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Nine And A Half Questions with Mavis Paisley

Will Ryan asks the infamous voice actress and performer Mavis Paisley a question or two -- or nine and a half.

The marvelous, glamorous Mavis!

The marvelous, glamorous Mavis!

Mavis Paisley was married to more cartoon characters than any other human being. Despite this shocking achievement, she has managed to keep a low profile in the animation business -- until now.

I caught up with Mrs. Paisley at Hollywood Central Studios on Las Palmas in the heart of Hollywood on the evening of October 15, 2001. In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the first I Love Lucy television broadcast, Viacom's TVLand Network was throwing a party for 150 notables on the original I Love Lucy soundstage. The table to our right was occupied by, among others, Alan Young (principal voice of Scrooge McDuck) and a now-fully-grown Baby Rose Marie, and the table to our left was occupied by, among others, Desi Arnaz Jr.

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Will Ryan: Would I be correct in assuming you've got a lot of friends in this room?

Mavis Paisley: Oh, sure. Hey, there's Alan Young Yoo hoo! Howdy, Angus! I worked with him on radio. There's Madeline Pugh and Bob Carrol Jr. They wrote most of the Lucy s, you know. And on the way in I was yackin' with John Stephenson. He did a lot of work for them Hanna-Barbera boys.

WR: When they ran the first episode of Lucy earlier tonight, John got the biggest laughs in the show as the on-camera spokesman for Philip Morris cigarettes.

MP: Ya can't beat their 1951 slogan, "Do you inhale? If so, you should smoke Phillip Morris!" And he did it with a straight face, too! Now that's real actin'!

WR: Gee, I'm surprised I haven't seen Janet Waldo and Richard Crenna here. They were in one of those classic Lucy episodes.

MP: What ? Corlis Archer and Walter Denton? They don't let kids into these shindigs!

WR: Tell me, Mavis. Were you ever married to a rabbit?

MP: 'Course. Bugs Bunny.

WR: Were you ever married to a duck?

MP: Yup. In fact I was a guest of honor at the Graumann's Chinese Theater for the unveiling of the new Daffy Duck stamp a couple years ago. The Honorary Mayor of Hollywood, Johnny Grant, introduced me to the crowd. Had to sign autygraphs . . . Lucky thing I can spell m' own name.

WR: Indeed.

MP: I was married to a human at Warner's too, ya know. Yosemite Sam. Least, I think he was human.

WR: Were you ever married to a big buck-toothed goof?

MP: I can think of at least two of 'em! Goofy was one.

WR: Who was the other?

MP: You should know, you numbskull! You're not only wearing a pin with his picture on it, but you're the one who set it up!

WR: Oh, I guess I did. You're playing Mrs. Elmo Aardvark in an upcoming cartoon.

MP: That's right. And this time I get screen credit!

WR: I know you're sensitive about credit. You so rarely received it. Why was that?

MP: Well, for years it didn't seem important to me. Most people in cartoons weren't getting credit then anyways.

WR: Your voice has been compared to Marjorie Main's. You ever work with her?

MP: Nope. But I worked with Lucy. Played her puppy on one of the TV episodes. Don't look at me that way it was voice only.

WR: Oh, well, of course! Now, Mavis, the first time you received credit, you went by your married name. Why was that?

MP: I didn't want people to think I only married cartoon characters! There are a lotta weird people in this town, you know. In fact, you don't look all that normal yourself.

WR: Thank you . . . I think.

MP: No, you don't. If you did think you wouldn't be taking that as a compliment. Besides, I wasn't really married to all them cartoon characters. I was just play-acting. That's what they pay me for.

WR: Your old hit for Capitol Records "Them Durn-Fool Things" has been making the rounds again. How did that come about?

MP: Well, it was re-released on an anthology of Red Ingle tunes put out by some German company. A fan sent me a few. I gave a copy to the singer Bea Wayne

WR: From the Lucky Strike Hit Parade radio show?

MP: Of course! Anyway, she loved it, and I gave one to my agent Don Pitts. He told me he used to play it all the time when he was a disc jockey. Now all kinds o' people are playing it all over again.

WR: We're celebrating a fiftieth anniversary here tonight, and 1998 was the fiftieth anniversary of your first recording. Did you do anything to acknowledge that milestone?

MP: I shore did! In 1998 I recorded my second hit single "The Canebreak Stomp." It'll be released sometime next year, I'm told. M' new record label don't believe in rushin' things.

WR: Evidently.

MP: I'm surprised you didn't ask me about my historic influence on the world of pop music.

WR: Uh . . . I wasn't sure there was a question there.

MP: Why, you big galoot! Don't you realize the cultural revolution I set into motion?

WR: Ummm . . .

MP: Don't you understand the influence my rural interpretation of classic Tin Pan Alley garbage had on the generation that followed?

WR: I'm not sure what you're driving at, Mavis.

MP: A lotta people thought I was black, you know.

WR: Well, perhaps they did, Mavis, but I still don't

MP: Ever hear of "Blue Moon of Kentucky"? Ever hear of "That's All Right, Mama"? Ever hear of Sam Phillips? Ever hear of Sun Records?

WR: Of course I have. But I don't quite see what you're

MP: Why, the boy's gol-durn name even sounded like mine!

WR: Wait a minute! You don't mean to tell me that ?

MP: That's right! The Singin' Sensation of 1948: Mavis Paisley! The Singin' Sensation of 1955: Elvis Presley!

WR: Whoa.

MP: Like m' clodhoppers? Blue suede.

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Mavis Paisley can be heard in countless animated films. As "Mrs. James F. X. Paisley," she recorded for Capitol Records and currently records for Audible Records. Mavis did not receive screen credit throughout much of her career and now usually performs under another name ("June Foray").

Will Ryan never worked with Marjorie Main or Lucille Ball. He does, however, work with a stellar cast, including "June Foray," on the Annie Award-winning series Elmo Aardvark: Outer Space Detective! He is also president of Snappytoons Amusement Company, a production and design firm specializing in the creation of animated films, theme parks and creative consumer environments.