Monday, April 05, 2021

RIP Mark Elliott

Mark Elliott passed away this weekend.  He was 81  (He's shown here on the left with radio great, Charlie Van Dyke in the center.) You may not know the name but you sure as hell have heard the golden voice. He’s done thousands of trailers, God knows how many promos for CBS, Fox, and for many years was the exclusive voice of Disney. (He probably had to say “experience the magic” 7,000,000 times.) 

And Mark had a heart as big as his voice.  A few years ago for my podcast I did a reading of a pilot David Isaacs and I wrote.  Mark read the narration.  You can listen to it here. 

This story will tell you all you need to know about Mark Elliott.

In the mid ‘70s Mark was a disc jockey – a very successful one mind you – on top rated LA station, KHJ. But how many times can play “The Night Chicago Died” without wanting to kill yourself? Mark thought voice over work was the way out.

He started taking classes, knocking on doors. Nothing. No one was interested. And remember, this guy had pipes! If not the voice of God than the guy who fills in for Him on the weekends. At the time his girlfriend was a beautician and one of her customers was a dude who owned a company that made movie trailers. She told him about Mark and he said Mark could call him. It’s amazing how gracious people can be when someone is holding a sharp pair of scissors to their head.

Mark did phone the guy and predictably was told there was nothing for him. He already had announcers he used on a regular basis. But Mark asked if he could check back from time to time and the guy said sure.

Mark called him every single week. Finally, after a full year, the guy said he might have something for him but no promises. He had a director who had no clue what he wanted. He already went through three voice over guys who just threw up their hands and ran. If Mark wanted, he could work with this nut, but there was no guarantee his trailer would be used and if not, he wouldn’t get paid. This would all be work on spec. Hours and hours of it.  Mark said he’ll take it.

Now remember, Mark was a top disc jockey. I’m sure many other jocks in his position would be insulted. How dare they be asked to work for free? They’d be saying, “Do you know who I am, even though I don’t use my real name?” But Mark was willing to do the work.

For the next two weeks, when he got off the air, he drove to the studio and worked ten hours a day voicing a gazillion variations of this trailer. Finally, the director was happy and Mark’s trailer ran.

The movie was STAR WARS. The crazy director was George Lucas.

Almost immediately, Mark’s voice over career took off. A few weeks later he did the trailer for THE GOODBYE GIRL. More offers came pouring in. And the rest, as they say, was all profit. 

I'll miss his laugh, his friendship, and of course his voice.  In this case, silence is not golden. 


benson said...

Heard Mark Elliot's voice for years.

He also had a great sense of humor about himself. There's some big league voiceover talent, including Mark. RIP.

Daniel said...

So sorry to hear about his passing. He sounded so young! Judging him just from his voice (which I remember hearing on Disney home video promos in the 1990s), I would have thought that he was 20 or 30 years younger than he actually was. RIP.

Anonymous said...

He was a great jock, I have several airchecks and anyone who could work at the stations he did was no ordinary talent.

Bryan Simmons

Irv said...

Mark is included in the aircheck compliation from the early 70's "Bootleg Top 40."

"The Story in Your Eyes makes for some pretty interesting reading baby...But didn't the typewriter hurt? The Moody Blues on K-H-J!"

Great intro, great voice. RIP.

Greg Ehrbar said...

For roughly thirty years Mark Elliott was one of the most prominent "voices of Disney," for commercials, announcements and for the advertising and promotional work we did for the parks. Dick Tufeld, who was the iconic voice of the sixties and seventies, continued to be the house announcer for the TV parades well into the nineties.

Anonymous said...

I’m sorry that your kind and talented friend has passed.
Considering his long association with Disney, it was ironic
indeed that his professional name was so similar to that of
Marc Eliot’s— Marc was the author of
“Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince.”

Douglas C Brown said...

I was production director at KHJ in the seventies. I used to engineer for his on-air shift also. I recall working with Mark to put together his first VO demo reel. What a great guy and talent. Then, he landed the Star Wars radio campaign. We were all stoked for him. Then, many years later, I was working as VO talent too. One day we ended up in the same studio in Hollywood for Disney. I had the body of the copy and Mark was doing the short tag. That was pretty surreal. What a classy guy taking it all in stride.

Unknown said...

The guy I knew was Sandy Shore who was on KIOA in Des Moines back in the day, later Mark Elliott, having come from Cedar Rapids, his hometown. I was at the old Radio Theatre in Des Moines as a kid with my sister and her boyfriend where he emceed a concert since he had become a personality on KIOA. I remember the microphone went out and he did a tap dance. The audience roared. Later in life I was working at KIOA where they had "Good Guy" reunions where the former DJ's would come back. He was one of the alum who attended the reunion. I told him "I don't mean to make you feel old but I remembered when you emceed the Gene Pitney/Buckingham's concert and the microphone went out." He acted like he was going to smack me because I was making him feel old but he just started laughing and said, "yeah" I remember that happening. He was such a nice guy and so talented. I'm proud that he's a fellow Iowa boy. May he rest in peace.

Michael said...

What a voice, indeed!

A similar story: This guy kept trying to get Warner Bros. to audition him to do voices and the executive in charge kept turning him down. One day he showed up and there was a new fellow sitting there. What happened to the other guy? He died. Oh. The wannabe voice actor asked if he could audition, and he did.

Mel Blanc.

Neil D said...

benson - that video was the first thing I thought of.

I think YouTube automatically removes higher resolution vids after a time though. Here's a link I found to a version with more than 12 pixels.

Victor Velasco said...

RIP Mark. A great voice.

Joe Cip said...

Beautiful story about a beautiful guy. Thanks for telling it, Ken.

Joe Cip

Dana Michaels said...

Oh, man... I'm so sorry. Mark was my favorite KHJ jock. He was kind enough to take me to lunch once, so I could pick his brain about the radio business. What a nice guy, as well as a terrific Boss Jock! Rest in Peace, Mark.

tavm said...

I mainly remember Mark Elliot as the substitute of Casey Kasem on the radio show "American Top 40". I liked him well enough that if the producers had picked him (and not Shadoe Stevens) to replace Casey in '88, the transition wouldn't have been so rough, IMHO...

CCWolffeNC said...

Ken, if not for the likes of Mark Elliott, I'd never have come back to listening to Top 40 and also a guy named Casey. Mark's "Weekly Top 30" (produced by Drake-Chenault) was a very comparable alternative to Casey Kasem's legendary American Top 40, and he proved to be a great radio host, on his show, and on others (including subbing for Casey himself on several occasions). I'd also known of Mark's career as an announcer for certain projects, including announcing for the Disney Studios (and suggest you check out him and other announcers making fun of their work in a YouTube video called "Five Guys & A Limo"). A professional announcer and a sincerely nice guy, indeed. Mark Elliott, all I can say is...thanks for letting US listen.

Matt Gillis (CCWolffeNC)

Anthony Hoffman said...

One of the many voices of my childhood. “Coming soon, from Walt Disney Studios.....”

MSOLDN said...

I believe that Mark Elliott (then as Ed Mitchell) was one of the historic original voices of RKO Radio’s the History of Rock and Roll, sharing narrating duties with Charlie Van Dyke on the CKLW/Windsor, KFRC/SF version that aired on both stations during the weekend of Feb 28, 1969, one week after the first Robert W Morgan-narrated version aired on KHJ/LA.

IShane said...

Mark was my mentor and friend dating back to 1970. I will miss his captivating stories and our wonderful lunches at Houston's. He was a true legend in the industry who will be sorely missed.