Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Improbable Voice of Mr. Jinks

To your right, you see a picture of the man who voiced Mr. Jinks in the Hanna-Barbera cartoons.

You are probably saying to yourself “That doesn’t quite look like Daws Butler.” And you’re right. It isn’t. It’s that famous cartoon voice actor Rojay North.

No, we don’t mean Jay North, who had a brief career with Hanna-Barbera in the early ‘70s. We mean Rojay North.

You are likely, and rightfully, still puzzled. Never fear. Yowp is here to enlighten you, as best we can. What follows is a tale of dashed dreams along the jagged rocky coast on the netherland of fringe show business, a sad tale which managed to envelope an orange cartoon cat.

The city of Spokane, Washington was abuzz in 1979. For that was the year a Ms. Janet Garland decided she no longer wished to be a registered nurse. She would become, she vowed, a movie producer. Being a nurse was not deemed an obstacle in reaching her goal. After all, she was the staff nurse for the production company of the MGM film ‘Why Should I Lie?’ being shot in Spokane. As she explained to the Spokane Chronicle of November 16, 1979, she had been around show business for 22 years “and suddenly one day decided I perhaps was smart enough to be a producer.”

Yes, folks, movie-making is just that easy.

But Ms. Garland needed a partner. And she found one. Riding into Spokane-town, “disenchanted,” he said, with Hollywood, came than none other than Mr. Jinks, the multi-hyphenated talent, Rojay North.

Sure, North’s no Francis Ford Coppola or Steven Spielberg, but he listed his show-biz credentials for the Chronicle. He was an actor, playing heavies on ‘The Virginian,’ ‘Bonanza,’ ‘The Bold Ones’ and ‘The Mod Squad.’ Mind you, the story doesn’t explain whether these roles involved being more than a non-speaking extra. He did outline he had a co-starring role in the movie ‘Boz,’ which I haven’t been able to track down. And he explained he had been associated with Universal, Columbia and 20th Century Fox, though he never defined what “associated” meant. Rojay listed a string of behind-the-scenes positions he held, “learning all the little goodies,” he piously pronounced, “so when God wanted it to be my turn, I would be prepared.”

North came to Spokane with a trilogy of films already conceived starring former NFLer and wrestler H.B. “Hardboiled” Haggerty and Dog (that’s all the dog was named). And he was lining up the stars. Bob Crosby’s one-time vocalist Gloria DeHaven was “a confirmed maybe.” There were plans to have Peter Falk and John Cassavetes make cameos, though Rojay admitted they had “not yet been totally confirmed”—but revealed noted TV bad-guy actor Leo Gordon was on board.

And North was going to employ lots and lots of Spokaneans. Of course, he needed the Spokane business community to help him out with some cash to make his dazzling screen dream come true—implying they’d better sign up or the “money people dealing with this” would pack up and move to Utah. Such a prospect left Rojay aghast, categorically telling the newspaper on September 21: “I don’t want to prostitute the film” by making it in Utah.

With a heavy heart, I regret to inform you that you will never have the chance to illegally download H.B. and Dog and the Skinners. It appears Rojay’s envisioned trilogy never made it into a can of film. Ms. Garland diagnosed her burgeoning career as a film producer as terminal and pulled the plug on her partnership with North. About a year later, the Chronicle revealed the movie would, instead, soon be shot near Prichard, Idaho and that Rojay promised to hire lots and lots of Prichardeans for it.

It seems, however, he gave up his artistic vision of a movie series about a wilderness man and his Frank Inn-trained dog to snap up the role of a life-time as Chuck Pierce in the 1983 chiller Bog, starring his old friends Gloria DeHaven and Leo Gordon, fending off a prehistoric gilled swamp monster obsessed with feasting on female blood. Spokane is no doubt still in mourning this epic film was shot in Wisconsin. Reviewers have compared its production adroitness to that of Ed Wood’s, without Wood’s sincerity—which is all Wood had going for his movies. In other words, Bog is either abysmal or comically abysmal, depending on your point of view.

However, you shouldn’t expect one individual to be limited only to adeptness at producing, writing, directing, acting, scoring and understand the wishes of God. For Rojay was a record executive, too. On his own Cherry Pie label, he sang tunes composed under his real name, Robert J. Youngs; memorable melodies such as “I Fought the Bottle (But the Bottle Won)” and “Get My Act Back Together: Never Took an Ugly Woman to Bed in My Life.” Copies of some of his country ditties, such as his paean to Prichard, Idaho, can no doubt be found sprinkled around the internet. By one admiring account, Rojay’s singing came “straight from the heart,” which is more than one can say about some of those autotune-assisted types populating the music world today.

