Archive for June, 2014
June 23 – July 6
RANDOM PIC OF THE WEEK
This past week my Great Aunt Sylvia passed away in Portland, Oregon at the age of 96. Strangely enough, her older sister Hazel (and my Grandma) passed away only seven months ago at the age of 101. I guess longevity runs amuck in my family! Rest in peace. We’ll always miss our wacky Aunt Sylvie!
While on the plane on the way back to L.A. this past Sunday, “If You Go” by Sophie Ellis-Bextor came up on my iPod. I had forgotten how great a song this is. What a great sound! What a terrific song!
Monday the 23rd – GARFIELDING! – Bright and early at 8:45 I sprang awake and got ready to start the day. I wouldn’t be able to sleep late during any day this week, so I had to get used to the morning hours again. I drove to Buzzy’s Recording in Hollywood and was greeted by Candi Milo, the great Laraine Newman, Corey Burton, and “Garfield Show” regulars Jason Marsden, Gregg Berger and Frank Welker. It was good to be back, although we were only recording a four part episode over these next two days. We finished three of the four parts and we promised to meet back at Buzzy’s Tuesday morning to finish the final part and have a group lunch together. Some of the producers of the show were in town from France, and Jim Davis’ assistant Kim was in from Indiana. So we all wanted to have a big shindig after we finished the episode. I headed back home when we wrapped up at 2. I got home and did some final packing for a Fed Ex shipment that would be meeting me in Sioux Falls, South Dakota that weekend during my trip. I had several phases to my upcoming trip, and the first phase was the Starsky & Hutch Surcon 2014 in New Jersey. I was going to take only enough clothes with me on the flight for the convention. Then when I flew to Sioux Falls on Sunday my parents would have the Fed Ex box in their possession to give to me. In the box would be a whole new set of clothes for the forthcoming trip. The used clothes from New Jersey would go back to my house via Fed Ex as well. I took the box to Fed Ex to have it weighed and shipped. Then I stopped by Rusty’s Discount Pets to pick up some Linatone for Roxy’s dinner. Linatone is an oily substance you put on your dog’s food to make their coat shiny and their skin soft. Rudd Wetherwax started feeding it to his Lassie dogs since the beginning, and it was advised that I give it to Roxy as well when I adopted her. I picked up some supplies for my upcoming vacation at the drug store, and then headed back home to finish up my 2014 Promotional Kit mailouts. One of my voice-over agents provided me with some more addresses of her buyers, so I wanted to get these in the mail before I left for the trip. I grabbed a quick nap from 7:30 to 10:30, and then I got up to record my auditions. When I finished those I wrote Wally’s Week, and prepped 20 more Promo Kits for mailing. I watched an episode of “Wonder Woman” before bed, even though I had to get up early again for another “Garfield” session.
Tuesday the 24th – SESSION-MANIA! – It was back up at 8:45am again to complete the “Garfield” recording session at Buzzy’s. On this fine day we were joined by the legendary Stan Freberg! The lovely Laura Summer also joined in on the fun, and Laraine, Candi, Corey, Gregg, Jason, and Frank were back again too. After the session it was time for our cast luncheon, and I got to drive Corey Burton over to the restaurant. Captain Hook! In MY car! It was a short journey so we didn’t get much time to chat. But he’s definitely one of the greats! After the lunch I sped off to Regenix at the Cedars-Sinai medical building. I got a clean bill of health on my scalp, and I picked up some more supplies to carry me through until my next follow-up visit. My hairs were growing in strong and thick with good bulbs, and my hair follicles were free of debris and plugs. YAY! I finished up at Regenix and make the long trip over the hill into Burbank. I can’t tell you what I worked on, but it was very exciting. It was at the Warner Studios, and I got to record the voice of an iconic super hero for a new series of animated shorts. FUN! The funniest thing happened. Shawn, a new VO guy just in from New York, came out of the studio before my session and said, “Are you Wally Wingert?” I said, “Yes.” He told me he had admired my work for years and it was good to meet me. Not only was it nice to hear, but I smiled because I used to be him a few short years ago. I can still remember the time when I was the “new guy” in the biz getting to meet Billy West, Jim Cummings, Frank Welker, etc. and shaking their hands with admiration. I guess I’m officially old now. When my session ended around 6:30 I was exhausted! I went home and walked Roxy and relax. Sara had come over earlier in the evening to feed Spook and give Roxy a snack. I napped on the couch for a bit, but I had to get up because my busy week would continue! After I awoke I worked on my trip itinerary. I meticulously planned out the 10 day trip I was about to take; every move anticipated and recorded. I also had a bunch of auditions to do, but at the end of it all I did get to squeeze in an episode of “Wonder Woman” before bed.
