If enough Americans believe what Lary Lewman tells them this year, Jimmy Carter will enjoy another term as president. Because it's Lary Lewman (yes, that's the way he spells his first name) who tells Americans at the end of the president's campaign commercials that Jimmy Carter is "a solid man in a sensitive job," a phrase that might just as well describe Lewman.
As a professional "voice," Lewman must be solid -- no "uhs" or mispronunciations allowed -- as well as sensitive. "You can ask him for a little more pathos or drama," says a film editor who works regularly with Lewman, "or ask him to do something in 45 seconds or 53 seconds. He's easy to direct, and he's the hottest voice around."
Last year political ad man and filmmaker Bob Squier introduced Lewman to Gerald Rafshoon, who signed Lewman onto the Carter team.
"His voice probably has the most brains behind it," says Squier, who uses Lewman in some of his commercials, including Birch Bayh's reelection spots. "When you hear him talking, you can hear a voice thinking."
The right voice in a commercial, political or otherwise, is crucial to getting voters to listen to and like the message, but the subject of all this flattery simply describes his voice this way: "a middle-range baritone." And Lewman, 43, says he's as surprised as anyone that he earns a six-figure income narrating campaign spots, industrial and government films, as well as radio and TV commercials.
"I love the anonymity," says Lewman, who shuttles between jobs in Baltimore and Washington from his home in Maryland's Howard County. "I truly don't aspire to be famous -- I expect to die in the Maryland hills."
In 1959 he and his wife left acting school in Indiana to host a morning TV talk show in Baltimore called "What's New With the Lewmans." They were 22. Since then, the Lewmans have acted in area dinner theaters, hosted other TV shows and reared two children. He became so successful as an on-camera actor as well as a professional voice that he gave up the former to allow himself more free time. In the spring he recites poetry (people can rrequest any of 52 poems) in a downtown Baltimore plaza, his way of showing appreciation to the town that launched his career.
Lewman says his mellifluous voice that radiates sincerity is simply "an accident." But for some people, such as the president of the United States, it may have been a very happy accident.