A sound byte for June

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June Foray, 1917-2017

It’s been a rough summer for genre fans. Adam West — the first Batman for so many — passed away. We lost George Romero, who made zombies what they are today. Two women who helped make Marvel Comics what it is — Joan Lee and Flo Steinberg — died within weeks of one another. Then last night, as I was going to bed, word broke of the one that — to me — is the harshest blow of all. June Foray died at the age of 99.

Most of you, I think, probably recognized the name as soon as you read it. If you don’t recognize June Foray’s name, though, you certainly know her voice. Or at least one of them, because she had so many.

Rocky_the_flying_squirrel
Rocky the Flying Squirrel

You may know the voice she used as Rocky the Flying Squirrel in The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, or the one she used as Moose and Squirrel’s arch-nemesis, Natasha. If you’re a child of the 80s, you may be more familiar with her as Jokey Smurf. Looney Tunes fans know she spent decades as the kindly old Granny who tolerated Sylvester and Tweety, and may also recognize her as Witch Hazel, who occasionally tormented Bugs Bunny. Drastically different from her turn as Witch Hazel, of course, was her turn as Hazel the Witch, who once tormented Donald Duck on a memorable Halloween. And while we’re on the subject of ducks, Ducktales fans may not remember that she voiced Scrooge’s secretary Mrs. Weatherby, but how could they forget that she was also the nefarious Ma Beagle, or the deliciously evil Magica DeSpell?

Granny_Mysteries
Granny

And we’ve only scratched the surface here. Her IMDB credits — all 308 of them — cover a span of 71 years and include Disney films stretching from Cinderella to Mulan, TV cartoons including Garfield and Friends, The Simpsons, The Real Ghostbusters, Mr. Magoo, Dudley Do-Right, Yogi Bear, The Flintstones, and even work on live-action television including Father Knows Best, I Love Lucy, and The Twilight Zone. The characters she voiced are countless: Martha Wilson, Betsy Ross, Grammi Gummi, May Parker, Mother Nature, Mrs. Santa Claus, Pogo Possum, Red Riding Hood, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and, of course, Barbara Streisand.

Magica
Magica DeSpell

Like many voice actors, when you know that June Foray is the person behind the character, you can hear the similarities between her voices. They are, after all, the children of the same throat. But at the same time, listen to Rocky and listen to Magica. The acting prowess of this woman was remarkable, and it saddens me somewhat that, compared to the other performers who have recently died, reaction to her passing seems somewhat subdued. Not to cast aspersions on any of the others, but I saw so many people talking about how Adam West was a part of their childhood, and now they’re blinking at the name of the woman who was literally the voice of it.

witch hazels
(Left) Witch Hazel, (Right) Hazel the Witch. Totally different.

I think part of the reason is that June Foray, for most of her career, was what you’d call a utility player. She was always there and always great, but she was rarely the star. While Mel Blanc was Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and a trillion others, Foray was the Granny who popped in and out of the cartoon or the Witch that Bugs had to outsmart. She wasn’t the main Smurf or the main Ghostbuster. She wasn’t the Grinch, she was Cindy Lou Who. She was Dudley Do-Right’s girlfriend. And except for Rocky her few leading turns — such as Dorothy Gale in the animated series Off to See the Wizard — are in projects that are largely forgotten.

cindy lou
Cindy Lou Who

None of this can in any way diminish her talent.

Chuck Jones (who directed so many of those cartoons in which she starred) once corrected someone who described her inadequately as “the female Mel Blanc.” Jones replied, “Mel Blanc was the male June Foray.”

The animation community, of course, already knows the scale of the giant who has fallen. The rest of the world should know it too. While there will never be a voice like hers again, we fortunately have enough of her work already to last the rest of our lives. Pop some classic cartoons on today, and listen for a while to the voice that made them whole.

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Out of Towning

As I’ve mentioned before, Erin and I were in a long distance relationship for quite some time before we got married. As such, you would think we would be accustomed to spending time apart and, when circumstance necessitates we do so now, we wouldn’t have too difficult a time dealing with it. You would be extraordinarily wrong. At least on my part — Erin, of course, is much stronger and better-adjusted than I am. But ever since we’ve gotten married, I hate any time period greater than a standard work shift which we have to spend apart: when she goes out of town, when I go out of town, when traffic is a little congested on I-10. It sucks.

