Archive for June, 2011

June 27 – July 4 (2011)



I heard this Saturday at Universal Studios and you’ll have to read Wally’s Week to know why it meant so much to me. Dolly Parton singing “I Will Always Love You.”

Monday the 27th – THE WORST DAY OF MY LIFE! – I’m not saying that lightly. Monday the 27th of June was the absolute worst day of my life. You may remember from the previous Wally’s Week I had taken my 12 year old collie Sassie to a vet specialty place in Tustin on Sunday the 26th. I was hoping they would find something wrong with her spine or brain that they could operate on since she had begun to lose all her mobility and equilibrium. They kept her overnight and said they would do an MRI first thing Monday morning. I kept the cell phone by my bed all night waiting for the call. I knew the doctor would be in around 10:00 and would call with the results. Trying to stay positive when the phone rang I answered, “Hi doc…what’s the good word.” She told me the good news was that she had no brain or spine abnormalities. But the bad news was that she had no brain or spine abnormalities. She said they could draw spinal fluid to check for inflammation or infection but she would have to be put out AGAIN for that procedure. She had been put out for the MRI but wasn’t doing very well. Sassie’s blood pressure had dropped considerably and would need to be brought out soon. I asked what the chances of finding something wrong in her spinal fluid would be, hoping for light at the end of the tunnel. The doctor said only about 40%. Was I going to let them revive her, only to put her out again the next day for a test that had less than a 50/50 chance of proving something positive? I said, “Doc, what would you do if she were your dog?” The doctor said, “Let her go.” I knew that was the logical alternative. To let her go while she was still under sedation. She would not feel a thing and would just slip away. All of her problems would be over. The degenerative condition that was killing all of her nerves would no longer be a problem for her. She would no longer fall over, wobble when she walked, or have trouble getting up and down. I gave the OK and kept my cool during the phone call. Sass’ remains would be cremated and I would get them in about two weeks. When I hung up the phone I collapsed to my knees in my bedroom and wept like I hadn’t in several decades. That was the absolute saddest thing I have ever encountered in my life. I made sounds I had never made before, even as a voice actor. But I had to put on the brave face and get to work. I was due at a videogame session in less than an hour and I had to take my mind off of my misery. Thank GOD “The Tonight Show” was on hiatus, because I just wasn’t up to that. I joked my way through the two hour session, then came home and collapsed again. I called Regenix and rescheduled my afternoon appointment for later in the week. I wanted to sleep but I couldn’t. I would catch a glimpse of her food bowl or her bed and turn to mush again. I didn’t want to go anywhere, see anyone, talk to anyone. I sent out e-mails to all who knew Sassie and explained that I wouldn’t be able to talk coherently on the phone for a few days. As soon as I would start to talk about it I would choke up and break. When I called my friend Chuck McCann to inform him off the news, he said he had to let one of his dogs go just a few days earlier. We had a good cry on the phone together. It was a sad, sad, SAD day. Please be sure to read the Sassie Story I’ve posted, and take a look at the amazing tribute video my webmaster Scott Sebring put together. I took some Excedrin PM and managed to get a few hours of sleep in the afternoon. E-mails of condolences were pouring in from all over. Sassie was really loved! One of the e-mails I received was from my old pal Dave Baumeister in South Dakota. He said he’s had to let several dogs go in his lifetime, and it never gets easier. But his advice was to get out of the house and do stuff. Since I’ve always treasured Dave’s advice, whether or not I decide to follow it, I figured that was worth a try. What gave me pleasure? Friends, target shooting, driving around in my 1974 Gran Torino…so I decided to do all of the above. I loaded up my guns, picked up my assistant Sara in the Torino and we sped off for dinner. After a quiet dinner at the Coral Cafe in Burbank, we went to the Firing Line just a mile away. That night I had been invited to a wrap party for a new animated project for Disney I had worked on. And even though I was the voice of the lead character, I told my agent that under the circumstances, she should send my regrets and sincere thanks to the producers. I’m sure they’d understand. We got to the range during the last hour of operation…from 9pm to 10pm. We shot my Smith and Wesson Model 459, my Beretta Cheetah, and one of my .45 automatic model 1911s. When we finished I realized that the wrap party was about four blocks away from the shooting range at the Burbank Moose Club. Since I was feeling better I wheeled the Torino down the street, found parking, put on the brave face again, and went in. The gang was very surprised to see me since they had all heard the news about Sassie. But I found the presence of friends to be very comforting. Plus, they had karaoke! Dave was right! My old pal Richard Horvitz (who ALWAYS makes me laugh) was there. It was really great to see everyone, and to view on the big screen some of the finished animated scenes. The show looked great and I felt proud to be involved! I realized that I had done an Elvis show at the Moose Club in Aberdeen, South Dakota back in 1978, and now here I was at the Burbank Moose Club over 30 years later. Where DOES the time go? So I just HAD to sing an Elvis song again to maintain tradition. I sang “Suspicious Minds,” and it felt good. Later that night my pal Brittney Powell stopped in to see how I was doing and her, Sara and I took the stage to do Tom Jones’ “She’s a Lady.” I also got the chance to show off the Torino which also made me happy. But when I came home that evening to a quiet house the heaviness hit me again. As I pulled in the garage, I didn’t hear the familiar sound of woofing to welcome me back. This was going to be a tough week.

