ARTICLES
BOB BERGEN
THE TALK OF TOON TOWN

(C) 2004 DAVID PRIOL
FIRST APPEARED IN THE PEN & QUILL
JAN-FEB 2006
Sound killed the silent movies, just as it killed the actors who could not speak the speak. Sound made cinema soar and we cannot think of many films without recalling the great voices or the brilliant soundtracks. What is the Sound of Music without music, Ben Hur without the roar of racing chariots or the Road Runner without his flippant “beep, beep!” Could it ever be a wonderful life without the laconic tones of Jimmy Stewart, or hearing Marlene singing those backroom boys a thing or two? Personally, I could die tomorrow if Lizabeth Scott would whisper my name just once in some down-and-dirty nightclub. Marilyn Monroe and The Matrix might be our eye candy, but our ears demand to be tempted and thrilled in glorious stereo.

One of the coolest sounds a child can hear growing up is something simple like, “ah, what’s up Doc?” And while cartoons go back to granddad’s day, the love of cartoons has grown exponentially until everyone in the world has at least one cartoon hero. Pioneers like Mel Blanc and toon animator Chuck Jones created a world so bright and huge that it now takes many men and women to fill their shoes. Toons rule the world. From the halls of Disney to the streets of Tokyo there exists the perfect cartoon for every living person. Some are very funny some are very naughty while others have even given real actors a run for their money. I bet Bob Hoskins still gets goose-bumps every time he thinks of Jessica Rabbit and I quote, “you don’t know how hard it is being a man looking at a woman looking the way you do.”

When you think of modern cartoons and the people who make them talk, then one of the men at the top of his game right now is Bob Bergin. Bob learned at the feet of legends and has worked hard all his life to emulate their fine qualities. If you check out Bob’s mega web pages at www.bobbergen.com you will find some great info and see how much work goes into becoming a successful VO (voice-over) performer. Bob not only performs, but teaches, just as he was taught by such greats as Daws Butler (Yogi Bear) and Dave Madden.

Even as a child, Bob was devoted to the idea of being a VO performer and he received his first ever autograph when he gatecrashed Mel Blanc at age 14. Not only did the rascally Bob wag school, but he also traced Mel’s number from his wife’s listing before going to the Warners Bros set with his mom. “Onya Mom!” is all I can say. What a way to start an autograph collection, not to mention a fine career. (See the photo above right)

Since then Bob has added some great signed photos to his own collection. VO greats like June Foray, Walter Lantz, Bill Scott and Daws Butler. We have shown a few here along with Bob’s own signature so you will know what a dinky-di Bergin graph looks like when you’re hunting through those auction sites. I’ll wait and let Bob tell you the reason why I haven’t put Chuck Jones in this list.

Before we get down to brass tacks with Bob, I should mention that some of his great VOs include characters like Porky Pig, Marvin the Martian, Tweety, Lupin and Comet (Santa Claus 2). At his website you will find dozens of his other characters, as well as numerous TV/radio commercials and video/cd-rom games. Besides teaching, Bob appears at some great conventions around the USA and can be booked through his agent, William Morris.

David: Well Bob, it’s great to put a face to the voice as it were. As I mentioned earlier your first autograph was by Mel Blanc which will make many toon collectors quite envious, so how about you fill them in with the Chuck Jones story so that they’ll feel better?

BOB: Well, when I was about 15 or so I attended a show called An Evening with Mel Blanc at Pepperdine University.  This was a one man show that Mel took on the road in the early 80s.  He talked about his career, showed cartoons, and did a Q&A for fans.  Chuck Jones was sitting in the row in front of me and there was a line of kids getting his autograph, along with a drawing of their favourite Looney Tunes character.  I got in line, but when it was my turn to get an autograph the lights started to dim and Chuck told me he had to stop.  I was SO eh-buh-beh-eh-bummed!!!

David: Can you recall the moment (or was it an epiphany) when you said to yourself, “I want to be the next Mel Blanc or Daws Butler?”

BOB: I don't know the exact moment, but I'd wanted to be Porky Pig ever since I was 5 years old.  It had nothing to do with any insatiable desire to go pantless wearing nothing but a jacket and bow tie.  But I found I had a knack for doing voices very young, and was able to master Porky's stutter.  I had to wait for my voice to change before I could truly sound like him.  Let's hear it for puberty!!

David: Chuck Jones once described Mel Blanc as the male June Foray rather then June being the female Mel Blanc. What are your feelings about the “Great Ones” as they are now remembered and can you relate any interesting stories about June in relation to Chuck’s opinion or in some of your meetings with her?

