Not Quite Ancient History
(Although it’s beginning to feel like it)
If you can stand a little personal stuff (history).
THIS JUST IN:
BIG TIME LEAD STORY…
Far more important events have taken place before Catherine Rose Zukuski landed her tootsies on the shores of la-la land. Her auspicious arrival year: 1981. Kenny Rogers saluted her with “Lady”, and John Lennon chimed in with “(Just Like) Starting Over”. Kind of appropriate, don’t you think? Goodbye Leo Burnett, Hello Abrams Rubaloff, and enter our star (hero) Harvey Kalmenson. Her (heroine-in-waiting) planet had changed. “Would you like to have lunch?” he offered.
And now continuing on as third party removed:
Harvey (not yet da harv) was in his fifth year at Abrams Rubaloff & Associates. He had joined them as an entry-level casting person or what was referred to as a sub-agent in 1976. On his first day at the new job, Harvey figured he’d be out of there in a week at the most, never ever again, he prayed never to become a lasting part of a commercial talent organization. Clearly, this wasn’t for him. His fervent prayers, fortunately for him, were never to be answered.
During an extended interim, Cathy joined, working for Abrams Rubaloff as well, heading up their talent payment department. It was in 1993, some twelve years or so later, that Harvey and Cathy Kalmenson lit up their own marquee as the most prominent casting company, as well as the most prominent educators the industry had ever before experienced. Kalmenson & Kalmenson: the business of voice casting. The two had become one, becoming husband and wife the preceding year, before going into business together.
THE KALMENSON METHOD
Excerpted from a series of radio interviews that aired during the course of the years:
I never dreamed of having my name on anything but a marquee, perhaps cluttered with lights, the greatest ego provider of all time. But during my very first month on the job, things took a turn for the better than expected. It was during an audition when Mike Road stood there after completing what he was called in to audition for, and with the grand resonance of his magnificent voice said, “You know Harvey, every one of them out there is talking about how good you’re doing as a voice director.”
Apparently, the word had gotten across to Noel Rubaloff, the owner of the business. If there is anything a talent agent understands, it’s money. Noel had called me in to chat, as he put it, “I don’t know what the hell you’ve been up to with the VO actors, but whatever it is…don’t stop doing it”.
But don’t foster the impression by his bravado I was about to receive a great big salary increase—that wasn’t the case at all. Plainly speaking, I have to admit I was enjoying the daily accolades from the actors, men, and women, who were coming in each and every day to audition for me. Things began happening to and for me without my own awareness. I was directing those audition scripts as if we were working on individual scenes from a play. And then like a children’s story beginning with “once upon a time”, the whole damn thing took on a lasting shape.
A rather prominent actor, Simon Oakland, always enjoyed my little tricks. It was at a particular time and incident when Simon was really enjoying working with me. He was in reading for me, and he thought our audition had come to an end. Well actually it had—but at the last minute, I handed him another script and asked him to please have a look at it.
The spot was for a company named “Terminix Pest Control”. “Try some of it so we can get a level.” He began reading from the top as a straight announcer. I stopped him in order to give him a different direction than what was printed on the script. “Si”, I said. “I need you to deliver this the way you played that hard-bitten cop that got you to where you are today.”
He smiled and without delay, he was into it. “That was terrific”, I said. “But now I need you to sing over and over again, the part about ‘no more bugs’.” So he does. We win, and the world is a better place. The spot was part of how I eulogized him on tape along with many other spots he auditioned and thanked me for doing with him during the far too limited years we spent collaborating. Simon Oakland was a real “mensch”.
Simon Oakland in West Side Story (1961)
a person of integrity and honor
ORIGIN: 1930s, Yiddish mensh, from German Mensch, literally ‘person’.
The number of actors who discovered voiceover success, I’m proud to say had a great deal to do with my tutelage. Somewhere along the way very early on, during my first year at Abrams Rubaloff, two of our actors, Art James and Casey Kasem, were conducting a seminar at the University Of Southern California. They asked me if I would join them and put on a demonstration of what a voiceover audition was like for some of the drama students.
Art James, an American game-show host, was best known for shows such as The Who, What, or Where Game, It’s Academic. and Pay Cards! He was also the announcer and substitute host on the game show Concentration.
Casey Kasem, an American disc jockey, actor, and radio personality had created and hosted several radio countdown programs, notably American Top 40. He was the first actor to voice Norville “Shaggy” Rogers in Scooby-Doo.
At the time both Art and Casey were extremely well-known celebrities. Casey in his own parlance was considered one of the top voiceover actors of his era. Harvey Kalmenson was not in a position to turn either of them down. In my mindset at the time, I figured the only reason they asked me to go on was due to my supervisor at the time having absolutely no interest in student education—especially since there wasn’t a fee involved. Little did I know what was about to take place. In actuality, the event and what it caused was a future life changer for me. Make no mistake, I knew I was good at what I did as a teacher and performer, but it was another of those happenings we do without thinking about the positive consequences.
As told to Lee Marshall (before he was known and recognized as “Tony the Tiger”), in an interview for ABC Broadcast News Los Angeles: I enter the parking lot and am pleasantly surprised by one of the drama students who were in charge of my well-being. I was escorted to what she referred to as their green room. Everything on that day was totally professional. Art was in the process of completing his presentation by introducing Casey to the crowd. I mean— “let the [pleasurable] games begin”.
Casey Kasem did his thing. Every one of the plus five hundred students in attendance was enjoying every word of truth he offered them. Whether it was the truth or not, Casey believed that if he said it, then it became gospel coming from him to you, and make no mistake—he could sell it. By the time he completed his introduction of Harvey Kalmenson, I damn near received a standing ovation.
I came up to the stage with a huge smile and waved to the audience. Casey grabbed my hand and then hugged me before leaving the stage. The crowd was loving his show biz antics. I actually skipped my way off the stage and into the audience while holding my microphone in one hand and giving out a few scripts to indiscriminately chosen students. It all turned out successfully. The kids threw themselves into it while having a blast.
The way it turned out was forty-plus minutes of enjoyment for me. In truth, “all’s well that ends well”! For me, it began well and has never ended better than that day.
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