When we last left Burr, he had bid adieu to his beloved grandfater and struck out on a Hollywood career of his own, on his own terms, whether as an actor or a musician. So off we go in the third episode of The Ming Dynasty which finds Burr in the world of radio and voiceover work.

JAH: You had a military career, did you not?

Middleton: My hitch in the military was what led me into voice-over work. In those days we still had the military draft, but I was not drafted; I enlisted.

I ended up in Japan as an Armed Forces radio announcer on the largest station there. My repertoire as announcer was things like, "serving American Forces overseas. This is the Far East Network, and this is Tokyo." We were as funny as the character Robin Williams played in Good Morning, Vietnam. We were primarily professional performers and entertainers in uniform.

I met singer/songwriter Mel Torme through the Armed Forces Radio gig. This was in 1966. I had three idols, and I was fortunate enough to meet all three of them, and worked with two of them. I worked with Mel Torme and Orson Welles, and had met Mickey Rooney when I was a teenager. Mel Torme did my Armed Forces radio show on his wedding night. He married an English actress named Jeanette Scott. She was a child actress, and did several horror pictures during her career. I was a GI Disk Jockey, and the format was interview and music. That night he was doing a performance at the Tachikawa Civilian Club on the air base in Tokyo. I interviewed him backstage via tape recorder. We used the inserts from that interview for my following week's program. The show was called Tokyo Calling, and was quite popular at the time. Sammy Davis Jr. had recorded a piece of music Mel wrote, entitled The California Suite. I had played Sammy's version on my program the week before. So the lead in would be, "Last week we played Sammy Davis Jr's version of Mel Torme's The California Suite. And we just happen to have standing in front of us backstage at the Tachikawa Civilian Club, a brand new groom, folks, Mr. Mel Torme!" So Mel comes on and quips the usual pleasantries, and states that he listens to the show all the time when he's in Japan. That's how we struck up a friendship, which lasted until his unfortunate death in 1999. I never missed one of Mel's performances when he was performing in L.A. I never had a chance to work with him musically. We shared many of the same interests, including classic films. He was crazy about my grandfather's work.

Mel Torme was an avid gun collector. He had one of the greatest collections of frontier weapons. He also collected Mickey Mouse watches and comic books. He was a World War I buff as well. I had this pistol that my grandfather used in the Middleton and Spellmyer vaudeville act. It was a blank pistol, and my father had it converted to be a real pistol after my grandfather died. Mel was especially interested in seeing this. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to get together with Mel and show him my grandfather's pistol. That's the pistol that my grandfather used in Dick Tracy Returns. It was a pearl handled, long barreled .38 revolver. You can clearly see it in a shoot-out in a train yard involving a bunch of box cars. My grandfather used that pistol as a good luck charm.

I had three drummers as musical idols: Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich and Louis Bellson. In 1964 I met Gene Krupa. George Wein was a wonderful promoter and piano player. He owned a big club in Boston called Storyville. He promoted the World Jazz Festival in Tokyo in 1964. He brought the cream of the crop of every jazz player you could think of. They had Dixieland, Bebop, and Big Band acts, all rotating acts on the stage. Krupa came to town with his quartet that featured Charlie Ventura on sax. On the off nights, some of those groups would take military club dates on their own for extra money. They'd book those dates on their own, but the World Jazz Festival is what brought them to Japan in the first place. But there was no animosity. I ran into Krupa in August of 1964 when he was playing the NCO (Non-Commissioned Officers) club near where I was based. I was sent to do an interview with him, as I was still doing my radio show. We did a wonderful interview backstage. I hung around with him for about a week after that. We ran around Tokyo together.

When American entertainers would come over to Japan, they usually didn't know any Japanese - they were in a foreign country. They had a lot of down time between gigs and the potential for loneliness was there. Most of them were relegated to staying in their hotel rooms, unless they were really adventurous and went in for sightseeing, but there wasn't much of that going on if they were working. Their only company was to listen to our Armed Forces Radio programs in English. There was no English television over there in those days. Krupa let me in on a lot of his drum secrets, things that I could only listen to on record, and I couldn't figure out how he would do those things. He used to show me some of these tricks on a practice pad in his hotel room.

