Oregon Cartoon Institute

Posts Tagged ‘Cobwebs & Nuts’

Tour Mel Blanc’s Portland: July 23 & July 30

In News on July 22, 2011 at 2:03 am

Where are you in Mel Blanc’s Portland?

Find out on July 23 and on July 30. The tour begins at 1:00 PM at the Hollywood Theater.

Suggested admission: $10.00! Remember to bring train fare for the MAX; we’ll be headed  to downtown Portland.

Here are some of the stops. Tour guides Bill Crawford and Dennis Nyback will provide the historical context for each site. Some stops will include screenings of  films from Dennis Nyback’s archive.

All quotes, unless otherwise indicated, are from That’s Not All Folks! My Life In The Golden Age Of Cartoons And Radio, by Mel Blanc and Philip Bashe.

Hollywood Theater:

Mel Blanc writes: “Once each show (Cobwebs and Nuts, for which he served as writer, producer, director and star) had taken shape, we relaxed, sometimes by driving down to the Hollywood Theater for a late afternoon movie.”

Steel Bridge:

Mel Blanc writes about playing hooky with high school friends: “Betcha can’t dive off the bridge,” he challenged, pointing to the steel structure connecting the east and west halves of the city. It had to be at least thirty feet high. Too young and impulsive to assess the potential dangers, the three of us dove in repeatedly, sometimes turning somersaults in midair.”

Sharon Wood Wortman, Portland’s leading bridge historian, confirms that the Steel Bridge is the only Portland bridge which matches the description Mel Blanc gives. She adds that he would have been trespassing on railroad property, since the lower level was at that time was reserved for trains, and pedestrians were forbidden.

Multnomah Hotel (now Embassy Suites): 

Ronald Kramer writes in Pioneer Mikes, A History of Radio and Television in Oregon: “Blanc was playing violin in Herman Kenin’s Orchestra when Degree Team member Harry Grannatt heard him sing and play his ukulele during one of the Multnomah Hotel’s Breakfast Club programs.

Mel Blanc writes: “For the next two years, when I wasn’t behind the microphone, I was playing dance halls throughout the Northwest…At intervals, I’d set down my cumbersome instrument and step out front to sing, all the while watching impeccably attired young men make plays for begowned girls with bobbed hair.”

Charles F. Berg Building:

Mel Blanc writes: “Our little radio troupe was called the Degree Team, and all members were accorded descriptive appellations. My friend, Harry Granitt, an insurance salesman, was nearly seven feet tall, hence his sobriquet The Grand Stringbean. Charles Berg, who ran a downtown department store, was The Grand Screecher. Because of my faculty for fetching laughs, I became The Grand Snicker.”

The Degree Team was the collective name of the innovative media pioneers who performed on KGW radio as The Hoot Owls, a program conceived and produced by Charles F. Berg, whose name appears on his downtown building.

Lincoln High School (now Lincoln Hall):

Mel Blanc writes: “Lincoln High had a cavernous hallway that produced a resounding echo; acoustically optimal, I determined, for trying out this new voice I’d been practicing: a shrill cackling laugh.”

Mel Blanc failed to match that manic cackle up with Happy Rabbit, the prototype for Bugs Bunny. He finally found a home for it with Woody Woodpecker.

This is not a complete list! Just some of the stops on the tour.

Because several of the buildings on the tour are architecturally significant, we have invited Sara Garrett, the executive director of MotivSpace, along as a guest speaker.  Sara received her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Physics and Building Science from Portland State University, and is completing the final steps for her Masters in Architecture with the University of Toronto.

In addition to our walking tours, a visit to the Oregon Jewish Museum’s Mel Blanc exhibit is a great way to explore the importance Mel Blanc’s Portland years played in his overall development as an artist.

“Despite what some might term the “frivolous” nature of my job, I consider myself an artist, and cartoons, art.” Mel Blanc

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The Mel Blanc Project  is a series of public history/art education events made possible in part by a grant from the Kinsman Foundation and by a grant from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation.

For more information about Mel Blanc, see the Archives of this website.


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Mel Blanc Day @ Lincoln Hall/ Wednesday June 29, 7:30 PM. Free admission!

In News on June 26, 2011 at 7:11 pm

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

In the fourth and final lecture in the Mel Blanc Lecture Series, which takes place 7:30 PM at 1620 SW Park Avenue on June 29, we will turn our attention to radio.

What role did Portland radio play in creating the Man With A Thousand Voices?

KGW’s Hoot Owls, a weekly hour and a half long show with more than one million listeners, began broadcasting from the Oregonian Tower in 1923. Mel Blanc became a card carrying member, as a listener, that same year. He joined the cast in 1927. He moved to KEX to create in his own daily  show, Cobwebs & Nuts, in 1933. He left for Los Angeles in 1935.

We asked Craig Adams and Robyn Tenenbaum to come help us unravel the question of the influence Portland radio had on Mel Blanc.  We call these events “lectures”, but it might be more accurate to call them onstage conversations, which the audience is invited to join.

Portland early radio historian Craig Adams will talk about Portland’s early adopters, who created radio here when it was a brand new technology/artform. He’ll tell us about the radio Mel Blanc grew up with, and later came to help create.

Robyn Tenenbaum, producer of Live Wire Radio, brings two of Live Wire’s most illustrious stars, Courtenay Hameister and Sean McGrath, with her. All three will provide their updated perspective of Portland radio.

Film archivist Dennis Nyback will show a GI Journal, featuring Mel Blanc performing live as a voice artist. A rare 16mm film, which 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.

Vox, a vocal/spoken word choir, will perform Mayor Sam Adams’ official proclamation that June 29, 2011 is Mel Blanc Day in Portland.

Mel Blanc T shirts will be given to the winners of our Mel Blanc Trivia Contest.

Opening the evening is Portland’s hot ukulele band, Honky Tonk Prison, led by Amos Hunter.

At the end of the evening, Craig Adams and Robyn Tenenbaum will induct Mel Blanc into Oregon Cartoon Institute’s Hall of Fame.

This evening is co-sponsored by Oregon Cartoon Institute and PSU School of Fine & Performing Arts.

Lincoln Hall, Mel Blanc’s former high school, is located at 1620 SW Park Avenue, in Portland.

Special thanks to civic minded Oregon Cartoon Institute member and calligrapher extraordinaire, S. W. Conser!

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Oregon Cartoon Institute’s Mel Blanc Project  is a series of public history/art education events made possible in part by a grant from the Kinsman Foundation and by a grant from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation.

For more information about Mel Blanc, see the Archives of this website.

Another recommended method of deepening your knowledge is to attend the entire lecture series,  Mel Blanc: The Portland Years.