38th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

The Edmund Fitzgerald in the Twin Ports with the tug Arkansas, circa early 1960s. (News-Tribune file photo)

Other duties at work have kept me from posting many new items to the Attic in recent months, but I have to note that today – Nov. 10, 2013 – is the 38th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald in a massive storm on Lake Superior. The freighter’s crew of 29 men, including several from the Northland, died when the ship sank in eastern Lake Superior off Whitefish Point on Nov. 10, 1975; it had been heading from Superior to Detroit with a load of taconite.

A little after 7 p.m. that day, the Fitzgerald was in radio contact with the nearby Arthur M. Anderson, and reported that they were “holding our own” in heavy seas. There was no further contact with the freighter; minutes later the ship had disappeared from radar screens.

I compiled a number of archive photos and other information about the Fitzgerald in 2010, on the 35th anniversary of the wreck. You can view that post here.

Among the items posted there is this well-done video for Gordon Lightfoot’s famous song about the wreck:

Split Rock Lighthouse northeast of Two Harbors will host its annual beacon lighting and memorial service for the victims of the Fitzgerald, and all Great Lakes wrecks, this afternoon. They will toll a bell 29 times for each man who lost his life on the Fitzgerald, and then toll the bell a 30th time for all lost mariners. After that, the lighthouse’s beacon will be lit. It’s the only time each year when visitors can climb to the top of the tower while the beacon is lit and revolving.

The lighthouse will be open from noon to 6 p.m. today; the memorial service is at 4:30 p.m. Admission is $7 per person, free for Minnesota Historical Society members.

Here’s a News Tribune video of the Nov. 10, 2011, memorial ceremony at Split Rock:

Share your memories by posting a comment.

Some new old Duluth TV news clips

Every so often I take a spin through YouTube to see if any old clips from Duluth TV stations have been posted – newscasts, commercials, etc. On my latest visit, I found these three brief clips from 1991, showing the openings of the newscasts for KDLH, KBJR and WDIO:

Wish we could have a few more minutes of each of those clips… but still interesting to see.

There are a number of old Duluth TV news clips posted to YouTube, and over the years we’ve featured several in the Attic. Here are links to a few of those posts:

Complete 1973 WDIO newscast

Clip of 1985 WDIO newscast, and 1970s WDIO holiday promos 

KBJR newscast from 1990

KBJR newscast from 1975

Here are a few more Duluth TV news clips – stay tuned to the end of the first one for a report from a familiar Duluth TV name, on 1980s youth trends…

KQDS / Fox 21 hasn’t been around as long as the other three stations, of course. But here’s one “from the archives” clip, of the original opening music to the 9 p.m. newscast:

And finally, this assemblage of KBJR clips from 1989, with a lot of familiar faces:

Thanks to those who posted the clips to YouTube over the years. Share your Duluth TV memories by posting a comment.

Miller Hill Mall turns 40

Crowds fill Duluth’s Miller Hill Mall during its official grand opening on July 25, 1973. (News Tribune file photo)

As featured on the front page of the Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013 News Tribune, Duluth’s Miller Hill Mall is turning 40 years old this year. The mall opened in stages, with the “official” grand opening in July 1973.

The mall has been featured in a number of past Attic posts, including several with photos from its opening year. Here are links to those posts:

Montgomery Ward store at the Miller Hill Mall, 1973

J.C. Penney store at the Miller Hill Mall, 1973 (Part 1)

J.C. Penney store at the Miller Hill Mall, 1973 (Part 2)

The buffeteria was one of the most popular places in the Montgomery Ward store at the Miller Hill Mall when this photo was taken in July 1973, four months after the store opened. (News Tribune file photo)

Here’s one more mall-related post:

Aerial view from 1979

And here are images of a couple articles from the mall’s grand opening (one article “jumps” to a second image); click on the images for a larger version:

Share your memories of the mall by posting a comment…

Duluth’s Fidelity Building comes tumbling down, 1977

April 1977

Wrecking crews start to demolish the Fidelity Building in downtown Duluth in April 1977. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

The Fidelity Building stood in downtown Duluth for about 65 years, on the site now occupied by Lake Superior Plaza – along the south side of Superior Street just west of Lake Avenue. Demolition crews knocked it down in 1977 to clear the way for Lake Superior Plaza, home to Allete and Minnesota Power’s headquarters.