Tuesday the 28th – LIVING LOGICALLY! – I actually slept pretty well. I got up for the IVR session (Interactive Voice Response) that was scheduled for today. I will be able to tell you the company I’ve been working for over the past 5 months very soon. The new phone system will launch in a few weeks. The producer commiserated with my situation, because he was getting close to having to make the same decision about his own dog. I realized that I was feeling better because my logical mind had taken over. I have always prided myself on being able to consider all things in my life from a logical point of view. I’m not as militant about it as, say, Mr. Spock. But I’ve found making logical decisions in my life to be a great help. I did the only logical thing I could have done for my 12 year old dog who was rapidly becoming an invalid. She couldn’t have possibly been happy in that condition. Now that we’ve recorded the lion’s share of material for the IVR job we’re into maintenance mode now, only recording a few things here and there. In fact, starting this week we’ve gone to a one hour session, once a week. But we only worked for about 15 minutes, and I was on my way. I was still having trouble with my right sinus, so I headed to the pharmacy to get a prescription refilled. Then I went home and hopping back in my 1974 Gran Torino. BOY do I love driving that thing! It creates such goodwill amongst those on the street who see her. They honk, smile, wave, holler…just like people used to do when I would drive around Mitchell, South Dakota with my Grandpa Joe in his Model A Ford when I was a kid. I’m continuing the Grandpa Joe tradition! My Ear Nose and Throat doctor was concerned about my recurring allergy-based sinus issues, so he arranged for me to have a CT scan of my sinuses at St. Joseph hospital in Burbank, near NBC. My friend Bruce Kulick had just had the same thing, so he was giving me sound advice about what to expect. After an hour (the scan only took about 2 minutes!) I was on my way in the Torino to Wendy’s to grab some dinner. I also hit Best Buy and Michael’s Crafts to pick up some items. I got a call from Scott and Vickie Sebring that they were in the area. (I think they were checking up on me to make sure I was alright). I stopped at Studiopolis Burbank to show voice director extraordinaire Jamie Simone the Torino. I met Scott and Vickie at my house and drove them to Jerry’s Famous Deli for dinner in the Torino. Though I had just had a delicious chicken sandwich at Wendy’s, I had a bowl of soup. Then I headed home for a quiet evening of research. After I did my nightly auditions to e-mail to my agent, I got in bed, made some popcorn and iced up a Coke in a glass bottle, and read the first five chapters of a book called “Chrystallia and the Source of Light.” It’s written by Paul Michael Glaser, an actor whose work meant a lot to me as a 15 year old kid in South Dakota. He was Starsky in “Starsky and Hutch” on ABC TV. I would be meeting with him the following day to discuss some ideas I had to promote his book and I needed to get a feel for it before the meeting. I was enjoying the escape. On a sad note, I took Sassie’ poop scoop and put it in the trash for the garbage men to take the next morning.