Wednesday the 25th – DAMN THAT DOG IS FAST! – This was starting to be routine. My alarm went off at 8:45 again and I hit the shower to prepare for a couple of hours at Voice Trax West doing work for US Airways. I’m the voice of their reservations line, and occasionally they need me to come back in and update some of the voice prompts in their system. We finished up by noon and I was on my way back home to check the mail. I organized some checks to make a deposit in the bank before I left town, and then I drove over to my seamstress’ studio to drop off some fabric. After we finished up, I pulled out of her driveway. Up ahead I saw a small dog crossing the busy street up ahead. But because there were so many cars I couldn’t see if the dog was accompanied by a human or not. I got worried that he might be loose. I drove a little ways up the street and sure enough. My worst fears confirmed! The dog WAS loose and was weaving in and out of traffic. Sometimes just barely missing the tires of a screeching car. He had a bright pink harness on, so he was obviously somebody’s pet. I pulled my car over to the side of the street and ran up to try and grab him. But no luck. He saw me and darted away. I would whistle to him, he would stop and look at me, then dart off. I got back in my car and followed his path. He was a fast little mutt, that’s for sure! He finally ran off into a backstreet away from the main drag. Whew! Another lady tried to grab him but he escaped from her too. I followed him on to the side street. I could tell he was starting to get tired. I pulled over and opened my door and said, “Come in, boy! Come on!” But even though his tongue was hanging out and he was panting like mad, he still ran off in the opposite direction. Thankfully he ran into the back part of somebody’s fenced in yard. I could tell it wasn’t his home, because he seemed unfamiliar with the layout. But the only way out was being blocked by me. And he didn’t approach me. Instead he ran back behind the house and disappeared. I had done my part in wrangling him to safety. In the fenced in backyard he wouldn’t be running in busy traffic any longer. The family who lived next door was out on their porch and I asked them to try and capture him. I wasn’t about to wander I into a stranger’s backyard, especially since it wasn’t my dog. The little girl in the family spoke the best English, so I explained to her that it wasn’t my dog, but he was in great danger running in the streets. I asked her to see if he had tags and possibly a contact number for his owners. I drove off knowing I had done the best I could for the little guy. My parents called to let me know that my Great Aunt Sylvia passed away that morning. She was the youngest sibling in my Grandma Wingert’s family. And since my Grandma Wingert just passed away last December at the age of 101, I thought it was strange that her younger sister passed away a mere seven months later. Oh well. They’re all together now and having a great time I’m sure! I hit the bank in Burbank to make a deposit, and then headed to JoAnn’s Fabrics to pick up some needed blue gingham fabric for my Dorothy of Oz bust. The gingham that I had bought previously wasn’t going to work. The squares were too big once I laid it up against the bust. It didn’t match the scale. So instead of the ¼” squares I opted for the 1/8” squares per my seamstress Karyn’s request. I stopped over to Floyd’s Barbershop for a touch up on my color before I left town, and then I headed back home to finish packing up for my trip the next day. I was able to grab a quick nap on the couch, and of course I did a bunch of auditions when I woke up. I did some other random stuff, completed my packing and I was officially ready for my 10 day “world tour!”
Thursday the 26th – UNITED WE SUCK! – I didn’t get to bed until around 5am, but that was alright. I wanted to be nice and tired for my long five hour plane ride to Newark, New Jersey that day. I got about four hours of sleep, but I was running on adrenaline in anticipation of my trip anyway. I gave Roxy and Spook some goodbye kisses, then threw my bags into my Mustang and sped down the freeway at 9:45. Luck was with me because I made it to the westside of L.A. in 45 minutes! Normally it takes at least an hour. But it was pointless. As I pulled into the LAX area I got a text from United Airlines that my 12:15 flight would be delayed an hour due to “equipment issues.” Great. I don’t know why I take United Airlines any more. They really suck. So I got to the parking lot, turned in my car, got on the shuttle and headed to the terminal to wait it out. I do suggest purchasing the Premier Access when you fly though. The extra 50 bucks is really worth it. I got dropped off at a different terminal with hardly anybody waiting. I got right up to the counter and was immediately assisted with my luggage. I also breezed through security and didn’t have to remove my shoes, hat, or anything out of my carry-on bag. Sweet! I got some food and waited around while I listened to some tunes on my iPad. By the time the flight DID take off it was a full hour and a half late. But since it was a direct flight, and I didn’t have to worry about making a connection anywhere, it really didn’t matter. It was a nice flight though. I napped, listened to some tunes, and watched an episode of “Wonder Woman” on my DVD player. The chicken Caesar wrap that I bought at the airport was awful. The dressing that came with it wasn’t even Caesar. It was more like Italian, but it was marked Caesar. I only ate half of it and threw the rest away. So when the cart came down the aisle of the plane I purchased a buffalo chicken wrap and a few other snacks. The buffalo wrap was pretty lackluster, but not as bad as the Caesar wrap at LAX. Yuck. I was craving some real food. Instead of getting into Newark at 8pm, it was 9:45 before we finally touched down. By the time I got my bags it was 10pm. (Did I mention United Airlines really sucks?) The Surcon party at the Marriott was already in full swing. I hopped the shuttle and made the short trip to the hotel and got in to see a lot of my old friends from the previous year’s Surcon. After I checked in and dropped my bags in my room, I headed back down to the lobby to chat with everybody. I ordered up a Marriott Burger from the bar. And BOY did that hit the spot. I don’t know if it was because I was really hungry, or sick of crappy airline food, but it really tasted amazing! I got back up to my room and unpacked, prepped for the next day’s tribute event and relaxed. At the gathering earlier I heard that Paul Michael Glaser’s flight was even worse than mine. He came in a day before me and because of severe weather they had to divert his flight to another city. The plane ended up flying around in the air for hours on end just wasting time until the storm moved on. He ended up being on his plane from L.A. for about 10 hours. When I got to bed I promised myself I would sleep until at least 1pm the next day! Whew!
