Though a few of the previous years have certainly been interesting, 2019 has been one of particular note! Many wonderful things occurred, but as with any year, a few sad events occurred as well.
Please enjoy this documentation of the stand-out events during the final year of the decade! It was, as they say, one for the books!
Even though the main filming was done in 2018, the episode of “Hollywood Weapons,” (starring Special Forces vet Terry Schappert) that featured my “Starsky-ized” Gran Torino aired in early January! Not only was my car used in main shots featuring Terry and his co-star Pompeo, but I got to do all of the stunt driving through the mean streets of L.A.! This involved utilizing license plate replicas of the original “Starsky& Hutch” showplates (537 ONN), but it also included driving at very high speeds with my red light flashing! What a dream come true! My 13 year old self was squealing with joy!
Though I was involved in many amazing Voice Over projects during the year, I was called in to do several voices on the latest incarnation of “Lupin III.” This was particularly meaningful because providing the voice of Lupin III for a motion comic back in the mid 90’s was one of my first Voice Over jobs ever! So the character holds a particular place in my heart. Even though in this series Lupin III is voiced by a very capable Voice Actor, it was still a thrill to be involved.
For quite a while now, I’ve been feverishly involved in writing, conceptualizing characters and designing product for a new children’s book and toy project I created. I love this project so much and it’s very close to my heart. The work continued all throughout the year, and I’ve been working very closely and regularly with a talented seamstress who has made the prototype products come alive, as well as a well-known cartoonist who has been realizing fantastic designs for the characters! Though I can’t say much more about it at this point, it’s our team’s hope that we’ll have a publisher and manufacturer lined up sometime in the first quarter of 2020.
It was time to dive into creating a new Promo demo, and I was happy to do so under the tutelage of the highly respected producer Jeff Howell. I’m extremely happy with the result, and you can hear it here. https://wallywingertvo.com/
Through my friendship with singer/songwriter Elliot Lurie (creator of the song “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)”) I got involved in a fantastic new documentary about the world of collecting. The subject matter deals with collecting a certain TYPE of collectible, and is very cleverly titled. But of course, I can’t say much more about it. But from the sounds of it, this doc is going to be utterly amazing!
On January 31st the cast and crew of Nickelodeon’s film “Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus” were invited to a private screening of the film at the Nickelodeon studios. Seeing this film on the big screen was utterly amazing! Not one of us left thinking that it was going to be anything less than a blockbuster hit! We had seen a few clips of it at the panel we did at the 2018 San Diego Comic Con, but seeing it all put together was amazing on so many, different levels!
At the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood on February 4th, I was asked by my old pal Rob Richards to narrate the opening slideshow in his “To Disney With Love” concert! The impact of being on the microphone in that legendary theater, with all its amazing history, was not lost on me!
March 1st my pal Officer Mark and I headed to Las Vegas to meet up with my pal “Dr. Doom” from my hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I had met the good Dr. during the previous year and was amazed at his incredible home and collection. When I noticed a heavy slant toward the original Transformers in his scope of obsession, I mentioned that I had worked the great Frank Welker on “The Garfield Show” for six seasons. “Doom” turned into a little kid at the mention of Frank’s work as Megatron.
So when I found out that both Frank and his “Transformers” co-hort Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime) were going to be appearing live at the Las Vegas Toycon, “Doom” and I arranged to meet there so I could introduce him to Frank. Dr. and Mrs. “Doom” had an amazing time, and it was a real blast seeing this very important member of the medical community shaking hands with many of his childhood idols!
A few short weeks later, I was asked to emcee a party at Paul Michael Glaser’s 76th birthday event in Cypress, California. Paul was one of MY childhood idols, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world! From the sound of things, Paul has now retired from doing any future “Starsky& Hutch”-related events. But I was honored and thrilled to have been a part of so many of them in the past years with Paul and David Soul.
Shortly before I discovered “Starsky& Hutch” on TV, I was addicted to another legendary celluloid duo – Laurel & Hardy! Our local channel 9 in Aberdeen, South Dakota hosted “Laurel & Hardy Theater” every Saturday night at 10:30, and I never missed it.
I bought every book I could find on the greatest comedy team who ever existed, and boned up on their history. I read about a worldwide fanclub of Laurel & Hardy obsessives called “The Sons of the Desert,” taken from the theme and title of one of their best films. Though I sat all alone on those Saturday nights laughing hysterically at their movies, it was my dream of someday enjoying them on the big screen with other fans.
