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Reflections

People were racing by me, and the kids were saying, "Mommy, Mommy, I want one."

December 01, 1987|PERRY C. RIDDLE

Marlene Aragon was a model, singer and actress. Between jobs, she is a secretary and a cocktail waitress. She now specializes in voice-overs, a career with a lot of time between jobs. She cured the boredom and found a new creative outlet while sitting in a rocking chair on her patio. Aragon lives in North Hollywood.

I wanted to be Carmen Miranda when I was 3. I was in all the plays at Jefferson Grammar School in Pasadena. I lived a lot in my imagination. I got stars in music, but I really didn't study. My parents didn't push me in that direction. They were just trying to put the meat loaf on the table. I was a very sensitive kid. I wasn't one of those tough little cookies that things would just roll off my back. But I seemed to be a survivor anyway.

I feel that, had I been more dedicated and focused, I would have really gone very far as a jazz singer. I did that for many years and people were always asking me for my albums, and of course I hadn't done an album.

I got into voice-overs about 14 years ago, so at least I've made a living. But you have a tremendous amount of time on your hands. When I'm waiting for the phone to ring or running to the next audition, I kind of feel like I'm spinning my wheels and nothing is getting accomplished. I was always complaining that I had so much time, but I didn't know what I wanted to do.

I've just produced my own children's album, and it started by accident 2 1/2 years ago. One day I was sitting outside, rocking Amy, my niece and nephew's baby, in a rocking chair, and I started singing to her, "I'm rocking in my rocking chair."

I thought, "Gee, this is good. I think I'll write it down." Writing the song became a joy, and I just ran with it. I wrote another and another, and I said, "I've got an album here."

I started with songs on a cassette. I wanted children to be able to learn and read along or sing along, so I decided to add a little book. Then I thought I could put a kazoo in the package. The kazoo is funny. It makes a great sound, and children like to play it. So that's what we ended up with.

I decided to produce it myself. Most people thought I was crazy. I got the joy along with all the headaches. I took it from step one, singing it into my tape recorder. Then I got into the artwork. I had three different illustrators. I couldn't find one who could do Piggelty-Woo for the cover. I knew what my pig looked like in my head, but I couldn't find anyone who could do it.

So then I had it manufactured and packaged. There are a lot of horror stories in that. I had unglued kazoos, so I went out to the factory and glued some of them onto the package myself.

Now I don't know how to go about the marketing, so I'm going in all directions and making myself crazy. The first thing I did was work the swap meet at the Rose Bowl. People were racing by me with strollers, and the kids were saying, "Mommy, Mommy, I want one." And she's saying, "I don't want one, we've got to get an old cash register." They're looking for the deals and the bargains.

So I've been working what are known as boutiques, gift shows held in people's homes, high schools or churches. They are incredible. In my kind of world I didn't know they existed.

It was quite an investment, and now I'm making pennies. I'm making hundreds instead of thousands. Yet, I hope I can pull it off. There is no way I'm going to say, "I couldn't make it." If I have to sell them for a dollar apiece, then I'll try to iron out the problems and find out why it didn't take off. I believe in it. That's the first thing that's important.

I was a late bloomer. I'm in my 40s, the late ones. That hurts, but maybe this is the best time of my life. I'm more focused now.

So far it has been a terrific year, even with all the production problems. I have a renewed belief in myself. I've been getting such a different kind of reaction from people since I have completed this project. All of a sudden they have this enormous respect for me.

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