June 28 – July 5 (2010)

Since the past week was spent visiting relatives and friends I hadn’t seen in awhile, this song kept running through my mind. Though the rest of the lyrics don’t apply at all, the chorus was a staple for the past week. “It’s a Fine, Fine Day” by Tony Carey. Enjoy!

Monday the 28th – READY FOR LIFTOFF! – “The Tonight Show” was on hiatus for the entire week, as well as the 5th of July so the cast and crew could enjoy some time off for the Independence Day holiday. My friend Sara and I were booked on a red-eye Monday night/Tuesday morning to South Dakota. We would spend a few days there with relatives, and watch my Grandma turn 98 years old! Since I was being flown in to attend the CONvergence convention that same week, the administrative folks were kind enough to book my trip to Sioux Falls, South Dakota a few days early, with a flight back to Minneapolis a few days later, then a flight back to LA at the end of the con. I had a lot to get done before my trip. I took my comforter in to the cleaners so it would be ready by the time I got back. I also hit Voice Trax West for a quick session. Afterwards I walked next door to the bank and got some operating capital (cash!) and then took a box of stuff to Fed Ex to have it shipped to the convention. It was Sara’s Star Trek and Slave Leia costumes. They’re so clunky with the boots and metal bra, etc. – that it’s easier to ship them than to pack them. They would meet us in Minneapolis on Thursday. The box I shipped a few days ago would meet us in Sioux Falls on Tuesday. My friend Andrea (from Sioux Falls) was still in town and her flight left later that afternoon. So I took her to the Burbank airport so she could make her flight. Then it was off to do a few more errands, and then home to pack. Then my housesitter Glozell and her boyfriend Kevin came by so I could brief them on the “pet” routine. I dropped by to get Sara around 10, and then it was off to the airport. We flew out of LAX as opposed to Burbank. Normally I prefer Burbank, but one year at CONvergence I got stranded overnight in Denver, so I avoid that possibility from here on out. LAX offers direct flights to Minneapolis, and Burbank does not. We got there and parked my car at a parking structure, and took the shuttle to the Sky Cap stand outside the Delta terminal. We just made it too, because shortly after we got there the Sky Cap cut off the line. It’s good to arrive early. The line to check baggage inside was really long, so it’s a good thing we made it. We were expecting to catch some sleep on the flight, but neither Sara or I got much snooze time in. Plus, the flight left LA about a half hour later than it should have. I was starting to worry about making my connection to Sioux Falls. The flight was supposed to get in at 6:05, and the connection leaves for Sioux Falls at 6:55. Rather a tight turnaround. And now even more so, since the flight would be late. The Flight Attendant assured me that they would make up the time in the air, but there were about 300 people on this flight and getting them off would take time!