Friday the 27th – SURCON 2014! – Actually I slept until 1:30pm! I got up to grab a shower and get ready for a TV interview I had scheduled with COZI-TV, and NBC network that runs all the great old shows. Including “Starsky & Hutch.” They were covering the event for an upcoming special on the network. I don’t have COZI on my DirecTV, but Diane the Head of Programming said they would be on the bird later this year. I sat down and did the interview at 3 which was a lot of fun, then I ran downstairs to the event to get it started. The doors were opening at 4 for a meet-n-greet with Paul and David Soul. I was scheduled to be in the room by 3:45 so I could get a photo with my two childhood idols. I had plenty of photos with them separately, and I even had a few photos with them and a large group of people. But I wanted just a simple photo with me and “the boys.” I haven’t seen Paul since before he left for England to do the “Fiddler On The Roof” tour, so I was looking forward to catching up with him. But when I walked in the room David, whom I don’t know that well, pointed at me and with a big grin said, “Heeeey!” We hugged and said hello. Then I gave Paul a hug hello. I could tell that he was still dragging ass from his horrible plane trip. As we started the photo shoot I told David that I was going to be visiting Sioux Falls that weekend (David is originally from Sioux Falls too) and I asked him if he wanted me to bring him back some Old Home bread. (Old Home bread was a stape of growing up in South Dakota.) He laughed uproariously and the fun began. Trying to get those two to take a serious photo at that point was…well…pointless. David’s laughter made Paul laugh, and then the tomfoolery ensued. We took 33 pictures together and not one was perfect. So we had to do a little digital “tweaking” to create the perfect portrait. I continued mingling with the guests who were waiting to go in and get their photos with Paul and David. I prepped for the show, got my notes in order, and got situated at my table. I knew that however good this year’s show would be, it couldn’t possibly match last year’s event. They used my Gran Torino as the official Surcon car, and my buddy Steve Hatt was in town from South Dakota to enjoy the experience with me. (Steve was my childhood “Hutch” when we would play Starsky & Hutch as kids.) This year my Torino wasn’t with me, and neither was Steve. But I was bound and determined to make the show as good as possible for all the fans who couldn’t attend last year’s festivities. Our first surprise guest was Ann Foster, who played Hutch’s girlfriend Abby in about four episodes. She looked terrific. Just before her surprise entrance I went out into the hallway to give her the microphone and prep her. She was getting quite emotional at the prospect of seeing the boys again. She waltzed in to a standing ovation and the evening was in full swing! It was quite a full show with tons of video clips and tributes. Unfortunately the A/V staff that had been hired wasn’t exactly on their “A game” and it slowed things up quite a bit. They had a hard time keeping up with me and keeping my microphone turned on. So they missed a lot of the surprises. By the time they realized what was going on, it was too late. So I just yelled what I had to say when they didn’t have the mic on. The evening progressed and the next surprise guest was Huggy Bear himself…Antonio Fargas! He had one of the best entrances in the history of surprise appearances. Last year Antonio’s schedule didn’t allow him to attend Surcon, so it was great to finally have him there to join in on the fun. When he came out in all white the audience leapt to their feet and screamed! Laura and Carolyn, the producers of Surcon, were so happy with the response they gave each other a hearty embrace! Success! As the food was getting ready to be served, people lined up to talk to Antonio, David and Paul. Table by table the guests were directed to the serving areas to dish up their dinner buffet style. This was a much more efficient way of doing dinner, and the food was MUCH better than the previous year. Fresh carved turkey, a pasta tomato dish, salad…YUM! Paul went back for seconds he enjoyed it so much! By 9:15 we started in with the Q & A. But by 10 I could tell that Paul was wearing down. David was in fine spirits because he had a relatively short flight from his London home. But the 10 hour ordeal Paul endured on his flight had taken its toll. After consulting Laura and Carolyn we decided to call the evening a half hour early and let Paul get to bed. We finished up with a group photo and Paul disappeared. David, however, was headed to the hotel restaurant and invited me along with Ann and Antonio to hang out. What fun! I had a few Diet Pepsis then I called it a night. I had to be up early the next morning for the big Gran Torino ride through Liberty Park!
Saturday the 28th – JERSEY BOYS! – It was a stunningly beautiful day. After several days of crappy weather, I could tell the locals were enjoying some sunshine and pleasant conditions. I got up at 8:30, grabbed a quick breakfast in the hotel restaurant, and then hitched a ride with my friend Mike in his Gran Torino to Liberty Park. There were three Torinos there for the event. My friend Ian from Canada had driven his down, Mike had his sport model, and Steve Bordi supplied the official Surcon showcar for the Gran Torino ride. A ride that would take a few lucky auction winners on a spin in one of the officially used TV Torinos around Liberty Park. Paul would drive and David would ride shotgun. A ride with the REAL Starksy & Hutch! All against the beautiful backdrop of the New York City skyline! The rest of the fans shot photos and video of the event. At first we weren’t in the right place, as some directions had gotten crossed somewhere. But we ended up in the right place eventually and it all went off without a hitch! The day started to warm up so I went to visit a local hot dog vendor to get some water. While I was there I figured I would get a famous New York hot dog with everything! This baby had it all. Ketchup, mustard, sauerkraut, another sauce I couldn’t identify, and chili. It was loaded! I felt I was honoring tradition by having a dog with everything against the NYC skyline, with the new Freedom Tower looming in the background. As I was walking back with my hot dog and my arms full of water bottles, I felt a bit like Starsky in the TV show. He was always stopping to get lunch at some sleazy dive and carrying an armload of food back to his “cah” to enjoy with Hutch. Strangely enough, as I was walking back to the location, the SUV carrying Paul and David was just pulling out. Paul looked out his window at me and saw what I was carrying. He smiled and wagged his finger at me as if to say, “Great minds think alike!” I caught a ride back to the hotel and decided to nap for a few hours before dinner. I certainly didn’t want to get run down so early in my vacation. I got up at 6 and met my pal Ian and his wife for a bite. We were joined by Dr. John from Australia and his two sons. We had a great conversation which lasted about 5 hours. We talked about everything from the difference between our countries, to the similarities between our countries. It was neat getting a fresh perspective on the world’s problems from those who dwelled outside of the U.S.! We watched Paul and David exit the hotel for a private dinner with some lucky auction winners. Strangely enough, all the auction winners were all female. One of of the winners was Dr. John’s wife! By the time they got back from dinner we were still in the lobby chatting. We talked about everything. And I DO mean EVERYTHING! Great conversation. Great friends. Great time! I got back to my room around midnight and started packing up the box of used clothes I needed to Fed Ex back to L.A. I also packed up the rest of my belongings to get ready for my Sunday flights to Sioux Falls.
