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Friends, the following story clearly demonstrates the miracle of the internet. Exactly HOW, I’ll explain later, but first to the particulars…

It was about a week and a half ago. My daughter was on spring break and her good pal Courtney was over. We were having dinner - lentil burgers, a vegan delight (trust me…) - when the phone rang. Julie, assuming it was another one her buddies, went to answer it.

No one was on the other line. She put the phone back in the receiver and sat down.

The phone rang again. Again, no one on the opposite end.

Just in case, she brought the cordless phone back to the table with her, and sure enough: “briiing” (or however today’s new-fangled phones sound). I was in the process of assembling my second delicious lentil burger - lettuce, tomato, red onion, relish, catsup, AND pickle on the side - when she unexpectedly handed the phone off to me.

For ME? Really? Well, it had to be somebody selling something - it always is during the dinner hour.

“Hello, is this Fred?…”

“Yes?..”

“Hi Fred - this is Tom Kenny!”

Omighod - SPONGEBOB!!

(Trust me - I just THOUGHT that. I didn’t actually blurt it out loud. Honest.)

“And - ” another voiced interjected, “Andy Paley.”

Good gosh - the musical guru who produced the SpongeBob SquarePants CD, The Best Day Ever (as well as Brian Wilson’s unreleased masterpiece, Sweet Insanity, amongst many other impressive credits on his extensive resume) was on the line as well! Lentil burger be damned - it’s surely not everyday a call like this comes into the Hembeck household!

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(Those of you who follow these weekly ramblings may recall that, back last fall, Quick Stop’s Ken Plume alerted me to the very real possibility of such a call coming in - reread episode 81 of “The Fred Hembeck Show” to refresh your memory - but all these months later, the truth is, I was still caught off guard…)

I quickly got up from the table, and wandered about the house as I spoke with this pair of genial gents. They apologetically pointed out that they’d been meaning to make this call since way back in 2004 - not long after I posted my enthusiastic reaction to their contributions to the soundtrack for The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie soundtrack CD, tunes that would later form the backbone of the aforementioned Best Day Ever release - and with apparently nothing more pressing on their agendas this particular Monday afternoon (as it was only mid-day out in sunny California), today was my lucky day!

Well gang, I did my level best to sound casual, engaging the duo in pleasantly breezy small talk, all the while attempting to stifle the ongoing realization that I was speaking with not only my all-time favorite cartoon character, but also the guy who made the genius Beach Boy sound like even more of a genius! Not an easy task, granted, but I tried…

What did we talk about? Well, first off, they clued me into some live gigs they played as SpongeBob and the High Seas at several comics cons - as well as on the late night Craig Ferguson program - and asked when I was coming out to San Diego. Regretfully, not anytime soon, as I confessed that I really, really don’t dig flying, but I helpfully suggested they pack up their gear and play next year’s big NYC con! THAT I’d surely go see!

Both of these fellas turned out to be extremely friendly, down-to-earth guys, and any celebrity-shock I may’ve initially felt wore off almost immediately. Tom spoke of his voice work on Stan Lee’s short-lived Stripperella series as being a big personal thrill - and then proceeded to do the best Stan impression this side of Jim Salicrup, which he topped off by demonstrably pointing out The Man’s vocal similarities with comedian Gilbert Gottfried!

“Thanks, guys - ” I deadpanned, “now you’ve gone and ruined Stan Lee for me!!”

(They’re not wrong, though - next time you spin your M.M.M.S. flexi-disc, it’s gonna be mighty tough to banish Gilbert’s distinctive pan from your mind’s eye, I guarantee it…)

While Tom was the more talkative of the two - hey, that’s his job - I didn’t want Andy to fell overlooked, so I made a point of praising his work on the Sweet Insanity bootleg I own.

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“Bootlegs are illegal, you know” he sternfully reminded me, but inasmuch as the copyright cops haven’t yet come banging on my door in the intervening days, I’m sure he was just kidding me with his indignation. Well, pretty sure anyway…

Our chat went on like this for about ten minutes, but as I sensed our time waning, I felt I HAD to make a potentially unreasonable request:

“Tom, would you talk to my daughter, using, you know, THE voice?…”

I’m sure he must get this sort of thing constantly - and I tried to resist the urge to ask, really I did - but how could I possibly let an opportunity like this pass? Much to my relief, Tom was only happy enough to comply, so I walked into Julie’s room (dinner had been finished without me), told her someone wanted to speak with her, and handed her the phone.

Now, the truth is, she knew who was on the other line - Lynn figured it out when she heard me say “Hi Tom!” - and maybe it would’ve been even better back in 2004 when she was a mere lass of 13, but still, the look on Julie’s face when SpongeBob began to serenade her with a short accapella version of “The Best Day Ever” was absolutely priceless! The confused smile playing across her face intimated that she found the experience genuinely amusing, with a small but significant side order of creepy! Tom soon dropped the vocal facade, and chatted amiably with her for several more minutes. Julie eventually handed the phone back to me, but I gotta tell ya - I got almost as big a kick out of watching her talk to Tom Kenny as I did from actually speaking with him myself! Almost…

Knowing the clock was ticking, when Tom suggested we exchange contact information, I threw caution entirely to the wind.

“Tom, um, couldja give it to me in your SpongeBob voice?” (which I’d yet to hear).

Good sport that he is, Tom began to rattle off numbers in that lovable upper-register squeak of his, and I was somehow managing to keep it together - that is, until he came to the word “hyphen”! How could one NOT burst out laughing upon hearing SpongeBob’s precise pronunciation of such a word? Even Tom knew those six little letters were comedic gold, and commented that “hyphen” was a pitch perfect Jerry Lewis word! Which reminded him of the great lost SpongeBob SquarePants episode, the one written specifically for the comedy legend, casting Mr. Lewis as an even dimmer relative of our star - can’t you just imagine the hilarity? Well, you’re gonna have to - the folks holding the wildly popular property’s purse strings were reluctant to meet Jer’s (according to Tom) not-unreasonable asking price for his efforts. Tom and Jerry’s teaming, it seems, just wasn’t in the cards (or in the budget, sadly…). A tremendous shame, we three all agreed.

Well, time to say goodbye. Didn’t want to overstay my welcome. Had a wonderful time. Hung up. Put the phone back in its cradle. Sat down.

Wow.

The miracle of the internet strikes again!

How? Follow me here - I’ll try and make it brief:

1999: My nine year daughter turns me on to a brand new Nicktoon, one I immediately fall in love with!

2004: By now, the rest of the world has caught up with me, and a big-screen film featuring the underwater cast is released, along with an accompanying soundtrack CD. I write glowingly about both on my nearly two year old blog.

2005: Mark Evanier tips me off that Tom Kenny had read my comments, and was impressed that I “got” what he and producer Andy Paley were attempting with their pair of tunes!

2006: Ken Plume runs an interview on the Quick Stop site with Tom that spends an inordinate amount of space on yours truly, the amateur music critic, with a personal phone call threatened!

2007: SPONGEBOB TALKS TO ME ON THE PHONE!!

Without the internet, these chain of events would very likely never have occurred. So what else can I do but say, “Thank you Al Gore! -

BEST CALL EVER!!”…

Hembeck.com urges you to go out and buy the SpongeBob and The High Seas CD, The Best Day Ever, if you haven’t already - it’s quite good! Honest.

-Copyright 2007 Fred Hembeck

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