It’s worse when I’m out of town for a teaching workshop and Erin is pregnant.

This June, as she was beginning the heat-soaked sauna of a Louisiana Summer while pregnant, I was shipped out for a four day AP Institute, something we teachers do from time to time. I don’t mind these things. I enjoy working with other teachers and getting a better grasp of my curriculum and my subject. I do not, however, enjoy knowing that my wife and still-incubating son are three and a half hours away from me.

It probably doesn’t help that the school in which this year’s institute was held is — and here I’m going to be charitable — roughly the same distance Sam and Frodo had to walk with that ring away from anything remotely interesting. I’m not going to name this school or town, because the people there were uniformly gracious and pleasant, and the school campus is beautiful. But frankly, I’m convinced that the reason the school is so nice is because you have to drive about 150 miles to find anything else you could conceivably spend tax dollars on.

But I’m a big boy — I sucked it up and pulled up my bootstraps and put some bomp in the bomp-sha-bomp-sha-bomp, and I set off for the great unknown.

When I arrived in the great unknown, I heard that there was a tropical storm warning back in the ol’ familiar.

Being from southern Louisiana, I am a veteran of tropical activity. I’ve ridden out storms and gone to hurricane parties. There are pictures of myself and my family grabbing tree branches and pretending the winds were blowing us away. It’s not that we don’t take tropical weather seriously, it’s just that we’ve been through so much of it we know not to panic.

But that’s me.

Erin moved from Pittsburgh three years ago, and in the ensuing three years, we haven’t had any really significant tropical activity.

Oddly enough, the first time Erin ever came to Louisiana to visit me was for my birthday in late August. 2005. That’s right — the first time she ever met my family she wound up evacuating from Hurricane Katrina. Frankly, the fact that she ever came back again is all the evidence one should need that we were meant to be.

But regardless, now she’s at home by herself and as I write this from my little room in central Louisiana — which may as well be a million miles from south Louisiana — I’m nervous as hell. I know there’s nothing huge to worry about — we live next to my father and sister, so I know that if the power goes off or the windows blow out, she has somewhere to flee. And honestly, from the weather reports I’m hearing as I write this, I don’t think that’s even particularly likely. If I was at home right now, I’d be telling her there’s nothing to worry about beyond making sure we had fresh batteries and maybe a gallon of daiquiris in the fridge.

But there’s something about distance that amplifies danger in our minds. Everybody has this picture in their mind of something terrible going wrong — a lightning strike sets the garage on fire, a tornado rips out the kitchen wall, you run out of daiquiris — and it’s going to be so much worse because you’re not there to do anything about it. This is absurd, of course, because even if you were home, it’s not like you could just hold on to the kitchen wall until the wind died down and snap it back into place. If people took my advice and started building houses out of Lego Bricks it would be entirely possible, but I’ve learned not to plant my flag on that hill.

I’m writing this final paragraph on Thursday morning, the last day of the workshop, after the worst of the weather has passed. And, as expected, reports from home are fairly tame — a lot of rain, some wind, but nothing to be overly concerned about. But if I understand these things properly, at least half of being a parent is being concerned about your family whether there’s any reason to or not. The other half is telling the kid not to put rocks in the dishwasher. I’d like to think I’m prepared for both.

You may have heard, Blake and Erin have a baby on the way, so he hopes you’ll allow him to remind you he’s got all these books and short stories for sale on Amazon, and suggest you follow his author’s page on Facebook.

Registry Time

After maternity shopping, there’s another big shopping day in the lives of any parent-to-be: the baby registry. The registry is a vital and sacred tradition in which you admit to your family and friends that, not only do you not own any of the furnishings necessary to take care of a child in a manner that wouldn’t seem out of place in the opening chapters of a Harry Potter novel, but you also would really, really like it if everybody else would just go ahead and purchase those items for you. Your friends and family, then, will download your list online, glance at it, and buy whatever they think you need instead.