Freimuth’s Department Store was right on the corner of Superior and Lake on that block; it was the subject of a previous Attic post. Fidelity was next door. Articles at the time of demolition reported it as both 12 and 14 stories tall; perhaps there was a difference of opinion on whether the small structures up top were actual “stories.”

Initially, the plan was to demolish the Fidelity Building with explosives; less than two weeks before the demolition date, the News-Tribune reported:

“The Fourth of July, minus the rockets’ red glare, will arrive three months early in Duluth, but not for the reason you think. There will be a massive explosion in downtown Duluth at 8 a.m. April 3, and when the dust clears, it will mark the first time that a Minnesota building was destroyed by blasting. The victim is the Fidelity Building.”

Officials with Minnesota Lumber and Wrecking of St. Paul told the paper in March 1977 that smokestacks and concrete footings had previously been destroyed by explosives, but at that time no Minnesota building had been imploded.

However, difficulties in obtaining insurance scuttled plans for the implosion, and the building was razed using more traditional wrecking methods. It took less than three weeks for the building to be reduced to rubble.

Bystanders look on as the Fidelity Building in downtown Duluth is razed in April 1977. (News-Tribune file photo)

There had been efforts to find a new use for the Fidelity Building back in 1968. It was having troubles then – only 30 percent occupied, with thousands owed in back property taxes. In November 1968, the News-Tribune reported that a group of Duluth businessmen wanted to remodel the Fidelity Building “for use as a motor hotel of about 100 units. It would be in conjunction with a parking ramp and retail shops to be constructed on the site of the Freimuth Building,” which had been razed earlier that year.

But the plans never came to pass, and a decade later the Lake Superior Plaza project spelled the end for the Fidelity Building.

Demolition work continues on the Fidelity Building in downtown Duluth on April 20, 1977. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

There was one last bit of controversy regarding the Fidelity Building – or, rather, what was left of it. Brick and concrete rubble from the building was dumped in West Duluth near the corner of Main Street and 52nd Avenue West, where the NewPage paper mill now stands. The proximity of that site to St. Louis Bay prompted complaints and the possibility of fines from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the News-Tribune reported in July 1977.

I’m not sure how the dispute was resolved – the clipping file for the Fidelity Building ends with that article.

Share your memories of the Fidelity Building by posting a comment.

The demolition of the Fidelity Building is almost complete in this view from April 26, 1977. (News-Tribune file photo)

Phillips 66 gas station on Superior Street, 1961

Here are a couple views of a then-new Phillips 66 gas station and the offices of Como Oil Company along Superior Street at Eighth Avenue East in 1961. This view is from April of that year:

And here’s a photo from November 1961:

Here are a couple of zoomed-in views of the signage in the November photo (including what looks like a Hires Root Beer ad):

This Phillips 66 gas station was located across Eighth Avenue East from what is now Sir Benedict’s Tavern (what was then another gas station). The station is listed in city directories through 1983, the year it and many other buildings along Superior Street in that area were razed to make way for the eastward extension of Interstate 35. That was covered in an Attic post last year, and you can see the Phillips 66 station in the photos with that entry.

Past Attic posts have included photos of several gas station chains, including Clark, Pure and Holiday, among others. What gas station chains do you remember? Share your memories by posting a comment.

Happy 72nd birthday, Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan – then Bobby Zimmerman – as a sophomore in the Hibbing High School yearbook, circa 1957. (News-Tribune file photo)

Today, May 24, 2013, is the 72nd birthday of Northland native and music icon Bob Dylan, born Robert Zimmerman in Duluth in 1941 and raised on the Iron Range, in Hibbing.

