Paul Anthony is a testament to the commercial possibilities in the adage, “It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it.” Anthony is a voice actor whose mostly unseen presence has supplied the narration for scores of public and corporate programs, commercials, events and, for his great passion, jazz radio shows and concerts. He recently marked his 50th anniversary as the announcer for Washington Week, the longest-running political program on public television. Now living much of the year in downtown Sarasota, Anthony sat down with 941CEO to talk about his profession.
“I got my start in 1964 as the chief announcer for a Washington, D.C., television station, WETA. I had just graduated from Georgetown and found myself making four times more than my hard-working father ever made selling women’s shoes at his shop in Rochester, New York. My mother couldn’t understand it. ‘Paul,’ she’d say, ‘they are paying you this much for reading?’ And I’d tell her, ‘Mom, there’s reading and then there’s reading.’”
“I’ve done work for TV and radio stations in Washington, D.C., New York, Texas, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, as well as in numerous commercials and corporate events. Twenty-four years ago, I did the iconic promo for New York City’s 1010 WINS news radio station, which includes the phrase, ‘You give us 22 minutes, we’ll give you the world.’ If you live in New York, you would have had to have been in a coma not to have heard it. It runs three times an hour, 24 hours a day. It’s only nine seconds long, but it’s been providing me a paycheck every 13 weeks since the early 1990s.
“The other thing that really made my career was Washington Week. I’m the last original member still working on it. In 50 years, I’ve missed fewer than a handful of shows, all due to illness. It’s so much easier these days because I can fit all the equipment I need into a suitcase and I can essentially record anywhere. I once recorded for Washington Week aboard the Queen Mary in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.”
“I call what I do ‘voice acting’ because it’s more than just reading a script. My voice is an instrument. From the 1970s to the early 1990s, I did those political commercials that were so popular at the time, speaking the first part in a tone that cast suspicion on the opposing candidate and the final part shifting into a trusting, modulation to describe the candidate who was paying me. If my voice was a picture, the first 15 seconds you would see me scowling and the final 15 seconds I would be smiling.”
“Ultimately, it’s about communicating. I take great pride in clarity and enunciation. For many years, I’ve been a lector, including at St. Martha’s Catholic Church in Sarasota. Afterwards, people who don’t have a clue what I do professionally come up and tell me that they not only heard everything I read but that they understood the import of it. I look at it that God gave me a gift. What better way to share it?”
“You realize how much in life comes down to chance. I never thought about being an announcer. My passion was always jazz. Not long after I graduated from Georgetown, I was fired from a nightclub that could no longer afford me. I was walking through campus the next day wondering what would become of my life when I bumped into Father Dan Power, a Georgetown professor who was on the board of the fledgling public television station WETA. He helped me land a job as WETA’s announcer, where I not only found my calling, I also met Joanne, my wife of the last 49 years and the mother of our three children.”
“I’ve appeared in front of the camera as well, including 20 years as a weatherman in Washington, D.C. In the late 1980s, I appeared on the McNeil-Lehrer News Hour reading the transcript of President Ronald Reagan’s testimony in the Iran-Contra case. There was no video of Reagan’s testimony. Jim Lehrer introduced me by saying the testimony of President Reagan will be read by actor Paul Anthony. I read the transcript from a podium. It must have lasted five or six minutes. I’ll never forget it.”