Here's another one of those "incredible coincidence" stories you won't believe. But I have witnesses to this one, and am quite
prepared to take a polygraph that it happened just the way I say it happened.
For much of a decade, I wrote and voice-directed a cartoon show called Garfield and Friends. This was great fun because
the Powers That Be (aka Jim Davis, creator of the lasagna-loving feline) allowed me to write pretty much whatever I wanted, and to cast
whomever I felt suitable to do the guest voices.
One week, I penned an episode entitled, Lifestyles of the Fat and Furry, which burlesqued the then-popular TV series,
Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, hosted by Robin Leach. The program chronicled the indulgent creature comforts of folks with vast amounts
of fame and/or cash, usually both. Teetering tenuously on the ledge of self-parody, the show drew much of its charm from the fustian,
hyperkinetic narration of Mr. Leach.
Having written my parody of their parody, I set about to secure Robin Leach himself to do the voice of Robin Leach. I figured he
could handle the role. About a week before we would be recording the voice track, I phoned his office in Los Angeles. They told me to
call his office in New York.
I called his office in New York. They told me to call his office in Connecticut.
I called his office in Connecticut. They told me to call his office in London.
I called his office in London. They told me that Robin was on a six-week expedition down the Brahmaputra River, or somewhere
equally remote. Wherever it was, he wouldn't be back 'til long after our tape date. So I shrugged and booked Frank Welker.
Frank Welker is the most gifted, amazing voice magician who has ever stood before a microphone in Hollywood. Frank can sound like
anyone or anything. He is heard constantly in animated cartoons but also logs many hours doing voice matches and dubbing in live-action motion
pictures. You hear him often in movies without knowing you're hearing him.
I knew he did a mean Robin Leach so I arranged with his agent for Frank to come in and play the part. I gave him a call time of
Nine AM that morning, I walked into Buzzy's Recording Studio on Melrose Avenue for a full day of Garfield recording. I
asked Marie at the desk, as I always did, if we were in Studio A or Studio B. She said — and I swear, I'm not making this up —
"You're in Studio A. Robin Leach is in B."
That was what the lady said. I walked directly into Studio B and there — standing at a microphone, wearing a shirt
imprinted with images of hundred dollar bills — was Robin Leach. In person.
I explained to him what we were doing over in A, and how I'd attempted to contact him, and how I'd given up and hired an impressionist,
and he couldn't have been nicer. "Well, if the offer's still open, I'd be delighted to play me," he said. About an hour later, after he
finished the spots he was recording, he came over to our studio and played Robin Leach like he'd been doing it all his life.
In fact, he played himself with enormous good-humor and that same sense of show biz and self-mocking that had made his show a
hit. He exaggerated the vocal quirkiness of the Leach style more than I'd probably have allowed a mimic to do.
Robin was long gone by 2:00 when Frank Welker showed up. "Well, I'm here to do that Robin Leach bit," Frank announced. "I
was warming up in the car on the way over."
"Uh, Frank," I said sheepishly. "I'm sorry but there's been a change of plans. I have a different role for you to
play...not Robin Leach..."
Frank was puzzled. "What happened to the Robin Leach role?"
"Well, I don't know how to tell you this but, uh, we found someone who does a better Robin Leach than you do..."
Frank is a wonderful, cooperative person but he seemed a bit affronted — like his honor had been besmirched. He looked hurt
so I added, "I'm sorry...I thought this other guy was a little better, Here — you can hear for yourself." And I told Andy the
Engineer to run a few seconds of the voice track we'd recorded earlier that morn.
As the mellifluous tones of R. Leach boomed through the speakers, I saw shock upon the face of the best impressionist in the
business. There, framed by stark horror, was the realization that someone had bested him in the category of Robin Leach impressions.
(I finally told him the truth. I didn't have the heart...)