A few years ago it was my privilege to become an official member of the local “Sons of The Desert” chapter called the ‘Way Out West’ tent. All throughout the 2019 I continued to attend meetings and hobnobbed with other L&H fans. And my 92 year old ‘adopted grandma’ Shirley loves going too!
It’s been 37 years since I built a puppet, but I was getting the itch to try building again. I’ve always loved Rowlf the Dog (my first dog as a kid was named after him) so I decided to try my hand at building a Rowlf. He seemed simple enough to start with.
After starting the build on Christmas Eve of 2018, I continued finessing him all through the first quarter of 2019.
I sculpted the eye pieces and the nose piece. Cut and glued the foam pieces and the mouth plates. I researched it meticulously and felt that I came up with a pretty good final product.
And on Saturday March 30, my pal (and fellow Muppet fan) Mark Evanier invited me to participate in the final moments of his Cartoon Voice Actor’s panel at Wondercon. Carrying Rowlf to the stage in a non-descript plastic bag, I brought him up at a certain point in the panel and surprised the entire crowd. It was a fantastic debut for my Rowlf! As a lifelong Muppet-fan, this was probably the greatest thrill of my puppet-obsessed life. The crowd went nuts!
A few days after that, I was called in to do two days’ worth of sessions for the “Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games” videogame. I voiced a vintage 60’s-era Olympic announcer and had a blast.
The very next week, Eliot Brodsky (owner of the Monsterpalooza convention franchise) asked if I would bring some of my life-size mannequins and busts to be a part of the museum in his spring show. I had been hoping and dreaming about exhibiting something from Planet Wallywoodin the Monsterpalooza museum for a very long time, so this was a dream come true. He requested my Andy Kaufman “Heartbeeps” figure, and my “Scarecrow of Romney Marsh” figure. He also asked for the Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion “Wizard of Oz” busts. It was a huge thrill to be able to have them on display there!
Good Friday of 2019 fell on April 19th, and it was a real pleasure to be involved in my church’s evening commemorative service. This year there was a “Jesus Christ Superstar” theme, and I was pleased to honor my old friend Barry Dennen’s memory by performing “Pilate’s Dream.”
A few days later, on Easter Sunday morning, I once again donned the costume and portrayed Jesus for the “Easter Walk” for the kids. This makes the fifth year I’ve done it, I believe. I had to miss one Easter a few years ago due to illness.
Speaking of church activities, I was also very honored to be a part of “Homeward L.A.” – a benefit for the Midnight Mission on L.A.’s Skid Row. It’s an annual citywide event comprised of actors performing readings of actual stories from those who have received transformative help from the Midnight Mission. The creator of the event told our directors that it was the best presentation of the format he had ever seen. High praise indeed!
As the warm spring weather began to spread throughout Southern California, it was time to take another short excursion to my beloved Palm Springs for a much-needed respite! Roxy and I had a fabulous time enjoying the dog park and watching the stars in the desert sky at night.
After a few years of dubious health issues (including a fractured crown from a past botched root canal which unceasingly sent abscess into my left sinus causing continual, painful sinus infections) I decided that 2019 was my year for getting all my health issues in order once and for all.
In 2017 I had radical sinus surgery, followed by a major extraction of two back teeth and considerable reconstruction of my upper left palate in 2018. I had an implant installed by my oral surgeon, but it would take close to 9 months for the area to heal enough so the post and crown could then be attached.
As I waited for that to occur, I contacted my personal physician to get a complete physical. Even though he urged me to eat better and lose a few pounds, I was in impeccable condition. I pretty much passed all the tests with flying colors.
I also decided to visit an eye doctor for the first time in a long time and I had my orbs thoroughly checked. I got a gold star approval from the doctor and all is good!
The attorney handling all of the trademark and IP (intellectual property) concerns for my new kid’s book and toy project had urged me to attend the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas with her on June 5th to speak about our property to interested parties. She said it would be an eye-opening experience for me, and indeed it was!
She was convinced that nobody could explain my concept to people as well as I could, so I spent a few days in Las Vegas and I learned a great deal about that aspect of the business. I’m glad I went, and we made several great contacts!
On June 8th my pal (and fellow Muppet maniac) Mark Evanier invited several of us to see the “Puppet Up!” show at the Henson studios in Hollywood. Though it wasn’t the usual cast of Muppets that we’ve come to know and love, the show was fantastic!
