While working on my photo album project I stumbled across this photo of me at the age of 16 in one of my Elvis costumes. It was taken in the living room of our house in Aberdeen, South Dakota in April of 1978; just minutes before I was due at the Moose Club for our first (and last) paid Elvis gig. According to the clock on the wall, I had only 5 minutes to get there, as the show started at 9!!

 Since humming was about all I could muster this past week, due to the vocal difficulties I’ve been having, my go-to song was “Evil Woman” by Electric Light Orchestra. I would test the abilities of my voice with certain passages of the song. Sometimes my falsetto would be there, other times not.

Monday the 16th – THE WEEK OFF BEGINS! – I took the week off from all Voice Over work so I could rest my voice. I’d been having vocal trouble for the past month, after an allergy-related bronchial issue, and I’m hoping a good week of solid rest and quiet will help restore it. I woke up around 4:30, fed the pets, and then went back to bed. Sleeping is the best way for me to stay quiet, since when I’m awake I’m tempted to sing, talk, etc. – all of that is bad. I ended up sleeping until 1am! I stayed up all night enjoying the quiet, working on stuff around the house. I typed up Wally’s Week, made a Tombstone pizza and worked on a prototype of Rowlf the Dog puppet. I watched an episode of “Barnaby Jones” and hit the hay early Tuesday morning.

Tuesday the 17th – SEARCHING FOR THE SEARCHER! – Late in the afternoon I woke up and headed to Jersey Mike’s to get a sandwich. My voice was still pretty bad, so I stayed as quiet as possible. I knew that HBO was going to run both parts of the Elvis Presley special called “The Searcher” later that night, so that would be the perfect way to relax and stay quiet. It started at 9pm, and being 3 and a half hours, went until 12:30! By the time it was over I was needing a short nap. I got up later to tackle a few auditions. It was tough, but luckily the auditions I had were right in the area of the vocal range I had left. I did some bookkeeping, paid some bills, and then got ready for bed. One thing I noticed about this voice issue is that it affects different parts of my voice on different days. One day I’ll have a strong lower range and none of the higher register, but the next day it’ll be the exact opposite. It’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever experienced!

Wednesday the 18th – NO IMPROVEMENT! – I slept all day and into the evening, as I continued on with my week of self-imposed voice rest. When I got up I realized that, after several days of not saying hardly anything, I simply wasn’t improving. I figured it was time to call in the pros. I left a message with my ENT Dr. Mazza. She’s the doc who did my sinus surgery last year and it went amazingly well. I have a full day of errands on Thursday, so I have to figure out what’s going on with this thing!

Thursday the 19th – BUDDY’S BIRTHDAY! – Early in the day I was at my oral surgeon’s office to ask a ton of questions. Dr. Mizan looked at the CT scan and said that my #14 molar would have to be removed for sure, and most likely the #15 would have to be extracted as well. The #14 and #15 are the two teeth at the end of the upper left side of my mouth. The problem is the cyst that’s hanging out above the roots of the two teeth, and that’s caused a fair amount of bone loss. He’s going to talk with my Endodontist about it to see if he concurs on the diagnosis. It sounds like this situation is going to be a long, drawn-out affair, including bone grafts and the installation of implants. My regular dentist is retiring in April, so Dr. Mizan had me go downstairs to meet a new dentist in the same building. They often work together on cases. So I went down to say hi and put my information on file. I’m not due for my semi-annual cleaning and check-up until July, so I think it’s best that I get this oral surgery thing out of the way until I make a dental appointment. I took off and hit the post office to mail a few items, went to my mailbox to get some packages, hit Taco Bell for some quick lunch, stopped by the hardware store to get a few things, stopped by my vet’s office to get a refill on some medication for Roxy, picked up some more food for Roxy at Rusty’s Pets, and then headed home to relax for a bit. I met my old pal Christian Malmin at Barone’s around 7:30 for his birthday dinner. I’ve known Chris since 1985 when we both lived in Sioux Falls. He’s an actor and has lived in L.A. now for about 20 years. My voice was starting to come back and it was sounding pretty good. I had a 4:30 appointment scheduled on Friday with my ENT, so I was thinking that I would cancel it, as the voice rest seems to be working. But I’d make that decision later. After dinner Chris and I came over and watched a few videos and chatted for a while. I don’t get to see him often so when we do have the occasion to get together we chat quite a bit to catch up. But when he left I realized my voice was sounding tired again. If I can just stay quiet all weekend I think I should be good by Monday and ready to work again. I spent some time on the computer compiling all of the questions I had regarding the upcoming oral surgery. I grabbed a short nap, and then got up for a few auditions. I cleaned up for the maids, who would be coming at noon on Friday, and then fed and walked Roxy and headed for bed. Since the week of voice rest hadn’t produced the results I had hoped for, I’m going to go ahead and see my ENT on Friday.

