Saturday 30 November 2019

Mel Blanc, Businessman

Mel Blanc had two careers, three if you want to include all the charity work he did.

Mel was an excellent actor, in radio, cartoons and on records. But he also had a career in the 1960s as a businessman. Broadcasting magazine of November 14, 1966 published a fine profile of him, spending a good deal of space talking about his business endeavours.

WHAT'S up, doc? Mel Blanc is up.
Some five years ago, the victim of an automobile accident that broke almost every bone in his body except a few in his left arm, he was as down as a human being ever can be. He was a prisoner in plaster, encased in a full-body cast for more than a year. But the "Anaheim, Azusa and Cucamonga" train caller was not stilled.
Bugs Bunny's classic wiseacre voice still spills out from countless movie and TV screens around the world. Porky the Pig is stuttering in the same priceless way. Woody Woodpecker's taunting cackle continues to delight the young, the old and the movie exhibitors. Mel Blanc, the voice heard in more places, more times, for more years probably than any other in history, is back and in rare form. He's eyebrows-deep in the radio-television-advertising entertainment business, a broadcast pioneer of 40 years standing who's reached the promised land and is still pushing into new fields.
The round-faced man with the neat, French-accented mustache has parlayed a fine sense of timing, an ear that has picked up and retained all the sounds of a lifetime—and an uncanny ability to simulate them—into a grab-bag of personal achievement that consistently has been filled to overflowing.
It Pays Off ■ This year, for his work in commercials alone, Mel Blanc personally will earn more than $150,000. He received, for example, $54 at a one-time rate for doing the voice of a pig in a Paper-Mate TV spot saying simply: "With a piggyback refill." So far this spot has brought him some $40,000 in residuals.
A recent somewhat typical day in the life of Mel Blanc tells better than any adjectives how much mileage he gets out of a voice that can be twisted into licorice and made to come out sounding like anything from a lisping pussycat to an English race horse.
At 10 a.m. he was out of his house in Pacific Palisades and off to do four TV commercials for Raid insecticides (S. C. Johnson & Son Inc.) and Foote, Cone & Belding. By 1:30 that afternoon he was back in his own office at Mel Blanc Associates, where he taped a number of comedy turns for "Superfun," a new series of humorous brief radio features and inserts the company is marketing. At 8 that night he was back working the TV side doing five commercials for Royal instant pudding (Standard Brands Inc.). It wasn't until after 10 p.m. that he called it a day and headed west to his seaside home.
He started the company just before that near-fatal accident in 1961 as a way of cashing in on his knowledge of how to make effective commercials. Today Mel Blanc Associates is a solidly established commercials production house, specializing in the creation and making of humorous spots for radio and TV. (Mr. Blanc's son, Noel, is executive vice president.)
The emphasis at MBA decidely is on radio. In the last year, Mel Blanc, who remembers when listeners by the millions gathered to hear the humor broadcast by the medium, has been making speeches at conventions and before industry groups pitching the profit potential of funny radio commercials.
The natural outgrowth of this crusade is "Superfun," a five-part program service aimed at giving radio stations an overall image of humor. Mel Blanc performs regularly on the "Superfun" service, which is produced by his company. Although made available to stations only since September, the new service has been bought in 14 markets. Mr. Blanc believes this operation alone will gross $1 million for his company in the near future. As a comparison, MBA's current overall gross is less than that but somewhat in excess of $500,000.
Other Fields ■ As a second spin-off from his humor shop, Mr. Blanc and associates have created the Mel Blanc Blank Card, a series of greeting cards that are distributed by Buzza Cardozo, Anaheim, Calif.
This ever-creative, never imitative pace is the way it has been for Mel Blanc ever since he was a high-school singer in Portland, Ore., the place where he was raised. A one-time violinist and tuba player ( "I found a radio script was much lighter ") he began doing things with his voice while performing as MC for an hourly, six-days-a-week program called Cobwebs and Nuts on KEX Portland. "They were too cheap to give me talent," he remembers, "so I did all the voices."
That was the proving ground for a career that at its peak included performances on 18 (mostly network) radio shows a week and in 50 Warner Bros. cartoons a year. Maintaining this frenetic kind of schedule, however, was not without its complications. Mr. Blanc used to make rapid transitions from the Robert Benchley Show sponsored by Old Gold cigarettes to Burns and Allen sponsored by Chesterfields to Jack Benny sponsored by Lucky Strikes to Al Pearce sponsored by Camels, changing cigarette packs as he went so that the various advertisers would not be insulted.
That was the professional Mel Blanc of yesterday at work knowing that, even for the most talented, entertaining is a collaborative business. A scene at a commercial taping session the other day gave an indication of how the professional Mel Blanc is regarded today.
All the other performers and technicians stopped dead still, watched with glowing attention as the voice heard in more than 1,000 cartoons delivered its lines. It was like coming out to the ball park and seeing the way the other players watch Willie Mays field a ball.


  1. In the '80s, Mel's company was marketing "Mel Blanc's Blankety Blancs" to radio stations, likely a new name for the "Superfun" service.

  2. I dated The son of the president of Buzza Cardozo and had the pleasure of meeting Mel Blancmduring the mid-1960s