Michael Winslow's Ear for Weird Noises Has Had a Sound Effect on His Career

updated 08/13/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/13/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's...a Jimi Hendrix guitar solo? Actually, it's all of these in the person of 23-year-old Michael Winslow. Birdcalls are a cinch for this human mockingbird, but he got his basic training as an Army Air Corps brat in Spokane, Wash. imitating the whine of jets taking off. His first movie was Cheech and Chong's Next Movie, in which he delivered a no-hands version of Jimi Hendrix' famous Purple Haze. His first co-starring part was as Monsignor Larvell Jones, M.D., the cop in Police Academy who quells a riot by making like an M16 into a bullhorn. The Washington Post singled Winslow out as "a one-man comedy sound system."

Winslow is having no trouble making himself heard this summer. He plays a junkie in Alphabet City, will be a track announcer at a demolition derby in the upcoming Grandview, U.S.A. and a warm voice on a high school hot line in Lovelines. "I not only see comedy," says Winslow, "I hear it."

Winslow began demonstrating his vocal versatility at an early age. His mother reports hearing strange sounds in his room, rushing in and discovering they were emanating from Michael's crib. In school, he recalls, "I did sounds to protect myself. But then the kids beat me up to see what sounds would come out." At 18, Winslow set out for Hollywood, where he lived in a car parked near the beach in Venice, ate mayonnaise sandwiches and worked the comedy club circuit. "No success there," he says. "No comic would want to follow my noises." In 1978 he won $500 on The Gong Show, rented his first apartment and shared a bill in Long Beach with the late Count Basie, which led to the Police Academy role. And the rest is buzzes, clicks, funny grinding noises, a brief musical interlude, car crashes and a slow, crinkly fade into static.

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