Friday the 20th – REVELATION TRIFECTA! – The maids arrived right at noon, and while they cleaned I made some phone calls. One of the calls I made was to a company who provides regular prescriptions to members of my insurance plan. The Advair inhaler that my doctor put me on to stave off any allergic properties that may invade my lungs and cause another episode like I had a month ago is quite expensive; even with insurance. But this “prescriptions-through-the-mail” company was about a third of what it cost to get the inhaler through my local pharmacy. So I put in an order for a 90 day supply on the phone. It seems like I’m going to be on it for a while, so stocking up seemed like a good idea. The inhaler contains the same steroid that’s in Flonase; a nasal spray I take twice a day to provide a nasal barrier against allergic properties that may invade my nose. My first stop was at my seamstress Lynette’s to pick up a shirt and pair of pajama pants I had her make. Then I went to KFC to pick up some lunch (LOVE KFC!). Then I went to the office of another oral surgeon that I was considering for the work I needed done to ask some questions. Over the weekend it was my intention to mull over the two surgeons and make a decision as to which one I’d use. I got to my 3:30 appointment 10 minutes early, but the waiting room was packed with people. Knowing that I had a 4:30 appointment with my ENT, I kept checking the clock to make sure I wouldn’t be late. But by 4:00 I still hadn’t gone in, and there was still one more patient ahead of me. I was starting to think I wasn’t going to make it. So I told the receptionist that I would call next week to reschedule, as I didn’t want to be late for my other doctor appointment. As I pulled away in my car I realized that I didn’t need the weekend to decide, I had already made my decision which surgeon I’d be using. This was the sign I was looking for…REVELATION ONE! Immediately I called Dr. Mizan’s office and made arrangements to go forward with plans for the extraction. His office manager Lilian said she would consult with the doctor and call me on Monday with details. In fact, she said the doctor had already discussed my case with two other surgeons in the office (one senior and one junior) and they have already concurred on a plan. I got over to see my ENT Dr. Jill to see what the problem was with my voice. It’s always nerve-wracking to have this sort of thing looked at, because as a Voice Actor you’re always fearing the worst news; a polyp, node or cyst on the vocal cords. I also never look forward to getting “scoped,” as it consists of snaking a viewer down your nose and into the back of your throat so the doctor can get a good look at your vocal cords and what’s going on down there. Normally when I have it done the doctor sprays some numbing spray into your nostrils to deaden the path the scope will take. But even with that my sensitive gag reflex still makes it difficult to keep the viewer down my throat. So just for experimentation, I had her also shoot some numbing spray directly into my throat. It tasted like hell, but you know what? It totally worked! By the time she had gotten the scope down my throat, I didn’t feel a thing! After a few small initial “gags” I was completely comfortable. As she viewed my vocal cords I was going through the full vocal range so she could see what was wrong. REVELATION TWO! The cause of my ongoing problem wasn’t vocal stress at all! My vocal cords were covered in yeast, which were irritating them terribly! She said the irritation came from using the Advair inhaler I had been on for a month. She said as a steroid, that sort of irritation is a common side-effect! So I was to discontinue usage of the inhaler IMMEDIATELY, and she would put me on a dosage of anti-yeast medication! And the best news of all was…NO NODULES, POLYPS OR VOCAL CYSTS! Per my regular doctor’s orders (when I went into see him for my bronchial issue last month) I was using the inhaler twice a day! She gave me a prescription for a different “non-steroid” inhaler that I can use if I start to feel that lung irritation from allergies again. I left the office elated that the end of my problems were finally in sight. I also started feeling like an idiot, because had I gone to the ENT at the first sign of my vocal issues, this problem would have been gone a long time ago. So I blame myself. But then I realized that JUST THAT MORNING I had purchased a 90 day supply of the Advair inhaler! I immediately called my regular doctor and told them not to fill the prescription when the company called them. I also made a note to call the company and cancel the order first thing Monday! I headed to CVS and picked up my pills and my new inhaler, and went home to feed the pets. I did a little work around the house, and then napped. I got up later and finished up some work that needed to be done. I went to Denny’s to get some food to go, and then came home and did some work on my photo album project. As I started on the very first “personal” photo album I was going through my Baby Book that my parents had given me several years ago. I had scanned all of the photos and had prints made, so I didn’t need to disturb the original photos that were mounted inside. But as I opened a packet of related clippings and ephemera, I had a REVELATION THREE! When I was six months old my mom had submitted my baby photo to a publication called “Hollywood Spotlite Photo Directory.” Though it probably seemed like a good idea at the time, now it looks like a bit of a scam to me; preying upon young mothers who are hoping to get their babies noticed by ad agencies, producers and agents. And there I was on the back page in all my naked-baby glory (bare butt and all!). My mom had wished for a career in Hollywood for me before I was even a year old!! And my very first publicity photo…WAS A NUDE! Egad! Between giving me the odd-but-memorable name of Wally Wingert, and foreseeing a career in Hollywood, I’m convinced now more than ever that my parents were prophets! I watched an episode of “Barnaby Jones” and went to bed.

