Thoughts on my birthday...Memories of MGM...More than 50 years (so far) as a showbiz kid.....

It's a gray, freezing cold day, just like the day I was born, I'm told. I've been a performer more than fifty years now. Started at age five at MGM studios in Hollywood. That was my mother's doing but I thank her for it, although I did not have a "normal" childhood (whatever that is...) she started me on the path that became my life as an actor and singer. Oh yes...I also danced, responsible for my one bad knee but I'm ok with it so far...and was a child and teen model with income sufficient to finance beautiful clothes and fine colleges. My mother elicited a promise from me that I would achieve a masters degree along with performing. I kept that promise and went into doctoral studies, so important to me as a teacher. Mother did not consider teaching as a "fall back" insurance policy, but as a wonderful calling. I feel the same and have always combined my performance career (s) with my teaching. I love them both.

Memories: A sketch: Acting with Olivia DeHaviland (who screamed at me to "be quiet" ) and whom I remembers as very nervous and difficult to be around! Micky Rooney married to Ava Gardner on the MGM lot...she very beautiful and tall. He came just about to her ribcage. An odd couple. She was the boss. Mr. Mayer and being in his office. He, and my producer Richard O'Malley, really believed in my talent and were very kind to me. I worked hard all day every day with lessons back-to-back and a brief lunch. That's where I was initially trained as a singer, dancer, actor. I also remember the soapsuds they used to curl my hair which reached to my waist. The hairdressers pulled my hair curling it. It was torture every morning. Liza Minelli as a gangly teen on the lot and her sister Lorna Luft. There was fierce competition between them. They fought over who sat where at lunch! About five years older than me, maybe seven years, Liza now is younger than me. Amazing feat. Memories of riding on the "Super Chief" train to Los Angeles many times each year to work and to try to lasso new projects. My mother was the finest agent ever. She was intractable and like a bulldog with a bone. Finally, we got our contract at MGM. Several years later, my father, back in the midwest, rebelled and commanded us to leave Hollywood and come home. We did.

Studio Singing: Glorious memories and I have them recorded too in dozens upon dozens of station I.D.s I sang and in the jingles I sang. Also have record backup for stars on tapes and CDs. I can listen and relive all that instantly. That's the magic of being a recording singer. It's all there. Wow. We sang many hours each day, often sitting on hard wooden stools at the mic. Ouch. The six and eight voice groups I sang in were like machines (I sang alto most of the time) and I am very proud and honored to have been part of the glorious golden days of jingle singing. Our recording sessions usually were 9 a.m to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to six p.m. Then, most nights, I threw on a gown and fixed my hair and performed with my jazz group in supper clubs. So, at midnight or later, many days I had sung for twelve hours. And my voice survived it. That's because I was trained in singing for more than twenty years by the finest teachers. Hey, get training in singing. Don't think you can sing without proper training. Your voice will soon take the toll. Proper singing technique is a must. Find a good teacher. Well, the studio singing's gone now. Oh, I still sing when hired. Recently, I sang a title song for a cartoon for children. Fun.But the memories remain...

Voiceovers: I remember all of my teachers. I recall being "new" to voiceovers although I was a seasoned actor and singer before that. I recall learning how to leave my "acting" behind for the more intimate voiceover performances. It took time. I remember my voiceover agents (jingle singers don't have agents. Our reputation is spread word of mouth and producers phone us for sessions directly).Several agents were unreliable with money and we lost large amounts. Others played politics and favorites and were unscrupulous. Several were excellent and helped my career. Today, I have good agents in several cities and one in Europe. Thanks all. I remember when we went to studios to voice jobs and often, six or more of our vo friends were there too and we performed ensemble pieces. Those days are gone! We work in isolation at home mostly and no one has the budget to hire multiple vo talents for the same job. It can be very isolated and lonely sometimes.The residuals from voiceovers sent sons to colleges, built our home, paid for exotic vacations. I've been blessed with major network nationals that paid so handsomely over the years. American Airlines, Pace Picante, Seven Seas Dressings, Kelloggs, Banquet Foods, Rath Meats, Chiffon Margerine, Pedialyte, Southwest Airlines, Seven Eleven, Pepsi, Coke, MCDonald's, Burger King, Promos for WABC, CBS, PBS, BBC---the list is long. Narrations too, audio books, cartoons, what fun!

Life in general: Great. Europe beckons again and I'll be teaching there again soon (Rome). My redesigned website is a joy. Take a look. My students continue to excel. Right now, I'm watching one on MSNBC. Have students on all the networks and all over NYC and LA doing good work. I've had Miss USAs and Miss America's too. No American Idols so far...oh well...And I continue to love my teaching. Invite me to your city.
Happy Birthday to me and I'm so fortunate to have had my amazing life as a performer. The extreme joy is this: We never know what exciting project will come our way. No two days are the same. Be ready!
Bettye Zoller

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Comment by James Eastman on August 9, 2010 at 6:54am
I sit in front of my computer screen with the familiar cup of hot coffee in my hand, and review in my mind the remarkable, personal times you have experienced. How open you are! Thank you. ------- Hey! You wanna go get some breakfast? :) ~ James
Comment by Bettye Zoller on February 1, 2010 at 12:18am
Thank you so much Judy. Hope to meet you sometime and do invite me to your city to teach if possible. I'd love that!
Comment by judy kameny on January 31, 2010 at 11:29pm
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BETTYE! So much fun reading your back story! Wishing you many more decades loving what you're doing!

Warm wishes from
Judy Kameny

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