ENCINITAS — A. Paul Bergen’s rich bass voice is universally recognized from a body of work that ranges from being the announcer for Disney on Ice for 30 years to a narrator, voiceover artist and studio singer in soundtracks, including “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” He has also been featured in thousands of jingles and commercials including being the voice of Shamu from SeaWorld.At 2 p.m. March 10, Bergen will lend his voice in a reading from his second novel, “The Undressing of Kathy Howard” in the Community Room of the Encinitas Library.Bergen describes the book as “part fact, part fiction,” inspired by his youth as the son of a Mennonite farmer in Wasco, Calif., north of Bakersfield. The book is a compilation of short stories, with a potpourri of quirky characters, and no plot line.
“Kathy is a real person — she was the first girl I undressed,” he said. “The gay cat was from the farm. This is a not history, it’s augmented history.”
For Bergen, art has imitated his life.
“I was a sports freak and wanted to be a high school football coach until 1952 when I was diagnosed with polio — the last of a great epidemic,” he said. “I expected to get healed. The next year I was in the hospital, then in braces and crutches until 1993.”
Bergen’s polio progressed, leaving him in a wheelchair.
While at Westmont College he found his voice, literally. He became a bass soloist, performing and recording with John Williams, Norman Luboff, Roger Wagner and Fred Waring.
“I wanted to be a night club singer but the (leg) braces were a hindrance,” he said. “In the late 1960s the jingles industry was growing in San Diego. Tom Denoto, a school teacher, said, ‘I can make high-quality jingles without unions’ and started Tuesday Productions.”
Bergen and three other studio singers from L.A. commuted to San Diego for about 13 years and recorded 8,000 commercials and ID packages. Among those were jingles for The Gap, Budweiser, Michelob and Toyota — and a pig medicine manufacturer and Arabian stallion stud service.
In 1980 he and his wife Linda decided to leave L.A. and settle in Encinitas.
“I absolutely love Encinitas — it’s clean, the air is marvelous, and the people are friendly,” he said. “It’s overwhelming to be next to the ocean, especially west of I-5.”
Bergen’s religious views have evolved over the years, from the Mennonite Brethren to agnosticism. Today, he is a believer in Pantheism.
“I have a close relationship with my family but they believe I will burn in hell because of my beliefs,” he said, smiling.
Bergen published his first book, “Naked in the Tub with Vera” in 2010, revealing a unique style characterized by personal comments he scatters through the text of the book to provide insight into his influence on the characters, and their influence on him.
“Paul creates the most humorous situations you can think of,” Jacklyn Nevelow said. “He shows them to you, and elaborates on them, and you wind up laughing out loud. Normally, I might giggle to myself while reading a book but I actually burst out in laughter.”
Added Ben Saltzer, “It’s very much a ‘fun read’ that starts interestingly and builds to what I found to be delightful. Paul doesn’t put people down, he portrays them as they are, and they are funny! That’s just how some folks are.”
“The Undressing of Kathy Howard” will be released this month by R.J. Buckley Publishing.
Sharing billing with Bergen March 10 are legendary jazz greats Holly Hofmann on the flute and Mike Woffard on piano. Coincidentally, Wofford played with Bergen in the old days when they did studio work.
“Mike was the top studio pianist and there were literally hundreds of commercial tracks that I’ve sung on of his,” Bergen said.
“These are two icons of the San Diego jazz scene, nationally recognized, coast to coast as masters of their art, in a rare North County performance. It is a brilliant improvisational marriage of piano and flute.”
The event, sponsored by 101 Artists Colony, is free. The Encinitas Library is located at 540 Cornish Drive, behind Encinitas City Hall. For additional information, visit apaulbergen.com, email [email protected] or call (760) 436-2250.
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