Two years ago, on the occasion of Dylan’s 70th birthday, I posted a collection of text and photos of Dylan from the News Tribune files. If you have not yet seen that – or even if you have – you can find the post here.

Interstate Bridge, 1961

As with the previous post on the bear in the boat, this one features a reader-submitted photo from years back that was left in the News Tribune files.

The photo, credited to C.F. Sager of Duluth and dated Oct. 22, 1961, is a view of the old Interstate Bridge linking Duluth and Superior, as seen from its replacement, the then-new High Bridge, later named the Blatnik Bridge. Click on the photo for a larger version:

Here are a couple of zoomed-in views:

The Interstate Bridge has been featured in several past Attic posts:

Interstate Bridge

Superior’s Main Street and the Interstate Bridge

Edmund Fitzgerald passes through the Interstate Bridge

Most of the span was removed in the years after the Blatnik Bridge opened. Part of the Interstate Bridge remains in place on the Duluth side and is used as a fishing pier; find more information at the links listed above.

Share your memories by posting a comment.

Bear in a boat in Duluth, 1944

This post has been updated to include new information…

Over the years, many people have sent photos to the News Tribune for one reason or another. Sometimes the paper has asked for reader submissions; other times people have sent pictures unsolicited, for the DNT to keep, viewing the paper as a kind of repository for local history.

Many of those photos – sent years, if not decades ago – are hanging around in the Attic without much information to explain the stories behind the images. Here’s a series of five unusual reader-submitted photos showing a bear sitting in a boat in the Minnesota Slip, now home to the William A. Irvin ore boat. The only caption information with them was: “Taken by Einar Amundson. Bear jumped into boat in the canal.”

After putting out a call for more information on Sunday night, Duluth author and historian Tony Dierckins provided the answer:

The tragic story of this bear is retold in the book, “Crossing the Canal: An Illustrated History of Duluth’s Aerial Bridge”:

“An incident in 1944 was far less tragic, but nonetheless unfortunate. A black bear found its way to the slips behind Marshall-Wells, jumped in the bay, and swam into the canal. Three Park Point residents—E. A. Thorleson, age twenty-four; Michael Gauthier, eighteen; and Donald Parker, fourteen—set out in a small boat to rescue the bear and return it to the wild. The bear didn’t appreciate their efforts. Thorleson tried to lasso the bear, but missed; the bear used the rope to claw onto the boat, where it bit its would-be rescuer and tore his pants. Thorleson and his companions abandoned ship. The Coast Guard then towed the boat to the docks, where they successfully lassoed the bear and attempted to pull it onto the pier. But the bruin wouldn’t budge, and officials, deciding it was too dangerous to help, shot it to prevent further trouble.”

This is an excerpt from a longer piece called “Casualties of the Canal.” You can read the whole piece on Zenith City Online.

So, unfortunately, not a happy ending to the story behind these quirky photos. Thanks to everyone who posted a comment so far. If you have anything more to add about this bear – or if you have other tales of odd animal encounters in the Twin Ports – please post a comment.

Homegrown Music Festival photos

Duluth’s Homegrown Music Festival, which opened Sunday, celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. Here is a gallery of News Tribune photos from – or associated with – Homegrown Festivals of years past:

You may notice that the captions are pretty sparse on a few of these photos; if you can provide any names where they are missing, please post a comment.

World-famous voice with roots in Duluth

April 19, 1998

Duluth native Lorenzo Music uses the studios at Minnesota Public Radio in downtown Duluth in April 1998 to tape commercials and other voice-over roles. “Cartoon (characters) are very hard to do remote,” he says. “Everyone has to be sitting in the same room. You really have to react to each other. That’s one thing I no longer have a shot at. But I’m willing to give it up to be here in Duluth. It’s worth it for what I have instead.” At the time, and for many years, Music preferred not to have pictures taken that showed his face. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

THE VOICE IS FAMILIAR, BUT WE CAN’T QUITE PLACE THE FACE

By Chuck Frederick, News-Tribune staff writer

In a downtown Duluth recording studio, Lorenzo Music snaps a headset over his ears, smooths out a script and leans into the microphone.

