sign up for our

Home Shop Subscribe Advertise Articles Directories Classifieds Calendar FAQs Contact Us Login

Joe Cipriano's 'Living On Air' ...
'A Brand New Adventure - Voice-Over Work'

October 16, 2013
See Part 1:
'Incredible Career'
Starts At Age 14

(VOXtra) - Star voice talent Joe Cipriano's fascinating new book, Living On Air, will be published November 1, 2013. And VoiceOverXtra is honored to bring you 'sneak peek' excerpts, selected by Joe, continuing today and Thursday. Enjoy these insights into the attitude and actions that have propelled Joe to the top of the voice-over world ... and the stories of his up-down-and-UP-again career in broadcasting and voice-over, from Connecticut to Los Angeles. To pre-order Living On Air, please click here.

First, Joe sets the scene ...

"Today, the second excerpt from Living On Air fast-forwards to my time in Washington, DC.
"I was in radio still, and at this point in the book, I had been fired for the first time in my career, after three years with NBC, which was a huge shock to me. I rebounded after some challenging times and taking a job that I wasn’t such a great fit for. 
"Yet that job led to an opportunity for me to land the afternoon on-air shift at a radio station in DC owned by ABC. 
"The station, Q107, was a big hit and it was great to be back in Top 40 radio. This was also the time of my life when I started getting interested in voice-overs and began paying attention to the voices that inspired me in network promo.
"I knew what I wanted to do ... my goal was to somehow get to Los Angeles so I could start going after national voice-over work.
"But I wouldn't just move there without a job. I had no interest in being another starving out-of-work actor, so I set my sights on getting a radio gig FIRST in L.A. Then I could think about moving there."
Roller Coaster Career Ride Enroute to L.A.

By Joe Cipriano
with Ann Cipriano

In our very first ratings book, Q-107 buried all the other stations in the city. I had struggled through the past few months, when I was fired from NBC, and then when I took a job that wasn’t the right fit.

But I never lost faith in myself. I was back in Top 40, the number one afternoon deejay at the number one station in town. Doing the afternoon show from two p.m. to six p.m., I had plenty of time in the morning to pursue a brand-new adventure, voice-over work.

Out of the blue, I started to be asked to voice local and regional commercials in Washington. I didn’t know much about the voice-over world, but I quickly found out it’s a nice place to visit.

I worked for clients like Garfinckel’s Department Store, and Woodward & Lothrop, classy ads designed by the Denenberg Agency in D.C. The owner and creative director, Elliot Denenberg, liked my voice and started using me on a few accounts for car dealerships and other retail radio and TV work.

Plus, before my shift at the Q, I made personal appearances for the station at high schools and charity functions, just like the kind of events I used to go to at WWCO in Connecticut.

After my shift at six p.m., I either went to another meeting for the station or went out to dinner with Ann, Stoney, and Barbara. It was a great balance of work and personal satisfaction.

Getting fired from NBC was quickly turning into a distant memory. Those terrible feelings were long gone.                        


Moving into the 1980s, the Q continued to grow.

As we hit the one-year anniversary of the station and my marriage, I became more and more interested in a voice-over career. I thought being in radio teed it up perfectly. I could pursue VO while my radio show paid the bills.

I became aware of the big network voices like Ernie Anderson, Danny Dark, and others who lived in Los Angeles. Dreaming about that kind of career gave me a new goal to reach for in my career.

I talked it over with Ann, and just like that, we both decided where we were headed next.


For as long as I can remember I wanted to work in Los Angeles. If I was ever going to get a chance at national voice-over work, or doing promos for networks, I thought it could only happen in L.A.

We were a team and Ann was all in, ready to find new opportunities in her own career as a TV news writer and producer.

But I wouldn’t allow myself to move across the country without a job in radio already lined up. I had no interest in being another out-of-work, starving actor/voice-over guy in L.A.

The plan was simple: I would mail out airchecks to radio stations in L.A., hoping that someone would take the bait.

I loved Q-107. It was high-energy fun with great music. I knew how fortunate I was to get that job. But I’m not the kind of person who sits still for long. Like my dad, I’m always thinking of how I can make a particular situation even better and looking for what’s next for me down the road.


