Oregon Cartoon Institute



Oregon Cartoon Institute’s four part Mel Blanc Lecture Series takes place on Wednesday evenings in June.

Tickets are available for individual lectures, or you can purchase a pass for all four lectures.


Lecture One

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

7:00 PM

Ethos at IFCC, 5340 North Interstate Avenue, Portland, OR

Admission: $10 ($9.00 for PSU students, Ethos Music Center students, members of Oregon Historical Society, and members of Oregon Jewish Museum)

“Now Cut That Out!”: Portland Theaters Educate Mel Blanc

This lecture will introduce the world of downtown Portland theaters, a world inhabited by Mel Blanc first as a consumer and later as an entertainer. Because Portland was on the Orpheum and Pantages vaudeville circuits, Mel Blanc saw all the big name acts, live and on stage– just as if he had been growing up in New York or Los Angeles.

Guest speakers: Local theater historians Steve Stone and Gary Lacher, co-authors of Theaters of Portland, talk about the Portland Mel Blanc grew up in, with downtown streets lined with vaudeville theaters and movie houses, and a mayor, George Baker, who was himself in show business. Stone and Lacher will describe the Portland audiences who patronized vaudeville, and give a quick overview of the intersection between vaudeville and Hollywood.

Films: Dennis Nyback will show films of some of the vaudeville performers (Jack Benny, Groucho Marx, Eddie Cantor) Mel Blanc would have seen perform live during his Portland years. Later Blanc would perform alongside these same stars on national radio.

Purchase a ticket for this event here.


Lecture Two

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

7:00 PM

Ethos at IFCC, 5340 North Interstate Avenue, Portland, Oregon

Admission: $10 ($9.00 for PSU students, Ethos Music Center students, members of Oregon Historical Society, and members of Oregon Jewish Museum)

“I’m In The Market For You”: Portland Pop Stars Inspire Mel Blanc

This lecture will introduce the audience to three Oregon performers whose ascent to stardom Mel Blanc directly witnessed. Portland born and raised George Olsen shot to national stardom when Fanny Brice heard him and brought him to the Ziegfeld Follies in New York. He became a Broadway star and sold millions of records — all in front of Mel Blanc’s impressionable eyes. Lee Morse was a Portland born, Idaho raised singer who also sold tons of records, and was a big star on the radio. Del Porter was a friend of Mel Blanc’s, a fellow musician, who as part of the singing group The Foursome, performed on Broadway and appeared behind Eleanor Powell in Born To Dance (1936). Porter was from Newburg.

Guest speakers: Dennis Nyback, singer & historian of American popular song, and Rick Meyers, musician & music historian. Dennis and Rick have performed together in the past, and this lecture may well burst into song – as these two music historians discuss the music Mel Blanc heard, and made, here in Portland.

Films: Dennis will show films of Portland bandleader turned national superstar George Olsen, Oregon born singer-songwriter Lee Morse,  and Del Porter, the Newberg born friend of Mel Blanc’s who beat him to the Big Screen.

Purchase a ticket for this event here.


Lecture Three

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

7:00 PM

Ethos at IFCC, 5340 North Interstate Avenue, Portland, Oregon

Admission: $10 ($9.00 for PSU students, Ethos Music Center students, members of Oregon Historical Society, and members of Oregon Jewish Museum)

Eden’s Melting Pot: South Portland Raises Mel Blanc

Portland is a city Jewish pioneers helped found and govern. Mel Blanc’s family moved here from San Francisco — what drew them? What did it mean to be Jewish in Portland during Mel Blanc’s growing years? Who else lived in South Portland? Mel Blanc ascribed his astounding ear for dialect and accent to the multi-lingual environment of South Portland. What was the neighborhood like?

Guest speaker: For this lecture we are partnering with the Oregon Jewish Museum. Judy Margles, director of Oregon Jewish Museum, will use slides to bring to life the immigrant neighborhood in which Mel Blanc grew up, the Portland Public Schools he attended, the many languages he heard spoken around him, and the Neighborhood House, a building which still stands, where he first learned to play a musical instrument and began his career as a performer.

Purchase a ticket for this event here.


Lecture Four

Wednesday, June  29,  2011

7:30 PM

Lincoln Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave, Portland, Oregon

Admission: Free to all

Hoot Owls, Cobweb & Nuts: Portland Radio Nurtures Mel Blanc

“Today Is Yesterday & Tomorrow Is Today” was the motto for the KGW’s “Honorable Order of Hoot Owls Roosting In The Oregonian Tower”, the radio show which gave Mel Blanc his first paid employment as a voice artist. The Hoot Owls was a weekly hour and a half long show with more than one million listeners. It had been broadcasting for four years when Mel Blanc joined the cast in 1927. He moved to KEX, a KGW affiliate in 1933 to write, produce and star in his own hour long daily (Monday through Saturday) show, “Cobweb & Nuts”. After two years of this exhausting schedule, he moved to Hollywood, well prepared for everything he found there.

Guest Speakers: Portland early radio historian Craig Adams will talk about Portland’s “early adopters”, who created radio stations here when radio was a brand new technology/artform. He’ll talk about the radio Mel Blanc grew up with, and later came to help create. Robyn Tenenbaum, Sean McGrath and Courtenay Hameister, of Live Wire fame, will provide an updated perspective of Portland radio.

Films:  Dennis will show a WWII Army/Navy Screen Magazine, one of a series of  music and comedy shorts made for soldiers. This one features Mel Blanc making a rare live performance as a voice artist. A very rare film! Also features Lucille Ball and Jerry Colonna. Dennis will also show I Love To Singa (1936), a Warner Brothers cartoon spoofing The Jazz Singer which stars a young Owl Jolson making his radio debut.

This event is free.


Lecture Series Format:

Each lecture will use the following format.

1. Dennis and Anne introduce the evening’s guest speaker(s).

2. Dennis screens two or three related shorts from his archive.

3. Dennis and Anne begin an interview/conversation with the guest speaker(s) which uses the films as a springboard for discussion about Mel Blanc’s Portland years.

4. We open the floor to questions from the audience.

  1. […] Historical Society and PSU’s School of Fine and Performing Arts. Discounted tickets to the Mel Blanc Lecture Series are available to the members of these partner […]

  2. […] recommended method of deepening your knowledge is to attend Mel Blanc: The Portland Years, our upcoming lecture […]

  3. […] of Blanc’s films were recently screened at Portland’s Secret Society lounge, a series of lecture  will take place on Wednesday nights in June, and a new exhibit at the Oregon Jewish […]

  4. My grandfather, Glenn Shelley, worked with Mel Blanc at KEX in the early radio days in Portland. He was a well known organist, playing for the silent movies in Portland, playing the theater organs for radio broadcasts and concerts and as a studio musician for KGW, KEX and KOIN. I would be interested in knowing how you were able to preserve some of those early acetate records and get them digitized. I have some from the old radio shows and some music recordings from the studio musicians of that time. I am looking forward to attending your future lectures….

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