“Do you wanna know what I’m wearing,” he teases as producers and engineers in both Los Angeles and Duluth wiggle patch cords and adjust sound levels before taping a radio commercial.

A voice from California considers Music’s question. Her short, startled laugh spills out of the overhead speakers and fills the Minnesota Public Radio studio inside the Holiday Center.

“Uh, let’s see,” she says. “Hawaiian shirt?”

“Hey, this is Duluth!” Music declares, smiling broadly.

“Oh yeah,” she says. “Denim?”

Dead on.

Lorenzo Music has been wearing his comfortable jeans and loose-fitting denim shirts a lot lately. He has a Duluth Pack slung over one shoulder, a spectacular view of Lake Superior over the other, and in between, the contented, easygoing smile of a man at home.

One of Hollywood’s hottest sitcom writers of the 1970’s, Music left the grind of L.A. in December to visit his old hometown.

And now, like someone reluctant to trade in a favorite pair of sweatpants after a long weekend, he’s finding it hard to leave.

The man who helped create “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” who co-created “The Bob Newhart Show” and “Rhoda,” whose voice is that of Rhoda’s never-seen-but-beloved Carlton the doorman and later of Garfield the cartoon cat, is rediscovering his roots.

He also is writing his autobiography and a slim volume of poetry and he is working as a voice actor, taping commercials and voice-overs in Duluth via digital telephone lines.

“I came back to Duluth because I wanted to remember my memoirs,” said Music, whose visit in December was a birthday gift to his wife, a chance for her to visit her mother, Margaret Johnson, in West Duluth.

“I just felt so good here,” he said. “This place is where I was formed and it’s so far removed from the stress of L.A. I felt I could come here and be here. (A friend’s) house was available on the lake. All I had to do was write and listen to the waves — and be here. I had to do it.”

Duluth roots are deep

Music came to Duluth for the first time in 1942. He was 5 years old then and had moved from Brooklyn, N.Y., with his parents, Harry and Sophie Music. A master mechanic, his father worked in the Superior shipyards during the war and played a drum in the company band that marched each time a new ship was launched.

Performing and comedy filled the Musics’ home in Central Hillside. “I was even forced to entertain as a child — or they wouldn’t feed me,” Music deadpanned, slipping into that goofy, Carlton-like, singsong voice of his. “I was a stand-up baby.”

He graduated from Central High School in 1955 and went to the University of Minnesota-Duluth to study speech and English.

But he spent more of his time playing banjo and performing comedy in the UMD cafeteria. He also performed for the Owl’s Club, the Eagle’s Club, pretty much anywhere that would have him, even the faculty wives’ tea.

He took to acting, too. During rehearsals for “Guys and Dolls” at UMD he met Myrna Johnson, the West Duluth woman who would become his wife.

Jerry and Myrna Music pose for a publicity photo in 1961, they year the former UMD students appeared at the school’s Homecoming dance in October. They later changed their names to Lorenzo and Henrietta. (News Tribune file photo)

Chases his dream

“I remember wanting to be an actor when I was 7, or maybe a comedian,” said Music, 60, a short round man with a smooth head and a quick wit. “I always knew I was a performer.”

In 1959, he chased his dream to Los Angeles and then to San Francisco. One night, he watched the yet-undiscovered Smothers Brothers perform.

“I can do that,” he thought.

The next morning he auditioned, performing the same little folk music and comedy act that had underwhelmed the Owls back in college. It went over better this time. He landed the nightclub gig.

“It was a cute act in the UMD cafeteria, but I didn’t know if I could do it in front of the Smothers Brothers and the owners of the club,” Music said. “To me, this was the big time.”

Hours before his first performance, he blacked out with fear. His bride-to-be fed him chicken soup and helped him dress. She drove him to the club and literally pushed him onstage.

