Inside the small soundproof booth of her home recording studio in Fort Myers, Fla., Randy Thomas sits on a tall stool, dons headphones and, holding a newly faxed script in hand, leans into the microphone on her recording console.
“Now, Entertainment Tonight!” she announces in an exuberant yet assuring voice, before reading the day’s entertainment headlines for the syndicated daily TV show.
Within the hour, Thomas has edited the recording on her home office computer and emailed the audio file to ET’s office in Los Angeles. Later in the day, she’ll repeat the process with breaking entertainment news.
“Every day is a different news day,” Thomas says. “You have to really take it in and bring each read to life.”
While entertainment fans seldom recognize Thomas’ face, their ears naturally perk up when hearing her speak, especially when the veteran announcer assumes the voice she uses to introduce the Academy Awards show, the Super Bowl halftime show and numerous other high-profile events.
As a voice-over artist and live announcer, Thomas is a groundbreaker. In addition to being the voice of TV’s Entertainment Tonight, she is the first woman to announce the Oscars, the Emmys and the Tonys, once voicing all three awards shows in the same year (2003).
“She is the female standard in the industry,” says Entertainment Tonight producer/director Kevin Gershan, 51. “She is to voice-over what Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion are to singing.”
Thomas has voiced live events such as the 2008 Democratic National Convention and the Super Bowl halftime shows this year and in 2010, and recorded Discovery Channel documentaries and the Hooked on Phonics home study series (“Call 1-800-ABCDEFG!”). Even so, the vocal artist says she can barely sing a note.
“I’m tone deaf,” Thomas acknowledges. “For Hooked on Phonics, instead of singing the alphabet song, the director had me rap it.”
Thomas grew up in Miami Beach, Fla., and Detroit, where she first realized her vocal gifts as a teenager while talking on the phone with boys. “They always thought I was older than I was,” she recalls with a laugh.
She moved to New York City to study acting for one year and got her first radio job at campus station WORB while attending Oakland Community College in Farmington Hills, Mich. In 1973, she joined FM-106.7, becoming one of the first female disc jockeys at a major Detroit radio station. Work followed at other stations in New York City, Miami and Los Angeles.
While hosting the morning radio show for L.A.’s 94.7 The Wave, Thomas was invited to audition to announce the Academy Awards show, which she since has voiced seven times.
“When I first got the job for the Oscars in 1993, the producers asked me, ‘How will you feel going live to a billion people?’” Thomas recalls. “I said, ‘I come out of radio. I’m at the top of my game when it’s live.’ That took all the pressure off them.”
Thomas describes her voice as “strong, authoritative, warm and elegant.” To bring to life the words on a page, she works with her clients to understand their messages and brands, and uses her acting training to present her voice accordingly. Since her voice is her primary tool of the trade, she keeps it healthy by avoiding acid-forming foods containing sugar, dairy products and wheat, and by drinking water laced with organic essential oils.
“Before the Oscars in 1997, I gave a throat elixir to Billy Crystal, who was hosting,” Thomas recalls. “He said, ‘Wow! This burns!’ I told him, ‘That means it’s working,’ but I was thinking ‘What have I done?’ Thankfully, he went on and did an amazing show.”
To pass along her experience and knowledge, Thomas has led voice-over workshops and, in 2008, teamed with New York vocal coach Peter Rofé to write Voice for Hire: Launch and Maintain a Lucrative Career in Voice-Overs. She’s also developing America’s Next Voice, a voice-over competition.
Back at home, Arnie Wohl, her husband and manager, peeks in as Thomas works in their shared office before he leaves to pick up their daughter, Rachel, 15, from school. “She’s the most-heard female voice in the world!” Wohl proudly exclaims.
Thomas smiles. Sometimes, even for her, words aren’t necessary.