VORG #34 sept-oct-nov-dec 2001

Chicken one day...

It started with all the enthusiasm and naivete of an Andy Hardy movie: “Hey, kids, let’s do a show. I’ve got a barn!” And before you know it, mustering all the magic of an MGM musical, (bell tree here) V.O.C.A.L. (Voice Over Cares About Life) was created as the voiceover industry’s charity organization and held its first event. Ok, Ok, so maybe its creation wasn’t that ingenuous. And maybe the first event didn’t come off quite so effortlessly. (There is the tale of the chicken salad). Oh, alright, so it was a labor of love and good old fashioned lickin’, stickin’ and stuffin’ on the part of volunteers to get the word out.

V.O.C.A.L. is the brainchild of Jeff Danis, Senior VP at ICM and voiceover department head and animation casting director / voiceover talent, Susan Blu. Its creation reads like a well-crafted screen play. “Sue and I were out for an evening,” recalls Danis, “and we were talking about how lucky we were to be in this industry. At that time, voiceover was a largely undiscovered area of the entertainment world, but one which had a lot of power. We wondered what we could do to make a difference in the world. ”New York’s Broadway Community, for example, supports Broadway Cares. The fashion industry also sponsors its own charitable organization. “Why not voiceover?” thought Danis and Blu. Hence, the V.O.C.A.L. L.A. Charitable Foundation was born holding its first event at a private home in September of 1993. Announcements were made and tickets were sold to this first soiree to benefit L.A. Hospice, an AIDS charity.

Finding entertainment for the evening was easy: stocking the larder, a little more complicated. Danis remembers, chuckling, “we had planned on serving a nice Chinese chicken salad for the entree and the caterer didn’t show up, so Sue and I had to run out and buy chicken salad - for 350!” The next two events in 1995 and 1997 also raised funds for AIDS charities: Aid for AIDS and Caring for Babies with AIDS, respectively. 1999’s benefit donated its proceeds to the National Alliance of Breast Cancer Organizations. 2001 will benefit Cure Autism Now (C.A.N.)

Over the course of the past eight years, the V.O.C.A.L. benefit has outgrown the space of a private home - and the chicken salad entree. The roles of those involved have also increased. Jeff Howell, currently of World Wide Wadio, describes his initial involvement as being “on a quiet level, stuffing envelopes,” in 1993. He has now assumed the duties of Executive Producer of Entertainment for the nearly three hour program. “Talent is very carefully chosen,” said Howell. “We present a musical variety show including stand up comedy.” The extended family of voiceover affords Howell a rich pool of talent from which to draw.

While the event occurs once every other year, Danis underscores the fact that, “V.O.C.A.L., the foundation, continues to exist every day.” Donations are accepted on an on-going basis and, administered by Danis, distributed to such charities as the National Down’s Syndrome Society, AIDS Project L.A., and Cooley’s Anemia Foundation. And while the focus of the party is clearly on the charity, it does avail the voiceover community an opportunity to communicate outside the studio, agent’s office or car-cum-cell phone. For one stellar evening, producers, directors, agents, casting directors and talent alike join together to support a worthy cause and enjoy excellent entertainment and epicurean delights (including the now legendary chicken salad). In short, according to Howell, the only requirement in attending is that “you be involved in some way in the voiceover industry” - and buy a ticket.

The 2001 V.O.C.A.L. charity benefit will be held Saturday, September 8, in Wilshire’s Miracle Mile at the Petersen Automotive Museum in their wonderful rooftop theatre. Tickets are $135.00 per person. Tables of 8 - 10 can also be purchased. A silent auction will be held and proceeds will benefit C.A.N. While the evening is not black tie, it is, according to Howell, “a very nice cocktail party.” So give yourself a well deserved night out, come schmooze and relax with your friends and, most importantly, make a difference in a child’s life.

For updated information, please call the V.O.C.A.L. HOTLINE (310) 335-1237. If you would like to contribute privately, you can mail your tax deductible donation to V.O.C.A.L. L.A. Charitable Foundation, 8491 Sunset Blvd., Suite 438 L.A., CA 90069.

- Laurel van der Linde