He was a hit. The two were married, and not long after, she joined him on stage.

Together, though, the act didn’t gel. It was hard to tell who was funny and who was playing it straight, Music said.

The club fired the Musics. They hit the road, intent on making another run at the limelight. They played coffeehouses and nightclubs across the country. They toured with the USO, doing shows in the Far East, Europe and the Mediterranean.

By 1967, they liked their act. It was good. It was ready.

But it was too late.

The Byrds were hot and the Beatles had all that hair. Rock ‘n’ roll was in. Their folk-music-and-comedy act was out.

Myrna and Jerry Music use a Japanese tea service they brought back from their USO tour of the Far East, during a visit to Duluth in fall 1963. (News-Tribune file photo)

Lands Smothers Brothers job

The Musics wound up in Las Vegas, opening for Julie London. On the other end of the strip, the Smothers Brothers were on the verge of mega stardom. They had been signed by CBS to do a weekly series and were looking for writers. They remembered Music. He had never written professionally, but accepted the job.

“I didn’t think you needed to be professional to be a good writer,” Tommy Smothers said from his car phone in Burbank, Calif. “I flavored the writing staff with new guys. We all learned our craft as we went along.”

Music was one of 15 writers for the Smothers’ show. Others included Steve Martin and Rob Reiner. In 1969, they won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Comedy Writing.

“(Music) was one of the fun guys,” Smothers said. “I was a big fan of his. I always loved his delivery and his act. I figured he’d be a good television writer because he was funny. He and his wife had a great act.”

Two and a half years later, Music left “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” to become head writer of the new “Glen Campbell Good Time Hour.” He bounced to another variety show and also started moonlighting, writing in evenings and on weekends with longtime friend David Davis. Davis had been a director of “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” and associate producer of the spy spoof “Get Smart.”

The moonlighting paid off. The new writing team sold scripts to “Love, American Style.”

Helps create ‘Mary’

And in 1970, when Davis was asked to produce a new show based in the Twin Cities about an independent-minded TV newswoman, he brought Music along as his writing partner. For 2 1/2 years, Music and Davis wrote or contributed to nearly every script of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

“Everyone working on the show was from somewhere not Minnesota,” Music said. “I was their Minnesota expert. Things like, ‘How long does snow stay on your shoulders after you come in out of a storm.”‘

“He didn’t even have a desk at first,” Davis said of Music. “He sat in my office and I pulled out one of those boards that come out of desks for your typewriter. That was his area.”

“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” was a huge success. The network was eager to cash in. “Why don’t you guys come up with another show,” a CBS executive asked Music and Davis. “If you guys could write a new show for any actor, who would it be?”

“Bob Newhart,” they said in unison. They had written for him before, including a sketch he performed on the Smothers Brothers’ show. They knew his stammer. And they loved his dry, straight humor.

“He was easy for us to write for,” Davis said of Newhart. “I had grown up with him on the radio.”

So they started writing, back at the same secluded Santa Barbara, Calif., beach hotel where they had written their first Mary Tyler Moore episode and where they would later write the pilot for “Rhoda.”

“The Bob Newhart Show” was another hit, thanks in large part to Music and Davis, the show’s star said.

“If their concept hadn’t worked, the show wouldn’t be on the air. It wouldn’t have done so well,” Newhart said from Los Angeles. “The best tribute is it’s still on (in reruns). It’s still being watched and it’s finding a new audience.

“Being a writer myself, I always felt the most important thing in the world is the written word,” Newhart said of Music’s and Davis’s scripts. “If you don’t have the words on the page, nothing is going to work. And this show worked.”

Lorenzo (Jerry) Music, right, the Duluth Central High School graduate voted “wittiest” of the Class of 1955, returned home in June 1976 to give the commencement address for his alma mater at the Arena. He was welcomed at the Duluth airport by a delegation which included, from left, Central Principal Richard Carlson, Joanne Maddox and Mary Forseth. (News-Tribune file photo)

‘Hi Bob’

The show also prompted one of the 1970s more unusual and talked-about drinking games — “Hi Bob.” To play, participants took a drink each time someone on the show said Bob’s name or “Hi Bob.”