I made it my priority to get to Los Angeles, and as always, I tried to work one hour each day on making it happen.

After six months of sending out tapes, I had an offer. I got a call from Jim Conlee at KHTZ radio in Los FREAKING Angeles.

"Joe? We listened to your tape and really like what you’re doing. We want to hire you at K-HITS.”

My head nearly burst.

This was different from the call I got from Gordon when I was still living at home in Connecticut. Back then I was a kid who would have gone anywhere without a thought about how I would get there, how much I would make, or even how I would live.

This time I wasn’t alone, I had Annie by my side. I knew exactly what part of L.A. I wanted to live in, and I knew I would have to take a pay cut to get there, but I thought I could make up the difference in voice-overs.


I thought I was prepared for everything.

But wouldn’t you know, that roller coaster was heading my way again, ready to take me down. Two seats please!

I had a new boss at Q-107. Al Brady Law had moved on to WABC in New York, and the new Program Director was Alan Burns, young, hip, and cool. We got along well, and I was positive he would be happy for me.

The next day, I could barely wait till my shift was over to tell him about my offer.

"Alan, I have a wonderful opportunity. I’ve been offered the dream job I’ve been waiting for in Los Angeles. KHTZ wants to hire me for afternoons. I love Q but I’ve been working towards this my whole life. I want to be fair and give you two or three weeks’ notice. Whatever you need.”

Alan was surprisingly expressionless. He just looked at me and said, "You signed a letter of intent to enter into a contract with us. We won’t let you go.”


My mouth dropped along with my stomach. Of course I remembered signing that letter, but at the time I was told it was only to stop me and the other jocks from taking a job with the local competition, at one of the other stations in Washington.

All radio stations do that kind of thing. I thought that was fair. The execs at ABC didn’t want to be in competition with talent they cultivated.

He said, "ABC owns two stations in Los Angeles, and we don’t want you in competition with them, either.”

"You’ve got to be kidding me, right?” I was stunned.

"No Joe. I’m serious. We’re playing hardball here.”


That hurt me. I loved that station and everyone there, including Alan. But as far as I knew, this was my once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They wanted to lock me into five years at Q-107. I was 25 years old.

"Alan, you want me to wait until I’m 30 years old to have the chance to follow this dream?”

His answer, "Hardball, Joe.”

I didn’t blame Alan, I knew he was doing his job, but I needed help to figure this out. Were they right? Did they own me for the next five years?

I had no idea. I had to hire a lawyer to find out the answer.


My attorney’s name was Julian Tepper. I didn’t know anything about him except that he was a friend of a friend. He normally did litigation work for the government and he was looking forward to doing something different.

He seemed like a sharp guy to me. From the beginning he told me, "I can take care of this for you. Don’t worry.”

I called Jim in L.A. to tell him what was going on, and was surprised to find out he already knew.

A huge corporation like ABC has plenty of lawyers on staff. Sadly, some of them were working against me. KHTZ radio had received a "cease and desist” order to stop negotiating with me. Any more discussions, and ABC would take legal action against KHTZ.

Damn, this really was hardball.

But Jim was calm. He told me not to worry. "Listen, Joe, this is big corporation shit. You work it out and I’ll keep a shift open for you. Good luck!”


Julian put in a couple of weeks of back and forth arguments, but he wasn’t getting anywhere.

Finally he said, "Joe, they’ll keep stonewalling until you run out of money. You’re never going to be able to match the amount that ABC can put into this fight with all the lawyers it has. There’s only one thing left you can do. We have to use what they want so badly, against them.”

I didn’t know where he was headed so he explained.

"They want you on the air. Let’s take that away from them. Go into Alan’s office and tell him you can’t handle it anymore. The stress of all this is just too much and you need time off, without pay. You can’t do your show, you need a leave of absence.”


Oh man, I never would have thought of doing something like that. It wasn’t my nature. It was sneaky. And it was freakin’ brilliant.

Julian’s advice went against everything my parents had taught me about being responsible and doing a good job. Making the decision even more difficult, we were in the middle of a ratings sweep, the most important time of all, for radio and television stations. If your company comes out number one in the ratings, it means millions of dollars in advertising revenue for the station.

But I had to trust Julian.