Sunday the 29th – ONE FOR THREE! BOO! – Sleeping until 11 felt great. Checkout wasn’t until noon and my flight wasn’t leaving until 2. So I grabbed lunch in the hotel restaurant with my pal David from D.C. and his wife. I also got to say goodbye to other friends and Surcon fans. My pal Terri, who did that great Photoshop job on the photo of me walking away from the gun range with an explosion behind me. She’s the one who added my trusty Gran Torino in the foreground! I also said goodbye to my Boston friend…the “pahk the cah” gal I always rib about her accent. In my industry, you get to love hearing different accents and trying to lock in on them for future reference. She also said she enjoyed watching “Get Smaht!” That was a new one! We all had some good laughs and I went to the front desk to get my Fed Ex box sealed and shipped. I hopped the shuttle to the United terminal, hoping that United hadn’t figured out a way to screw up my next flight. Again, I was dropped off at the Premier Access terminal, and again…it was TOTALLY worth the extra expense! The flight to Chicago, where I would pick up my connection to Sioux Falls, was eventless. I relaxed and reflected on the past couple of days. I watched part 2 of a 2 part “Wonder Woman” episode, as a young kid sitting beside me looked on in extreme interest. Even though he couldn’t hear what was going on, he loved watching the flashy and colorful visuals. We got to Chicago on time, but the flight to Sioux Falls was…you guessed it…DELAYED. Some jackhole who got off the plane in Chicago must’ve bumped the overhead light with his suitcase or something. The light fixture shattered and the bulb was hanging from a wire. It took the maintenance workers an hour and a half to fix it and get the plane ready for flight. Boy United, you’re only one for three this trip. Not good. The people waiting to get on the flight were getting visibly pissed. Is United cursed or something? I didn’t get to Sioux Falls until 9:30 or so. After a call to my folks I found out that they had been waiting at the restaurant for me all that time! They had already eaten but they said they’d wait for me. Rats! I rented a Hyundai Santa Fe and it was a nice vehicle! I met my folks, sisters and nieces for dinner at the Fry’n Pan (a Sioux Falls fixture) and we had a nice time. I enjoyed a great salad and a hot beef sandwich that was amazing! I went to my hotel to check in and I unpacked some stuff that I wouldn’t be needing over the next couple of days. The very next morning I would hop in my Santa Fe, pick up my friend Scott Maguire, and head to Rochester, Minnesota and then on to Minneapolis. I wasn’t able to stand still for a second! Like an idiot, I prepaid for my Sioux Falls hotel room. Big mistake. After I had done that it was decided amongst my friends Scott and Bob that we would take a road trip and go to the Twin Cities for a few days to check out the Star Trek exhibit at the world-famous Mall of America. I booked our rooms in Minneapolis, but since I had prepaid for my room in Sioux Falls I couldn’t cancel for those two days. So I kept two hotel rooms simultaneously for a couple of days. Lesson learned.
Monday the 30th – MIDWESTERN THUNDERBOOMERS! – I picked Scott up at his house at 10:30am. We stopped to get some supplies for the road and headed out on I-90 toward Rochester. When we got on the road it started sprinkling, then rained. We even saw some lightning in the distance. It made my trip extra fun, but for Scott it was just more of the same. That area had been stricken with almost non-stop rain for weeks. But since we don’t get thunder and lightning much (if at all) in the L.A. area, it was a treat. I had some good old tunes playing on my iPad through the car’s Blue Tooth, and Scott and I were reminiscing about the old days we spent together in Sioux Falls radio. This road trip would provide the most time spent chatting with my ol’ pal Scott in years. When I’m in Sioux Falls visiting family I usually only have time for a quick visit with him. And he’s so busy running his radio stations there that his schedule is always tight as well. So it was nice to just relax and chat at length with an old friend. We pulled over on the way to get some more gas. It started to rain pretty heavy and I hadn’t parked the car under a canopy. To make matters worse I couldn’t find the gas cap release in the car anywhere! So there we were standing in the rain like a couple of jerks trying to find the release button. It was hilarious. I pulled the car back under the canopy so we didn’t get soaked. Scott had to Google the problem on his iPhone because we just couldn’t locate it. He found the answer. There was a little button on the driver’s side door. Whew! We gassed up and headed down the road again. We got to our friend Bob’s house in Rochester around 2:30. He put us in his car and we went to the Mayo Clinic where he works. He gave us an amazing tour of his lab and showed us the many microscopes he works on. I never knew what a Nanometer was until that day. Amazing! He can cut samples of kidneys and other organs into one millionth of a meter! I took a look at something cut into 64 Nanometers under the scope. But the sample still needed to be cut into smaller parts! He showed us around the immense grounds of the Mayo Clinic. I had never been there and I was not only impressed with the scope of the facility, but the older architecture that had been incorporated into the grounds. We ate lunch at one of Bob’s favorite eating spots on the property, and then we headed back to his place to start our trip to Minneapolis. The GPS I rented was working out perfectly. It took us right to the doors of the Bloomington Doubletree. We checked into our rooms and dropped our bags off. This particular hotel is the host hotel for the amazing CONvergence conventions. I was very familiar with the hotel, having been a Guest of Honor at CONvergence for three years. We walked to one end of the parking lot and ate dinner at TGI Fridays. On the way back from dinner we ran into some of the CONvergence people who were there setting up for the convention. It was great to see them again, and it almost made me wish that I was staying for the con. Scott, Bob and I had dessert at the local Dairy Queen (a rare treat for me as we don’t have hardly any left in L.A. any more), and we sat by the pool and watched the kids swim as we chatted. We hit the computer and Mapquested the route to my voice-over session the next morning, which would take us to a studio in downtown Minneapolis. I had the GPS, but I always like to have a Mapquested route handy just in case for back-up. What a busy day! But it was spent in the company of good friends, so it was a winner!