It’s basically a comedy/improv show, but done completely by puppeteers and their fleecy friends. I can’t wait to go again! And it was really a kick to see Brian Henson in person!
The very next day, on June 9th, I was a guest at my pal Scott Zillner’s convention called “Robo Toy Fest.” I hadn’t done very many cons where I’ve been compelled to charge for my autograph (as I’m still not very comfortable with it) but I was convinced that many people wanted to meet me and have me sign things. So I figured I’d give it a try.
I’m really glad I did it, as I got to meet many wonderful people and head some fantastic stories about the lives and fandom. It’s truly nice to hear that all of the nutty work we’ve done in the past has impacted so many lives for the better.
After a long, painful journey filled with surgery after surgery, the crown was placed on my implant on June 11th and I could chew on my left side again! It’s an amazing technology and I’m thankful the long ordeal was finally over! (In fact, I had them put on a “bionic” crown so I could chew my food 1000 times faster!
With most all of my health issues taken care of, I flew to Sioux Falls to help celebrate my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. Given the sinus and tooth issues I had been deal with over the past few years, traveling wasn’t really something I looked forward to. But now that I was feeling my old self again, I vowed to travel as much as I could this year.
But there was one final health issue I had to resolve before I was free and clear for the year – my tri-annual colonoscopy. Colon cancer runs in our family tree quite rampantly, so I’m compelled to have a procedure every three years to stay ahead of potential problems.
So on June 19th, immediately after I returned from my folks’ anniversary, I had my third ever procedure. As expected, some small polyps were found, but they were removed and I’ll be back in 2022.
I remember waking up toward the end of the procedure and actually seeing polyps being removed on the monitor It was AMAZING! I urge EVERYONE over the age of 50 (40, if it runs in your family) to have this procedure. It CAN save lives!
As nice as the regular meetings of our local Sons of the Desert tent are, there’s NOTHING that compares to watching a Laurel and Hardy feature in the presence of 2,000 other L&H fans!
On June 22nd, the Los Angeles Film Conservancy hosted an afternoon event at the famed Orpheum Theater in downtown L.A. which featured a silent L&H classic called “Battle of the Century” (with a legendarily massive pie fight!) followed by what many consider to be their best feature – “Sons of the Desert.”
Not only was it amazing watching this film as it would have been seen during its initial release, but one of the guest speakers mentioned one of the creators of the Laurel and Hardy fanclub…the late Chuck McCann. Chuck was one of my best friends, and he passed away in 2018. So it was an emotional afternoon on many levels.
On July 6th I got to pay tribute to someone who was an immense help to my L.A. aspirations – the one, the only Dr. Demento. I was invited to his 78th birthday celebration at the Smokehouse. He and his production staff helped out considerably when I moved to L.A. back in 1987, and I’ll never forget his kindness.
The best thing about the party was, he was there to thank in person. All of the well-deserved accolades issued from those who love him were received congenially by the good doctor. I’ve been to too many memorial services where good things are said about the person after they’re no longer around. It was nice to be able to tell the person how much they mean to you while they’re still on the planet.
The very next night on July 7th I saw MickyDolenz perform again at the Canyon Club. He always does an amazing show and his voice is still utterly amazing. It sure is great to hear him do all the Monkees classics again!
As with any house, sooner or later you’ve just got to make some upgrades. This was the year for that! July was the month to get a new roll-up garage door, a new dishwasher, new vinyl flooring in my kitchen, and brand new carpet in the lower two floors! They were all much-needed improvements, and it makes Planet Wallywood much more comfy!
The kitchen issues started with a leaky old dishwasher that was leaking water under the panels of my hardwood floor. When stains started to become evident on the flooring, it was time to tear it all up and start all over again.
My friend Gil Christner, whom I had known since the mid 90’s when he hired me to voice radio comedy, passed away over the summer. The last time I saw him was in the hospital on July 13th. He was in good spirits, but well aware of the less-than-idea prognosis for his condition. He was a funny, funny man. And we miss him.
On July 17th I signed on with the legendary Abrams Artists Agency for Voice Over. They also have a number of other departments which I hope to also sign with soon. I like to keep things all under one roof – in the family. I have a good feeling that this relationship will prove to be very fruitful.
After having seen Jeff Lynne’s ELO twice before (at the Hollywood Bowl and the L.A. Forum) I was bound and determined to see them in concert again. But this time I wanted to see them with my old radio buddy Scott Maguire in Sioux Falls. Another fellow ELO fan is my pal Bob Japs from Rochester, MN – whom I’ve known since 5th grade.