My other idols, Louis Bellson and Buddy Rich - I didn't meet Louis Bellson until five years ago. But I had an interesting encounter with Buddy Rich after I came back to the States. I ran into Buddy Rich at The Ginger Man, a club in Beverly Hills owned by Carroll O'Connor and I believe his partner in that club was Patrick O'Neill, the actor. I had sat in with the Beverly Hills Unlisted Jazz Band from time to time, which was run by Conrad Janis. George Siegel played banjo with them for many years. This evening I was in there as a patron. Alan Goodman was the regular drummer, but for some reason that evening, I was slated to play drums on the second set. By god, if Buddy Rich didn't walk in there. They asked Buddy if he'd like to play. He was very courteous to me, and assumed I would be playing the second set. And I said, "No, no, no, Mr. Rich. You play!" He played the second set, which was magnificent. After the set he commented to me it was the first time he'd played Dixieland Jazz in over 40 years. He handed me the sticks, and said, "You come on and sit in on the third set." I said, "Buddy, anything I could do on the drums after what you just did would be anticlimactic." He said, "Oh, go on!" I said, "I am not sitting in. You play again if you want to, and then let Alan Goodman come in and finish out the gig."

JAH: You had an encounter with one of your acting idols?

Middleton: I had the extreme pleasure of meeting and working with Orson Welles. With Orson Welles, we did a series of educational tapes for Japanese children, Junior High School age children. Welles was the narrator, and they would bring different actors in to do skits to demonstrate to the Japanese kids how to speak English phonetically. He was pleasant enough to everyone. He requested we not ask him any questions about Citizen Kane, and not to refer to him as "Mr. Welles." I never did address him as "Orson" - I always addressed him as "Mr. Welles" but there weren't any problems with that.

I started dubbing Japanese to English for companies like Toho when I was still in the military. We'd do the looping sessions on weekends. We'd dub a whole film in a two days. We had a lot of good actors in the service, and we'd pick up work on the weekends. We were extremely lucky. Don't forget there was a war raging on in Vietnam, and we were miles and miles away. I did a temporary duty assignment in Vietnam for a couple of months, and that was enough for me. I was glad to get back to Japan because of the geographical situation as well as the dubbing work.

The first picture I dubbed in Japan was High and Low, the famous Kurosawa picture, about a chauffeur whose son was kidnapped. Mifune plays the businessman who gets the son back. In Japan there was always a great caste system - usually if you were born a chauffeur you died a chauffeur. But Kurosawa did a morality play - it had a great story about class distinction. I'm the chauffeur's voice.

JAH: You were involved in the production of The Green Slime, weren't you?

Middleton: That was a co-production. A man named Walter Mantley He brought Dick Jaeckel over to Japan and Robert Horton and Lucianna Paluzzi from Italy, and everybody else was picked up locally. I did walk-ons in that, but my voice is all over that picture. A good amount of the actors we used were in the military over there and they looked great on screen. These actors couldn't read lines, so we had to loop all that. When I was over there I did at least 25 features. We did two live action television series, that's 104 episodes, and five animated cartoon series of 52 half hours each. In those days, they did a new episode every week there, not like we do over here.

I lived there as a civilian for two and a half years. We always thought that Japan would be the next capital of film making like Italy was in the mid to late 60s, but it never happened. The Japanese film companies simply couldn't pull it off. That's a shame, because it could have been a most lucrative market. It couldn't be pulled off because of the differences in the cultures. Most of the stuff that we dubbed ended up being shown in Australia - and they hated it. We all had American accents, and they were used to the British accents, which were similar to Australian accents. We bit the bullet with the Aussies with our American accents. In most of these productions, I would dub the leading Japanese actor of the time. I worked in Japan from 1963 to 1969. We did all the latter day Godzilla pictures. These were not the things done for American International Pictures and Sam Arkoff. In those days, the American producers would go to Japan and con the japanese film makers for the rights for $20-30,000 and bring them back to the States and redub them. The rights have reverted, so our original dubbings are now available.