Tuesday the 1st – MINNE’MAP’OLIS! – We were headed to downtown Minneapolis via several freeways at 9 in the morning. It’s sometimes necessary even during one’s vacation to still do some voice-over work. The producers for this particular Bush’s Baked Beans TV commercial really wanted to use me, so who was I to argue? The nearest studio my agent could find that had ISDN capability (a super high quality phone line used for recording remote sessions) was Audio Rucks in downtown Minneapolis. Strangely enough the GPS wasn’t finding the address of the studio. So we relied on Plan B…my Mapquested route. A few years back when I was a guest at CONvergence I had to record another session at the same studio. But I was driven there by my local escorts so I didn’t have to worry. But now I was on my own. And Scott and Bob were only vaguely familiar with the downtown Minneapolis layout. Firstly let me say this about Minneapolis. I think former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura was right when he was quoted once as saying that Minneapolis’ streets were designed by drunken Irishmen. Whether or not they were Irish I don’t know. But no sober person would have designed a layout like this. I was taking more freeways to get 10 miles than I did in L.A.! Mapquest said to take the 6th Avenue off-ramp right. As we approached the 6th Avenue off-ramp it gave us two options. Ramp A to the left, and Ramp B to the right. So I went with my instincts and took Ramp B on the left. BIG mistake! Ramp B takes you directly into the parking structure for the Minnesota Twins baseball stadium! And once you’re in you can’t get out! You have to go up several flights in a twisty, turny (and narrow) driveway. When you get to the top then and ONLY then can you get back on the freeway. The WRONG freeway heading the WRONG direction from where we needed to go! Bob recalled that the exact same thing happened to him the last time he was here for a Twins game. Do you think the Minneapolis city planners could have put a sign up that said “Parking for Minnesota Twins ONLY?” Nope. Instead we had to go down the freeway, find an off-ramp, turn around and head back to downtown. This was totally insane. I was cursing all Minnesotans and even a few people who weren’t even FROM Minnesota! After some discussion in the committee, we finally found the general area where we needed to be. And I got to the studio 10 minutes early! The session itself was very short. Only about a half hour. But it was good to chat with Audio Ruckus owner Doug again. He remembered that I had come in a few years back for a session. We were hungry and we set out to find an Old Chicago restaurant that Bob had eaten at about a year ago after the Twins game. We drove on Hennepin Avenue for a long time, but no Old Chicago. Bob’s memory of it was that it was right after a diagonal stretch in the road. But we didn’t find any such location. Again, Scott pulled out his trusty iPhone and Googled the problem. That Old Chicago location had been closed six months earlier. I suspect it was probably because they ran out of beer after Bob’s visit there, but it was only a hunch. So we popped the address for the Mall of America in the GPS and headed over there to find some food and enjoy the Star Trek exhibit. MOA is interesting because it sits on the location of the old Met stadium where I saw the Twins play the Orioles and the Senators on two separate occasions. It’s where I got to meet Harmon Killibrew, Rod Carew and Brooks Robinson! Once we got into the mall we ruled out fast food in the food court, so we went upstairs to enjoy some of Hooters fine cuisine. Of course the good-looking waitresses had absolutely NOTHING to do with our decision to eat there! But as we sat there starving, waiting for our lunch, I noticed that one of the big screen TVs overhead was playing some hunting channel. It showed some hunters crouching over the dead carcass of a water buffalo they just shot. Then a commercial came on that portrayed an animated deer having his flesh torn open by a particular type of arrow they were selling. I was quickly starting to lose my appetite. I asked one of the bimbos…uh…waitresses if they could please change the channel. Not only was it making me lose my appetite, but I was getting nauseous. She laughed thinking I was joking. I told her I was very serious. She said, “What do you want me to change it to?” said, “I dunno. Weather reports, knitting, static…anything but this!” I was this close to walking out and going over to another restaurant. Then the monitor showed a beautiful wolf strolling through a forest, and some hunters in the distance looking at it through binoculars. I thought, “Oh crap! I’m going to have to watch this wolf die during my lunch. That’s it!” Scott offered to switch seats with me to face away from the monitors, but as soon as we switched seats the monitor changed to a golf match. You know, I just don’t get why restaurants don’t keep a closer eye on what they play on their TVs. I’ve been eating several times and an advertisement for another restaurant comes on the monitor. And I think to myself, “That looks great. What the heck am I doing at this dump?” Don’t they realize that their patrons are actually WATCHING the TVs they have on? And that sometimes the TVs are promoting their competition? After all that we headed off to a store in the mall called Lids. They had all sorts of cool baseball caps. I found a couple of vintage-looking Baltimore