Speaking of blankness (Have you noticed
we've been speaking of blankness? Have you
noticed we've been speaking?),on "old-time"radio
I heard Mel Blanc speaking
as Mel Blank, not as Bugs Bunny, Yosemite
Sam, Donald Duck, Porky Pig, Daffy, Sylvester,
Tweetie, Jack Benny's Tin Lizzie or anyone
else from the impish legion.
This was just Mel Blanc, his voice oddly
ordinary, a bland, middle baritone, just
faint flashes of the metallic resonance
that could be wound as taut as a gleaming wire
to become, "Eh...what's up, Doc?"
(you wouldn't find it if you weren't
looking for it), an empty voice dimly haunted
by the thousand loony voices he'd fathered.
We become, some say, our names: wordy Wordsworth,
pontificating Pope. Blank, a neutral sound,
a potential, an empty voice to fill with voices;
Blanc, that hint of shine, a sound to emulate
in cartoon voices, a mischievous eye's twinkle.
Mel's blankness birthed no horrors,
but that's the Mel, which is a word
for honey, sweetness. But Mel easily becomes
Mal, and the Wascally Wabbit
is hard on poor Elmer. (Someday I, too,
will say, "abd...abd...abd...That's all folks.")
Note: The stutterer in the last line imitates Porky Pig's sign-off.
Most of you will remember the cartoon characters mentioned above
(some of them "Loony Tunes" characters, hence "loony
voices") to which Mel Blanc gave voice, some might not remember
Jack Benny's "Tin Lizzie", his ancient and unreliable
car (Benny representing himself always as too cheap to buy a new
one). Mel Blanc's voice provided the radio sound effects for Lizzie's
difficult start-ups, with grinding, pops, hisses and rumblings.