Sunday, January 4, 2015

Joe has been making Willoughby & the Professor for 42 years!

Joe has been making Willoughby & the Professor for 42 years!

Here is the article he wrote in 2007...

“A Tale of Two
Willoughbys: 35-years Apart”

Joe Bevilacqua, 05/29/07

One of my first "Willaby and the Professor" audio stories was recorded in TV/family room of my now infamous friend "Steve" (not his real name) in 1972, when I was 13, 35 years ago this summer. "Steve" had just come back from seeing "The Godfather" and we ad-libbed this entire half-hour story, with "Steve" hilarious as Marlon Brando.

Joe Bev and his drawing of the Professor
I picked up most of the other parts, including Willaby, the Professor, Mr. Big, Super Jerk and almost all the walk-on characters. "Steve" was Boy Blunder, the airport announcements and some of the mafia henchman. He was also the narrator.

Now, remember, this was completely AD-LIBBED by a 13- and a 14-year old, without writing down one word. We decidedly did not even talk about what we were going to say to each other beforehand. It is one reason, you'll hear me almost break up laughing in one scene, when the Godfather calls Mr. Big, Mr. Pig. We really liked making each other laugh and had been doing so off mic since we made in second grade in 1967.

Joe Bev and his drawing of Willaby
We did stop the tape a few times when we got stuck. You can hear some of those edits because the mic recorded a blip sound when I turned it off and on. Most of the sound effects were done by me live to tape, as we ad-libbed, as well as some of the music which I got from old records I found in my parent's attic.

I recently sweetened this childhood recording a bit for broadcast on XM Radio, but I have decided to not to broadcast this rare tape.

It was recorded on an early model Panasonic home cassette tape recorder my father bought me when I was 12 the previous summer. I used the hand-held external microphone that came with it and pointed it back and forth quickly between us, with my right hand and made the sound effects and played records on my portable lime green plastic children's record player with my left hand, as we ran around "Steve's" parent's TV room shouting like lunatics in a cacophony of different voices while his mom and dad hid from us in the kitchen.

Joe drew Willaby and the Professor
on his audio book series:
In one scene, the Godfather and Mr. Big are watching TV, so we just turned on the real TV that was there in the room. You can actually hear what was being broadcast on the now defunct WNEW-TV, Channel 5 in New York--a Sunday afternoon movie rerun, as we were ad-libbing a take-off on Stan Freberg's classic "John and Marsha" record.

Early in the story, we parody Alan Sherman's classic record, "Camp Granada." ("Hello, Godmother. Hello, Godfather. Here we are at Hotel Granada.") Luckily, I had on a LP the correct piece of classical music, "Dance of the Hours" by Ponchielli, which we sang over and which is the very music Sherman was parodying in the first place.

Late in the story, "Steve" imitates Terry Jones as one of the Monty Python "the penguin on the tele blew up" ladies. Remember, this was 1972 and the Pythons had just been introduced to United States audiences, thanks to our local PBS station, WNET.

 Get the first set here!Somewhere in there, I do a take-off on the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the guru under whom The Beatles had studied a few years earlier. He's the one John Lennon wrote "Sexy Sadie" about for The White Album. I had just seen the Maharishi on "The Merv Griffin Show" a few days earlier. I'm actually quoting him in the scene, as he talks about the benefits transcendental meditation, even though I had no idea what I was saying at the time. I have since learned the art of mediation, which I highly

At one point we forced "Steve's" mom to GO OUT and call home so we could record the ring for "our big scene"! To this day I cannot remember how I got my Mel Blanc-esque Mexican Hotel Clerk's and the Professor's voices filtered LIVE to tape when we had no way of filtering our voices to sound like it was coming over a phone, but when Willaby is being held captive by Mr. Big and tricks him into letting him call the Professor., Willably and Mr. Big are fully present in the room while the Clerk and the Professor are in Mexico City distinctly over the phone. I am all four voices.

