A Sound Career Choice; Police Academy's Michael Winslow Is the Self-Dubbed 'Man of 10,000 Sound Effects'. He Tries a Few out on Laura Davis

Article excerpt

Byline: Laura Davis

THERE'S a kerfuffle of squawks and barks at the end of the phone, where caged animals are fighting over some tasty snacks delivered by an increasingly irritated keeper.

Then Michael Winslow, best known for the role of Sgt Larvell Jones, in 80s film series Police Academy, finishes his impression and returns to the conversation at hand - his amazing ability to imitate.

"I'm still scratching my head about this one," he says.

"Every so often, you have to have a doctor take a look at your voice to make sure everything's OK, so he has to put a camera down there and last time he said, 'I don't know how you're doing this, coz the camera says it's pretty normal'."

Winslow's mum's theory is that growing up on an airfield base in Washington provided him with plenty of unusual sounds, which he liked to copy from an early age.

"We lived next to an active runway, so you would hear very large aircraft coming up and down and sometimes a couple of things would fall off and bounce around," explains the actor, who celebrated his 51st birthday last Sunday.

"You know the way kids are, they emulate their environment."

Having pretty much upstaged the leads in the Police Academy movies, which also starred Liverpool-born Sex and the City actress Kim Cattrall, and made a whole host of other crazy noises in 1987's Spaceballs, he is now heading off on a UK comedy tour.

His show at Liverpool's Philharmonic Hall later this month is still a work in progress - but will involve the Philharmonic Orchestra and might have a hint of The Beatles about it, he reveals.

"I'm trying to put together some Beatles noises. When they first made it across to America, I heard that accent 'Hello, I'm from Liverpool' (cue full-on Thomas the Tank Engine accent).

"I've worked with orchestras before, and I do violin noises and I can do the sound of an opera singer behind a wall, so I've gotta remove the wall now.

"My job is to help people forget about paying the rent. I want folks to be feeling a little bit better walking out than when they came in."

In the next 10 minutes, Winslow interjects his conversation with a range of sounds - he demonstrates two different Japanese accents, replicates the squeak of shammy leather on a car window and does a mean floppy disk being flexed.

It's an incredible, if extremely bizarre, talent - one which the impressionist insists he only uses for good ... "Except when the opportunity arises to have talking food in the Chinese restaurant," he laughs. …