Tuesday the 29th – BACK HOME AGAIN! – The flight got into Minneapolis about 6:20am. It took a good 10 minutes for everyone to get off the plane. Though the flight attendant asked those who had Minneapolis as their final destination to stay seated, so those with tight connections could leave the airplane first, everybody got up to go. So that slowed Sara and I down considerably. It was now about 6:40. We had 15 minutes to get all the way across the airport. Not sure we were going to make it. As soon as we stepped into the terminal a guy driving one of those carts sped by. I yelled, “I’ll give you 20 bucks if you can get us to Gate 22C by 6:55!” SCREEEEEECH! On went the brakes, and Sara and I climbed on. Money talks…even in Minneapolis. He didn’t have a horn but he kept yelling at people to get out of the way. We were peeling through the terminal, wondering how we could have possibly ran the distance in that time. We screeched to a halt in front of Gate 22C at 6:54! WE MADE IT! I gave him the 20, grabbed my bag and headed down the jetway. We got on the plane and collapsed! Though during the rocket ride on the cart, something flew into my eye and made it red. I mused that it was funny how I took a red-eye flight, and ACTUALLY GOT A RED EYE! We made it to Sioux Falls on time, and as luck would have it, they had convertibles in stock at Hertz. It was a beautiful morning, so we popped the top and drove down the highway to our hotel. The room was nice enough, but as soon as I settled down for a quick nap I thought I heard what sounded like jackhammers. I thought the overhead ceiling fan was making that noise, but it really was jackhammers! RIGHT OUTSIDE MY WINDOW! I knew they were having work done on their parking lot, but why would the front desk lady have put me next to the construction when she knew I had been flying all night?! So I called the front desk by hitting 0 on the phone. No answer. It just kept ringing and ringing. Then I hit the pre-programmed button for FRONT DESK on the phone. Again, it just rang and rang. Then I hit wake-up call. Again, it rang and rang. So I called the hotel number from my cell phone. No answer…rang and rang. I called the 800 number for the hotel’s headquarters and told the lady there I couldn’t get ahold of anyone at the front desk. Had I not been in bed in my pajamas I would have gone down there to make sure everything was alright. After being on hold for awhile with the 800 number, they finally came back and said that the front desk would be calling me. Simultaneously, the phone rang in my room. The lady answered and acted like nothing was wrong. I asked if everything was alright and she said sure. No explanation of where she was or what had happened. Very strange. After explaining about the jackhammers we had to pack up all of our stuff again and move to another room. But the A/C in this room wasn’t working very well. I cranked it down to 64 and took a nap. But when I woke up it was still warm. UGH! Very frustrating. By now it was time to go meet my folks and sisters for lunch. We had a great time at Fry’n Pan (an old hangout of mine), and after lunch I took Sara round the town to show her some stuff. I also stopped at B & G Milky Way, one of my favorite ice cream stands. We had a shake and my favorite thing of all…a SLOPPY JOE! You just can’t get them out here! It was delicious! Then we stopped by Earsay Sound in downtown Sioux Falls to see my old pal Scott and pick up some CDs. These CDs were the audio from some plays I was in back in the 80’s. I only found out that these CDs existed about a week or so ago. I got all the music we did for “Grease”, “Fiddler On The Roof,” and “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Listening to these again is going to be a blast from the past! While we were driving around, I saw a KELO TV wagon. Since I used to work there a long time ago I figured I’d look inside to see who was driving. Lo and behold it was my old pal Kevin Keergaard! He has been a cameraman there for a long time, and had just sent me an e-mail recently. He told me to follow him to KELO so we could catch up. I went to the KELO studios, but Sara was exhausted. She stayed in the car with the top down and took a nap in the cool South Dakota sun and clean South Dakota air. Kevin asked me to come back the next day so they could shoot an interview with me about what I’ve been up to since leaving Sioux Falls. It was back to the room to clean up, and then a bunch of us met for dinner later and all I was hungry for was a salad, but we had a good time! It was my friends Scott and Bob, and their wives, my folks, my friend Andrea and Sara. What a great time! I stopped at the local movie theatre and got some movie popcorn and headed back to the room for some real rest!

Wednesday the 30th – 98 YEARS YOUNG! – I slept til noon and it felt great. Again, I was back to B & G Milky Way for a sloppy Joe lunch. I took Sara by the old houses I grew up in. Then it was back to the room to clean up for my TV interview. On the way to KELO I had to settle a question. How far was it from the house I used to live in to the KELO studios? I used to ride my bike to work from time to time, and I wanted to see if it was closer or father from the distance I currently bike to NBC and “TTS.” I remember it as being about 6 miles. But it turned out to be 2.5 miles. Big deal. I guess it seemed so far back in the day, but I do many times that distance when I bike to NBC. Pretty good for an old dude, eh? I got to KELO and did the interview. Then I picked up my son Zak so we could go to my Grandma’s 98th birthday party. But first, a stop at B & G for another shake and some more sloppy joes! MMMM! I also bought a t-shirt with the B & G Milky Way logo on it. NICE! We got to the hotel and picked up Sara and headed to the party. On the way there, I saw a bunch of fireworks stands. FIREWORKS! I bought about 100 bucks worth of fireworks to blow off at my sister’s house in honor of my grandma’s 98th birthday. The party was amazing, and I even had Bobby Burgess from “The Lawrence Welk Show” call her and surprise her. But she left to go back home before it got dark enough to blow fireworks. So my nephews and I were planning on doing it anyway. Unfortunately the local laws forbid fireworks except on July 3,4 and 5. It was only the 30th, but Sara and I wanted to blow fireworks! My cousin’s husband Jeff said he would blow them off regardless of the consequences. So I stood on my sisters deck while Jeff, Sara and my nephews blew off the fireworks. They looked great! But I was getting bitten like crazy by the local mosquitoes. MOSQUITOES…I HATE ‘EM! When they were done blowing fireworks, we hurried back inside before the cops came. Sure enough, about a half hour later a cop was patrolling the street…slowly. Up and back, looking for evidence of celebratory evil-doers. They never did find us, but it was fun nonetheless! After that it was back to the room to pack up for our trip to Minneapolis the next day! And my THIRD visit to CONvergence as Guest of Honor!