Whether he’s the same Robert J. Youngs who wrote the book “Quinine, Whiskey and Molly B’Damm” is unclear as of this writing.

Oh, yes, Mr. Jinks.

Contained in Beverly Vorpahl’s Chronicle story of Nov. 16, 1979 is this curious paragraph about North:


He moved to California in 1963 and landed his first job with Hanna Barbera as the voice of Jinx the Cat. (Remember Jinx’s classic lines of “Heavens to Murgatroyd?” and “Exit Stage Left?”—That’s Rojay).

Evidently Beverly didn’t remember them well enough, as she would have recalled they belonged to Snagglepuss and not Jinks, who had been on television for about five years by the time 1963 and Rojay rolled around.

So what’s the story? Did Rojay pad his resumé, thinking no one in Spokane, circa 1979, would have heard of Daws Butler? Did he dress as Jinks and make appearances at shopping centres? Did he actually do a cartoon character voice on a record, or maybe imitate it for some radio station’s commercial? Or was he simply misquoted? And where is he today? Perhaps we’ll never know the answers to any of these solemn questions.

What we do know is a singer of haunting country melodies with gauzy dreams of unadulterated success as a cinematic mogul in the Inland Empire town that begat Chuck Jones has a tenuous connection to a meece-hating cat. It’s something that, perhaps, could only happen in the world of animated cartoons.

10 comments:

  1. Similar thing happened down in Texas back around 1981 -- some Temple, Texas disc jockey convinced the local paper he had been the voice of Boris Badenov, and they ran a story, which he might have gotten away with if: 1.) The story hadn't gotten picked up by the Associated Press, and 2.) Paul Frees wasn't still around. The AP and the local paper had to issue corrections a short time later.

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  2. Wow, It's amazing what people will try and take credit for and think no one will check it out. Sadly, radio seems to be loaded with these types. I once worked for a Program Director who said he was interviewing a possible " Morning Show " personality who claimed he was the voice of " Skeletor " in 1983's " He Man Of The Universe ". I laughed and said, " Oh, you interviewed Alan Oppenheimer?. What an honor to have a veteran character actor working with us". He said, " No, I DIDN'T interview Alan Oppenheimer, and I'm not hiring this nut!!". True story. Or to quote Mr. Parr " I kid you not ".

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  3. I was in the Navy with a guy who padded his work history with imaginary experience but he had a specialty. He claimed to have been a recording engineer at Sun Records and had worked on Owen Bradley's recording sessions for Brenda Lee, among others. He named the records he had supposedly engineered.

    I quick check of Brenda Lee's biography (in the library, those days) showed he would have been 14 years old when those records were cut.

    Many of his other stories had a similar barnyard aroma.

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  4. Rojay North (Robert Youngs) passed away many years ago, I know this because he is my great uncle. My grandmothers brother. I remember staying with him on his ranch in California and I remember finding out that he had a heart attack in the shower at the hospital where he was to have heart surgery and passed away. I was very young when this had happened, but as I was reading this to my grandma she confirmed everything that I was remembering and all the success that he had in his life.

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    1. Hello Samantha,
      I am writing a book about the making of Bog, co-starring your great uncle. I would love to speak with you further about him, if at all possible. My e-mail address is toddisalive@yahoo.com.
      Thanks so much,
      Todd

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  5. I worked with Rojay North circa 1969-70 on his first album. It was quite an experience; Rojay was a nice man with BIG dreams. He borrowed the money to make the album from a Palm Springs Bank (I know, I went with him to sing harmony to convince the bank to make the loan--they did!). Never forgot that episode; and looked him up on the net today on a whim.
    rip Rojay.
    z

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    1. What a great story! I'm working on a book about the making of a movie Rojay co-starred in (Bog). Would love to speak with you further about him, if possible.

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  6. I found Samantha's blogpost very touching. I actually lived with Rojay for a couple of months in the fall of 1979 when he and Janet Garland were trying to strike out on their own in the movie business. I remember them both like it was yesterday, and have nothing but fond memories about them. Hey Samantha or "Unknown," let me know if you'd like to know more . . . 'would be glad to share what I know -- but in a private setting . . .

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    1. Hello! I'm working on a book about the making of Bog, co-starring Rojay North. It would be great to speak with you further about him, if possible.

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  7. Actually, "Heavens to Mergatroyd" and "Exit, stage left," were Snagglepuss's lines. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3-a4qWCtIg https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Fwpj27hlP4

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