Wednesday the 29th – IF I COULD HAVE SEEN MYSELF WHEN I WAS FIFTEEN…! – I got up in the morning and headed to Buzzy’s Recording in Hollywood to record two more episodes of “The Garfield Show.” I would really have to bury myself in the work today and put on the brave face! But I had something to look very much forward to which took my mind off my sadness. I got to the session and my ENT called with my results. I still have some mild inflammation in my right sinus, so he suggested I keep up with the nasal rinses and the anti-inflammation nose sprays. Sounds like time is going to be the healer in my sinus case, as with my sadness of loss. I got to work again with the legendary voice actress June Foray, and it’s amazing to watch her work. When she did the voices of Rocky the Squirrel and Natasha for me, I almost got a tear. Around 1:00pm Paul came to the studio to meet everyone so we could go to lunch. I thought it was important for him to meet the great Mark Evanier, because of Mark’s history with animation, comic books, the San Diego Comic Con, and numerous other things which could benefit the promotion of Paul’s book. Then I met up with Paul at Jerry’s Famous Deli in Beverly Hills for lunch. We hashed around some great ideas to promote “Chrystallia” and I suggested a few recording studios where he could record the book-on-tape version within reasonable expense, but still maintaining top notch studio quality. As we sat across the table from each other exchanging stories, I flashed back to my 15 year old self. The curly headed dorky kid who wanted to walk, talk, dress, move and act just like Paul’s character on “Starsky & Hutch.” To me at that age, he was the epitome of cool. I remembered how, when I visited Los Angeles in the summer of 1976 with my family, I thought it was great that I was able to breathe the same air and stand on the same ground as Paul Michael Glaser and Henry Winkler! Everything in my wardrobe at that time was similar to something I had seen Paul wear on the show. I even donned the pinky ring, the bracelet and his crooked smile. If I had been able to look into a crystal ball when i was 15 and see my self 35 years later exchanging jokes with the man himself, I would have had a heart attack and would have never made it out of puberty. This was definitely something I needed this week. Something so monumentally good and amazing that it really took me away from the drama of the beginning of the week. He told me recollections of working on the show, his directing career, and some basic information about the formation of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, which was named for his late wife. We enjoyed a two hour chat and I got a clearer idea of where he wanted to take his book “Chrystallia.” I also offered some opinions on promotional aspects he may not have been aware of. And I know what you’re thinking. NO. I did not drive my Torino to lunch. I did get to tell him how much his work on the show meant to a young South Dakota kid, and that I appreciated it even today. Then I asked him what inspired HIM as a young man. He was a fan of westerns. See how we all get our inspiration from different places! To me, “Starsky & Hutch” WAS a western of sorts. Two good guys, fighting the bad guys. Instead of riding biological horses, their horses were under the hood of that red and white Gran Torino. Things really don’t change that much if you think about it. After a great meeting I was flying high and I headed over to my appointment at Regenix. After looking at my hairs and scalp under the high powered microscope, Gregg said that my progress was wonderful! The program was working wonderfully! Gregg also said that he had a 3 year old collie and he understood my pain perfectly well. It was a beautiful day, and the ride home was amazing. I really needed a fun day like this. Not just fun, but earth-shatteringly amazing. I got home and did some stuff around the house and my friend Brittney came over to check on me. I did some auditions, scanned some pictures of Sassie for my video tribute, and then settled into bed to watch a 2 part “Man From U.N.C.L.E.” episode on DVD. Normally Sassie would have been on the bed with me eating chunks of chicken, but I tried not to think about how much I missed her.

Thursday the 30th – STORMS A BREWIN’! – I slept in. I really needed it. “The Tonight Show” was on hiatus so I had some time to myself. My son Zak’s friend Arianna was coming to L.A. tonight for her birthday weekend. She was going to see some of her favorite bands play at the Vans Warped Tour in Ventura, and I said she could stay at Planet Wallywood while in town. I went to see Dr. Liu for some acupuncture to help my sinuses. Then I went to the bank to deposit some checks, and then the post office to mail some stuff. I got to the pharmacy to get some more nose spray, got a sandwich and some groceries, and headed home. I napped until Arianna’s plane got in. Though her plane was supposed to get in at 9pm, it was delayed 3 hours because of bad weather in Denver, her connection point. When she finally got in, she was starved. So I took her over to L.A. landmark Bob’s Big Boy!

Friday the 1st – FRIDAY WITH FRIENDS! – I slept in, but when I got up I realized that Arianna had locked herself out of the house! She had been out by the pool unable to get in for three hours! And it was a hot day! We went over to Studiopolis Burbank to do a session for “Bleach.” Though Arianna was excited to see how anime cartoons were voiced, she ended up sleeping through the entire session. The jet lag was getting to her. We went over to It’s a Wrap for awhile, then to a vintage store. Scott and Vickie Sebring were in the area again and were heading over to my house. Sara joined us as well. My video guy Mark Ackerman came by to check on my video system and to reprogram my remote. Once he was finished I loaded up the gang in the Torino and we went to Barone’s for some great food. But I was starting to feel in a funk again. The sadness and pain was coming in waves, like before. But the waves had smaller peaks. In fact, they were getting smaller and smaller with each passing day. My friend Cher came by to Barone’s and that perked me up just a bit. We had great food and great conversation, though it was tough for me to keep my mind on things. We finished up our dinner and went to a gelato place for dessert, then back home.