Music insists he and Davis didn’t invent the game, though they may have helped it along. They did write all those “Hi Bobs” and “Bobs.”

But for good reason, Music said. Actress Suzanne Pleshette had a habit of calling Newhart, her on-screen hubby, “honey.”

“The ‘honeys’ bothered us and we thought they’d annoy the audience,” Music said. “She put them in when we didn’t write them and they made her character sound whiny, so we started writing fewer and fewer ‘honeys’ and more and more ‘Bobs.’ “

Rhoda and Carlton

Newhart was a ratings machine, and CBS was hungry for more. The executives wanted a Mary Tyler Moore spinoff based on best friend Rhoda Morgenstern. They tapped Music and Davis to develop and produce “Rhoda,” a show that forever changed Music’s life.

It was based in New York and needed a New York feel, Music said. The characters lived in an apartment building. And down in the lobby, there was a doorman — Carlton the doorman.

In the debut episode, Carlton’s now-famous slow, somewhat-drunk-or-stoned voice stumbled from an intercom box in the apartment of Rhoda’s sister, Brenda. “There’s a woman here who says she’s your sister,” Carlton said. “She doesn’t look anything like you.”

“The lines weren’t necessarily funny,” Music said. “It was the way they were done. The guy was gooney. He was out there. I do good gooney, I guess.”

Music and Davis had tried to hire a different actor to deliver Carlton’s lines. But no one did it quite right. They either played him too big. Or too drunk.

Music delivered the lines during rehearsals. “You should have seen him,” Davis said. “He was practically falling over, he was trying to do the lines so sleepily. The first time he did it, everyone just busted out laughing.”

With auditions going poorly, it was Mary Tyler Moore who finally suggested Music stay with the part. She was a guest star on that first episode.

Music did. And got huge laughs from the live studio audience during taping.

Carlton’s appeal can be traced to the days before television, when families huddled around the radio. Imaginations painted pictures of the characters. Carlton allowed Americans to do that again.

“It was a fun thing that people tuned in for. I thought it was hilarious from the very beginning,” actress Valerie Harper, who portrayed Rhoda, said from her New York home. “Lorenzo was great. He’d do the voice live on the side with a microphone so the audience could hear. And it was always incredible. I can’t remember a line from Carlton that didn’t work. I don’t remember Lorenzo ever bombing out.”

One hot doorman

Carlton the doorman was one of Hollywood’s hottest stories that television season of 1974-75. An air of mystique surrounded him. Who was he? What did he look like? A fan club started. Several hundred fans joined.

In the final episode of the season, “Rhoda” viewers thought they’d finally get to see the mysterious character.

A knock on Rhoda’s door. It was him. Rhoda cracked open the door but didn’t unhook it. Upset with Carlton, she delivered a severe tongue-lashing. When she finished, Carlton, played by Music, stuck in his arm, extended his hand and asked, “Will there still be a tip?”

The two characters worked well together, Harper said. The contrast of the out-of-it, laid-back Carlton against the high-strung, speak-her-mind Rhoda made for many comic moments.

“It was another character to play off, another super, funny character,” Harper said. “He just had a terrific voice for Carlton. He didn’t do a trick voice. He did a character. He used his own voice and that’s what helped make it work. It was honest.”

In 1976, Music was on top of the world. He had four hit shows on his resume and two Emmys, the second for an animated CBS special he created and produced called “Carlton Your Doorman.” He returned to Duluth that summer a hero, the guest speaker at graduation for his old high school.

But just three months later, the bottom fell out. “The Lorenzo and Henrietta Music Show,” a syndicated daytime talk, comedy and musical variety show starring Music and his wife, fell flat.

It was a “suicide run,” Music said. “It was a total disaster. An absolute bomb. I was always good on my feet, but I wasn’t that good.”

