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OFFBEAT: Whiting man paying Christmas tribute to late, great Mel Blanc on YouTube
A FUNNY IDEA - - Larry Rapchak, of Whiting, Ind. is paying homage to the late great, comic voiceover talent Mel Blanc with a song tribute on YouTube about his favorite Christmas musical memory. Rapchak, shown here in costume, said Blanc recorded a novelty Christmas song in August 1953 that is a silly adaptation of a German song used by teachers to teach counting and rhyming, called "The Schnitzelbaum Song." Later it was released as simply "Christmas Tree by Mel Blanc." (Provided Image)

When most of us think of the late great comedy cartoon voice master Mel Blanc, it's usually connecting him to the wonderful distinct voices of Bugs Bunny and Barney Rubble.

And if you're even a little older, you might even know what he looks like, in addition to that trademark voice. He was a favorite regular appearing in person on both Jack Benny's radio show as well as the CBS and NBC versions of his popular television show from 1950 to 1965.

But for Larry Rapchak, of Whiting, when he thinks of Blanc, he thinks of Christmas memories.

According to Rapchak, Blanc, who died in 1989, recorded a novelty Christmas song in August 1953 for a record album (remember those?) released that holiday season. It featured him doing a silly adaptation of a German song used by teachers to teach counting and rhyming, called "The Schnitzelbaum Song." This version by Blanc, who opted to adopt the guise (and accent) of a nutty German professor, included a new set of lyrics about Christmas trees, candy and wrapped gifts, to give it a holiday theme.

Rapchak said he first discovered this classic holiday tune in 1958 when his father, Mike Rapchak, a Chicago radio personality, brought home a Christmas compilation album by Capital Records of 14 songs. One of the tunes was Blanc's Christmas creation from a few years earlier, now simply just called "Christmas Tree by Mel Blanc."

As a little boy, Rapchak recalls playing this frantic paced silly song over and over and even memorizing the lyrics while pantomiming it in front of his bedroom dresser mirror. And even though he didn't have any visual to accompany the tune, his young imagination created a vivid description of who and what he was hearing described, including what this professor probably looked like.

Now, more than 50 years later, and thanks to the magic media medium of the Internet, Rapchak decided to bring the images from his boyhood imagination back to life along with breathing some newfound notoriety into this five decades old lost classic.

Better yet, besides dressing up as Blanc's voiced German Professor alter ego for the song, Rapchak arranged permission to use a classroom at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Elementary School in Hammond, which is where he attended as a youth.

Compete with holiday decorations and a "on the mark" reciting/mouthing perfection impersonation of Blanc as this wacky holiday German lecturer, Rapchak is now the star of a masterfully produced new/old short five-minute classic gaining lots of attention on YouTube.com.

So far, as of Monday, nearly 2000 people have viewed it!

You can also check it out at

More holiday fun

On Saturday, I finally made it to Chicago's north side for this year's presentation of the storefront theater fun holiday show "Another Year Without a Witty Title: The Chicago Christmas Spectacular" produced by A Reasonable Facsimile Theatre Co. This is the third year this group has hosted the two-hour presentation of assorted short comedy and musical vignettes.

As with most storefront theater, the stage experience is a "work in progress" for the enjoyment of both audience and performers. Featured writers for this year's pageant of short plays include Jenn-Anne, Michael W. Moon, Vicki Quade and Connor Woods, among others. My favorites were a homage to teen sleuth Nancy Drew, titled "Nancy Drew and the Clue in the Christmas Stocking," featuring the funny Steve Hickson as the Drew Family's faithful housekeeper Hannah Gruen and a touching and funny romp called "The Christmas Photo, 1969" which (despite some funny wig mishaps during the show I saw) includes a setting in the America's living room as the war in Vietnam raged on the other side of the globe. Some of the other spotlight skits featuring drug and dependency issues held less clever entertainment. This show continues through Jan. 9 at the Cornservatory Theatre, 4210 Lincoln Ave., Chicago. Tickets are $15 and $12 for students and seniors at arftco.com, or call (773) 418-4475. Group rates are available.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or 219.852.4327.

Today's Celebrity Birthdays

Actor-producer-director Maximilian Schell is 79. Actor James MacArthur ("Hawaii Five-O") is 72. Singer Jerry Butler is 70. Drummer Bobby Elliott of The Hollies is 68. Actor John Rubinstein ("Family," "Crazy Like a Fox") is 63. Singer-keyboardist Gregg Allman of the Allman Brothers is 62. Actress Kim Basinger is 56. Guitarist Warren Cuccurullo (Duran Duran, Missing Persons) is 53. Guitarist Phil Collen of Def Leppard is 52. Country singer Marty Raybon (The Raybon Brothers, Shenandoah) and pop singer Paul Rutherford of Frankie Goes to Hollywood are 50. Political commentator and author Ann Coulter is 48. Guitarist Marty Friedman (Megadeth) is 47. Actress Teri Hatcher is 45. Rapper Bushwick Bill of Geto Boys and singer Sinead O'Connor and actor Matthew Laborteaux ("Little House on the Prairie") are 43. Guitarist Ryan Newell of Sister Hazel is 37. Actor Dominic Monaghan ("Lost," "Lord of the Rings") is 33. Actor Ian Somerhalder ("The Vampire Diaries," "Lost") is 31. Singer Ingrid Michaelson is 30. Singer Chrisette Michele is 27. Singer Kate Voegele ("One Tree Hill") is 23.

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