Saturday the 21st – CLOUDY CRUD! – The day was cloudy but really warm! And even a bit humid! I was looking forward to trying to see the Lyrid meteor shower later, but unless the clouds went away I’m afraid I wouldn’t be seeing much. I woke up around 4:30pm, fed the pets, and went over to meet my assistant Sara for a late lunch at Panera. My voice already seemed better, but maybe it was psychosomatic. I got some grocery items and then went home to relax. Sara came over to help put the groceries away, and since I had canceled movie night so I could continue my voice rest, I had the evening to myself. Oddly enough, Dr. Jill said that voice rest probably wasn’t necessary to solve my problems, since that wouldn’t remove the root cause of the irritation my vocal cords were experiencing. So I used the evening as a way to relax some more. I napped on the couch for a while and got up later to check the skies for meteors. But it was a bit too cloudy to see anything. Even on a clear night it’s difficult to see because L.A. is so light polluted. Plus, with cloudy skies it becomes even brighter, since the clouds reflect the lights of the city. Oh well. I took Roxy on an extended walk and enjoyed a cigar. Then I went inside to do some work. I made my traditional Saturday night Super Salad and started the second season of “SNL.” I have a good feeling about this season, since Bill Murray joined the cast that year. Just before I turned in for good around 10am Sunday morning, I was dialing around on the satellite. I came across “Napoleon Dynamite” and enjoyed some silly, brainless humor. I love that movie. Needless to say I went to sleep with a smile on my face.

Sunday the 22nd – WHATTA WASTED WEEK! – Around 4:30 I woke up and got ready for evening church. I looked back and realized what a wasted week it was; all that voice rest for no apparent reason. I’m going to resist the temptation to “self-diagnose” in the future. From now on, if my voice even so much as cracks, I’m going to the doctor. I don’t want to seem like a hypochondriac, but from now on I’m going to err on the side of over-precautious. After church, Roxy and I walked back to the house with my “adopted grandma” Shirley. Then Shirley and I took off for Bob’s Big Boy to get some burgers and discuss the news of the week. My voice was about 70% better, and I had a good feeling about getting back to work on the American Airlines project on Monday. I got home and grabbed a nap, got up later to tackle an audition, and then did some more work on my photo album project. I fed and walked Roxy on our late-night stroll through the neighborhood, and then came inside and retired for the day. I think I went to sleep with my fingers crossed that Monday’s Voice Over session would go OK.

And how was YOUR week??!!


Here’s that Hollywood Spotlite magazine my mom put my picture in when I was 6 months old. WILD!

In order to create a template for proper eye and nose placement on my Rowlf puppet, I covered a Styrofoam sphere with the facial fur as a test. This isn’t the finished puppet, I just used a few pieces of scrap fur to get the idea, but I think it’s looking pretty good! I draped on some of the dark brown fur just to complete the picture. I’m VERY excited to get him finished!