Who is the real Porky Pig?
How did he get there?
What keeps him going?
Read about Bob Bergen’s extraordinary one man show “Not Just Another Pretty Voice” here at VOX Daily.
Growing up, Bob Bergen (then known as Bobby Bergen) was always doing voices, whether he knew it or not. Bob’s main goal in life from as early on as his ‘tween years was to become the next voice of Porky Pig – a character voice acting role defined by Mel Blanc – a role Bob was determined to inherit from the master himself.
As most fans do, Bob picked up his telephone book and sought out every M Blanc in the phone book, hoping that he’d be able to speak with his hero and voice acting role model.
Not having much luck, he remembered that Mel’s wife’s name was Estelle, so he dialed up all the E Blanc’s he could locate, and wham, Bobby Bergen found himself on the phone chatting with Mel Blanc. The conversation (which was taped at the time) was interesting, revealing even. Bob found out that Mel was to record at a particular studio the following week. After the conversation ended, as most fans would do, Bob then looked up the studio in the phone book and called in to “confirm” Mel’s recording session – the receptionist then confirmed the time and date of the session, and, you guessed it, Bobby Bergen and his mother played hooky from school to go watch Mel Blanc in action.
At the age of fourteen, Bob Bergen already knew what he wanted to do, and that was to be the voice of Porky Pig. What better opportunity to glean those skills than to watch Mel Blanc in the booth? Upon arriving at the studio, the secretary asked Bob why he was there. He answered that he was friends of the producers and they invited him to sit in. Satisfied, the secretary let him in to the room. Once in the room, the producer asked him why he was there. Bob then told the producer that he was friend of the secretary. Again, the producer took no notice of the white lie and directed Bob to a place where he could watch the session from.
Finally, a budding Porky Pig got to see the legend perform live.
When he started recording, there was something odd about his technique. In one hand, Mel held a cigarette, in the other, some oxygen. In between takes, he would alternate between the two substances while young Bobby watched on, slightly confused. It was said that Mel was told once that if he ever combined the two (cigarettes and oxygen), he’d be blown sky high, hence why he was so meticulous about keeping them apart. That may also just be commonsense, but still a good thing to be reminded of in the event those two should interact.
That wasn’t the only thing out of line during the session.
After takes of Porky Pig and Tweety, the engineer would “speed up” Mel’s voice.
Astounding! While we’re on the topic, Bob’s Porky is not sped up, but his Tweety is to better match Mel’s renditions. Okay, back to the story at hand. This must have been absolutely horrifying for Bob. Bearing witness to substance abuse, recklessness and production tricks all at once that equally involved Mel Blanc in a recording booth doing the voices he knew and loved would drive him to say nearly anything.
In Bob’s case, once Mel had exited the booth and approached him, his gut reaction was to say “You’re not as good as I thought you were”. Open mouth, insert foot!
After that, Mel was out of the picture, minus the tape Bob replayed so many times that it finally broke. Remember, this was in the era of splicing and dicing with tapes, not digital wizardry. Heart broken, Bobby moved on, grew up and eventually got the call to be the voice of Porky Pig and Tweety on Tiny Toon Adventures (a show I happen to have been in the demographic for, as Bob noted later that evening).
Bob has voiced the character of Porky Pig for over 14 years.
What keeps him going?
Maintaining the integrity of each character and paying tribute to Mel Blanc for the groundwork that he laid for future voice actors. Now, that’s only a snippet of the hilarious, side-splitting, tear jerking performance. If you go to Bob’s show “Not Just Another Pretty Voice” at the Stella Adler Theater in Hollywood later this month through the end of May, you’ll get to see what we all were privy to at VOICE 2007.
What I can reveal, however, is that there is a happy ending for taped telephone conversation recording.
Several years ago, Bob’s mom called and asked him if there was any significance to this old tape she found packed away called “Phone Conversation with Mel Blanc”.
Bob couldn’t believe it. Back then, there was no hope that the recording could have ever been salvaged, but now, in this wonderful age of technology, it was only a studio visit away from being fixed.
And, that’s what he did.
You can listen to the phone conversation between Mel Blanc and Bobby Bergen on Bob’s website. They talk about the creation of voices. So, what do you think?
The moral of the story is if you work hard enough, you will achieve your dreams. Bob did, and not every boy can grow up to become Porky Pig! Please leave a comment with your thoughts and or feedback for Bob.
P.S. I am listening to Bob’s conversation with Mel right now and it is giving me goose bumps! I’m nervous for Bob more than 25 years after the fact, but it all worked out swimmingly 🙂