My buddy Officer Mark and I planned a trip to Sioux Falls to rent an SUV, pick up Scott, drive to St. Paul to see the concert on the 23rd, and then go to Paisley Park for a tour the next day. It worked out perfectly, because Officer Mark’s girlfriend Miss Connie happened to be in the Minneapolis area that same week with her family on a road trip. So he joined the road trip and Scott and I drove back to Sioux Falls. What a great trip!
Toward the end of July my pal Pat Evans asked me to be a part of an amazing new album project. I can’t say much more about it at this point, but it’s an awesome project. I sang a song for the album, harmonized with myself, and did my own back-up vocals. There’s already label interest in the finished product when it’s completed!
With my 40th class reunion rapidly approaching, I made plans to attend the festivities in my hometown of Aberdeen, South Dakota. I’m the ‘image voice’ of one of the radio stations in town, so when I told them I’d be back in town for the reunion they suggested that I do a live radio show, playing all the hits from my days as a DJ back in the late 70’s I thought it sounded like an amazing idea!
On August 7th I started assembling the elements for a six hour radio extravaganza called “The Class of ’79 Reunion Rewind!” The entire show would be scripted, and in addition to playing all the great songs from the 70’s, I would also include trivia and stories about the ‘old’ days.
Since the show would run from noon to 6 on Saturday August 31st, the same day as our big reunion party, I could do the first three hours live. But I needed to pre-record the final 3 hours so I could get ready for the reunion festivities. All of the music transitions for the first three “live” hours were assembled here in L.A., and the final three hours were completely mixed here as well. That made it a lot easier for the station in Aberdeen to handle all of the programming acrobatics I had planned.
It was a real kick writing and producing the show, and I was really looking forward to getting back on the radio playing 70’s tunes!
August 16 was the release day for “Invader Zim: Enter TheFlorpus,” the long-awaited Nickelodeon reunion movie. Its debut on Netflix was a huge success and in a certain survey, the film polled as the fifth most important animated feature film event of the year! It also earned Richard Horvitz (voice of Zim) a well-deserved Annie Award nomination!
The last part of August was a wonderful time for Fantastic Four projects, as I got to voice Reed Richards “Mr. Fantastic” for TWO different projects! I can’t say what they are for quite yet, but voicing Reed is a dream come true, as a lifelong comic book fan!
As Labor Day weekend 2019 approached, I got ready to head to Aberdeen, South Dakota for the big class reunion and radio show. On August 29th I flew into Aberdeen and started prepping for the show. It would be a real blast from the past being live on the air in Aberdeen again; something I hadn’t done in about 41 years!
On Saturday the 31st, with a few good pals in the studio, I went live on the air to spin yarns about the old days, and play all that good 70’s rock, disco and pop!
During the trip I was able to sit in the house I grew up in as a kid, get back in touch with lots of old friends, catch up on all the latest happenings, have some of the food I used to love growing up, and relive a LOT of great memories!
Appropriately enough in September, on Friday the 13th, I got to be involved in “Son of Monsterpalooza.” It’s a smaller version of the springtime “Monsterpalooza,” but still a ton of fun nonetheless.
The show’s creator Eliot Brodsky asked if I would be interested in emceeing some of the events, and even hosting some of the panels. It was a fantastic time and I look forward to becoming even more involved in future Monsterpalooza cons!
A few short weeks later, I on a plane heading for Sioux Falls, South Dakota again to be a guest at Siouxpercon on September 26th! It was great seeing how much the comic and sci-fi fan community has grown since I lived there 32 years ago. It was a wonderful time spent in the presence of a lot of terrific people! One amazing time!
All the hustle and bustle was making me long for another respite in my beloved Palm Springs, so come October 16th, Roxy and I headed out for some rest in the desert watching stars.
But on our first full day there, she was attacked by a Pitbull at the Palm Springs Village Fest street fair. Needless to say it totally wrecked our vacation. Going to the dog park (one of our favorite things to do) was not possible, and she was made uncomfortable by the huge gash in her cheek courtesy of an insane, vicious dog whose wiring was off kilter. To make matters worse, on the final day of our vacation, I contracted food poisoning and was laid up in the room all day.
Needless to say it colored my attitude about any future visits to Palm Springs. It might be time to find a different ‘happy place.’
