July 16, 2002
So sorry I haven’t written sooner but I didn’t really receive either of your two letters until just this last week, when I returned from an extended trip through British Columbia. I am leaving again, on Thursday, for a year’s study abroad (mostly Europe, but I will be going to Africa as well). So I decided I’d better dash off a quick reply to such an enthusiastic fan, before I get back to my packing……………
How could I fail to answer someone who has gone to so much trouble to find me? Besides…..my main claim to fame is that crazy frog and how many frogs do you know who have fans? Not many………so I have to treat those I have with great care………..
P.S.: I hope this six page letter makes up for not writing sooner. You will forgive a busy, old frog, now……..won’t you?
For those who do not already know (and have not seen our feature, Honorable Mentions: The Other Voices), Chris Allen did the voice of Hoppity Hooper. Ms. Allen was one of the very few actresses, outside of June Foray, who worked for Jay Ward cartoons. This article is a reversal of our decision to omit a tribute to her. We mentioned that she was first and foremost a writer, and did very little voice work, over the years. After much thought, I felt that a write-up was absolutely necessary.
It appears that there is a great deal of speculation about Chris Allen. No pictures seem to be available, anywhere (and she did not send me a photo, in her April 28th letter of 1974). Even Keith Scott, the Jay Ward historian, wondered whether or not Ms. Allen was still alive, in The Moose That Roared. Her IMDB filmography does not really provide very much information either. Her filmography also does not give any personal data (place of birth or even her date of birth).
In mulling this over, I realized that I might possibly have more information about Chris Allen, than anyone else in the world!! Her six-page letter, was indeed quite prolific. She definitely “rose to the occasion” and proved that she was every bit “A Writer”.
I gave this article a lot of thought and decided that I wanted it to be special and unique; especially since Ms. Allen might not be the first voice artist, whom a lot of people would wish to read about. Granted, it would be very rewarding, and exciting, for me to re-read her letter a couple times, and try to “carve out” a summary of her key points in my own words…….and offer my own opinions, as I often do. It would be neat to approach summarizing her letter, in the same manner in which a sculptor creates a statue or as Monet painted so many of his beautiful French masterpieces, at the turn of last century.
In the end, however, I couldn’t get past the idea of simply allowing Chris Allen to speak for herself. You could say that this feature could almost use a dual by-line (by Chris Allen and Brian Kistler). For this reason, what follows will some of the most interesting and colorful excerpts of her own letter from 4/28/74.
Note that some of the pause dots (………..) are mine (when I choose to skip some of what Chris wrote) and some are her own. She used these dots, quite a bit in her style of writing. The same thing can be said of parentheses. Some are mine (when I reword some of her comments to clear up a quote, out of context) and some are hers (which she just happened to use these in her letter):
I am a mature woman, my friend, with two children in college. My son, Greg, is 24………My daugther, Cindy, is 21………..
(This was probably written to me, with a snicker, as I had asked her age—-not quite as funny as what June Foray said, when I asked that—–she said that even her husband did not know her age—-and sometimes even she (June) forgot how old she was, because she lied about it so much—–and she added that, as Ms. Gabor always said: “A woman who will tell her age will tell anything”)
For the last three years I have been attending college, having given up show biz (or show biz has given up me……..I can’t decide which) to complete my BA and then forge on towards my Masters Degree in Drama………I hope to study the excellent work being done……..in England, Scotland and Denmark………..My husband and I also do quite a bit of filming in wildlife and geology. I will be teaching at the college level………and had I known that higher education was this much fun, I would have done this years ago.
(Page Two—-She goes on to talk about how she needed to have a side-line, in order to continue writing the kind of things she really wanted to write, and to not give up on this career. This is where cartoon voice work came in—-and writing for kids’ shows)
If a (married) woman is worth her salt, naturally her children and husband then must come first and her artistic endeavors must take second place. That’s why I’m very excited about what I’m doing now. My kids are grown up and pretty much on their own…….or will be, very shortly……….and I can pick up where I left off twenty some years ago. And…….it’s great!
I started writing when I was about nine years old. I wrote cowboy stories and mad love stories which I knew nothing about……….I kept writing away………just for my own fulfillment……….until much later I started receiving payment for some of these things.
I did comedy material……..on the Bob Hope Show years ago while I was still in Junior College. At the time I was majoring in Journalism and writing for the school paper. Vera Vague, from the Bob Hope Show, saw some of my so-called comedy stuff and called me, asking if I’d be interested in doing some specialized comedy material for her……..I was walking on air! This first job was………with four other MEN COMEDY WRITERS who were tops in the field, who looked at me like I had rocks in my head……..I mean………how dare this girl…….still in school……….try to compete with four top MALE writers?……Two of them wrote for Groucho Marx and one was a Jack Benny writer.
I met Daws Butler (through producer Bob Clampett), who had about three kid shows on TV (when I began writing for several shows at once). Daws Butler is still a very dear friend……and a very dear human being. In fact, he was sweet enough to lecture to one of my Drama classes last year……..about voice work. He did a couple routines and the college students were fascinated. I guess I forgot to tell you that I have been teaching part-time while I completed my education.
My hobbies are filming wildlife, painting, candle-making (when I get some spare time), and camping. My husband and I own a camper and we love getting out on the road and heading for just “anywhere”……..IF we have a week or so off from our regular activities. I am also very interested in the American Indian, their religion and history………and have spent quite a bit of time studying the Hopi. Two years ago my husband and I spent the summer in Arizona and New Mexico doing research on the Hopi and the Navajo. This was for a class in Anthropology……..which is a very fascinating field……….
I love the sea and own a house right on the ocean, in Manhattan Beach…….Someday when I am tottering and grey I shall probably live there year-round and paint my little heart out and sail my boat and maybe just sail off into the sunset when I figure my time is up………….
(A clue, possibly to where Ms. Allen may be now, 28 years later, in 2002!!)
Meantime I find every day very interesting and exciting. It’s a great, big, wonderful, magical world, you know…….filled with so many marvelous places and things and people………all of which I have read about, studied and researched……..and gone out to meet when I finally thought I was ready.
(This reminds me of myself, when I was reading up about France and Greece, in great detail, before I went there in 1998 and in 1999!)
As far as writing is concerned, wasn’t it Eugene O’Neil who faced a college class one semester (as a professor in English) and said: “You are all here to learn how to write. I have just one thing to say to you. Go home and write.” And he walked out of the room.
I do lots of voices but Hoppity just happened to be a hit……….I’ve worked for Hanna-Barbera, Jay Ward, Bob Clampett, Kroft Puppets (from which we got the shows H.R. Puff ‘n Stuff, Lidsville and the Bugaloos), did several things with Daws Butler, that didn’t sell…….in children’s shows………….
(As she continued on this point, it sounded like some of this was just writing and not all voice work)
(Page Six—–Her last words, before the P.S., that I covered earlier, were:)
The only way to learn how to do anything well is to DO IT.
Love and best regards to you & yours,