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No Job Headaches for Mr. Alka-Seltzer : Television: Dick Beals, the voice of thousands of commercials and cartoon characters, has parlayed this talent into a lifetime career.

June 29, 1992|CHARLES HILLINGER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Nearly 300 boys tried out for the voice of Norman Normanmeyer Jr. in "The Addams Family," an animated series scheduled for this fall on ABC.

Dick Beals was selected. He's 65.

Getting the role in the Hanna-Barbera series was no surprise. Beals believes he has played more children's parts as a voice actor than anyone else.

"Happens all the time. With me, the studio doesn't need a mother around to control their kid, doesn't have to worry about my schooling. I have this big advantage--an adult with a child's voice," Beals explained during a recording session break.

Carol Channing is the voice of Granny Frump on the show, slated for Saturday mornings. John Astin plays Gomez, as he did on the popular television series. All the old familiar members of the macabre Addams Family will be in the cartoons: Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester, Lurch and Thing.

Millions of Americans know Beals' voice but few know anything about him, except in Hollywood and in Escondido, where he lives.

Beals was the voice of Speedy Alka-Seltzer for radio-TV commercials for the effervescent antacid and pain reliever. It was one of more than 3,000 commercials with Beals' voice. In addition, he has been the voice of more than 4,000 cartoon characters.

Miles Inc. of Elkhart, Ind., manufacturer of Alka-Seltzer, made Beals the guest of honor at its 60th anniversary celebration in May and presented a copy of Beals' just-published autobiography, "Think Big," to each of its 3,500 employees.

Beals, 4-foot-6-inches tall and only 68 pounds, has parlayed his childlike voice into a lifetime career. "I'm the voice of little babies to 15-year-olds. In cartoons, I have also been the voice of all kinds of animals--parrots, chipmunks, birds, rabbits, you name it," he said with a laugh, adding that he has never smoked, drank or done anything that might endanger his voice.

"My voice never changed," he said. "It's the same as it was when I was in grade school."

Born in Detroit, Beals launched his acting career in the third grade. He helped pay his way through Michigan State University as a radio actor, appearing on the "Lone Ranger," "Green Hornet" and "Challenge of the Yukon" radio shows recorded at WXYZ in Detroit. Later radio shows included "Dr. Christian," "One Man's Family," "Dragnet" and 'Gunsmoke."

"I was fresh out of Michigan State with a degree in radio broadcasting and advertising when I moved to Hollywood in 1952. A few months later, I was hired to be the voice of Speedy Alka-Seltzer."

Alka-Seltzer was the first sponsor of Hanna-Barbera's "Flintstones" cartoons and Beals' familiar lines, "Relief is just a swallow away. Plop. Plop. Fizz. Fizz. Oh, what a relief it is," was the first commercial voice heard when the "Flintstones" cartoon series began.

Beals not only did the commercial voice but also many voices on the "Flintstones" series and later on the "Jetsons." He was Frankenstein Jr. in the "Frankenstein Jr." cartoon series and has been the voice of cartoon characters in "Squiddley-Diddley," "Roger Ramjet" and numerous other TV series.

Beals commutes 125 miles by car from his Escondido home two to three days a week to Hollywood, where he does voice-overs for commercials and television cartoons.

For years, as an instrument-rated pilot, he flew back and forth from Escondido to Hollywood in his own airplane.

In Escondido, where he has lived for 22 years, he has owned and operated his own ad agency, announced football, baseball and soccer games at local high schools, coached Little League, Pony League and Senior Pro baseball teams. He served as president of the Escondido Elementary School Board.

Through the years, he has retained a close association with Michigan State University, serving as an alumni officer.

Recently he returned to his alma mater to be inducted into the Michigan State Varsity Club Alumni in recognition of his cheerleading efforts as a student.

Beals races sailboats, plays golf and tennis, competes in duplicate bridge tournaments throughout America, and has no plans to retire or reduce his busy schedule. He has never married.

"I'm having too much fun. I'm still a kid at heart," he said, "and, of course, still sound like one."

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