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Alien-From-Space Narrator on 'Outer Limits' : Radio, TV Personality Vic Perrin

July 07, 1989|BURT A. FOLKART | Times Staff Writer

Vic Perrin, a mainstay of radio's Golden Age who was heard more often than he was seen on television, died Tuesday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center of cancer.

The voice known to millions for intoning, "There is nothing wrong with your television set. . . . Do not attempt to adjust the picture. . . . We are controlling transmission . . .," was 73.

But years before Perrin was heard as the uncredited alien-from-space narrator on the 1963-65 TV series "The Outer Limits," he had been heard on radio's most significant programs and on television's less significant commercials.

Staff Announcer

Born in Menomonee Falls, Wis., Perrin graduated from the University of Wisconsin and came to Hollywood in 1940. He became a staff announcer for NBC and then moved to ABC when that network was formed out of the former NBC Blue Network.

He became a member of Charles Laughton's repertory group, joining such stars as Shelley Winters, Robert Ryan and Jane Wyatt while continuing to be heard on radio in Jack Webb's "Dragnet" and "Pete Kelly's Blues." He was a regular on "One Man's Family" (as Ross Farnsworth), "Gunsmoke," "Fort Laramie," "Yours Truly Johnny Dollar" and more.

In 1956 he joined "The CBS Radio Workshop," a short-lived but critically praised experimental series considered one of the most ingenious shows ever on the air. Experimental dramas and classics were broadcast. Aldous Huxley narrated an adaptation of his "Brave New World" while the science fiction of Ray Bradbury was heard, as was an "interview" with William Shakespeare.

Perrin first moved into television with regular on-camera appearances on "Dragnet," "Mission Impossible," "Gunsmoke," "Star Trek," "Big Valley," "Maverick" and many others and by the mid-1960s was being seen on these shows while also being heard on several commercials.

He advertised milk, fast food, deodorant soap, banks and savings and loans and the Yellow Pages--all off camera.

At one point, he was earning more than many often-seen, better-known performers but still continued to think of himself as an actor. He refused to appear before the camera as a pitchman.

"Your believability as an actor is reduced in direct proportion to how often you're seen in a commercial," he told The Times in 1967. "In other words, if they see me in a commercial, they can't believe me as an actor."

Commercials More Rewarding

But he said his commercial work often was more challenging and certainly more rewarding than his acting roles. "I'm able to be much more selective about the acting parts I do now. When your bread and butter depends on just being an actor, you have to accept parts that you like to think are beneath you. Now, I don't work as an actor too often, but when I do, it's in better parts."

In addition to the countless reruns of "The Outer Limits," Perrin's voice can still be heard at Disney World at The Spaceship Earth and the Exxon Energy Pavilion.

Survivors include his wife, Rita, a son and stepson. A memorial service will be held at the First Christian Church in Studio City on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. Donations are asked to go to the American Cancer Society.

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