Friday, January 26, 2007

In search of Wendy

I don’t know how I lived before Wendy. She’s nurturing, she’s patient, she shows me the way. A lot of times I’ll do stupid things, ignore her advice completely and yet she never gets angry. Never even raises her voice. She just readjusts her thinking to accommodate me. Before you get too excited guys, Wendy is my GPS system. I’ve named her for “Wendy and the lost boys”, which seemed better than “Donna Dashboard” or “mother”.

My big question is just who is this woman? She’s the Lexus GPS voice. Maybe one of you know. I tried tracking it down on the internet but kept running into dead ends.

Do people recognize her voice when she’s in a supermarket or ordering at Shoney’s? How long did it take to record all of that? Jon Miller of ESPN records their baseball video game each year and it takes about three days to update from last year’s edition. By the third day he’s walking into walls.

The funniest day I ever had on the MASH set was when they assembled the cast to do promos for all the affiliates. The show had just gone into syndication and as a courtesy the cast agreed to do quick individual promos. Promos like this:

“Hi, this is Alan Alda. Thanks for watching MASH and now stay tuned for Cindy Zichiweivitz, Bob Bandamama and the rest of the Eyewitness News team on the big one in Biloxi, Channel 17. “

and then…

“Hi, this is Alan Alda. We have your prescription for comedy on MASH followed by Channel 39 Action Central News with Laura Papadacilous, Harold DeBois, Dirk D. Detmeyer sports, and Dr. Happy with the weather – voted the number one news team in Norfolk for the ninth year in a row.”

They had to record 200 of these. Can you imagine?!

By the 20th one they were tripping all over themselves, by the 100th it was a train wreck. Everyone was so punchy, they could not get through a promo without six takes, five of them laughing hysterically.

And, these promos were done at the end of a filming day.

I don’t think I ever laughed so hard in my life.

So when I hear Wendy lovingly say “make a sharp right in one half mile” I imagine it was after four takes of:

“make a right … oh fuck, sharp right… God damn it, let’s do this fucking thing again. What is a fucking sharp right turn anyway? Like the putz driving is gonna know? He’s probably got his head so far up his ass he doesn’t even know what a right turn is. And he's driving a fucking Lexus. I have a goddamn Kia but this pissant drives a Lexus. It's a fucking joke! Okay, here we go, take five…”

Whoever Wendy is, I have got to meet her. But not during a session.


Mary Stella said...

You're the second person I know who has named his car GPS unit. My teenage nephews named their parents' Eleanor after Eleanor Rigby. I guess the disembodied voice reminded them of "wearing a face that she keeps in a jar by the door".

VP81955 said...

Your note on station promos reminded me of when I lived in Philadelphia and the station that had acquired syndication rights for "Married...With Children" had a promo with Ed O'Neill sitting on Al Bundy's couch, wearing a Phillies jacket (the station had just become the Phils' TV flagship). I hope for Ed's sake not many other stations with "M...WC" syndication rights carried MLB games -- he probably had to change a lot of jackets. (Of course, Ed is no stranger to sports, having been a star football player at Youngstown State and actually getting an NFL tryout that was cut short by injury, making the Al Bundy "four touchdowns in one game" high school reference a wonderful in-joke.)

Anonymous said...

Just so you know, the lady in the Acura GPS system is named Maxine, but we call her Max for short.

When not in a GPS equipt vehicle, I find it perfectly appropriate to say either "I need a Max" or "I miss Max."

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine called Honda wanting to know how to turn off the feature on the car's map that put a red flag at the location of every school. He was told that you couldn't turn it off.

He pointed out that if you're a parent, you've researched the hell out of the schools in your area and know where each and every one is located. However, if you are a drug dealer or pedophile this would, indeed be a very handy feature. This comment was met with silence.

The 2007 version does NOT have this feature.

Steven said...

