The Most Captivating Voice in the World

The sultry voice of the announcer at Rio de Janeiro's international airport is so unique that it has been stolen by a rock band and mimicked by countless tourists. In fact, Iris Lettieri's voice is so seductive that travelers have been known to miss their flights just to listen to her.

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JACKI LYDEN, Host:

Tongues can entice prey of many kinds, as we here in our next story from NPR's Julie McCarthy at the international airport in Rio de Janeiro.

JULIE MCCARTHY: If a face can launch a thousand ships, why can't a voice launch a plane?

(SOUNDBITE OF BUZZER)

IRIS LETTIERI: (Speaking in Portuguese)

(SOUNDBITE OF BUZZER)

LETTIERI: I read English, but I don't speak English.

MCCARTHY: Ynez Latirri is the known as the world's most seductive airport announcer. In her 31 years of announcing, she's had to use a variety of languages.

Do you speak French?

LETTIERI: No.

MCCARTHY: Russian?

LETTIERI: No.

MCCARTHY: German?

LETTIERI: No.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LETTIERI: I only speak Portuguese. And that.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MCCARTHY: But Edish can memorize phrases in foreign languages. She credits a good ear, which she says she got from her mother, a pianist, who also taught her diction. Edish's announcements in English are a singular sensation.

LITIATI: Flight 3598 to Brazil and (unintelligible) now boarding gate 12-5.

MCCARTHY: The pronouncements that Edish purrs at Rio's International Airport have been stolen by a rock band and mimicked by enthused passengers. A group of Japanese businessmen is reported to have missed their plane home after that velvety voice beckoned them to duty free shopping. But Edish insists that there's no hanky panky intended. She tried scores of deliveries in her audition back in 1976, she says, before the airport directors settled on this winning sound.

LITIATI: (Through Translator) That's the one, yes, that's the one the director said. A voice that transmits calmness to the passengers, but it turned out quite the opposite. I was transmitting sensuality. Everyone wanted to know whose voice is that. Tourists wanted to buy tapes. Everyone thinks my voice is so sensual. What can I do about that?

MCCARTHY: Edish dreamed of being a surgeon, but she rode her voice to fame. Radio executives snapped her up and television signed her on as one of Brazil's first female news anchors. Today, once a month, she records her airport announcements, which she calls the perfect job.

LITIATI: (Through Translator) It's given me recognition and professional success. And I can now maintain total privacy.

MCCARTHY: The breathy contralto is now piped into airports across Brazil. Passenger and geologist Marcos Emeral(ph) says he has no doubt that listening to Edish's boarding calls has sparked more than a few male fantasies.

MARCOS EMERAL: I think so. In a good apartment, alone with a good wine and the lady speaking in our ear, yes.

JUAL PEMENTEL: No, nothing like this. No. No. Nothing. No. No. Not for me.

MCCARTHY: Traveler and inventor Jual Pementel recoils at the suggestion that Edish's voice evokes anything approximating sex. What her voice transmits besides everything else, Jual says, is love. The one time Audrey Hepburn look- a-like is now 65. In the three decades of announcing, her voice has not changed. The former two pack a day smoker says cigarettes didn't affect her vocal cords and neither did six husbands.

LITIATI: A voice.

LITIATI: (Through Translator) You know your voice is totally related to how your mind works. Your voice doesn't get old. Only your mind gets old. If you mind gets old your voice gets old.

MCCARTHY: And this shrewd businesswoman has a web site that features only snapshots of her as an ingénue.

LITIATI: (Through Translator) That's the image people have of me, a glamour puss. And I've left it to their imagination.

LITIATI: Flight 3831 to Competes(ph) and Kostiva(ph) final call, gate 9.

MCCARTHY: Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Rio de Janeiro.

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