A Salute To New Ideas

When people ask what I do, I have to give them the old “Jack of all trades” description of my work routine. Oh, I could just mention the top couple of jobs, but my professional style is more similar to that guy on the Ed Sullivan Show with those spinning plates.

For my younger readers, here’s a clip.

The biggest lesson I took from my three decades of playing radio is that you need to evolve, you need to keep fresh, learning what’s new and constantly have some plates spinning. That lesson was really driven home with my first radio departure, when I found out that I was losing my job on the same day I had a son on the way.

After that, I made sure I always had multiple gigs going. A main one and a bunch of smaller ones, in different areas. I was constantly learning something new and with each new skill, I considered making myself more valuable. What it did over time is give me an overwhelming urge to one day break off and not work for one company, but with as many people and projects as I could balance.

Always be fresh, always try something new.

Throughout my career, I’ve been involved with dozens of new ideas. There were hits, there were misses, but each gave me a new skill and perspective on something I previously had no experience with. Back in the days before Linkedin, it allowed me to constantly make new biz acquaintances.

There was the time I did an Inspector Gadget impression for a computer game. The company wanted to hire Don Adams (aka Maxwell Smart) but he wanted $1-million. So, for $20 an hour, I said every phrase imaginable and they used my poor man’s Inspector Gadget voice. Sadly, they didn’t have the computer game part quite figured out, and the game didn’t play on computers very well. I have a copy of the CD-ROM, but with a quick Google, I actually found a way to play it and hear my voice from almost 30 years ago right here.

Then, through various friends, I was introduced to a guy who had a brilliant idea. Do tours of cities like, oh, say, Edmonds, on a cassette. You’d put it on in your car, hit play, the tape would tell you where to drive and what you were looking at…and then, tell you where to go next. It was a bit of a flop, too. And I’ve got a couple of those still wrapped in plastic.

Going a way back, I remember connecting with former KOMO news anchor Ruth Walsh, who wanted to try launching a syndicated weekly radio show.  We did episodes for a couple of months, but it soon faded away….

The great ideas just kept on coming. One that was fairly successful was an audiobook of a couple of the “Wizard of Oz” stories. A guy named Bill Wright who owned Piglet Press and was a huge Oz fan wanted to create several audiobooks (yes, more cassettes) and we actually produced three of them. I say “we” as in the late Debbie Deutsch, who was the narrator; a girl named Alexandria who did the voice of Dorothy; and yours truly as EVERYBODY ELSE.  We’d record for hours at a studio in Lake City, and then audio guru Bob Majors fixed the sound to perfection. Former Bothell High School Principal Bob Stewart told me that he and his kids loved them as they drove across the country on vacation. Nice to know they’re still out there.

I was lucky to work on quite a few new projects during my lifetime, but geeze, the pace at which new stuff is coming out these days is insane!

What brought me down this rabbit hole? Well, I have a daughter-in-law that is taking a big swing. One of her classmates from graduate school has launched a new venture and she’s going to get on board Map Your Idea.

Right now, to introduce the product and get people to use it, it’s free. That allows this startup to build up a collection of examples of how small businesses and organizations are putting it to use. Go ahead, visit the website and see how it works. It’s pretty intuitive and who knows, your work or organization just might find it quite useful.

All this to say, I love innovation. And trying. Success is also a nice biproduct, but the experience and the lessons you take along with every swing at the plate will someday find a way to be quite valuable in your future.

It’s good to know things. And I hope you’ve taken a few big swings in your lifetime.

New ideas–I salute you!

Tim Hunter

THE BIG BREAKOUT

Read the label and you'll find my name there!

Read the label and you’ll find my name there!

The other day, I was thinking about those “almost big deals.”  Projects that I got involved with and thought, if nothing else, for a little while—this is going to be the big one.

When you flitter about professionally, as I do, you have the chance to get involved in a diverse collection of projects or events. I’ve emceed 7 lutefisk eating contests, been the host for a Mr. Bothell Pageant, wrote one liners for Bill Gate’s Salute to Warren Buffett on his 75th birthday and so on.  Unique experiences that were pretty much one-offs.  Fun and done.

But then there were those special projects that you thought might pave the way to a life of leisure and a lasting reputation as being “that guy!”

I was fortunate enough to spend many an afternoon with Stan Boreson one summer, helping him write silly Christmas songs for an album that was released in the 1980s.  I thought it would be the beginning of a long string of albums, but it was at the time when he was beginning to wind down his career and the recording industry was doing a complete makeover.

I somehow got hooked up with a company that was making an Inspector Gadget computer game.  Again, in the 1980s, in the infancy of that industry.  When the actual voice of Inspector Gadget asked for a million dollars to do it, they settled for my mediocre impersonation to provide the soundtrack for their game.  It was the most fun $10 an hour gig I ever had.  The game was produced, but didn’t work that well on computers.  The company went bankrupt and I have a copy of the game.

Another entrepreneur hired me to be the voice of his “Travel Around Edmonds” tapes.  Yep, we’re talking cassettes.  You’d get a map, drive to that location, then press play on your car’s cassette machine and then a friendly voice would tell you about the touristy aspects of this part of town. I’ve got some of those cassettes at home, too.

One of the more interesting ventures I partnered in was creating audiobooks of the Wizard of Oz series.  I believe we recorded three of the books with narrator Debbie Deutsch and a young girl named Alexandria.  Man, we spent a lot of time in the studio doing those.  I was every other voice in the book—the Wizard, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman, the Lion, the Winkies, etc.  A guy named Bill Wright was a major Oz fan and wanted to create a franchise.  Again, on cassettes and technology soon made them obsolete.

Probably the most disappointing attempt at greatness was pursuing a career as a screenwriter.  Oh, scripts have been written and I’m pretty proud of them.  Several were carried around by an agent for three years, hoping to find that crack in Hollywood’s door.  Alas, we came up empty.

But I tell you what—a couple of those movies WILL be made.  As my skill-set increases, I’ve been learning more and more about what goes into filming and my plans are, to some day just do the darn movies myself.

Especially if the market for cassettes of Inspector Gadget giving you a guided tour through the land of Oz takes off.

 

Tim Hunter