I don’t want to give any free advertising to where we registered, as they aren’t actually paying us, but I can confirm that babies R totally them. I will say, however, that they won Erin over very quickly by giving her a goody bag containing another baby bottle (if you recall, this was a major selling point when she purchased some maternity clothes), as well as a bottle of water and — because we made the registry on Mother’s Day — a freshly-cut flower. She was tickled. She was over the moon. In fact, when we got in the car, she popped the flower in the bottle of water to keep it alive while we stopped to do our grocery shopping before we went home, then slapped my arm when I told her I thought it was adorable.

The actual procedure of the registry was very similar to when we registered for our wedding: they gave us a scanner gun and set us loose in the store to scan in items that we would really like it if other people would buy for us. The big difference this time, unlike when we did our wedding registry, is that Erin actually allowed me to do the scanning. For our wedding, she was so excited that she scanned virtually everything, occasionally asking me if I liked what she was scanning and usually even giving me time to reply before she rushed off to scan something else. This time around, though, it was totally different. This time she got so excited that she pointed at the things she wanted me to scan before she rushed off to point at something else.

Of course, I exaggerate a bit. Erin really does want me to be completely involved in the decision-making process, which she reminded me of after an hour and a half of me scanning in whatever she told me to scan in.

“I want you be a part of this!” she said. “Pick something out!”

“I promise you, sweetheart, if you pick out something I don’t like, I’ll tell you.”

“But I want you to be involved.”

“I am involved.”

“I want you to pick something!”

“When I see something I want to scan I’ll — oh wait, there’s a Superman onesie!”

Beep.

The truth is, I don’t think Erin always believes me when I tell her I agree with the choices she’s making. If I didn’t like the color of the humidifier we apparently need, I would have asked her to pick a different color. If I hated the stroller she picked out online before we even went to the store, I would have let her know. And in fact, I did pick out the octopus-and-whale-themed bedding set we went with — or at the very least, I told her it was my favorite out of the ones she picked out online before we left the house. At any rate, I was in no position to argue with any of her choices, if for no other reason than because while she was looking at baby bath towels, I was using the scanner gun as a microphone and lip synching to “My Girl” along with the in-store music. (I’ve already vowed to teach our little Guacamole all of my dance moves. Most kids should be so lucky.)

There honestly wasn’t a lot of division between us. There were, however, a few times where I had to convince her it was okay that we didn’t register for some item or other right away, but instead went home and did a little research before putting the item on the registry. The baby monitor, for example. Is an audio monitor enough, or do we need a video monitor? Is black-and-white acceptable, or does it need to be in color? Does it need to come with its own viewscreen, or can we set it up as an app on our phones? Where does America stand on the issue of Owl-shaped video cameras? Can we get Netflix on this thing? Important stuff.

Diapers were another thing to debate. Erin was quite insistent that we register for the right diapers. This shocked me. I’ll be honest, I didn’t even know that you were allowed to register for items that are literally designed to fill with crap and then throw away, but there you go. And as I’m led to believe that babies go through diapers faster than I go through peanut butter M&Ms, I agreed that we should put approximately all of them on the registry. The question, though, was what size? I’m a big dude, but I don’t think I was a particularly large baby. Still, what if ours is?

‘“I don’t know what size diapers to register for,” Erin bemoaned.

“I don’t know either.”

“What if we get the eight-pound size and he’s too big?”

“Well, then we wouldn’t be able to use them.”

“How big were you when you were born?”

“I don’t remember, I was embarrassed to look at the scale.”

“I’m serious! What do we do?”

I thought about it. “Okay, look, they said that anything on the registry that’s unopened can be exchanged later, right?’

“Yeah.”

“So let’s just register for the eight-to-ten pound diapers. Then if, God forbid, he pops out too big for them, we can always return them and get the larger size, right?”

“Okay, I guess so.”

“Great.”

“What brand should we get?”

“Oh Jesus Christ.”

Anyway, registering is actually a lot of fun, and I highly recommend it for anybody who is pregnant with either a real or imaginary baby. And for our friends and family, the registry is there for anybody who wants to show how much they love us. Ignore the 15 packs of peanut butter M&Ms that I scanned in when we walked by the cash register.

You may have heard, Blake and Erin have a baby on the way, so he hopes you’ll allow him to remind you he’s got all these books and short stories for sale on Amazon, and suggest you follow his author’s page on Facebook.