There's one out that we did on DVD called Destroy All Monsters. That's one of the ones I wrote the dubbing script on. In fact, in most cases I wrote the dubbing scripts. I didn't write the original script, I wrote the English version In fact my wife and I collaborated on the English dubbing script For Admiral Yamamoto, a big Mifune picture. I was employed both as a writer and a dubber. I kept a grueling schedule after I got out of the service. It took me eight hours to write a half hour television script for English. They would give me a literal translation of something like "It's a nice day today," and I would have to dream up five pages of script to describe their dream day. They spent copious amounts of time on descriptions. I was constantly having to invent dialogue. The Japanese weren't as finicky about sound synchronization as we are in this country. When we were in the studio looping we'd time all of our dialogue by a tape of the Japanese actors working. Needless to say, one had to be on one's toes at those sessions. There were a lot of times there were holes in the Japanese performance track and the actor's mouth was still moving, and we'd have to invent things to fill in the gaps. Sometimes we did long loops, as much as five minutes.

In the United States there's a beeping system that has been used for years to cue the voiceover actors as to when their bit is coming up. We had none of this in those Japanese productions. It was a stange technique where you're looking at the screen and trying to think when your cue is coming up. With all of this, you had to act at the same time. Quite literally, you have three things going at once. It was a fantastic training ground. The Japanese language is more like a percussive cadence.

It would take me five days of the week, Monday through Friday to write those scripts - a day for each half hour episode. I was spending Saturday and Sunday in the recording studio. In some of these foreign countries, like Australia and India and the Philippines, where English was a second or third language, they were showing a new show every day. We couldn't break our schedule. We were locked in, and it would go on and on and on, producing new product seven days a week. Sometimes we would get five episodes ahead, but that was a struggle. Those Saturdays and Sundays were brutal, because we did sixteen to eighteen hours a day of dubbing. The deal was, I could write under pressure, and that worked to my advantage when I was working in Japan.

I had just gotten married. My wife and I barely spoke each other's language. During the week, I was writing eight hours a day and on the weekends I was in the studios looping. Along comes my son about this time, and it was a hell of a lifestyle. I took my discharge in Tokyo, so I never came home. I lived that lifestyle as a civilian over there, and that's why I had to get away from it. I came back to the States - I was burnt out. Originally I had never intended to come back to the States. Coupled with the fact that the money wasn't that great, the problem was, I should have been doing the work I was doing in Japan in the United States. So much of the product I was involved with went to Australia. So a good amount of my work has gone unheard and unseen domestically. We not only did the monster pictures, but we did some great social commentary shows as well - things that were relevant to Japanese life. It was a productive six and a half years, including moonlighting when I was in the military.

It's 1969, and I've just got to get out of Japan. I was to stop in Honolulu for four days, and then come back to the States. When we stopped in Honolulu, we discovered that there was a great Japanese population there, with five radio stations and two television stations that programmed only in Japanese. I was offered a job. Shortly, I got hooked up with the Hawaiian crew of the hit television series, Hawaii 5-0. I went out to meet the casting director, Ted Thorpe of Hawaii 5-0. He offered me a job for a few days work, and I ran into Skip Ellis from my Armed Forces radio days who retired over there, who was working for a theatrical agent. He happened to hear my voice from another office, and said, "You know, there's an opening over at KORL, (one of the big radio stations in Honolulu), one of the disk jockeys is leaving." I went over, got the job - this is all within four days - and we ended up living and working there for a year and a half. From KORL, I started working for all the major advertising agencies over there who are doing commercials, as a voice-over artist. Then I went to the CBS affiliate, KHBH, and I became a newsman. All within a fifteen month period. That's how I ended up doing several Hawaii 5-0.

JAH: How was working with Jack Lord?

Middleton: I'll quote an old friend of mine, Mel Torme, who worked with him on a picture called Walk Like A Dragon, a James Clavell movie. Mel would call it "The Mother Lord Acting School." Jack would line read everybody. I played a detective in one of these episodes, and I'd say "Well, we've got to get this guy before he gets the whole city." So Jack yells, "Cut!" They had a mock-up police station in a Quonset hut over there, with an aluminum roof, which is where we were shooting. That was a permanent standing set on Diamond Head. So we're standing there on the set, and he's saying to me, "No, no, no." You have to realize, this is the star of the show, who normally doesn't care about his supporting players' acting technique as long as it's halfway plausible. Here he is, annunciating to the nines, these lines, "We really have to get this guy before he gets the whole city." I don't think he would have pulled this on established guest stars on Hawaii 5-0. John Ritter of Three's Company did a couple of those. They cast the major costars in the States, so those people were brought over to Hawaii. You know, Jack was not a bad person. He just wanted full control of the situation. But it made it unnerving. His hair in that show was completely immaculate.

