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Voiceover Artist Don LaFontaine Plays Not My Job

The voice of movie trailers, Don LaFontaine, joins us to play a game called "You're the king of Las Vegas": Three questions about impresario Steve Wynn's casino resort.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

Lastly, this week, we go back to the beginning.

CARL KASELL: For our very first show here at the Chase Auditorium in Chicago, in May of 2005, Adam, Kyrie and Sue Ellicott and I were joined by the immortal Don Lafontaine, the king of the movie trailers.

SAGAL: We asked Don about how he came up with his "in a world" line.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So, Don, let's get to something right away. You are known sort of colloquially as the "in a world" guy.

DON LAFONTAINE: Yeah.

SAGAL: Yeah. Because you're the guy, you are the guy, who in all those movie trailers starts them off by saying "in a world."

LAFONTAINE: Well, other guys do that too.

SAGAL: But they got it from you.

LAFONTAINE: Well, yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: And this is what I found amazing is that not only did you become famous for saying that but you actually made it up.

LAFONTAINE: Guilty.

SAGAL: Yeah. So how did that come up that you were working on a promo and you said, you know what this would need, what happened?

LAFONTAINE: Well, I was working on a spot for some movie. I don't know what it was, it was a bazillion years ago. But we had to set up the story and that seemed to be the natural way of doing it is to say "in a world" or "in a place" or "in a time" or, you know, set of jockey shorts or whatever.

(LAUGHTER)

LAFONTAINE: I had to set it up somehow so that people knew where they were going.

SAGAL: Let me ask you this, you've got such a distinctive voice, were you told from a young age that you should be in the voiceover business, you should be on the radio or whatever it was?

LAFONTAINE: When I was 13. I was a boy soprano until I was 13. My mother was doing the dishes and I said, "Mom, I'll help you with the dishes."

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Did your head then...

LAFONTAINE: I was about...

SAGAL: ... spin around 360 degrees?

LAFONTAINE: Green stuff.

SAGAL: Exactly.

LAFONTAINE: I was about 4'9". I had four little Lulu curls across my forehead.

(LAUGHTER)

LAFONTAINE: And all of the sudden, I opened my mouth and Orson Wells fell out.

(LAUGHTER)

LAFONTAINE: It was very weird.

SAGAL: Now, we had this idea, when we found out that you were going to be on the show and that is that, you know we're on public radio, which is not...

LAFONTAINE: Yes.

SAGAL: ...shall we say a medium known for being particularly thrilling. So this was our idea, that maybe if we simply had you say some of the things that we say on public radio from time to time, maybe it would sound better.

LAFONTAINE: Yes.

SAGAL: We sent you those things and we were wondering if you could give us a try.

LAFONTAINE: All right. Well, you've done it again. You've wasted another perfectly good hour.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

LAFONTAINE: Listening to CAR TALK.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: That was pretty good, OK.

ADAM FELBER: That works.

SAGAL: What else you got?

LAFONTAINE: OK, let's do this as a horror.

SAGAL: All right, OK.

LAFONTAINE: Every week on our program, we choose a theme and present a number of stories about that theme. Act one.

(LAUGHTER)

FELBER: Chilling. Absolutely chilling.

SAGAL: The chills are running up and down my spine. All right, you got one more?

LAFONTAINE: Yes, I do, as a matter of fact.

From WHYY in Philadelphia, this is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

SAGAL: There we go.

FELBER: Yeah.

SAGAL: All right.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Well, Don Lafontaine, we're delighted to have you with us. We have invited you here to play a game we're calling?

KASELL: You're the king of Las Vegas.

LAFONTAINE: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Last month, impresario Steve Wynn opened, on the Vegas strip, the most expensive casino resort ever built. Now, his earlier casinos had themes, a South Sea island, pirates, a high-end European bordello. But his latest, called simply The Wynn, only has its owner to inspire us.

Now, we are going to ask you three questions about Mr. Wynn and his works. If you get two right, you'll win a prize for one of our listeners. Carl, who is voiceover god Don Lafontaine playing for?

KASELL: Peter, he is playing for Jennifer Brown of Chicago.