BOB:  Well, Mel Blanc was an amazing actor.  People credit him for being a great voice man, which he was.  But it was his acting skills that set him aside from everyone else.  Many fans don't know that a lot of his voices were sped up.  Daffy, Porky, Tweety, and many others were tweaked electronically.  This doesn't take away from what a genius he was!!!  His timing and his brilliantly created characters make him a legend in the biz.  Daws and June were rarely sped up.  Both are also amazing actors.  I met them both when I was 14 at an ASIFA festival.  ASIFA is an animation society, and at this particular festival they were selling animation cels, performing live readings of cartoons, etc.  When I got there I saw this tiny lil lady on her hands and knees searching for something in front of the stage.  I asked her if she need any help???  She said," Oh yes, thank you SO much!"  So I got down on my hands and knees and started looking for...uh...something.  "What are we looking for?" I asked.  She answered, "A gold pendant that says OH SHIT on it."  I then introduced myself, and this lil lady said," Nice to meet you, Bob. I'm June Foray."  I thought to myself, "OH MY GOD!!!!  I'm butt to butt with Rocky the Flying Squirrel!!!!!"  Unfortunately we never found the pendant, but we became good friends YEARS before I started working side by side with her.  I also met Daws at that event.  I brought my tape recorder and he did a TON of voices for me.  I still have that tape somewhere.  I learned about his workshop which I started taking the following week.  I was in and out of his class for 8 years, working alongside other Daws students such as Nancy (Bart Simpson) Cartwright and Corey (Captain Hook) Burton.  I never got the chance to work with Daws, but I've worked with June many times.  She is as sweet as she is talented.  AND she still rocks at the mic!!!!!  I remember the first time I got to do a Looney Tunes project with her.  I'd only been voicing Porky for a little while.  I believe we were recording a children's album.  I was Porky and June did Witch Hazel.  After a couple of takes she told me, "I'd swear I was working with Mel!"  Bless her heart!!!  Personally I don't feel I come close to Mel, but her comments made me feel great!!!  Even though I knew June personally, I was a lil intimidated actually working with her…LOL-I got over that!!!

David: What are some of the stories behind some of the other autographs you have collected over the years?  

BOB:  I got Bill Scott's (Bullwinkle) at that same event where I met June and Daws.  In fact, as I write this interview I'm thinking it would be kinda cool to add the tape of my meeting with Daws on my website!!  I can also include the Rocky and Bullwinkle script they read live.  Stay tooned for that, folks!!!  A friend also got me Walter Lantz's autograph.  He drew a really cool pic of Woody Woodpecker, too!!!  

David: So Bob, tell us about the first time you were asked for your autograph? And what are some of your favourite stories when being asked to sign photos or anything else for that matter? Have you ever endured an unpleasant moment with a fan or autograph hunter?

BOB:  I've NEVER had a bad experience with fans!!!  They've always been very courteous.  LOL-one time this girl asked me to sign just above her breast, where she had a Tweety tattoo.  She told me she was going to have my autograph tattooed, too.  But I never got to see the finished product.  A few years ago I attended a show in Pasadena and sat next to the late Jonathan Harris, who played Dr. Smith on Lost in Space.  We both happened to take a restroom break at the same time, and as we left our seats I said to him, "Well, at least we can get a tiny break," which he responded "My dear pig, they've followed me into the john many times!!!  

David: Do you find that you see a lot of forged signatures of the people you have worked with, admired or your own autographs? 

BOB:  I don't think I've ever seen mine forged.  And I don't think I'd even know if a friend's was forged. Guess I've been lucky, huh.  

David: A question that I always like to ask, is who from the annals of history would you most like to sign for you, and what would you have them say in their dedication? Is there someone you admire in today’s world that you would like to meet and add their signature to your growing collection?

BOB:  Wow!!  Where do I start???  Walt Disney I'd LOVE to have!!! OH-and Lucille Ball!!!  I'm a big American history buff, so everyone from Lincoln to Kennedy would be great, too. Not sure who I'd ask for in today's world.  Maybe Joe Barbara!

David: On your site you provide some good common-sense advice for people seeking work as VO performers. The most pertinent applies to anything in life; that you must love something completely if you really want to succeed. To some degree this applies autograph collectors because you can face an awful lot of knock backs and buy an awful lot of forged material while building a good collection. Is there any other advice you would give collectors, speaking as both a collector and a celebrity?

BOB:  Well, first of all always be courteous when asking.  But also keep in mind that most celebs LOVE to be asked for an autograph!!!  It's the ultimate compliment that their work is appreciated.  The forge thing is a bummer.  I hate that people profit by faking autographs.  But I think that the serious collectors know how to avoid this for the most part.  The best way to ensure the autograph is for real is to get it in person yourself at a show.  I wouldn't recommend sending anything to be signed to celeb's homes.  Not a cool thing.  My agents are great at making sure I get my fan mail.  

David: On a final note, where are the best places for fans and collectors to catch up with you during 2006? Oh, and have you had any 14 year old truants crashing your jobs lately?

BOB: I think I'm attending a con in Houston and one in St. Louis in 2006.  Not sure the dates yet.  I'll probably attend Comic-con in San Diego. I go most years. At this writing it's still kinda early in the year to know much of my 2006 schedule.  I can be booked by going to the appearance page on my website.  Just pop me an e-mail. I get them all, and personally answer every one!!!  So far no 14 year olds have crashed my gigs!!!  But I'd be flattered as hell if they did!!!!!!!!!!!

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