I may not look or sound Â it, but I'm 104 years old. Well, maybe only 101. At this age it's hard to remember. Maybe only 83. (The photo was taken in January of 2011) My voice demo includes tracks from the 1970s and from 2011.
As a performer, I started in theatre in my mid-teens. I go back to the last of the golden years of radio network drama working with all the greats of those days: Tommy Tweed, Frank Peddy, Mona O'Hearn, Austin Willis, Kate Reid, Bob Christie and Don Harron (who is still around, looks great, and should be working) I worked for producers such as Al Savage, J.Frank Willis, Esse Ljungh. Did my first radio show with a youngster who, sadly, left us this year – Leslie Nielsen. Did my first radio commercial with a young man from Winnipeg – Monty Hall. (TV was still a few years to come) Lorne Greene had been my teacher in '47-'48 at the Academy of Radio Arts. I later worked with him, too.
I was born in Romania of Austrian and Hungarian parents and grew up with German, French, Romanian and Hungarian. English came later. In the late 1940s, an Austrian actor in Toronto asked me if I could do a Viennese accent in German. CBC International needed a voice for a broadcast to Austria. I hadn't spoken German in at least ten years but a performer never says he can't do anything so I said, “Of course, I can.” Fortunately, the other actors had just got off the plane from Austria and I picked up their dialect. Nobody became any the wiser that I wasn't a native. That's what performing is all about. As George Burns used to say, "Performing is all about sincerity and if you can fake that, you got it made".
Later I also worked with several legendary names in the U.S.: John Huston, Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, Zsa Zsa Gabor. In the world of music in my spare time I developed a heavy duty avocation as songwriter-producer with over 40 releases on labels such as RCA Victor, Columbia, London, Brunswick, Colpix, Sunbeam, etc., with artists such as Carl Perkins (Blue Suede Shoes), Fred Neil (Everybody's Talkin'), Paul Simon, Lillian Briggs, Eddie Fontaine, etc.
I left performing in the early 1950s for a career on Madison Avenue as a writer and producer working out of Toronto, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles serving the multinational giants of the packaged goods world: P&G, Nestle, Kraft, Levers, J&J, etc., through leading agencies such as Y&R, JWT, Benton & Bowles, Ted Bates, etc. I won half a dozen awards for creative excellence in TV commercials, documentaries and sponsored films and peaked as Vice President, Creative on America's biggest TV spot account. Later I joined the Writers Guild of America in L.A. and sold a few screenplay in Hollywood.
The most notable voice-over job I ever did was in New York. I must have been the first and only agnostic to introduce a Pope on a national TV network. It was Pope John XXIII.
I became a sort of serial entrepreneur: Managing Director of Dominion Food & Milling Ltd., President of Core Concept Inc., Advertising. Founding the travel agency, Wings of the World Inc., in Toronto brought me back to performing in a roundabout way. I had used Clare Burt Recording Studios to record some radio spots for Wings and a bit later, Joe Davidson of Clare Burt asked me to do the voice for a series of instructional A-Vs for Bell Canada.
It felt strange to be in a studio. But after a couple of hours, it felt like going through a time-tunnel to my youth. There was something missing, however. It was what I used to call the "electronic smell", the ozone given off by vacum tubes which in the interim had been replaced by transistors. It was fun to be in a studio again and I rejoined ACTRA in the mid 1970s. I had left the union and the country in 1954 and returned in the late 1960s. I had produced a lot of commercials in the interim but it hadn't occured to me to do any performing. I'm developing a couple of films right now so I'm not always available for voice work but call me while I'm still around. It's not every day you get to work with a 150 year old voice jockey – or is that only 104 years? I'll give you my birth date and you figure it out.