The Mel Blanc Lecture Series will examine Mel Blanc’s Portland years through the lens of vaudeville he saw, the music he heard, the radio he made, and the South Portland neighborbood in which he grew up. Guest speakers will share their expertise via onstage conversations that audiences will be invited to join. The lectures take place June 8 – June 29, 2011.
The Mel Blanc Walking Tours introduces Mel Blanc’s Portland by matching key events of Mel Blanc’s childhood and early adulthood with the exact sites in Portland where those events took place. The walking tours take place July 23 and July 30, 2011.
Here are the people behind the project:
Anne Richardson, OCI director, mrs dot nyback at gmail dot com Dennis Nyback, OCI archivist, arburyhall at gmail dot com Heather Perkins, OCI artist in residence Bill Crawford, OCI project manager, bill dot mbproject at gmail dot com Paul Arzt, researcher Grayson Curtis, researcher Carye Bye, artist Josh Winsor, graphic designer/videographer Peter McLean, web designer/overseer Eric Wiler, community partnerships liaison Megan Huston, ticketing Meghan Sinnott, MBP project coordinator Jennifer McBride, videographer Justin Shelp, sound engineer David Milholland, Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission Charlotte Rubin, Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission George Thorn, RACC Bill Foster, Northwest Film Center Michael Newman, The Waypost Matthew Johnson, The Secret Society Brian DuFour, The Secret Society Michele Anderson, Ethos Music Center Judith Margles, Oregon Jewish Museum Rachel Butler, Oregon Historical Society Barbara Sestak, PSU School of Fine & Performing Arts Doug Whyte, Hollywood Theater
Q: Who was Mel Blanc?
A: Jack Benny once said, “There are only five real people in Hollywood. Everybody else is Mel Blanc.”
Mel Blanc grew up in Portland and attended Portland public schools, where he practiced the laugh which Walter Lanz would later make famous with the cartoon character Woody Woodpecker. Besides driving his teachers crazy with that laugh, Blanc also studied music, and played bass, violin and sousaphone. He left Lincoln High School to work as a musician, and was recruited by the Hoot Owls, an immensely popular music and comedy show on Portland’s KGW radio. Thus began his professional career. He never had a day job.
The most original and respected voice actor in the history of Hollywood made two trips to Los Angeles from Portland before he finally succeeded in breaking into the movies in 1937. He originated the voices for Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Sylvester and Tweetie, the Road Runner, Yosemite Sam, Speedy Gonzalez, Foghorn Leghorn, Woody Woodpecker, Barney Rubble, Speed Buggy, Tasmanian Devil, Pepe LePew, and the Frito Bandito, among others.
Q: What is the Oregon Cartoon Institute?
A: Oregon Cartoon Institute was founded in 2007 by Anne Richardson and Dennis Nyback to promote a greater awareness of Oregon’s rich animation and cartooning history. Conceived as a colloquium of interested individuals and organizations, the Institute has no brick and mortar home, and always works in partnership with institutions and organizations which do.
Q: How did the Mel Blanc Project come about?
A: In 2010, Oregon Cartoon Institute selected composer and sound designer Heather Perkins to serve as the Institute’s first artist in residence. Heather Perkins, in turn, chose Mel Blanc as the subject of her residency.
For more information about Mel Blanc, see the Archives of this website.