Joe drew Willaby and the Professor 
on the cover of his audio book:JOE BEV CARTOONS:
You will also hear in that scene, Mr. Big and Willaby overlapped. Since I only had one tape recorder, I could not overdub myself, so that is "Steve" doubling (quit well) as Mr. Big.

We created some changes in the ambient space simply by talking into various objects, such as coffee cans and metal garbage pales. The panning I did later.

Remember our tender age as you listen to the first one from 1972. Then, compare it to the one I just completed in 2007 at age 48.

The latter piece URLed in two parts above is my newest official "Willoughby and the Professor" audio adventure.

It has a very interesting history.

In 1990, David Garland, the wonderfully inventive singer-songwriter and WNYC Radio host, asked me to contribute to a new spoken word block he was developing for Wednesday nights at 9:00pm, on WNYC-FM in New York City. He had heard some of my childhood ramblings and wondered if I
could do something with them for him.

Joe drew Willaby and the Professor 
on the cover of his audio book:JOE BEV CARTOONS:
Somehow, what I did at 13 did not seem that appealing to revisit, especially since "Steve" and I had a falling out in 1979. I was working as the assistant to the then-Director of Kean College's "Writing and
Math Lab": Robert J. Cirasa. I had started in the Lab as a tutor while attending Kean (now a University).

Bob and I had a meeting of the creative minds from the beginning.

The first time I had the pleasure of co-writing a script with Bob Cirasa was in 1985, by accident. I was writing episode eight of "The Mis-Adventures of Sherlock Holmes," my ten-pat series that first aired
on WBAI in New York. It was a very hot and muggy afternoon and was at home typing the script on a manual Underwood, which was on my lap as I lay on my bed, sweating. I had no air conditioning and I was HATING every word I wrote, to the point that I smashed the typewriter on the floor and fled my very dingy attic apartment in Plainfield, NJ.

Joe drew Willaby and the Professor 
on the cover of his audio book:
The show was being recorded THAT night and I was frantic. I found myself driving north on the New Jersey Garden State Parkway at 2 O'clock in the afternoon. I eventually landed in Union, New Jersey, in Bob's office at Kean. His office had once been a darkroom and had one of those weird looking Star Trek-looking "keeps the light out" doors. To enter Bob's office, I had to step inside an
ominous looking black metal tube, spin the revolving "door" around (during which time I was in complete darkness) and I'd "arrive" on the other side of the wall, and step out into his hidden office, as if beamed up by Scotty. I always felt like I had left the planet. In some ways, Bob IS the second version of the Professor.

After Bob calmed me down, I explained I was having writer's block for the first in my life and we were recording the show THAT night at WBAI. Well, Bob & I wrote it together and by six o'clock I was on a train to Manhattan, and the show was the most fun of the series, a sort of a sideways parody of the 1976 Nicholas Meyer "Sherlock Holmes" pastiche film, "The Seven Percent Solution," in which a drugged out, raving mad Sherlock Holmes finds himself in the loony bin being cared for by an even loonier Sigmund Freud, played by me as if he was Mel Brooks. England native Vernon Morris was an amazing Holmes, playing him more like Stan Laurel than Basil Rathbone. Henry J. Quinn, though not English, played his Watson as a pompous, lying egotist, the opposite of the
Joe drew Willaby and the Professor 
on the cover of his audio book:
Nigel Bruce booby interpretation of the character from the 1940s movies. Henry was a retired FBI agent, who took up acting late and was often seen in sketches on David Letterman. The late Jan Meredith of North Carolina was the nutty but jovial Mrs. Hudson, played as an Irish woman. English actress Gwendolyn Lewis played Holmes's secret love, Irene Adler, as a sexy tone-deaf tart who dreamed of being an opera singer.

