Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Lennie Weinrib

You may have had a time in your life when you’ve turned on the radio or TV, heard a voice, and thought to yourself, with a smile, “Ah, it’s so-and-so.”

Lennie Weinrib was one of those people for me.

Around 1970, it seemed like he was everywhere. You could recognise him doing assorted characters on “H.R. Pufnstuf.” You could pick him out as Moonrock on “Pebbles and Bamm Bamm.” And he was in tons of commercials. McDonald’s comes to mind instantly because of the Pufnstuf-Krofft-McDonaldland connection but there were many other products. Some he sold with soft reads, others harder, others with a comic approach. His delivery was extremely versatile and it’s no wonder he was in such demand by ad agencies and producers.

And I could say “Ah, it’s Lennie Weinrib!” instead of “Ah, it’s that guy” because his name had been in the screen credits of many cartoons and he had been a guest star on sitcoms in the ‘60s. And he was always very funny.

Lennie’s talents extended beyond that, as you will see in this feature piece by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, which has been pulled from the Buffalo Courier of July 31, 1966. He worked with some top people as well, as you’ll notice by the names in the story. Not bad for a former tour guide at CBS Television City.

Movie Producer Moonlights as Television Spieler
Weinrib, Man of Many Voices, Works With Mel Blanc's 300 Commercials Team

By PAUL HENNIGER
The Los Angeles Times

HOLLYWOOD—A hulking, 6-1 man slid in behind the wheel of his new Cadillac to take a sentimental journey. When he arrived at Melrose and La Brea, sure enough, there was old Willie the newsman, still working the same corner.
“Hey kid,” said Willie, admiring the new car, “you did all right. You see, I told you so. All that hollering did get you someplace.”
LIKE IN MOVIES — The kid is Lennie Weinrib, now 31, who used to stand on that corner not too long ago hawking newspapers. He wore a cap on the side of his head like kids in movies. He used to shout “wuxtra! wuxtra!” like they did. And he’d make up phony headlines—“big sex scandal in Brooklyn”—just to hustle those nickels and dimes.
Today, Weinrib is a movie producer-director, and he’s still shouting, but there’s some element of truth in what he shouts—if you believe the spiel in commercials. And the pay, as that Cad attests, is infinitely better.
ALSO TV — In addition, Weinrib is a voice specialist in the lucrative occupation of TV commercials.
“It keeps me busy during my spare time,” said Weinrib, a self-admitted “nervous nut” whose hobby is his business.
“I’ve always been doing voices,” he adds, “ever since I was a kid. I’d go to movies, come home and imitate Bogart, Cagney and the rest. I grew up with Sid Caesar’s Show of Shows, and I loved every minute of his skits and Carl Reiner and Howard Morris.”
PROTEGE — Weinrib proudly states he’s a protege of Mel Blanc who, perhaps, is the peer among Hollywood voices. When Mel Blanc Associates was formed, Weinrib became part of a company that has made close to 300 commercials.
“Talk about a repertory feeling of a group,” exclaimed Weinrib, “with Joan Gerber, Howie Morris, Sid Melton, Artie Johnson, Lee Zimmer and Henry Corden, we all work like a well-oiled clock because we’ve been together three years under the same director and writer.”
DEBUT WITH SPIKE — First TV exposure for Weinrib was in 1958 during Spike Jones’ summer series on CBS [actually 1960]. It took a personal commercial to bring about that break. “Here I am a college grad parking cars at NBC,” recalls Weinrib, who attended UCLA those vintage years the likes of Carol Burnett, Jimmy Dean, Corey Allen and Asa Maynor were his classmates. “I heard they were looking for a comic. So I decided to call the show’s writer, Bill Dana, and ask to read. While waiting for him on the phone, I thumbed through the trades and spotted Mort Sahl’s name, a close friend of Dana’s. Suddenly it came to me. When Bill answered, I went into Mort’s voice and fooled Bill for five minutes. They signed me the next day.”
CAME NATURALLY — This ability to do voices came naturally to Weinrib, but he never knew why until he lost his meal ticket one day in San Francisco.
In a rare serious moment he explained: “I had just been going too much. Coming off the long-run Billy Barnes revue, I was doing the road show of ‘Kiss Me Kate.’ I was also working a four-hour daily radio show in Frisco. Well, I’d never had any formal training for singing, and with all this activity the strain took its toll. I broke a blood vessel in my throat.
“I was sent to Dr. Paul J. Mosses,” he continued. “He treats opera people like Patrice Munsel when they have trouble. Zo den (he lapsed into a German dialect) he zez to me, ah ha, I see you haf an inner-ear memory. You can remember zounds, yaah? Only a few people in the verld can shtore zounds in der memory ear.” LOTS OF WORK — In the years that followed, the Weinrib memory bank was responsible for dubbing David Niven’s voice on the Rogue’s Pilot; doing Peter Sellers for “Pink Panther” spots; a variety of voices in “Mad, Mad World,” and recently the voice of the little animated green-eyed monster in Tony Curtis’ yet unreleased movie “Not With My Wife You Don’t.”
“Paradoxically,” he summarizes, “ability as an actor is more important today. You can only do so many trick voices, like Bugs Bunny. Dialects are essential. But economically, you can go on doing character voices forever.”
Lennie Weinrib has that kind of voice. There’s been no overnight instant recognition for him, though. It’s taken him 10 long years to get some place. And he’s got the ulcer to prove it.


There are people in show business who keep performing until death. There are others who say to themselves something like “I don’t really want to do this any more” and retire to relax in peace. Lennie was among the latter, leaving behind plenty of laughs that we can still enjoy today.

I was going to post a link to a remembrance of Lennie written in 2006 by Mark Evanier but I can’t find it on his revamped site, so you’ll have to miss the real “scream like a chicken” story. Instead, you can watch a made-for-The Dick Van Dyke Show version of it below. Lennie and Alvy Moore, an underrated comic actor later on “Green Acres,” guest star.

3 comments:

  1. I'm surprised he was able to do voicework for McDonalds commercials (I'm guessing voicing Grimace) and continue to work for Sid and Marty Krofft, what with the Krofft lawsuit against McDonalds.

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