Besides, his advice wasn’t far from the truth. I was miserable, stressed out, and felt nearly hopeless. I figured this was the only way off that roller coaster.


So right before my shift, the next day, I did it, I walked into Alan’s office and told him I needed a break. He nearly fell off his chair.

"You can’t leave. We’re in the middle of ratings.”

"I know Alan, I feel awful. But my health is more important.”

"Listen, do your shift today and I’ll talk to you after you get off the air.”

I was as nervous as I have ever been in my life, but I was also determined. This was war. Chew on that, fucking hardball.


After my shift I went into Alan’s office. His boss, Ernie Fears, was there, too.

"Joe, we’re going to let you go to Los Angeles, but first you have to agree to stay with us through the end of the November ratings. Then you can leave.”

I don’t know how I managed to stay so composed but somehow I calmly answered, "That’ll be just fine, Alan. No problem.”

I thanked Alan and Ernie, then called Julian for the biggest thanks of all.

L.A. HERE I COME! I was stoked! My last day on the air was a blast.

I said goodbye to the Q-107 listeners, see ya on the Left Coast! The last song I played on the air in D.C. was "My Life,” by Billy Joel.

Doug Limerick
threw us a going-away party that night. Before we left town, Ann’s parents had all their relatives over for another send-off later in the week.


Early on in our relationship, my in-laws, Audrey and Albert Gudelsky, accepted me as part of their family. Before we met, I’m sure they thought Ann would marry someone who was Jewish, maybe even a nice doctor or a lawyer.

But she fell in love with me, a disc jockey, a Catholic boy, who never went to college. Her parents trusted me and I respected them. Ann’s mom was full of energy and her dad was a wonderful, gentle, soul.

After the party, when we said goodnight, it suddenly hit me, I was taking their baby girl away from them. Moving her to the other side of the country.

My father-in-law was a quiet, soft-spoken man, but I could see he was choked up.

As Ann and I walked to her childhood bedroom where we were spending our last night in Maryland, her dad called out to her, "I love you, baby.”

I can’t tell you how deeply I felt those words. As a parent now, I understand his sadness even more.


The next morning was a bright, new day. We flew up to Connecticut to say goodbye to my family, a little bit easier since I had been living away from home for the past six years.

It was the end of November and we wouldn’t be able to come back east for at least a few months, so we celebrated Christmas and Thanksgiving all in one.

My mom outdid herself and woke up at four in the morning to put the turkey in the oven. We had all my favorite foods including cavatelli and pumpkin pie. She made Ann’s favorite, too, apple pie.

I have never, ever left home without Mom giving me a package of something she made from scratch. Since we were flying out to Los Angeles she didn’t want to give me her sauce. She was afraid the container might leak on the plane. Instead we took a tin of her homemade Christmas cookies with a promise that Mom would send more later.

We said our goodbyes the Saturday after Thanksgiving, then my big brother Hank drove us to New York for our flight to the West Coast.

I had booked two first-class tickets out of JFK Airport on American Airlines, nonstop to Los Angeles International. It was finally happening. We were on our way to L.A.  

See Sneak Peek #3:
Meeting Legendary Don LaFontaine

Joe Cipriano has worked on the air for the Fox, NBC, ABC and CBS TV and Radio networks, achieving success on and off camera. He is the original and best known "Voice” of FOX, has been the signature voice of numerous TV series and hosted many live awards shows including the Grammys and Emmys. His new book, Living On Air, is a humorous and uplifting account of his roller coaster broadcasting and voice-over career - inspiring for voice actors at all career levels.

Pre-Order Living On Air :

Your Daily Resource For Voice-Over Success
Tell Us What YOU Think!
Please Note: Since we check for spam, there will be a slight delay in the actual posting of your comment.
Your Name:
Your Email Address (will not be published):
Your Comment:
Your Comment:
Security code:     
Comments (1)
Julian Tepper
6/22/2014 at 8:24 AM
Representing Joe was a delight. He is a good man.

Julian Tepper
In Brooklyn, For A While
Back to Articles
For essential voice-over business strategies
Get your bi-weekly dose here ... all things VO!
Email alerts to new VoiceOverXtra articles
On Michael Langsner's Voice-Over Roadmap Podcast