Thursday the 1st – CONVERGENCE!! – We checked out of the room, drove the rental car to the airport, turned it in, check in to our flight and had some breakfast while we waited. We got on the flight and strapped in. A gal walked up the aisle and said, “WALLY?” It was my former high school classmate Connie Kirk. I hadn’t seen her in 30 years. She was in town visiting relatives too and was on her way back to Portland. We talked the entire hour flight to Minneapolis and caught up. What a small world. And there are no accidents in life…the seat she was assigned was directly across the aisle from mine! Perfect! We got to Minneapolis and were picked up by Nikie and Chris. But my left eye was feeling weird and swollen. Off to the side of my left eyebrow, it felt thick. Those damn mosquitoes! I had gotten bitten in several places on my back and hands, and one of them must’ve bitten my in my eyebrow. ACK! We got to the Bloomington Sheraton and got checked in. Nikie had my favorite soda waiting for me and it was good to be back. I was needed at a rehearsal for the live radio stage show I do every time I’m there called The Mark Time Radio Theatre. My pal Chuck McCann (and fellow Guest of Honor) hadn’t arrived yet, but was also in the show as well. We rehearsed without him for awhile, but just as we were about to break, Chuck walked in! We rehearsed a little and then took a break. I got showered and cleaned up, and grabbed a quick bite at the Dairy Queen next to the hotel. ANOTHER great eating place I love to frequent. We got to the mainstage and rehearsed the radio show and then my pal Chris Valle arrived. Now some background is needed here. Chris and I used to dress up as Laurel and Hardy back in the childhood days of Aberdeen, South Dakota. We knew all of their routines and would watch those old Laurel and Hardy commercials on TV starring Jim MacGeorge as Stan and…you guessed it…CHUCK McCANN as Ollie! The two characters that Brian and Jerry had written for Chuck and I to perform in the radio show were to be done ala Laurel and Hardy. So here I was, onstage with the great Chuck McCann, performing my Stan Laurel impression against Chuck McCann’s Ollie, in the presence of my old L&H pal Chris Valle. It was a dream come true! What fun! The opening ceremonies went very well, and then Chris, Chuck, Sara, I and some of the other CONvergence folks joined us for dinner at TGI Friday’s. It was quite the evening with friends, old and new! When we got back to the room, Sara changed into her Star Trek costume and we hit the party rooms! Though I had warned Sara to take it easy and pace herself (we had three more convention days to conquer) she went wild and ran around like crazy. OOPS…

Friday the 2nd – DAY 2 OF CONVERGENCE! – Sara’s legs were starting to hurt. All the craziness of the con caused her to blow out her shins and she got shin splints. So now she was hobbling around a little bit. First order of the day was doing the Far Out Space Nuts panel, and Chuck was wearing the ORIGINAL FOSN costume for the panel! He looked great in it! When that was done I did a panel on the villains of the Adam West Batman series. But I did have to leave a bit early, because my agent in LA had me booked on a last-minute job for the nice folks at the Underwear Affair. A studio in downtown Minneapolis called Audio Rucks was the location, and since we weren’t sure what the traffic would be like mid-afternoon on a Friday, we left a full 45 minutes early. Luckily, there was hardly any traffic at all! It seemed that all the travelers had left town early and that left the freeways free and clear. The studio was great, as it was built in between two large, old buildings. Imagine this new, state-of-the-art facility, built between the exterior walls of old brick buildings that were build almost 100 years ago. If those walls could talk! It was an amazing building and we had a lot of fun looking around in it. When the session was over, our driver Chris and Guest Liaison Nikie took Sara and I to lunch at Denny’s. We thought for a second that we’d get to go to The Old Spaghetti Factory in downtown Minneapolis (they’re all closed now in So Cal) but they closed at 2pm, and we were there at 2:20. RATS! So the old standby Denny’s sated our mid-day hunger. I got back in time to do a panel with Chuck McCann about creating characters for voice-over. Then my friend Andrea drove up from Sioux Falls and joined us. My pal Doug Greiss came to pick us up after the convention’s activities ended for the day. His mom ran a restaurant in Aberdeen, South Dakota when I was a kid called Lu’s Pizza. It was unlike any pizza I’ve ever had before. Lu had long since retired from the pizza business, and in fact she had just passed away the previous week. But Doug was still able to make us a Lu’s Pizza to enjoy. During dinner we raised a glass to the memory of Lu and all the happy memories she had created through her pizza. We got back to the hotel just in time for Sara to participate in a live stage reading of a new comic book written by on of the other Guests of Honor…Paul Cornell. Then it was time to hit the parties again. This time Sara donned the Slave Leia costume, and we all had a blast long into the evening!