When I decided to resurrect "Willaby and the Professor" for David Garland, I went to Bob Cirasa for help again. Bob brought to the series a more sophisticated literary style, a distinct poetry to the language. Instead of ad-libbing my way through a story, we carefully craft every word, every stage direction, every sound effect cue. We made extensive notes about the meaning, the audio landscape and the timing, and I spent months in the studio interpreting the scripts in sound form, sometimes staying in the WNYC studios overnight, producing right up until I had to go to work at my real job as WNYC's Senior Radio publicist. Ah, to be that young and energetic today!
Joe drew Willaby and the Professor 
on the cover of his audio book:JOE BEV CARTOONS:

The characters quickly began to take on more complex, mythic dimensions. In fact, the second Willoughby series (note the spelling change) really IS poetry not prose, thanks to Bob. The arc of all 17 installments amounts to an epic poem of sorts. In episode seven, Bob had one character, A. Bysshe Sisyphus (which I voice in a Hans Conried-like false Shakespearean bravado) speak only in iambic pentameter.

More recently, Bob has retro-added a layer of Greek mythology references to Bysshe's poems that now start each installment. It was only natural that Willoughby would end up being a god himself in this latest story.
"It's That Time Again:
New Stories of Old Time Radio,"

published by Bear Manor Media.
All together, Bob and I have written 18 "Willoughby and the Professor" Bizzaro world adventures, including a short story in the book: "It's That Time Again: New Stories of Old Time Radio," published by Bear Manor Media.

In my favorite, episode six, "Now It's Time To Sing!" or "Unwanted Noises in the Air," Bob even set his poetry to music, forcing all the characters (and me since I played them all) to sing their thoughts whenever Dances-With-Sven Erikson, the half-Norse, half-Native American shaman, rings a bell. Pianist-composer Paul Salomone orchestrated the musical score performed by his delicious Bill Evans-style jazz trio, with Ed Fuqua on bass and Jim Mason on drums.

Joe demonstrating how he does
the newer Professor's voice

Episode 17 of Willoughby began as script in 1994. The voice tracks were recorded at WNYC in 1995, and it features me as both Willoughby and the Professor, as well as cameos as Trapper Carl, DHC, Chippy the digital parrot, and A. Bysshe Sisyphus.

The great Margaret Juntwait (former WNYC host and now the voice of The Met Opera radio broadcasts) portrays Willougby's Greek goddess Mermaid of a mother. Lorie Kellogg (my wife) and Carla Rozman provided the Marti Gras-style march between scenes sung by the zoological chorus of Greek gods dancing around the boat and across the sky.

That's me as Elvis and Wolfman Jack at the end. I also created all the sound effects myself and wrote and performed most of the underscore music. David Garland is the series announcer.

I must mention David Garland's wonderfully cartoony jazz "Willoughby" theme music, used during the opening and closing credits of every story, and which perfect captures the tone of my quirky style.

Joe making the voice of the Professor in 2014
These stories are in serial form so it might take you a few minutes to get into the story if you have not heard the previous installments. Just know that by episode 17, Willoughby and the Professor have been
shanghaied aboard a ship of Greek gods and would-be pirates at the world's "navel" where all the cork of the world collects. We wrote this years before Disney's "Pirates of The Caribbean, At World's End," which takes on similar themes and just to in $401 million dollars at the box office worldwide in its first six days of release – - the biggest opening in movie history.

Alas, WNYC canceled the spoken word block in mid-1995, in favor of strictly classical music, just as I was beginning to post-produce episodes 13 to 17, so the stories were never completed. Oddly, this was after critic-at-large David Hinckley wrote a very positive full two-page spread (with photos) about "Willoughby and the Professor" in the Sunday New York Daily News, and we were getting stacks of letters, many handwritten, some from children. One child sent me a drawing he made of big and small Willoughby, since the character magically shrunk and grew in several installments. We even had a small fan club in New Jersey called "The Willoughby and the Professor Space Puckering Society." Listeners of all ages often called the station during its broadcast asking how they could buy a copy of the show.
Early CD label by Lorie Kellogg
The shows were also honored by the Museum of Television and Radio in 1992, as part of their first "Contemporary Radio Humor Exhibit," along side the likes of radio legends Stan Freberg, Bob and Ray, Jean Shepard and Firesign Theatre, all heroes of mine.