In the early 2000s I had a lot of fun going out as Tony Clifton using a full set of facial prosthetics which had been made for me to use in the “E! True Hollywood Story” about Andy Kaufman’s life. Over the years I have been acquiring better and better pieces for my Tony Clifton costume, including two of the original Lord West orange paisley tuxedo jackets similar to the ones Andy and Bob Zmuda wore as Tony Clifton.
But I’m just not interested in wearing a bunch of prosthetics any longer. So for Halloween I had my pal Jim Ojala’s effects studio whip up a lifelike Tony Clifton silicone mask. It was a lot of fun to put the costume back on again after all these years. And it was even better to attend a Halloween party at one of the top special effects studios in town. I even got to meet the wife of the make-up artist who created the original Tony Clifton make-up for Andy and Bob!
November 4th was a career first – my stand-up comedy debut. The first Monday of every month was designated as Voice Actor night at Flapper’s Comedy Club in Burbank. Created by Ken Pringle, the entire evening was filled exclusively with Voice Actors in something he called “We Talk Funny.”
He asked me to participate and I responded with an eager “YES!” But I responded before I figure out what I was actually going to do. But I threw some things together and did a 10 minute set at the end of the night! It was a great deal of fun, but I don’t think I’d want to make it my priority.
A few short days later I was on board another plane, but this time I was headed to Ranger Stop in Orlando. It was the first time I had ever been to a Power Ranger convention, and it was a lot of fun.
Though the character I voiced in Power Rangers back in the late 90s was only on a few episodes, apparently the fan following is considerable. My character even has not one but TWO action figures! I had a fantastic time hanging out with all the fans and fellow Power Ranger actors!
I was able to extend my stay by a few days and attend Disney World for a day on November 11th. It was really a kick to hear the voices I provided for the most recent section of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride! I’m still shaking my head to know that I’m in Disney World!
Thanksgiving 2019 had one of the biggest groups we’ve ever had at our tradition group feed – 23 people! Because the Sportsmen’s Lodge was torn down in mid-2019, (where we normally went for Thanksgiving) we had to find other accommodations. But we were amazed at how wonderful the dinner at the Smokehouse was!
On December 2 we lost another member of our regular Saturday night Movie Night group. Sci-Fi writer Dorothy (D.C.) Fontana passed away. We were all very saddened to learn this news.
My buddy Ron Chaney (grandson of Lon Jr. and great grandson of Lon Sr.) and I are planning a huge Chaney exhibit for Monsterpalooza in May of 2020. On December we had a planning meeting to visualize the entire experience. It’s gonna be amazing!!
As I being to branch out into on-camera endeavors, the most important tool to have is a set of great headshots. On December 5th I went to the Make-Up Designory in Burbank to do a session with my pal Scott Sebring. We shot close to 300 images. That was the easy part. Now the hard part is picking a handful to have retouched and releasing them to my agents!
As the whole “Dark Christmas” movement grows, I’m curious to see how it develops. So I hopped on the subway and headed into Hollywood on December 7th to attend the Seasons Screamings pop-up market at Sweet in Hollywood and Highland. I found a lot of great items there, and I’m convinced that the “Dark Christmas” thing is only going to get bigger!
December 17th was the first on-camera job I took in many years. Since I’ve done just about everything there is to do in the field of Voice Over, I’ve decided to stretch my legs a little bit and expand into other areas of entertainment, including on-camera acting.
Being a “Face Actor” (as opposed to a Voice Actor) is the same, but different (if that makes any sense). The only thing I don’t like about it is all the waiting around, which seems like it would be totally unnecessary with better planning.
The film is called “The Rideshare Killer” and I play the brother of my friend Tuesday Knight. I’ll have more on the film the closer it gets to being released.
Just a few days before Christmas, I was back in the studio working on the secret album project with my buddy Pat Evans. But this time they needed a pedal steel guitar, and I only know one guy who can make the pedal steel sing like a bird…my pal Dr. Stephen Patt!
He brought his rig to the studio and within an hour they had several wonderful takes! I can’t wait to tell you more about this historic undertaking!
Once again, it ended up being another fantastic Christmas season. I adhered to my usual, annual routine of visiting my church’s Living Nativity (there was a chicken who loved roosting on my head!), the candlelight service, (we sang Silent Night on the steps of the church to a calm, peaceful neighborhood) and I spent Christmas Eve working on my Oscar the Grouch puppet. Fantastic!
I’m looking forward to 2020, or as I call it the year of “I Can See Clearly Now,” as I’m filled with determination and resolve. I hope and pray that you have clarity and vision for the new year as well.
Happy New Year!