Archive for May, 2008

Last Name First, First Name Last…

The question arrived in a series of message board birthday wishes: “Where does the name come from? You’re the only Rowell I know of…”

As usual, my reply turned into a long-winded tale…so naturally it was destined to find a duplicate home here as an entry on the Clogged Blog.

It was my father’s idea to name me Rowell. That was the family name (last name) of his best friend in the army during World War Two, a fellow named Walter Rowell. I guess Dad thought he was doing us both an honor. We visited the family during a vacation to Boston when I was a teenager and it was a little weird meeting his three daughters…each of whom had my first name as their last name. I’m sure they felt just as much disorientation, if not more.

It’s pronounced with a long “o”, but I’ve spent a lifetime learning to tolerate imitation dog growls (“raowllll”), or people who have determined it must be a misprint (“Roland”). My wife’s grandmother always called me “Rolls”, various funny friends routinely call out “ra-oool” (like the spanish “Raul”), and even on the Muppet set Kevin Clash insisted on referring to me as if i were French (Ro-WELL). And of course, it was ready-made for schoolyard taunts. I honestly think i’ve heard them all.

When I’m introduced to someone I usually rate a “what?” more often than a “who?” Sometimes I try to make it easy on the person by saying, “rowell…as in ‘tootsie’.” Sometimes they get it. But I usually just correct people once, then politely let it go and tell them I’ll answer to “hey you!”

I even had one person ask me if it was an air-name I had made up. My answer was that if I’d wanted an air-name/stage-name, I would certainly have come up with something easier to get. And between the real spelling of my last name, “Gormon”, and the natural assumption of the spelling, “Gorman”, you can see why I didn’t just slap a “dot-com” on it for my website!

Even some friends of long-standing still don’t spell it right.

Resisting the urge to correct sometimes comes in handy. I still remember my first mention in a theatrical review (a less than glowing one) where I was mentioned as “Russell Gordon”. I decided to leave well enough alone on that one.

So…there it is. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that once people do get it, they seem to remember it. It’s just one more “different” thing about me. And as most of us in the performing world know, sometimes being “different” is a good thing.

— over and out —


Watch Your *#@%$!!! Language!

Peter O’ Connell has posted a thoughtful study of thoughtless on-air behavior and language this week, after a couple of nationally-known figures made the news in ways they’d maybe like to take back (link here to read it). It contains some nice insight on these *#$@&!! broadcasters. …oops. was that keyboard ON?

Don’t’ get me wrong. I’m no “holier-than-thou” voiceguy. I have absolutely no right to feel smug, having said many, MANY stupid things on the air, or mangled a thought beyond all comprehension in my career. But i guess i can thank my parents for the fact that I’ve never had the trouble with off-color language. It’s more habit than “holiness”.

In the rare instances when I’m asked to talk to a class about voiceovers, one of the first things I do is to stand in front of the microphone and tell them: “Remember: the mic is ALWAYS ON!” Then I pull the cable out of its socket and hold it in front of me, continuing, “even if you have the cable right in your hand – THE MIC IS ALWAYS ON!”

I’ve just seen/heard too many friends let go verbally in the heat of frustration or carelessness…and seen a few “let go” shortly thereafter.

But like I said, I’m certainly no angel.

Luckily, I’ve never had to try repairing a plumbing fixture or faulty computer program while on the air. THEN you’d hear some REAL #@$%*!!-ing.

— over and out — 


What’s In YOUR Pocket?

A lot of my creativity stems from a childhood (the first one, i’m in my fifth) where magical transformations required little more than cardboard boxes, masking tape, some glue, and a lot of love and encouragement.  And it’s especially fun when I get to play, even at my age, with like-minded creative types who take on the challenge of limited budgets with, literally, what is at hand and what comes to mind. 

Case in point:  this locally-produced tv spot for Lewis Advertising, realized through the creativity of Nancy and Rod Rich, of (and they invited me to play!).


Done with computers?  Well, yeah, partially.  But before that part, it was almost literally a “seat of the pants” production.  Nancy bought two identical pairs of slacks for each of the on-camera people, then cut up one pair and stretched the fabric over a double thickness of foam core with a hole just big enough for me to wiggle my hand through to the pocket entrance. These were clamped to c-stands and I performed each “pocket” separately, using a monitor (muppet style) to get my eyelines right. Each “pocket lining” was a separate tube-sock style puppet sewn up by Nancy with real coins glued to flat buttons which she then sewed onto the characters.  She even thought to have the goofy one fixed with different size and color coins that wobbled to make him look a little more offbeat.

On location, Rod videotaped the people first.  Then the pocket sections were set up, one at a time, and shot under the identical light. Back at their studio Rod and Nancy matched up and sized the insert shots, matted them over the master shots, and blended the edges in the computer so that it looks like the actors’ slacks and the puppet segments are one and the same. They also matched any slight shifts or movement by the live actors so they wouldn’t have to do it over still photos. 

I performed to my own pre-edited voicetrack played from a boombox, which they later synched up to the video edit from the cd. Fellow VO talent Donovan Corneetz had contributed the voice of “Pocket #2” via mp3 from his own studio a week earlier.

It’s this kind of high-level imagination that can make even a low-budget production shine. How low? Well, I ain’t tellin’…but nobody was “out of pocket” too much on this creative project.

— over and (inside) out —