Orioles caps I wanted to buy, as well as a vintage-looking Minnesota Twins jersey. But I didn’t want to carry them around while we were at the Star Trek exhibit so I made a mental note to come back later. The Star Trek exhibit was about the same as the one I had seen in San Diego several years ago, except it was about one-fourth the size of the one I had seen before. But Scott and Bob seemed to enjoy it. We finished up and went back to Lids to get my stuff. But to personalize my Twins jersey would take about 45 minutes to an hour. They would put your name on the back in the same Twins lettering, and you could pick your own number. Of course I chose WINGERT 69. Scott and Bob went off to Best Buy to look at TVs while I waited for the personalization to be completed. I strolled down the hall and looked at a couple of stores. But it struck me. Just like cable TV, where there are 500 channels and nothing on worth watching…this was 1000 stores and not one I wanted to shop at. Except Lids. I got a banana split at the Dairy Queen and continued to wait. The 45 minute personalization process turned into an hour and a half. Which put us back on the Minneapolis freeways around 5pm, just in time for the afternoon rush. We got back to the hotel and decompressed. Scott and Bob had checked out of their rooms already and were planning on driving back to Rochester and to Bob’s house. I was staying an extra night so I could visit with some CONvergence friends and relax. It was then I noticed that some of the stitching on the 69 on my jersey had come unraveled. After all that waiting, and it still wasn’t done right. Great. I headed over to the local Denny’s to grab dinner with about a dozen pals from CONvergence, and my pal Tony Horning. Tony lives in Minneapolis and is a graphic designer. He was the little brother of my childhood pal Jon Horning, who was my comic book buddy. Unfortunately Jon passed away suddenly about 10 years ago. I always remember Tony as the little brother who wanted to hang with us and talk comic books. He was a pretty good artist even at that age, and ended up doing what he loved for a living. He brought his daughter by to say his as well and we had a nice chat. It was great seeing all the CONvergence folks too and getting a chance to catch up on news. My old friend Sherlyn brought her kids by to say his as well, and when we finished eating we took her kids to the hotel so they could swim. But as I sat there poolside, I got really tired. I pulled my new Orioles cap down over my eyes and snoozed for about 5 minutes. When the kids got dried off the got dressed and took off with their mom. I headed back upstairs to see about ordering in a pizza. It arrived and I sat in front of the large picture window in my 12th floor room just gazing out at the night-time Minneapolis skyline. It’s a pretty city, as long as you don’t have to drive in it. I went downstairs to check my e-mails and hit the hay.
Wednesday the 2nd – FOOD! SO MUCH FOOD! – At 11:30 I checked out of my room and loaded my luggage in my car. CONvergence was really starting to heat up. Even though the convention wouldn’t start until Thursday, all of the workers were starting to set things up. It gave me the fever to come back some year and enjoy it again. I drove off to Rochester to pick up Scott. By the time I got there it was 1:45 and we were itching for lunch. We hit a place called Fat Willy’s and it was one of the best decisions I had made all week. Amazing food! I had a “Sloppy Jalopy;” basically a sloppy joe. Even the iced tea was amazing and fresh brewed! I told Scott it was a good thing I didn’t live there because Fat Willy’s would make for Fat Wally! If you go there, tell Dawn the server I said hi! I asked her if she was named after the Four Seasons song. She said her birth pre-dated the song by several years. But that reminded me. “Jersey Boys” was out in theaters now, and I though taking my folks would be a good idea. When I was growing up my mom always had Four Seasons records playing, so I figured they would enjoy that. Scott and I anxiously hit the road back to Sioux Falls. We were jamming on tunes and chatting, and I plum forgot to fill up the car with gas! We got down the road a ways and the low fuel light lit up! CRAP! I was about 43 miles from being empty. Luckily Blue Earth, Minnesota was just 14 miles down the road, so we stopped to gas up and get some snacks. We hit Sioux Falls around 6:30 and I dropped Scott at home. I went to my room and showered up. I met my folks for steaks at the Lone Star Steakhouse around 8:15, and Scott and his wife Patti joined us. My folks always love seeing them, but even though they live in the same town, they just don’t run into each other that much. After dinner I went to a local tavern to catch up with my friend Steve “Hutch” Hatt. (Remember him?) I wanted to tell him all about this year’s Surcon and all the funny Starsky & Hutch stories. I also had an autographed t-shirt for him, and a release for him to sign. The COZI-TV people were so tickled by the photos of Steve and I dressed as Starsky & Hutch when we were kids that they asked to use some of the shots in the piece. But Steve needed to sign the release form before that could happen. Steve’s little brother David was there, and I literally had not seen him since he was about 5! I got back to my room to organize my stuff and unpack my Minneapolis clothes. As I was getting ready for the next day it hit me…I really miss my pets!