I finally completed episode 17 of "The Whithering of Willoughby and the Professor" this year, 2007, and it aired on XM a few weeks ago, unfortunately with no promotion or fanfare, 35 years after I first
ad-libbed the characters into that Panasonic.

I consider episode 17 my best audio work to date--a surreal and psychedelic sea journal for the ears. As Trapper Carl says in the opening, "Don't forget your sea legs!"
Early art by Lorie Kellogg
I played it for my broadcasting students at Marist College last semester, with the lights out. They found themselves so engulfed in a sound palette that many of the students said they felt like they were "in" the story with the characters on a boat lost at sea. Too me, this is the ultimate compliment. It is not easy to get anyone to sit for nearly an hour and listen to a story in sound in this rapid-paced age of blind worshiping addiction to television and all things visual. These kids actually forgot where they even were. Several students said they found themselves rocking back and force as if they were on a boat. one student was convinced I had devised some mysterious way of making the classroom floor move in time with the action. (No seasickness reported, though.)
The first set is available online
for download or on CDs

I achieved this quality by slowly moving the stereo pan of the ocean waves and the boat creak back and forth from right to left, throughout the story, in effect "rocking" the audio boat. I also panned characters to created a more full illusion of movement and altered the size and shape of the ambient space as the characters moved about the boat.

After this "Willoughby," I made a flawed attempt at adapting the short story for radio, which is also up on my web server, as episode 18, along with all of the "Willoughby and Professor" audio in existence.

Sadly, many of the early cassettes I made as a child, some 20 or so "Willaby" stories, are lost forever. I did find two other cassettes in a box, "Willaby and the Professor Go to Hollywood," and "Willoughby
Finds Bartizan the Genie," both of which I ad-libbed doing all the voices myself in my bedroom also in 1972.

Daws Butler and Joe Bev
These "Willabys" were the first cassettes I sent Daws Butler (the voice of Yogi Bear) in 1975, that led to Daws becoming my longtime friend and mentor. You can hear the NPR "Weekend Edition" story about it at:
The editor was Tom Cole.

You can hear an NPR "All Things Considered" story about me and "Steve" at:
The editor was Art Silverman.

The Whithering of Willoughby and the Professor: Their Ways in the Worlds #2

Length: 5 hours

4 CD Set or Download

These are the further misadventures of the pertinacious professor and his perky partner who pucker around the globe and through time and space, in a vain attempt to “cure the world of all its ills.” This second set of imaginative, sound-effect-rich audio cartoons, produced, directed, and voiced by veteran, award-winning radio theater artist Joe Bevilacqua, with announcing by David Garland (WNYC, WQXR) and a special guest appearance by Margaret Juntwait (the Metropolitan Opera), 

© 2014 by Joe Bevilacqua, Waterlogg Productions
cartoon carnival holiday

1. “You’re a God, Apollo Jacques! or Boys Don’t Have Feats” – the seventeenth and final episode in the NPR/Sirius XM Satellite series
2. “Willoughby and the Professor Meet Willaby and the Professor” – improvisations heard on Joe Bev’s Cartoon Carnival radio show
3. “The Squidge Attack” – a short story, part of Pedro’s Fables
4. “The Incompetent Genie” – a short story, part of Pedro’s Fables
5. “Willoughby and the Professor Meet the Godfather” – an early prototype improvisation 
7.“Science-O-Rama” – the soundtracks to the first seven Popular Science magazine videos, animated by Lorie Kellogg
8.“Dimension X Revisited, or Willoughby Goes and Gets It” – a new radio theater based on the short story appearing in the book It’s That Time Again: The New Stories of Old Time Radio


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