James MacArthur was wonderful to work with. I ran into him recently and told him that when we did the show together, I hadn't acted in America for a long time, and he made me feel quite at ease. James is a sweetheart of a guy. Of course, his mother was the great actress Helen Hayes.

From there, CBS offered me a job, and I wound up in Dallas, Texas. I was in Dallas for 23 months, working for a CBS affiliate, KRLD. We had the Texas Rangers and the Dallas Cowboys both under broadcast contracts at that time. My on-air name for KRLD was Jason Kelly. One of the reasons I took the gig in Dallas because at that time, 1971, it was going to be another motion picture Mecca. It was going to be New York, Hollywood, and Dallas, Texas. All sorts of sound stages were being built there. They made the television show Dallas there, and a few other things were shot in that locale. They did tons of commercials there, but the movie boom never happened. Texas is a Right To Work state, so the crew didn't have to be union. It's still a Right To Work state, as is Tennessee. It just never happened for the motion picture business in Dallas, so I decided to try my luck in my hometown. I had to get back to Hollywood; I had to get back to my roots.

When I came back to Hollywood, I was the Forgotten Man by this time. I had been overseas or away from town almost a decade. I had to completely reestablish myself. I first did narrations for companies like Northrup Aricraft, which we call Industrial Films. I did an Arch Hall movie when I got back to town called The Weird People. It was shot under the title of The Now People, but a porno film came out called The Now People, so Arch changed the title. This was the original Kentucky Fried Movie, a very funny film that Arch wrote. I did an Ed McMahon type character in that. It also featured a fellow named Johnny Rabbit who was very big in the voiceover business at that time.. He played the lead, a Johnny Carson type character.

I used to go out of town and do little pictures in Atlanta, Georgia. There was a producer down there who hired us, and we made these films strictly for the drive-in market, things with titles like Curse of the Headless, Them Thar' Hills (not to be confused with the David Friedman film of the same name), Moonshine Hollow, and Whiskey Creek. These were ethnic shows about rural people, and were pretty slickly done. And that's the marketplace they were shown in. I would imagine a good amount of them are lost by now. Who knows, some film buff may come up with them, and they may run on television even in 2008. At that time, actors like John Agar and Aldo Ray did some of these types of films. Around this time, I got a job over in the Phillipines on a picture called Last Day of Man, which I had a starring role in.

In 1973 I started freelancing with voiceover work, which has really been the crux of my work since the early Seventies, and de-emphasized the onscreen appearances. I took another radio job, on KPOL here in Los Angeles. Early on, I had worked here as an announcer for KFI, KLAC, KGIL when I was right out of high school. I was lucky, I always had an announcer's voice. I was a newsman and DJ. Many of these were sub positions, too. If the DJ didn't show up, or had a sore throat, I was there to fill in.

JAH: You also had a brush with the legacy of Marilyn Monroe in the film Goodbye Norma Jean, didn't you?

Middleton: Yes. The movie was about Marilyn's teenage life, and I played the bad guy. She had terrible things that happened to her here in Hollywood as a teenager. I play a sleazy photographer who shoots young starlets for these horrible tabloid magazines. She used to pose for the covers of those things. A good amount of this stuff was girls in bondage - girls tied up to a chair with a handkerchief in their mouth, and so on and so forth. She set out on this photo assignment, and I'm the photographer. In her real life and on the screen, what had happened is that I have been paid by two voyeurs who looked through a peephole like an old-time peep show, while I handcuff her to a bed, gag her mouth, and rape her. This really happened in her real life. No wonder the poor woman was a mess. This movie depicts the trauma of her early years. Awful. This is a Larry Buchanan film.

