Thursday, August 24, 2000

Maynard's voice is on zoo's endangered list




By JIM KNIPPENBERG
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        He's gone but he's still here, that Thane Maynard, even though he resigned from the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden seven months ago..

        Actually, he's here only in spirit. Or voice.

        Seems callers to the zoo's general number still get his voice reading off the options menu, giving hours, telling you to hit your party's four-digit extension.

        People wandering the grounds still get his voice on the PA system — welcome to the zoo, visit our gift shop, that kind of thing.

        Heaven knows, it's a plenty familiar voice, thanks to his 22 years at the zoo, his nationally syndicated 90-Second Naturalist radio spot,and his frequent guest spots with Conan O'Brien.

        So it means we have him here forever, right?

        Wrong, says zoo spokeswoman Barb Rish. “We're using him the rest of this year, but it's going to change. I assume early next year.” At this point, no one's sure whose voice it will be.

        Meanwhile, Maynard, it develops, will be back in town soon, along with Joan Embry and a batch of other zoo stars. They will speak at the American Zoo and Aquarium Docents international conference, a little deal that will bring close to 700 zoo types to town Oct. 11-15.

        Tableside: Herewith a salute to an icon — Betty Rogers and her 75th birthday today.As icons go, they don't come any more icony. Or have a more complete collection of garters.

        Rogers, see, is the lunchtime hostess at the Syndicate. Before that, she was at DiJohn. Before that, 19 years at the Conservatory, where she placed a million butts in a million seats.

        Through it all, she's been equipped with her claims to fame:

        • A raucous, sometimes bawdy sense of humor, including all the latest jokes. It's not unusual to see diners at the hostess' station 10 minutes after paying out, frequently doubled over, and not from the food.

        • Waaaaay frilly satin and lace garters in vivid colors, worn daily, somewhat above the knee and always flashed at gentlemen diners.

        So anyway, the Syndicate is throwing her a party today, 2 p.m. to whenever, complete with Mickey Esposito (her favorite lounge act) cake, punch and an open invitation to anyone who wants to stop by.

        Elvis in sweats: We're going to need a “welcome home” here. Send it to Bruce Wilburn's Elvis tribute, fresh back from three shows in Memphis, including one commemorating the Elvi's death.

        This is how you know he was good: He's already been invited back next year — after appearing there for the past 10 or so.

        Wilburn isn't exactly an imitator — he does a tribute, dressed in early Elvis jeans, T-shirt and leather jacket, as opposed to the size 200 jumpsuits so many others wear. But he does sing Elvis songs in a right fine Elvis voice.

        Oh, and sweats. Two of Wilburn's shows were outdoors at Graceland Crossing (a shopping center themed to all things Elvis) with a heat index topping 100`. Which is why he's praying for a cold wave in August 2001.

        Knip's Eye View appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Have an item to report? Call Jim Knippenberg at 768-8513; fax: 768-8330.

        KNIPPENBERG ARCHIVE