RECORD CRACK: The loss of Connie Zimet, the voice of “The Sensuous Woman”

A few hours before 2012 comes rolling in, I decided to clear out some of my old e-mails, and came across an e-mail from one Connie Zimet. In the mid-00’s, I contacted this legendary voice-over artist for a possible interview, as I had wanted to interview her about her work on a record most people were not aware that she did. I hadn’t heard from her, then as I was clearing my e-mails out in 2007, I wrote to her again. One thing you do not want to do is bombard people with your requests, but I figured it was two years, I was okay. She wrote back, and said “don’t know if you’re going to send those questions but am going in for surgery tomorrow and will be out of commission for two weeks.” I resent my questions, and waited. No response, but that was fine.

Her e-mail was out of sight but never out of mind. I did a search for her, as I was aware that she used to have a website for potential clients (that’s how I initially contacted her) but discovered that she died from ALS two years ago.

It was an interview I hoped to have because as a record collector, the album she appeared on was always of interest, and I figured why not go to the source. The album in question was The Way To Become The Sensuous Woman, released on 1971 on Atlanic Records (SD 7209). The record was meant to be a partial audio interpretation of the 1979 book by Joan Garrity, who credited herself simply as “J“. The book become a phenomenon, as it was “the first how-to book for the female who yearns to be all woman” and for years, no one knew who “J” was. While the album may suggest that the album was verbalized by “J”, the album credits showed that the female voice was by one “Connie Z.” It was revealed later that this Connie Z. was indeed Connie Zimet, whose voice was not only used by countless companies and advertising agencies, but was used for a number of animated features, far more than what IMDB currently lists.

While I did not get a full interview from Zimet, we did exchange a few e-mails in 2005 where she touched on some of the memories she still had from that project, which she clearly remembered. For one, anything odd and peculiar about the great world of vinyl was of interest to me, and Atlantic Records were not a label know for their sex records. This was clearly a sex record, released at a time when pop culture were shocked about free love and unique ways of having relationships, so I wanted to touch on that too.

Zimet stated that similar to radio and television commercials, this was nothing more than a new job/task to do, part of the job. While the recording on record was just under 45 minutes, the full recording session probably had taken 90 minutes for her to do. The two sides of the album may have sounded seamless, but any coughing, hesitations in the script, or any gaps in silence were of course edited out during post-production. I had asked if she knew anything about the music that can be heard in the background on the album, but she knew nothing about it, or at least it wasn’t as if a man or woman playing a Moog was in the studio as she spoke her lines. It was just her and the engineer. (NOTE: As for the musician who was on the Moog, that was Tony Camillo, who would have big success when he played on and produced Gladys Knight & The Pips‘s “Midnight Train To Georgia“, her only #1 song. Camillo would have a novelty hit with the song “Dynomite“, a take-off of the catchphrase comedian/actor Jimmy Walker made famous on the CBS television show Good Times. “Dynomite” was credited as Tony Camillo’s Bazuka, and was his only hit song as Bazuka.)

Zimet did reveal one secret that most people may not be aware of. Most of her close friends and associates were fully aware she was the “Connie Z” on the album, kind of a “no brainer” thing. The reason it had been somewhat of a secret was that in order for her to maintain voice-over work, she did not want to present her resume and show that she did work on an “audio sex book”, which might delight free thinkers but not an advertising agency selling something to a specific clientele. The secret was not that, but the fact that when the album was released, her voice is heard at a higher pitch. The reason is because the producer of the album wanted “The Sensuous Woman” to sound more youthful and vibrant. Zimet was an ancient 30 when these recording sessions happened, and it wasn’t so much her age that was a factor, but that her natural and “work” voice was slightly lower. Apparently she said it was like “a Brenda Vacarro voice”, and having that voice promote sensuality in 1971 was equal to a grandmother offering phone sex. Keep in mind that the album featured no photographs whatsoever, so no one knew what Connie Zimet looked like. Hearing the record without a visual aid was meant to stimulate the mind, and whatever you did while hearing the record, that was your private ordeal. Even though she was using nothing but her voice, it was treated like a commercial in that advertising agencies say youthfulness sells, and the perception of being/sounding older would mean losing your sales potential. The idea of a woman 30 years or older participating in a project like this would not be an issue in 2012, in fact it would be a major selling point, but back then it was a risk. Regardless, the album worked although it was the first and last time Atlantic Records released a sex record.

What I also wanted to know about The Way To Become The Sensuous Woman album were things Zimet probably did not know about, and that was the technical side of the record itself. Atlantic Records had just started a relationship with Warner Bros. Records, which would lead to the creation of WEA (later Warner Music Group). Out of the many records Atlantic had did up until that point, why did they choose to take a risk with a sex record? Sex records (or “stag records”) were common, but they were not found in the record section of your local Sears, JCPenney, or Woolworth’s. Daring record stores would sell them, but they were sold behind the counter, away from public view, not unlike some comedy records with “adult” content. Other places you would be able to find The Way To Become The Sensuous Woman: adult sex shops and head shops. If you wanted to buy some rolling paper or a new bong, you could bring The Sensuous Woman back home with you.

Atlantic had officially become a major label with their union with Warner Bros., so did they expect for this to sell? Was this done merely as a means to cash-in on the sexual revolution of the early 1970’s?

Another thing I had wanted to ask. Being a record collector, I looked at the catalog number. The Way To Become The Sensuous Woman was Atlantic SD 7209. I know this was released in 1971, and I was aware that one of the biggest albums on Atlantic was also released that year. I had taken a look and… Led Zeppelin‘s untitled 4th album had a catalog number of SD 7208. Significance? None, other than one followed the other in Atlantic’s catalog, which lead me to wonder: for daring record stores in larger cities, would you enter and see both LZ’s 4th album and The Way To Become The Sensuous Woman next to one another? If so, did LZ fans also pick up this audio sex guide? Or after playing The Sensuous Woman, did people slap on LZ’s 4th and get more energetic, hot, steamy, passionate, or go “oh man, this “Evermore” song just made me go flaccid”? Regardless, by having similar catalog numbers, this would mean that the release date for The Way To Become The Sensuous Woman was November 7, 1971, give or take a week.

While Zimet would not record other projects like this, the album would help spawn a number of audio knockoffs by others, including The Sensuous Black Woman and The Sensuous Black Woman meets The Sensuous Black Man. Both were Rudy Ray Moore projects, with the latter album reissued under the title The Rudy Ray Moore Zodiac Album.

I had wanted to find out any more information about The Way To Become The Sensuous Woman album, but also to talk about her experiences in radio, television, and advertising, as “the magic of the airwaves” has always been of interest to be, but I did not get the chance. Nonetheless, her voice-work continues to be an inspiration for those who wanted to or have followed in her footsteps as a voice-over artist/on-air announcer.