I had also done Mistress of the Apes for him. Jungle was the alternate title for Mistress of the Apes. It's about a girl, played by Jenny Newman, who goes down into the jungle. I play a doctor in that. Jenny Newman falls in love with the Missing Link, and at the end of the film we're waiting for her to give birth - and the hook is, was it going to be a monkey, or a human being, or what? It was a trick ending. This was a typical Larry Buchanan production. Around this time, Patti Hayes, one of the first black casting agents in Hollywood, saw me in Goodbye Norma Jean. She was at the screening at the Directors' Guild. That led to a lot of other work, including The Bionic Woman. She was one of the top casting directors at Universal. She also casted for the Bu ck Rogers television series.

From there I went on and did some voice jobs on the popular television series Happy Days. There was a very famous show called Police Squad, which was a forerunner to The Naked Gun. The associate producer on that was Rich Correll. Jim Abrahams and the Zucker Brothers auditioned me over the phone for that. I won this role because the actor playing opposite Leslie Nielsen in the show sounded too much like Leslie Nielsen, and no one could tell their voices apart. In this one particular sequence, his voice sounded so much like Leslie's that they had to redub his voice, and I got the job. In the course of the day, we're working, and I'm working side by side next to Leslie, who is a wonderful man with a great sense of humor, and a dramatic actor long before he started his comedic career. So we're dubbing, and I happened to let this comment fly off the tip of my tongue, "Gee it's great being here at Paramount, My grandfather did so many movies here, including Harold Lloyd's first sound picture Welcome Danger." This young fellow comes running out of the booth, the Associate Producer, and says, "Are you Charlie Middleton's grandson?" I said "Yeah." He started rattling off all this old time show biz history. I said, "How does a guy your age know all this?" He said, "Well, I'm Rich Correll, My father was one of the biggest comedians on radio." I put two and two together, and remembered that Charles Correll was his father, who was the voice of Andy on the classic Amos 'n Andy radio show. Rich Correll is also the keeper of the Harold Lloyd artifacts, by the way. So through Rich, I got voiceover jobs on Happy Days. Anything that came over the radio or was a newscast on Happy Days was usually my voice. The great thing about Rich, he never auditioned me - he just hired me. I never appeared on camera on Happy Days, but I did a lot of voice work.

JAH: You also contributed voices to the animated Captain Marvel show, didn't you?

Middleton: I was the voices of Captain Marvel and Billy Batson. We did those for Filmation. I worked with Norm Prescott and Lou Scheimer. In those days, you had Hanna Barbera, Filmation, and Ruby Spears, all vying for the juvenile audience.

I worked on a project called The Night Stalker, not to be confused with the Darrin McGavin TV movie and television series of the same name. This television film was about Richard Ramirez, the real Night Stalker who terrorized Los Angeles. Richard Jordan was the star of that show, and I played a detective.

Along the same lines, I did two of the new Twilight Zone shows. One was called "Joy Ride," in which I played a cop. The other, I played a frustrated father. There was a little leprechaun in that show, who was manipulating situations. People always ask, "You don't mean the original Twilight Zone, do you?" and I would tell them these were the new Twilight Zones that were done circa 1986.

I did a TV series called The Werewolf, in which I had a recurring role as the town drunk. Chuck Connors starred in that show. It didn't last very long; I think we only did thirteen episodes. I was only in a couple episodes, but a funny thing occurred on that show. One of the ones I was in, we didn't film the sequence I was in. We worked at night, this show being about werewolves, up in the mountains around Valencia. But my name appears in the credits, because the credits were done before the show was shot. The credits come up at the end of the show, and there's my name. Some moron, in typical Hollywood fashion, sees the end credits on television, immediately calls me on the phone and tells me that's the greatest performance that I ever gave. My face never appeared in that episode at all! But in one way, it could be Middleton's revenge - because Grandpa Charlie played the main villain Jason Grood in Jack Armstrong for Sam Katzman, and his name never appeared on screen. My name appeared in the credits for the Werewolf series and I received accolades from a fan for an appearance I never made. I think this fan was bluffing, he might have been trying to get a favor from me. So I just said, "Gee, thank you. I really enjoyed doing that role, and thank you again." I told that to Chuck Connors when I ran into him later, and he thought it was hilarious, and said that's just a typical Hollywood story.

