The Invisible Woman

by Francesca Rizzo

 

Oh, oh - yes, yes, YES!

 

"Okay, Fran, that was good, but can you start out with the 'oh-ohs' and then move a little more swiftly in the 'yes-yes-yesses?'"  

 

It was 9:20 am and I’m standing in front of a microphone in a state-of-the-art NY recording studio, attempting to have an orgasm in front of six people. No, they are not from a porn channel ... the engineer, the writer, the producer and three tastefully clad women are all here to make an Herbal Essences commercial. I ask for the lights to be lowered a smidgen. We all titter. I slate my second take and  "Oh, oh ... yes --” “Okay, that’s better Fran but we still need to shave off half a second and it’s got to come in between the last OH and the first Yes.” I lean into the mike and whisper softly, "You know, Peter, I'm the kind of woman who needs to take her time."   

 

Silence … and then, big laughs all around.  The ice is broken, we soon get the orgasm we've all been hoping for, contracts are signed and I’m off to my next appointment across town. I would pretty much say or do anything with my voice for money. Fortunately, for me, I happen to enjoy my orgasms in the morning, before my coffee, but even if I didn’t - I’d LEARN to - for a session fee and the promise of some hefty residuals. And so, I’m guessing, would most of my colleagues, a large bi-coastal community of union performers who regularly sell you your daily soap. I’m not talking about the mega stars who swoop in to snatch away our bread and butter, I’m referring to a rowdy, roving gang of anonymous actresses, actors & announcers who’s voices travel unseen in the underbelly of our great country's airwaves.

 

"Easy money" is how it's perceived by many. But the truth is, you may have to kiss a lot of frogs to get there.  Much of your time and moola is spent auditioning. I've auditioned over the telephone. I've auditioned into somebody's lapel. I've auditioned for the voice of a baby chick, a popsicle stick and a finger.  I got the chicken. 

 

Everybody is good in voice-overs, a lot of smart, talented people, so most times you don’t get the job. But sometimes you do. Sometimes you’re called into a room after 100‘s of other talented folks, to stand in front of a microphone and say "Moo" three times in a row with an attitude. I imitated my mother. "Moo. Moo. Moo." Don't knock it, that's how I got to be the Hershey's cow. 

 

It sounds like the luck of the draw, but, believe it or not, there is an art to all this. It's not really about having great vocal chords. It's about timing, humor, gravitas and the ability to transform at a moment’s notice. It's all about breathing life into words using only the sounds you make with your mouth. Sure, on stage and screen you get to use your face and form, too, but freed from the restrictions of our bodies we get the opportunity to morph into ANYTHING, human or … who knows what.  

 

"Sweetheart, can you do a bloodcurdling scream in about a half an hour?" Where? “Toots, they want you to give birth to Comedy Central. Literally. Can you do that?” When? “Honey, they need you for Arnold Stang’s wife.” He’s ALIVE?? Okay, where do I go?

 

The ONLY job I ever turned down was a Pro-Life spot. I just couldn’t. None of us could. Then one woman figured it out. She took it and donated the dough to Pro-Choice. See? They’re smart.

 

Yes, I DID do the bloodcurdling scream in half an hour. Tore the hell out of my throat but, damn, I’d do it again in a New York minute. I’d scream WHAT ever they want, WHERE ever they want, for I WAS, and, clearly, still secretly AM, a VOICE WHORE.

 

Come on, what do I care?  I'm invisible.