(APPLAUSE)

LAFONTAINE: My apologies in advance, Jennifer.

SAGAL: All right, sir, here is your first question. Mr. Wynn crowned the earlier phase of his career with the creation of the Bellagio, the world's first billion dollar casino hotel. Today, it's the most profitable property in Las Vegas.

What did Mr. Wynn say about his achievement at the time of the hotel's opening in 1998? Did he say A: compared to me, Louis XIV was trailer trash? B: it's the way God would do it if he had the money?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Or C: hotels are like prostitutes, the high class ones charge more than $500 a night?

LAFONTAINE: I would have to go with B.

SAGAL: It's the way God would do it if he had the money? I got to say with that voice, I'm so terrified of contradicting you.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: No, but you're right, in fact, yes, it's B.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: It's the way God would do it if he had the money, said Mr. Wynn at the time. Next question: despite his background making up glorious fake places, Mr. Wynn's lifestyle these days demands authenticity and nothing but. Which of these is an example of his current mania for absolute authenticity? A: Mr. Wynn wears silk underwear once worn by legendary Vegas visionary Bugsy Siegel? B: he speaks to his German Shepherds in German?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Or C: big winners at his baccarat tables at the new hotel will be paid in gold bullion?

SUE ELLICOTT: I might just ask for some clarification on the underwear. Do you mean that Bugsy Siegel wore the exact same pairs or that it's the same brand that Bugsy Siegel wore?

SAGAL: No, the implication would be that, in fact, they were the very same underwear, carefully washed I'm sure.

LAFONTAINE: I would assume.

SAGAL: You would assume.

So that was the underwear, speaking to the German Shepherds in German or actually paying your winning gamblers in the high-end tables with actual gold bullion?

LAFONTAINE: I'm going to have to go with the gold bullion.

SAGAL: Gold bullion. No, I'm afraid it was the German Shepherds, speaking German. Do you have dogs? Do they obey you?

LAFONTAINE: I have three dogs and no.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Pitch the voice higher would be my advice.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: All right, you're one for two, so if you get this last one you'll win it all here. If you pick up the brochure for the new Wynn hotel and casino, it will tell you what? A: it took Michelangelo four years to complete the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel; your room took five? B: you can't be Steve Wynn but you can sleep with him?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Or C: before you arrive, ask yourself if you deserve it because not everyone does?

(LAUGHTER)

LAFONTAINE: C.

SAGAL: C. You're going to go before you arrive, ask yourself if you deserve it because not everyone does. That's your choice?

LAFONTAINE: Yeah, that's what I'm going to go with because whatever prize she was supposed to get, I'll be happy to buy because...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: It's nothing to you, man.

LAFONTAINE: There is smoke coming out of my tail section right now.

SAGAL: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I was going to say the prize is having Carl's voice on their home answering machine. So I'm just saying...

LAFONTAINE: Oh heck, I can do that.

SAGAL: Yeah, well that's what I'm saying.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: No offense to Carl, but she'd be the only person in the world who people would pay $9.50 just to call their answering machine.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: All right, anyway, the question was what was the phrase on the brochure? You chose: before you arrive, ask yourself if you deserve it because not everyone does. You're sticking with that?

LAFONTAINE: Yep.

SAGAL: I'm afraid it was A. It took Michelangelo four years to complete the Sistine Chapel; your room took five. So Carl, how did Don Lafontaine do on our quiz?

KASELL: He needed two to win for Jennifer Brown, but he had just one correct answer, Peter.

LAFONTAINE: He's an idiot.

SAGAL: Yeah, clearly.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So I'm going to put you on the spot. Are you going to come through? Are you going to fill in for Carl for our guest?

LAFONTAINE: Oh, of course.

SAGAL: Oh, you're a man. You're a gentleman. You're a kind person.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Don Lafontaine has been called the king of the movie trailers and the voice of God. You now know why. He's been credited with creating the modern movie trailer. Don Lafontaine, thank you so much for joining us.

LAFONTAINE: Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SAGAL: Thanks to Carl Kasell, to all our panelists, all our wonderful guests. Thanks to all of you for listening. I'm Peter Sagal, and we will see you next week.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: This is NPR.

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