JAH: You did some politically oriented films, did you not, like LBJ and Oliver Stone's production of NIXON?

Middleton: Randy Quaid did a marvelous job in LBJ. I played a henchman of one of LBJ's opponents in an earlier part of his life. I narrated most of Oliver Stone's NIXON, but not all of it. Oliver Stone narrated the Epilogue himself. He did a great job. He tried several of us out on that. He liked what he heard from himself the best, and I must agree. It was wonderful working with Oliver Stone. He was a great assignment to put on my resume. Bear in mind, I only met him once, in the looping studio. He's the type of fellow who can walk in a room and know what's going on; he can look at you and know your story without even interviewing you - there's something he can see behind your eyes. He gave -me an autographed book of the screenplay, which also contained a lot of the political documents involved. He wrote an amazing inscription on my book, which was one of the nicest compliments on my work. I was utterly surprised he even knew of my work. That was a tremendous moment for me.

Also on the political front in more recent times, there was a wonderful man, a fine actor and one of my dear friends, Morgan Woodward. Morgan Woodward was featured in so many things - Cool Hand Luke, the i>Gunsmoke television series. Another star of Cool Hand Luke did my radio show in Dallas, and this was Dennis Hopper. He had just come off that show The Last Movie, and he was living in Taos, New Mexico. He was in the middle of editing The Last Movie at that time. I had encountered Dennis before during the Beat Generation times, when I was playing drums on the Sunset Strip. He was a young, rising actor at that time, with Rebel Without A Cause under his belt. He's not a friend of mine, but all of my meetings with Dennis have been pleasant. Here's a man who was at death's door, and my hat is off to Dennis for all the wonderful things he has done since achieving sobriety. When we did our radio interview in the early 70s, every five minutes there was a beer can in his hand. I view his turnaround as a wonderful Hollywood success story.

So, Morgan Woodward, co-star of Cool Hand Luke, and myself, and William Campbell (who starred in Coppola's Dementia 13) were all members of the Hollywood branch of the American Legion, Post 43. We used to meet every two weeks, and Morgan started bugging me about my resemblance to Ken Starr, the prosecutor in the Monica Lewinsky/Bill Clinton affair. One day he said to me, "You know, you ought to do something about it." He used to kid me and tell me, "Now I know what you do in your other life - you're Ken Starr, aren't you!" And I must admit, there is quite a resemblance between Mr. Starr and myself. I said to Morgan, "Oh, I don't know." But he kept after me. He used to call me at home and tell me to do something about this. He said, "I've got an idea for you. You could have great national exposure on the Jay Leno Tonight show. So I pitched it to my manager. My manager did nothing with it My agent did nothing with it. They all poo-pooed it. So I sent my photo and resume with the manager's logo on it to Jay Leno's casting director, a wonderful guy by the name of Scott Atwell, and they hired me, sight unseen, just by the PR kit. They didn't know whether I could act, but they enjoyed the photo and then went to my resume on the back. I only thought I was going to do one or two segments at best, and I wound up doing many skits all through the accusations and the impeachment process. So it was a plentiful period of work. This went on for a year. I was on that show from August 1998 through August 1999 as Ken Starr.

The great thing is, I've done all sorts of voice work for them since those on-camera experiences. Even though I've outlived the Ken Starr thing, I'm still getting work on camera from them. I'm a very lucky guy - I have a great relationship with Jay Leno's people.

JAH: My last question to you is, if your grandfather could see all of the things that you've done in the entertainment industry, what do you think his opinion of his grandson would be?

Middleton: That's a tough one. I suppose he would be proud of me. But I also know in my heart that my grandfather really never wanted me to follow in his footsteps, because it's such a rugged lifestyle. I'm talking about the life of a performer.

I remember when I was little kid, he said to me, first of all like every parent or grandparent, he said to get your education first, so you have something to fall back on. I specifically remember him saying when I was a youngster, "Don't be an actor. Be a football player." I said, "Why is that, Old Pal?" He said, "They get all the girls!" You know, he was right.

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