It was the late seventies and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. Going to Alaska seemed like the silliest thing we could think of, my friend Vicki Ogden and me. We decided that if we found jobs, we would stay… if not, we’d be on a return flight in a month.
We weren’t going to tell anyone that we were going. We were going to send a telegram to our respective parents… “Won’t be home for dinner. Am in Alaska.”
I accidentally told my father, and he made us tell our mothers. He felt it was too big of an exciting deal to not share with our friends and families. He also gave me a lecture about the big, bad men who worked on the pipeline up there, and on the fishing boats, and how a girl could get herself into big trouble. (looks like some things never change).
We both did get jobs within the requisite month. Vicki at a huge real estate firm, me at the local CBS radio & television affiliate… Northern Television. We found an apartment within walking distance of our jobs and moved in on Eide street.
Although I had my 3rd Class Radio License with Element 9 Endorsement (which meant I could broadcast), my job was in the television traffic department. My job was scheduling commercials for the Mary Tyler Moore show, for cartoons on Saturday, for the news program, for the locally produced Norma Goodman talk show. We were just switching over from punch cards to a software-based computer system. Being half left-handed and half right-handed meant I could zoom through the logs.
But in those days to keep your license, you had to have some “service,” meaning you had to work a radio board, spin a few tunes, spool up a couple of tapes. So I was given a short shift on KNIK radio… the stepchild FM easy listening station. (KBYR, the AM Top 40 station was the main attraction). Along with my job of watching the reel-to-reels switch and play, I was to voice the “Senior Citizen of the Week” public service announcement.
I would sit in the small voice studio (or closet, to be more accurate) and read my script onto a tape machine, and then onto a cart, not unlike the 8-track carts we all remember.
One day, someone had left a flyer for the Mr. Universe contest in the studio/closet. I picked it up and read it the way God intended it to be read…. as Mae West. And, because I amused myself so, I taped myself talking about all the muscle-ly men who wanted to … Ooh.. compete for Mr. .. Um.. oooh… Universe.
I decided that if it made me laugh, it might make my friends laugh. So I brought them in to listen to the tape of me doing Mae West doing…. well, you get my point.
A week later there is a company-wide open house for not only the employees, but for many clients, as well. SOMEbody (to this day I don’t know who) thought my Mae West was so funny that it should be played over the loud speaker system. (Yes, there was wine at this open house).
It stopped the General Manager dead in his tracks. “Who was that?” he demanded. For once, I kept my big mouth shut.
“The traffic girl!” someone pointed me out.
“In my office.. NOW.”
Somewhat trembling, I followed him into his office, fearful of the chastising I was about to receive, and certain that I was to end my inglorious career in radio that very evening.
“What’s your name?’ he asked.
I told him, (although it did occur to me to lie and say I was the blonde bimbo they had just hired in sales. But I did not).
“You did that Mr. Universe commercial?”
“Yes sir, I did.”
He stared at me, as if trying to decide if I really could do a Mae West voice.
All of a sudden he broke out in a huge smile. “I LOVED it! Damn, that was funny! Do you want to do more commercials? We could sure use a female voice around here!”
Stunned, I just nodded.
“Great… see you in the studio on Monday!”
And that was the start of my career in voiceover. I love voicing commercials, promos, audio books… you name it. And I don’t think I ever would have taken the chance if I hadn’t seen that flyer for Mr. Universe. I will always be grateful.
Next time… How I started the Let’s Talk Dirt campaign and made Wasilla the megalopolis it is today!
ps… Have you listened lately? Tune in to A Closer Look Radio on Thursday’s at 1pm PT/4pm ET… or anytime in Archive. Go to www.ACloserLookRadio.com and click LISTEN. Any time of the day or night!