Thursday the 3rd – BOB’S, B&G, BRENDA & FRANKIE! – My dad always raves about a local eatery called Bob’s Café. Though they specialize in chicken, he loves the fresh-off-the-grill burgers. The café only seats about 12, so we had to get there early for lunch. I wanted to enjoy a Bob’s burger with my dad and see what all the fuss was about. I stopped by and got my folks at 11:15 and we got to Bob’s before the lunch rush. We enjoyed lunch and since I had some time to kill, I decided to run them by our old house on 14th street in Sioux Falls. It was the house we had when I was baby. We moved from that house to Aberdeen, South Dakota after I finished second grade. So that house held many great memories. The best of which involved running around the backyard with my Batman mask on and a towel safety-pinned around my neck for a cape! I would cavort with my dog Ralph and we had lots of great adventures in that backyard. Every day at noon, the air raid whistles would blow to let Sioux Falls residents know it was high noon. My dog Ralph hated that damn horn and would howl in agony every time it blew. One day I sat out in the backyard with him and howled right along with him. Our neighbors called my folks to tell them that their “odd” kid was out howling like a dog in the backyard. Little did they know that I was just prepping for my future career! Good times! I slowed my car down to take a good, hard look at the house. Mom, Dad and I talked about the changes that had been made to the exterior of the grounds. A lady walked by and waved. So she wouldn’t get suspicious, I rolled down the window to explain ourselves. I said, “Hi. We used to live here about 40 years ago and we’re just reminiscing.” She said, “My husband and I own this house now. Would you like to come in and see it?” I thought my dad was going to leap through the window he was so excited. We parked and went into accept her hospitality. Though I hadn’t remembered much about the interior of the house (much of it had been changed anyway) I certainly remembered the immense backyard. Though the fence to keep my dog prisoner had been removed, and a column of lilac bushes had been removed, it sure brought back memories. I could recall exactly where the lilac bushes were. Where the swing set was. Where the concrete slab was that held the metal barrel where my dad would burn leaves (back when you could do that sort of thing). As I walked the length of the backyard I got very emotional. Thinking about my little dog Ralph, and the carefree days of running around as Batman, using the outdoor dirt floor cellar as my Batcave. Yup, the dirt floor cellar was still intact! It sure brought back some memories. It was nice of Brenda to do that. My dad was tickled that some wooden planks he installed in the rafters in the garage were still there after all these years! We hopped back in the car and went to 51st street to see the house we lived in from 1978 to 1979. I took the folks back home and stopped by B&G Milky Way to get a few of those delicious sloppy joes and a banana malt. Then I picked Scott up at his house so we could drive 50 miles north to a town called Brookings to do some gun shopping. We finished up our business in downtown Brookings and headed back to Sioux Falls. We were hoping to make the 6:30 showing of “Jersey Boys” at the local theater. My folks were meeting us there. My dad loves to go to movies and would probably go every week. But my mom just won’t go with him for some reason. And dad doesn’t like to go alone. Even though some of my favorite movie-going experiences have been when I’ve gone alone. I can concentrate on the action more intently when I’m alone at a movie. But I knew they would love this movie so I insisted on taking the both. My brother-in-law Roger goes to movies by himself, and will sometimes go with dad. Scott said he goes to movies by himself all the time, and offered to take my dad with him sometime. That would be great! “Jersey Boys” was fabulous. We all enjoyed it immensely and I really want to get the Blu Ray when it’s released to watch it again during a movie night. After the movie we dropped by Scott’s radio station so he could do some work. While he was inside working, I was outside in the field behind the station watching a couple of rabbits frolicking in the brush. I think they were a bit freaked out with all of the popping and booming in the neighborhood. Fireworks are legal in South Dakota and apparently some celebrants started early. After I took Scott home I dropped by my buddy Dave Baumeister’s house. I hadn’t seen him in quite a while and it was good to catch up, sitting by the fire blazing in his fire pit. Sleepily, I got back to my hotel and turned in for the night.
Friday the 4th – HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA! – When I woke up at 1 I went downstairs to check in to my Saturday flight on-line. Luckily I wasn’t taking United. But instead I was booked on Allegiant. They fly DIRECT from Sioux Falls to Los Angeles, with no stops, no connections, and no hassles. I was quite looking forward to seeing how this flight went. I printed my Boarding Passes and I was all set. I stopped by Hutch’s for a Bar-B-Q and some conversation. He made me a cheeseburger and we sat out in his backyard chatting while his neighbors lit fireworks. His niece Charlotte was there watching cartoons on her iPad. He said she’s a big fan of “The Garfield Show” and wanted to meet the voice of Jon. Though she’s very shy, she was coaxed into coming out to join us at the table. I was pointing out the characters I voiced in the Garfield episode she was watching. In some cases, I would repeat the line I did in the cartoon live for her. But the coolest thing happened. As she was watching the episode on her iPad, I was watching along too. But my eyes pulled their focus away from the action on the screen, to Charlotte’s reflection in the screen. I could watch her facial reactions to the cartoon as she intently watched the action, and it was really neat. I don’t often get to watch the face of a child as they enjoy something I was blessed to be a part of. A really neat experience! I bid Steve farewell and headed down the road. Of course I just had to stop by B&G Milky Way again to get another malt and maybe JUST maybe… another sloppy joe. As I parked my car and walked in, I noticed the back bumper of the car that followed me into the B&G parking lot. It was adorned with all sorts of military veteran stickers. I held the door for the gentleman and his wife and he said, “Thank you.” I replied with, “Thank you for your service.” He smiled. I knew that meant something to him, especially on the 4th of July. I asked him what branch he served in and he said, “Marines.” A special group those guys! He and his wife got their food and before they left he said, “Have a good 4th!” Under my breath I said, “I will because of guys like you.” A special class indeed! Before my family’s evening 4th of July celebration I wanted to grab a quick nap, so I headed back to the hotel. On the way to my sisters that night around 7 I stopped off at a fireworks stand and bought about $200 worth of fireworks. Really good stuff! I took it to my sister’s house and unloaded the boxes. I assigned my two nieces to the task of unpacking the boxes and laying out all the