The show was canceled after six weeks, its ratings abysmal.

Lorenzo and Henrietta Music in a publicity photo for their short-lived “The Lorenzo and Henrietta Music Show” in 1976. (News-Tribune file photo)

Now a top voice actor

About that time, Music’s phone rang. It was an agent who provides voice actors for radio commercials, cartoons and other voice-overs. He said he had been getting requests for the Carlton the doorman voice. Was Music interested?

Two decades later, Music is one of the top voice actors in the business. Of the thousands of actors available to do voices in the Los Angeles area, Music is one of only a few who works consistently, said casting director Carroll Day Kimble.

“He’s a love. And he’s very well respected in the business,” said Kimble, who runs Carroll Voiceover Casting Co. in Los Angeles. “He’s extremely creative behind the microphone. He can change a couple little things and really make a spot sparkle. He’s a genius in the booth.

“And in the advertising world, people love to know they just booked Carlton the doorman,” she said. “They like to say, ‘Hey, I booked Garfield the cat.”‘

After Carlton, Garfield is probably Music’s best-known voice role. In 1983, he won another Emmy Award for co-writing a Garfield TV special. And from 1988 to 1995, he provided Garfield’s voice for the Saturday morning cartoon series.

Music’s other voice characters have included a crash test dummy in those you-can-learn-a-lot-from-a-dummy public service announcements that encourage motorists to buckle up, and, more recently, a store announcer on “The Drew Carey Show.”

“I believe voice actors should be heard and not seen,” Music said. “If you don’t know what I look like, I can be the crash test dummy. I can be Garfield the cat. I can be anything. But if some kid knows what I look like, then Garfield becomes me, and I don’t want to be Garfield. Garfield should be Garfield.

“As a voice actor I can be an ugly frog or I can be a handsome prince,” Music said. “If I worked on-camera, I could only be the handsome prince. You know?”

All of which helps explain why Music doesn’t like his photograph published. And why he was reluctant to be interviewed for this story.

He craves anonymity. It’s good for his career, he said, to maintain that mystique about his identity that started with Carlton the doorman.

Music wants you to know the voice, not the face. It’s the voice, after all, that puts lunch in his box, gas in his car and his kids in college.

“All I need is a studio, and this is the studio here,” Music said between takes at Minnesota Public Radio. “We have everything we need here. And this is all I need to bring. A pencil and my reading glasses. And if I didn’t bring a pencil, it wouldn’t matter.”

He doesn’t even read the script before arriving.

The radio commercials he is taping this day are for a casino near San Diego that’s giving away a pair of Volkswagen Beetle cars. Music portrays an excited caller who asks an exterminator if they’d heard about the bug infestation.

His head bobbing, his hands waving, his eyes popping to emphasize certain words, Music performs the lines. Between takes, he sips from a glass of milk left over from lunch. After one run-through, he pauses.

“At the ‘heck no,”‘ he says into his microphone, talking to the producer in California, “I feel like I could do that line a different way. Should I just do what I feel is best?”

“Always,” says the producer.

And the next time, Music does it differently. He drops some words, adds others, changes the emphasis. He does the lines better. No question.

“This is feeling really good,” the producer says. “The character sounds fine. The acting sounds fine.”

One more time.

“Wonderful. That was awfully good,” the producer says. “I can’t imagine anything else I’d want. Except for you to come back to L.A.”

Music smiles again.

“Oh, please don’t make me come back to L.A. just yet,” he says.

And this time, there’s not even a hint of teasing in his voice.

— end —

Lorenzo Music died from cancer on Aug. 4, 2001, at age 64. He was survived by his wife and four children.

Here are a couple of YouTube clips featuring Lorenzo Music’s voice acting. The first is from the pilot episode of “Rhoda” – you can see his name in the opening credits, and then hear him as “Carlton the Doorman” at about the 1:10 mark:

And here’s a short “Garfield” clip from the 1980s:

Share your memories and stories by posting a comment.