I would love it if these GPS units responded angrily when you do not do as they tell you. "Turn right in a quarter mile...Right turn ahead...Hey, slow down, this is the turn...You missed the turn, you idiot! Great, now I have to figure out a new route. Thanks, schmuck."

Howard Hoffman said...

I think Ben Stein did the first generation Toyota GPS units. None exist now, of course, since all those cars were totaled when the drivers fell asleep.

The Curmudgeon said...

I wouldn't depend quite so heavily on the voice of the GPS if I were you.

They can get the directions wrong... and it's become a problem in Germany where compliant drivers have turned off the road... and into an accident... all because their "satnav" ordered them too.

Anonymous said...

I hear ya, John! I did time checks for an automated station, too. With DIRECTION! Twelve hours times sixty minutes with a doofus saying..."Can you do that again and put a little more sincerity in it?"

Anonymous said...

People who can afford a Lexus still eat at Shoney’s?!

Anonymous said...

Mary Stella - I'm so encouraged that your teen nephews know Beatles tunes.

I have a hand-held GPS with a choice of voices. I used to have it on the generic American voice, but I didn't like how upbeat she was when she said, "Arriving at destination!" I can just hear her head bobbing.

We've reprogrammed it to the flat and rather insulting-sounding British voice (though she has an interersting interpretation for Sepulveda that makes me giggle.)

Anonymous said...

I am so addicted to this blog, what made me laugh before Ken Levine?

Please, Ken, write a book about comedy, partly a memoir, partly a how-to for writers. Maybe title it, Good Times With Mary Tyler Moore. By itself, the stuff in your blogs would pack maybe a hundred pages.

Anonymous said...

That reminds me of the audio of Casey Kasem losing it while recording one of his Requests and Dedications. It's old, but a classic.

Anonymous said...

My car is named Gretchen (its a BMW). her voice seems to get more stern the more you ignore her. "plesae make a legal u-turn). The voice is cool and all but shouldn't cars fly by now? Over 100 years of automotive technology and the only thing they have managed to perfect is the back seat driver.

Anonymous said...

I'd get a GPS system if it talked like Ken (with or without swearing).

Anonymous said...

Did you see Alec Baldwin try to act badly in a recent "30 Rock"? Hysterical. It takes a really fine actor to do that.

Miles said...

As somebody who used to work in TV syndication marketing, I can say for a fact that everybody involved in the production of these custom tags hates it (you should have seen the ones for a popular syndicated film review show that shall remain nameless) but the affiliates still go gaga over them... Go figure.

Anonymous said...

Who needs a GPS. My wife is constantly telling me where to go, very effectively.

Anonymous said...

Great Big Radio Guy, you made me laugh. Ben Stein. Very funny.

Beth Ciotta said...

Ah, Ken, you light up my life. *g* What Max said.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of a clip I saw years ago on a "bloopers" show. A woman was doing a spiel for some podunk bank and had her (real-life) kids in the shot as props. She's nattering away on and suddenly one of the kids pipes up and demands to know why she keeps saying the same thing over and over..

Anonymous said...

I remember being on a Westwood One format and recording liners and promos for 120 stations over an eight hour period.
Besides getting bug eyed you really see some of the worst writing ever, like the station in Lima Ohio:


Bill Nesbitt

Anonymous said...

Curmudgeon is SO correct...I don't know if any of you were following the story a couple of months ago, about the family that was lost in the Oregon wilderness. One report stated the reason they got stranded in the first place was their car's navagation system instructed them to take a mountain road that, in fact, was closed for the winter.

Warren Fleece said...

"What are you doing, Dave?"

I'm signaling a right turn, Hal.

"I don't understand. The turnoff to your mother-in-law's house is still three miles north."

That's true Hal, but I'm still turning here.

"But this is Marv's Liquor Barn"

That's right Hal.

"But your mother-in-law said specifically..."

Goodbye Hal.

"Daisy, Day shzeeee..."