Saturday the 3rd – CONVERGENCE: DAY 3! – As the days went, this still wasn’t a very busy day for me. Sunday was going to be my wall-to-wall day of panels and responsibilities. I had a panel at 11am, called a One On One with Wally Wingert. It gave me the chance to answer questions the CONvergence goers had about the stuff I do in the voice-over industry. The room was packed full and was SRO. I was delighted, and it’s always a great time talking to the Minneapolis folks. Then I stayed in the room when the panel was over, as the next panel was Chuck McCann’s One On One panel, which I was moderating. Chuck showed some video clips of his past work and we had a blast chatting about his long career. Then it was time to go to a meeting at the Dairy Queen. This was a gathering of all the people who would be involved in the annual Saturday night improv show called Killer B’s. Traditionally, we are given an hour’s worth of clips from old bad movies with the soundtrack removed. We’re given microphones and we need to ad-lib the soundtrack. It’s always a TON of fun! Then it was back to the hotel for a quick nap. When we awoke, it was time to get ready for a great dinner meeting. Phil Heuer, my former boss in radio at KELO in Sioux Falls, had married and retired in Minneapolis. We arranged to have dinner and catch up. He used the name Harley Worthit in Sioux Falls, and was always very kind to me during my radio career. I was dying to see what he had been up to and how he was. He just got inducted into the South Dakota Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so I wanted to hear more about that. As I was getting ready, my i-Pod randomly played Tony Carey’s “A Fine, Fine Day.” How strange. But it really WAS a fine, fine day for a reunion, on so many different levels. Phil and his wife Patti picked us up at the hotel, and we all went to a place called Jimmy’s and had great food, and wonderful conversation. But after about 3 hours the restaurant wanted to close, so we were being kicked out. What a fun evening! Phil and Patti enjoyed meeting Chuck and hearing his stories, I loved talking to Phil about the old radio days, and we all just reveled in the atmosphere of good food and friends. When we returned to the hotel it was time to get ready for the Killer B’s show. We all took our places in front of the screen and got our microphones. Now you have to realize, that Chuck McCann has been improvising on television before any of us on the panel were even a glimmer in our daddy’s eyes. This would be interesting, to be sure. The clips Melissa chose to be in the feature were bizarre, fun, nutty, disturbing and wonderful. It was the funniest thing I had ever seen, and the Killer B’s show ended up being Sara’s favorite thing about CONvergence! Afterrwards it was, YOU GUESSED IT, back to the parties!

