Mel Blanc

Today’s Zippy, a tribute to actor Mel Blanc:

Lots of linguistic interest (not to mention humor) in Blanc.

On Blanc, from Wikipedia:

Melvin Jerome “Mel” Blanc (May 30, 1908 – July 10, 1989) was an American voice actor and radio personality. Although he began his more than six-decade-long career performing in radio, Blanc is best remembered for his work with Warner Bros. as the voices of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Marvin the Martian, Pepé Le Pew, Speedy Gonzales, Wile E. Coyote, the Tasmanian Devil and many of the other characters from the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoon short films, produced during the golden age of American animation.

He later worked for Hanna-Barbera’s television cartoons, most notably as the voices of Barney Rubble in The Flintstones and Mr. Spacely in The Jetsons. Blanc was also a regular performer on The Jack Benny Program in both its radio and television formats (among various other radio and TV programs), and was the original voice of Woody Woodpecker for Universal Pictures.

Having earned the nickname “The Man of a Thousand Voices”, Blanc is regarded as one of the most influential people in the voice acting industry.

Blanc was born Melvin Jerome Blank in San Francisco, California, to Russian-Jewish parents Frederick and Eva Blank. The younger of two children, he grew up in the neighborhood of Western Addition in San Francisco, and later in Portland, Oregon, where he attended Lincoln High School. Growing up, he had a fondness for voices and dialect, which he began voicing at the age of ten. He claimed when he was sixteen, he changed the spelling from “Blank” to “Blanc,” because a teacher told him that he would amount to nothing and be like his name, a “blank.”

… One of Blanc’s most memorable characters from Benny’s radio (and later TV) programs was “Sy, the Little Mexican”, who spoke one word at a time. The famous “Sí…Sy…sew…Sue” routine was so effective that no matter how many times it was performed, the laughter was always there, thanks to the comedic timing of Blanc and Benny [You can watch the routine on video here.]

(Blanc wasn’t an impressionist, but the creator of characters through his voices.)

And then there was the “Anaheim, Azusa and Cucamonga” routine. From the TV Acres site:

First on radio [starting in 1945] and then on TV, Mel Blanc played a Union Station train caller who announced via megaphone or loudspeaker system the trains arriving and departing from the station. For example, “Train leaving on Track 5 for Anaheim, Azusa and Cuuuu-ca-mon-gaaa!”

The names were chosen because they sounded silly. And then there was the joke that the three towns weren’t in fact on the railroad. From the Azusa Wikipedia site:

There is no passenger rail service to Azusa, although Metrolink’s San Bernardino Line stops in nearby Covina and Baldwin Park several times each day. The Jack Benny Program which aired from the 1930s to the 1950s had a running joke where a train announcer (Mel Blanc) would announce the next train for Anaheim, Azusa, and Cucamonga, all three then small towns [in the Los Angeles area] without rail service.

Annoyingly, I haven’t been able to find a site with the actual routine, though it’s cited and described, always lovingly, in an enormous number of places. But here’s a later version, with Daffy Duck making the train call.

The three towns have had different histories. Anaheim, to start with, has become (relatively) big and famous. (The name combines the Ana of the Santa Ana River with German Heim ‘home’.)
From Wikipedia:

Anaheim … is a city located in Orange County, part of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. In the 2010 United States Census, the city of Anaheim had a population of 336,265, making it the most populated city in Orange County … Anaheim … is known for its theme parks, sports teams and convention center.

Founded by fifty German families in 1857 and incorporated as the second city in Los Angeles County on March 18, 1876, Anaheim developed into an industrial center, producing electronics, aircraft parts and canned fruit. It is the site of the Disneyland Resort, a world-famous grouping of theme parks and hotels which opened in 1955, Angel Stadium of Anaheim, Honda Center and Anaheim Convention Center, the largest convention center on the West Coast.

Anaheim is located on Interstate 5. The other two towns are on old US Route 66 (now designated Foothill Boulevard), and both take their names from the names of Native American peoples (Gabrieleños).

More on Azusa:

Azusa is a city in the San Gabriel Valley, at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains in Los Angeles County, California, United States. The A on the San Gabriel Mountains represents the city of Azusa, and can be seen within a 30 mile radius. The population was 46,361 at the 2010 census

And on Cucamonga, now folded into Rancho Cucamonga:

Rancho Cucamonga is a suburban city in San Bernardino County, California. As of 2014, Rancho Cucamonga’s population was 165,775 people … The city was incorporated in 1977, as a result of a vote among the residents of the unincorporated communities of Alta Loma, Cucamonga, and Etiwanda … Rancho Cucamonga is the conjunction of the Mojave Trail, the Old Spanish Trail, former U.S. Route 66 …, and El Camino Real.

In February 1993, Rancho Cucamonga, made famous by Jack Benny’s long-running gag, erected a statue honoring the late comedian.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: