LANSING NATIVE AND VOICEOVER VIRTUOSO PLAYS GOD IN CHICAGO FILM 'DIMENSION'
BY JEFF BELL
From Life cereal ("It's the cereal Mikey likes") to Raid pest control ("Kills bugs
dead"), you've been buying what Harlan Hogan's been selling for 35 years.
Now this veteran of commercial voice-overs is asking you to buy him as the face
and voice of the man upstairs.
In the locally shot independent film "Dimension" (released Sept. 18 on DVD), the
60-year-old North Barrington actor plays Ivan Crete, a seemingly divine entity who
grants a qualified wish to the residents of a Chicago neighborhood: They can change
exactly three inches
The premise of the unrated project, which marks the big-screen debut of Chicago
restaurateur-turned-auteur Matthew Scott Harris, sounds risque.
But Hogan insists -- in the crisp, avuncular intonations that have made him a disembodied
staple of TV spots, documentaries and video games -- that this urban fairy tale
has its mind somewhere other than the gutter.
"It's a very gentle movie," he says.
"It has a really intriguing idea: If you changed one little thing, then everything
"They're all given this opportunity. Some use it wisely, and some use it foolishly.
I find that fascinating, because I've found that in life -- one little comment,
one little question, and the world goes spinning off."
That happened to Hogan more than 40 years ago, when the Lansing, Ill., native and
1964 graduate of Thornton Fractional South High School was a freshman at Eureka
College. His roommate mentioned he knew a disc jockey at a local radio station.
Already active in stage productions (Hogan later would earn a bachelor's in
fine arts in theater from Illinois Wesleyan University), he expressed an interest
in meeting the DJ.
"All of a sudden, I was doing theater AND radio," he says, "and (that) eventually
led to voiceover work."
Starting small with corporate videos, he tried commercials in the early 1970s just
as the era of the outsized announcer was ending.
"I came in with a 25-year-old voice, and people on the air all had big, deep, mellifluous
voices," he recalls.
"(But) things had shifted. The boomers were starting to buy stuff, and they wanted
somebody who sounded not like an announcer, (but) like somebody who might live next
door. So it was wonderful timing, and a lot of dumb luck."
He's perhaps best known for his iconic Life cereal ad, which he recorded without
ever seeing footage of the finicky Mikey. In the 1980s, he became the second voice
of Raid (a woman replaced him in the '90s). He also voiced the "Because that little itch could be telling you something" for Head & Shoulders dandruff shampoo.
Hogan perhaps is most fond of his work for PBS ("This program is made possible by
contributions ..."), which he recorded a few years back. Recent gigs include spots
for Ford and Cracker Barrel.
Even as he's solidified his status as the Midwest's go-to golden-throat, he's diversified,
authoring two successful voiceover guides and a related DVD.
But spending so many hours in his
home studio, where he records 98 percent of his
work, makes this married father of two yearn for the collaborative rush of film
(his most widely seen role has been as a game show host in the 1981 drama "Four
Friends," from "Bonnie and Clyde" director Arthur Penn).
Hogan was reminded of the rewards of on-camera emoting when he joined a film-festival
audience for a screening of "Dimension."
"It was fascinating to sit there -- you could just tell that group of people was
really involved with this story. What a kick for a guy who spends most of his time
standing in a booth!"
In playing God, Hogan's apparently found his own private heaven.