Sunday the 4th – HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA! – This was going to be my busiest day of the con. I had several panels to do as well as a signing. In the morning Chuck and I went to the signing table and signed some autographs. Then I hurried over to DQ for a quick lunch, then back to the hotel to do an Invader Zim panel. Again, the room was packed with Zim fans…SRO! Immediately after that I went to another panel about TV shows on DVD, something which I’m passionate about! When that was finished, Chuck and I met up again for our final panel together…The Business of Voice Acting. Chuck could offer insights about how the industry was in the old days, and I could offer insights about what it’s like today. It was a great panel, but Chuck had to catch his plane back to L.A. so he split with about 15 minutes left in the panel. Though the panel was supposed to end at 4:30, I kept answering questions from the audience. We went very long, but I didn’t care. However I was running late to the closing ceremonies which started at 5:00 sharp! So it was off to the mainstage for the Closing Ceremonies. When it was my turn to speak I thanked everyone including my liaison Nikie, and told the audience how CONvergence made it possible for me to be at my grandma’s 98th birthday party (to which the audience went crazy) as well as perform with Chuck for my old Laurel and Hardy pal Chris Valle. When it was all said and done, Sara and I went to TGI Friday’s for a nice quiet dinner, and to decompress. A cute blonde sat next to me at the bar and we started talking. Immediately I could tell she was from Australia or New Zealand. Her name is Ashley and we talked a lot about life in Oz vs. America. As it was the 4th of July, I told her and her family that I would buy them all ice cream at the DQ after dinner, in the interest of American and Australian relations, you understand. Also eating in the restaurant was Jeremy Bulloch, the guy who played Boba Fett in the “Star Wars” movies. We had a nice conversation and Sara got some good on-the-set stories from Jeremy as we sat at the table. He and his wife are really sweet! Then, Sara and I went to DQ to meet up with my old CONvergence pal Perrin and his wife Jen, and the Aussies came walking in! Sure enough, I bought them all ice cream and we sat and talked for about an hour. But they had an early flight so they had to get going. But they were all really cool! I went back to the hotel and got ready to watch fireworks. Sara was really having trouble walking at this point so she went to the room to lay down. I went up on the 22nd floor to watch all of the simultaneous fireworks displays all around the Minneapolis area. I counted about 12 just on one side of the hotel. But when the local Bloomington fireworks started, I went downstairs to watch it from ground-level. I loved sitting there on a warm, Midwestern summer night…watching fireworks and hearing them pop and boom. Just like the old days. The party after the party at CONvergence is called the Dead Dog Party. It’s a shindig for all of those who helped CONvergence run as smoothly as it did. So I grabbed Sara and we stumbled around the Dead Dog party for awhile, though we were dragging ass all the time. We weren’t the only ones exhausted however. Everyone else was moving slowly as well. But it was a great time, and the after-party was well-deserved! Then it was back to the room to pack and get ready to head back to LA the next day! ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL CONVERGENCE!

Monday the 5th – A FINE, FINE WEEK! – Luckily I managed to get lots of sleep, since our plane didn’t leave until 2pm. We met a lot of the con staff downstairs and said our goodbyes. I have a sneaking feeling that I’ll be seeing them again soon! It was a virtual holiday, so traffic to the airport was easy. We checked our baggage curbside and went into enjoy lunch. Sara was REALLY moving slowly, because her legs still hurt. As we got on board the plane, it started to rain. One of those great Midwestern summer rainstorms that I miss. Luckily it didn’t hamper the flight schedule, but getting up through the clouds made the trip a little bumpy. A really cool new thing on the Delta 747s, was the ability to listen to a variety of music available for free on their audio system. You could pick the tunes you wanted and add them to your playlist. I had about 40 songs on my playlist and listened to them while I flew and read a magazine. It was a great feature and I loved it! Hopefully more planes will offer that in the future. We got to LA on time and then went for some Mexican food. I’m leery about eating Mexican food in the Midwest, and feel more comfortable eating it here in LA. I dropped Sara off at home, picked up my comforter at the cleaners and headed home. Sassie and Spook were glad to see me. I unpacked, relaxed and petted the animals. It was good to be home, but it sure was a WONDERFUL vacation!

And how was YOUR week?!?!!


Grandma poses with her cakes…

…then blows out the candles! Remember she’s 98 YEARS OLD!

Here’s the family with Grams.

Wally’s son Zak poses with his Great Grandma!

Grams opens up her signed Bobby Burgess dance video!

The custom badge art done by Christopher Jones. Amazing!

Thursday night…Sara is joined by childhood pals Wally and Chris!

Here’s Chris and Wally back in the early 70’s doing Stan and Ollie!

Wally and Chuck McCann just before the Far Out Space Nuts panel. “I
said LUNCH, not launch!”

Christopher Jones and Wally on the Villains of the Adam West Batman
TV Series panel.

Eryn and Sara party it up!

Eryn and Sara are joined by writer Paul Cornell in the party rooms!

Sara as Slave Leia enjoys a drink on the Star Trek room’s
Transporter. What is that she’s drinking? It’s green…

In the Goddess room, Sara poses between the pillars of love.

A fan models his Tallest Red tattoo for Wally!

Old radio pals Wally and Phil Heuer aka Harley Worthit

The great Minneapolis dinner gang! Sara, Wally, Chuck, Patti, Phil,
Andrea and Ottis.

Only at a sci fi convention would Slave Leia meet Labyrinth’s Jareth!

Sleestak attack!

Sara captures the captain’s chair for a quick pic!

Not sure what Sara’s drinking in the Willy Wonka room, but it
doesn’t look sweet!

Sara grabs a quick nap in the car with the top down. Nothing like
that clean South Dakota air!