Saturday the 2nd – UNIVERSALLY REFRESHING! – Today was the day we planned on going to Universal Studios to show Arianna around. But I woke up and just wasn’t feeling it. I was going to drop the girls (Arianna, Sara and Edi) off at the park and go back home to bed. But I decided to park and go in with them. We bought our passes, but for a few extra bucks we could get FRONT OF THE LINE passes! I went for it and I’m glad I did. It is SO worth it! We saw almost everything we wanted to see in a short amount of time. If we hadn’t had those passes, we would have seen only half the stuff, and would have spent a great majority of the day waiting in line. Time IS money, after all! And the park was PACKED! I guess the recession hadn’t affected any of the THOUSANDS of people who were there in the park. It was so crowded that there wasn’t enough seating at the restaurants. So when we finally got our food, we went walking around for about 20 minutes looking for a vacant table. My spirits were generally good, but I was hit with periodic bouts of sadness. I was praying that the girls didn’t want to go to the Animal Actor’s stage show, because as soon as they brought out Lassie I would have crumbled. Luckily, nobody mentioned it. As we rode the escalators down to lower lot, the loudspeakers played Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” and I thought I was going to die. But I held in my crumbling emotions and rode it out. We rode on the Simpsons ride, Jurassic Park, The Mummy ride, and the studio tour. But King Kong was malfunctioning so we weren’t able to see that. Frankly, I liked the old “organic” King Kong better. It was more stunning to the eye and felt more real. The new King Kong is basically just a 3-D movie and that’s about it. Not much to crow about. We saw Scooby Doo, Shaggy and Daphne by the Mystery Machine, saw the Special Effects show (in the old theatre where I used to do Beetlejuice), and our last thing for the day was the Terminator show. Then we got back home to prepare for movie night. We only had time to watch “Spaceballs” because the girls had to be up early for the Vans Warped Tour the next day.

Sunday the 3rd – SUPER SUNDAY! – The girls got up early and left for the Ventura Fairgrounds for the concert, and I stayed in bed catching up on sleep. I ate a little bit then went back to bed until evening church. My church family were wonderful as they came up to offer their condolences. After church I met with my friend Edi at Ernie’s Taco House and we grabbed dinner. But since nobody had to be up for work the next day we did movie night again. We watched two “Star Trek” features…”The Search for Spock” and “The Voyage Home.” I headed to bed to get ready for the 4th of July and my cat Spooky’s birthday! But just before I fell asleep I realized that one week ago I saw Sassie for the very last time. But I bit my lip and drifted off to sleep.

Monday the 4th – HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AMERICA! or MIXED MONDAY! – It was a Monday holiday filled with mixed emotions. A week earlier I had made the call to let my 12 year old collie go while still under sedation. My day wasn’t starting out very well. Sara, Arianna, Edi and I went to Hollywood and had lunch at Hooters. Even the lovely servers at the restaurant did nothing to improve my pensive mood. I stared outside and watched the folks on Hollywood Boulevard while getting lost in my thoughts. The girls chatted happily about the day to come. After lunch Arianna took off on foot to look for several things she wanted to see, while Sara took off to do personal errands. Edi and I went to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. The likenesses were the absolute best I have ever seen at any wax museum. It’s set up to be a completely interactive experience with the guests. Instead of being roped off like other wax museums, they allowed you to pose for photos with the figures! The other museums I had seen featured the figures in mock sets from famous movies. I liked that too. However the thing I didn’t like about Madame Tussaud’s was the lack of many classic movie and TV stars. There was no Marilyn Monroe, no Elvis, no Laurel and Hardy, not even an Austin Powers! But if you wanted Zac Efron and Selena Gomez, you were in luck. Really? Oh well. I guess they have to appeal to all audiences. Edi and I picked up Arianna and headed to the grocery store to pick up items for our 4th of July cookout and fireworks extravaganza. A major fireworks display is quite near to my house, so we can sit outside my garage in chairs and enjoy the show every year. I cook hot dogs and feed my friends before the big show. As we were putting groceries away some guests began to arrive. It’s always advisable every year to come early to get the best parking spots. The street parking fills up later in the evening as the fireworks exhibit grows nearer. I enjoyed some hot dogs, then took a quick swim with Edi and Arianna. Then I got changed and headed out back for the big fireworks display. It was stellar, as always. But everyone was tired from the weekend and headed home to get ready for an early Tuesday morning. Me, I wrote Wally’s Week, my Sassie tribue, did a few auditions, and hit the hay. With that I brought a close to one of the strangest weeks of my life. Complete with extreme highs, but just as extreme lows. It’s not a week I wish to repeat at any time during the rest of my life.

And how was YOUR week??!!!