blessings of Lucasfilm.

     I didn’t get to meet their Lord Vader, but there were some very convincing troopers, a full-size R2D2, and a Boba Fett posing for pictures with kids of all ages.

     It’s anyone’s guess how much this will advance my voiceover career. But it was fun having people interested in hearing what I know and how I do some of the things I do. And I’m sure it didn’t hurt anything that this was one place where the kids didn’t get told, “Don’t try this at home!”

— over and out —

Mild-Mannered Voice Actor Fights Crime By Night

7 Nov


By day…an anonymous Voice, selling luxury autos, extolling the virtues of financial planning or healthcare systems, hawking the latest fast-food sensation, entertaining with a quick audio laugh, or providing sage instruction for the corporate masses.

But by night…Ah! Cloaked in one of many ingenious disguises (although they all seem to be variations on an overweight old man)…the Nemesis of evildoers and murder most foul!

Okay. My secret identity has been blown…exposed in a three-page spread in Southern Living Magazine which profiles “It’s A Mystery!”, a comedy/mystery ensemble I’ve performed with over the past 13 years. We’ve done shows for corporate events and public venues, for audiences as diverse as GlaxoSmithKline, Pinehurst, even the FBI.

And since the group was officially formed by boss-lady and fellow Voice Talent Marjorie Strauss, I’ve been the detective for the majority of our shows (we have eight, some storylines bring in additional talented actors).

It’s part scripted, part adlibbed, with as much audience participation as we can muster…which is what keeps the experience fresh when we’re doing the same programs over and over. Though only a few of the cast are actually musicians, we play together like a fine jazz combo.

The characters are pure stereotype. Living cartoons, some of them. That helps us wring laughs out of an otherwise grim premise. And it gives us not only a license to “kill”, but to assume different voices which match each new outlandish persona.

Mine range from the typical jaded guy in a trenchcoat and fedora, to a lovable-but-clueless good ol’ boy who has a part time security service located “just east of Resume Speed on Route Four”. And, of course, each would-be detective has his own sound. My only limitation is finding one that fits both the character and how I appear in person. No hiding behind the microphone in this case, which is a challenge, but still fun.

Why do I always play the detective in the story? Why, when there are so many other rich characters and caricatures available in each new scenario?

One: unlike almost any other actor I know, I hate “dying”. Tried it. Don’t like it. Won’t do it. I also tend to like being a sympathetic character…which many of our “victims” decidedly are not.

Two: (and most telling) as the detective, I always use a notebook, pretending to jot down clues as the plot unfolds…which makes it perfectly natural to have the entire scripted portion of the show in my hot little hands at all times! Not only am I able to be a prompter for the rest of the cast (though they rarely need it), I haven’t had to memorize a show in over thirteen years! Now tell me that’s not the mark of a true Radio Actor!

Anyway, if you’re unable to track down a copy of the November 2008 Southern Living (and we’re only in the bonus section of the North Carolina/South Carolina Edition), you can uncover more of the secrets of “It’s A Mystery” at their website:

Oh, and in case you should find yourself part of our audience in the future…here’s a hint: the Detective never does it…and it’s never Colonel Mustard in the Library with the Candlestick!

— over and out –