fireworks so we could blow them off later. After eating some dinner it started to get dusky. It gets darker a lot later in South Dakota than it does in L.A. for some reason. So the optimal fireworks time isn’t until about 9:45. So I told me nieces that they could blow off some of the fireworks that darkness wasn’t required for. Everybody in my sister’s neighborhood does it up right. There are really elaborate displays everywhere you look. That’s what makes it special, and it’s why I like to visit South Dakota over the 4th of July. I got into the habit recently of visiting during that period for two reasons. One, Jay let us off from “The Tonight Show” over that week, so I had time to travel and enjoy my family’s company. And two, my Grandma Hazel’s birthday was on the 2nd. So I could kill two birds with one stone! But now that Grandma’s gone I still like to enjoy a good ol’ South Dakota 4th of July! The sights, sounds and smells of a South Dakota 4th are unmatched! I met the grandson of my sister’s fiancé. A bright little boy named Torin, who’s about ready to enter Kindergarten. He’s not shy at all. Somebody said, “Torin, have you met Wally?” He came right up to me with his hand extended and said, “Nope.” I shook his hand firmly and said it was nice to meet him. I liked his style. Then I did the old schtick I used to do as Beetlejuice when I would shake hands with a young child. I pretended that his grip was too strong and he was hurting my hand…comically of course. He giggled and we had officially broken the ice. I honestly believe Torin has the makings of a future Voice-Over Actor. He wanted me to do some voices, and as I did various sounds and impressions, he sat real close to me studying my mouth, trying to figure out how I was making those noises. He tried to parrot back my duck sound. He also loved when I did Scooby-Doo, Shaggy and Jon from “The Garfield Show.” He would request certain voices and when I would say things in character, he would converse with the character. He wanted to talk with Jon…Garfield…Scooby…and Shaggy. Most kids just giggle at the voice and go about their business. When I said, in my horrible Garfield impression, “Where’s my lasagna?” Torin would reply with, “In the kitchen.” He was waiting for my response. AS Garfield. But I’m not fluid enough in my Garfield impression to continue the conversation. The kid had stumped me. And I liked that! It’s not often a kid that age can entertain me and genuinely make me laugh, but Torin was a special little guy. At one point he slipped off the curb and he skinned his knee. He was crying in pain and his mom, a nurse, tended to his wound with water and a Spongebob Band-Aid. In a little while he was back to his cheery self. I said, “Did you get hurt?” He said, “Yes, but I saved my moneymaker.” It was such a random thing to be coming out of a 5 year old I just had to burst out laughing. The supply of fireworks were running low and it was time to hit the road. I bid everyone farewell and gave out goodbye hugs. I went back to the hotel, packed up my used clothes in a box to go to Fed Ex, and packed the rest of my clothes in my suit bag. I hit the hay to get some sleep. What a whirlwind trip!
Here’s some video of the fireworks.
Saturday the 5th – THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME!” – I must’ve been ready to get home, because I woke up a full half hour before my alarm. At 10:30 I was packed and ready to go. I dropped by Fed Ex to mail my clothes home, I got the vehicle gassed up so I could return it to the rental agency, and I got to the airline gate in good time. I grabbed lunch while I waited for the flight to board. Due to a flight from Phoenix getting in late, my Allegiant flight was going to leave about a half hour after it was supposed to. But since the flight was only 3 hours, I would still make it back home at a decent time. When you consider that a normal trip back to L.A. is about a six hour ordeal (2 hours to Denver, a 2 hour layover, and 2 hours from Denver to L.A.) a three hour direct flight seemed like luxury! It was a great flight, and the pilot made up the lost time in the air! We made it to L.A. at darn near the scheduled time! It was good to be back…to breathe the L.A. air again. I stopped by Taco Bell to get a quick lunch, and then got home to greet my pets. I had really missed them. Roxy was a bit befuddled when I came in, but she warmed up to me right away. Then she wouldn’t leave my side. I settled in and opened up my mail. I was shocked! My union wrote to tell me my insurance had been canceled for non-payment. I was sure I sent the check on the 9th of June, LONG before I left for vacation. It was due on July 1st and apparently hadn’t been received. I panicked! I reviewed my checkbook register and found the check number in question. I called the automated teller and sure enough the check hadn’t been cashed yet. What’s the weak link in this equation? The U.S. Mail! I was increasingly getting deeply disappointed in the shoddy service being provided by the postal service of late. This was just one of several issues I’ve been having with them lately. It figures! So I immediately went on-line and paid my premium via credit card, taking advantage of the 30 day grace period. Now I was going to have to call the union first thing Monday to see if they ever got the check, and call the bank to have the payment stopped on it. What a hassle. Thanks Post Office. No wonder your impending extinction seems imminent! Certainly not the kind of news you want to see when you come back from vacation! I now had a nice headache. So I unpacked my stuff, checked some e-mails and tried to get a handle on my life. I always hate this part of a vacation. Catching up. Blah! Luckily my friend Brittney Powell came by to help out with a few things and when she left, I grabbed a short nap. It was good to be back in my own bed again, with my pets lying next to me. I got up later in the evening and realized I didn’t have any supplies in the house. So I suited up and went to get some groceries on a late Saturday night. Then I came back home to do some writing, and enjoyed a salad while watching an episode of “The Saint.” After all, it WAS “Saturday Night Saint and Salad Night!” But my body clock was all screwed up. First I was on Pacific Time, then Eastern, then Central, and now back on Pacific. It would take me a few days to acclimate. I was now used to getting up at 9am Central Time, which was 7am Pacific Time! Wild!
Sunday the 6th – SUNDAY FUNDAY! – Around 3pm I arose from my slumber and walked Roxy. It was a warm, summery day, but not hot really. I spent a few hours doing some writing, and then I got ready for evening church. I walked Roxy to church, and when we were finished Sara joined us for the walk home. After 10 days of no Italian food, I was craving Little Toni’s. So Sara and I headed over and had a great dinner. With a tummy full of yummy food, I napped for a few hours. But when I got up I had a ton of auditions to do that were due Monday in my agent’s offices. I prepped for the next day’s sessions and hit the hay around 4am. I had to be up at 8:45 to start my Monday, so it was going to be a VERY short night!
And how were YOUR weeks???!!!
PIX FROM THE WEEK
Portrait photos by ‘Cable 15’ Studios
Here’s some video from the Surcon event.