Don LaFontaine
In this time of sorrow, I want to express my deepest, heartfelt sympathies to the family of one man who meant the world to the voice over community.
Don LaFontaine, husband, father, grandfather, and hero passed away September 1, 2008 in the afternoon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles at the age of 68.

Farewell, Friend

Don LaFontaine was the kind of person who always had the right words for everything, and today, I will do my best to honor him by summoning words that will be of fitting tribute to such a kind, dedicated human being who has breathed his last, leaving behind him a legacy of love, hope, and grace.

Journeying Home

A few short weeks ago, I received an email from Don (August 11, 2008) related to his health and how although he was struggling that he was getting better day by day, an email that was reassuring, humorous and well, simply Don.

After receiving his email, I wrote back and asked if I could interview him for VOX Daily, hoping that if possible he might type his answers and send them back to me electronically, however when he replied on August 18th a little while later, he suggested that although his voice wasn’t as strong as before, “shaky from time to time” as he put it, that he would be happy to speak with me and to arrange it with his agent, Vanessa Gilbert.

This was an honor I dreamt not of. To even think about speaking to Don LaFontaine, that he would make time in his schedule from his sick bed to speak with me, was a gift. I contacted Vanessa and we decided to play the interview by ear around Don’s health and his schedule (he had still been recording for some clients since his illness), but little did we know, or anyone else for that matter, that we’d be losing him so soon.

Don was admitted to the hospital less than a week after he granted my interview request. Although I didn’t get to hear his voice or receive answers to the questions, I know that he read them and was eager to share his answers with me, and with you. Last year I had the opportunity to meet Don. It was a thrilling moment during a momentous occasion. He had a twinkle in his eye and I think for the first time got to be in a room full of hundreds of people, fellow practitioners of his art, who loved and revered him more than words could say.

It was then that pen pals became friends and the measure of the man so beautifully displayed, in his convictions, humility and strength that came from a life well lived, a life of love, passion and devotion.

A Celebration Of Life

Don’s life began in Duluth, Minnesota, born on August 26th, 1940. Once he graduated from high school, he joined the army and was stationed at Fort Meyer, Virginia working as a recording engineer for the United States Army Band and Chorus.

After his discharge from the army, Don entered the world of advertising, working at an agency that produced theatrical trailers (one of the only ones outside of Hollywood studios) where he was employed as a copy writer, coining such immortal phrases as “In a world”, and “A one-man army”, “No where to run, no where to hide and no way out” and many more.
In 1965, a voice talent who was supposed to record failed to show up for his session and it fell upon Don who had a nice voice to take his place, the first of thousands of movie trailers that he would record over his lifetime.

The phrases that he wrote in his agency days changed his calling from the writer who told you about the movies to become the voice who made you want to go to the movies.
He spent a number of years as a head of production for Kaleidoscope Films, Ltd; one of the premiere trailer production houses. In 1976, he started his own production company, Don LaFontaine Associates.

His first assignment as an independent was “The Godfather, Part II.”
In 1978 he was asked to join Paramount Pictures, heading up the trailer department. Over the next three years, he became literally the “Voice” of Paramount. In 1980 he was named Vice President, but he missed being involved in active production.

For 30 years, Don had been a fixture of modern-day entertainment, advertising, and has also been the voice of NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox and UPN, in addition to TNT, TBS and the Cartoon Network recording hundreds of thousands of television and radio spots, including commercials for Chevrolet, Pontiac, Ford, Budweiser, McDonalds, Coke, and many other corporate sponsors.

At last count, he has worked on nearly 5000 films, including appearances as the in-show announcer for the Screen Actors Guild and Academy Awards. Based on contracts signed, he held the distinction of being perhaps the single busiest actor in the history of SAG.

Following The Leader

Achievements were no stranger to Don, but as he would discover, through those accolades he would be recognized as “the king of voice-overs”, and to his deep awe and gratitude, beloved by voice talent of every race, color and creed.
His ability to unite people and speak words that moved them was unprecedented. His voice was so familiar yet so majestic, he had you in the palm of his hand, although he was seldom aware of it.

Over the last month, Don has given of himself, as he freely gave of himself, and his support has meant more to those beneficiaries than he could ever know. Don LaFontaine’s name stands proudly behind a slate of actors called Unite For Strength who want to bring unity to SAG and AFTRA through merger, a cause dear to his heart and to all hearts in this industry. Where these things that meant so much to him are concerned encourage us to let his strength be our strength, and his hope our hope.

May The Lord Bless You And Keep You

If you knew Don, you know that his generosity and exceptional ability to communicate was second only to the size of his heart.
I would like to invite you now to share your thoughts, to grieve or to say a prayer for Don, his wife Nita Whitaker, and his daughters, Christine, Skye, and Elyse that they may be comforted in this time of heartache, a sorrow with depths that only God knows.
In unity and prayer,


  1. Thank you, Stephanie, for such an eloquent tribute to the icon of our industry. As much as he is recognized for his grand sound, he is perhaps the best example of how Voice Over is not defined by pitch and tone so much as by personal style.
    Equally as profound as his pitch was the magnanimity of his generosity. The way he was with you was a beautiful microcosm of the way he lived his life, the way he mentored so many, the way he never stopped giving back.
    “Back in the day,” (not so many days ago!) when schlepping around LA from job to job, bell to bell, morning to eve, was the means by which he had to get that voice to broadcast, he offered open invitations for “ride alongs” that welcomed beginners and working pros and anyone in between to join him side-saddle thru his daily journey.
    He ranked the highest inside the most exclusive club in our business, and yet made himself available to give face, voice and advice to journeymen (and women) in classes trying to learn the craft. He shared key performance tips with the very people wanting to book work in his same zone of the field.
    Don did not live a life of competition but rather one of encouragement and mentorship. And it is that legacy of giving back that is the true sound that will ring in our souls and memory of him for a long, long time.
    Thank you Don, and thank you Steph for sharing all that you do in a generous spirit that is so very much in the tradition of what Don was all about.
    –Nancy Wolfson

  2. Dear Stephanie,
    Thank you for sharing this tribute. My condolences and prayers go out to Nita and the family. May you have a peace which passes all understanding at this difficult time.
    – Ralph

  3. My condolences to Don’s family and friends. I never had the pleasure of knowing Don, but learned a lot from those he knew and anticipated that one day I would have the honor and pleasure to meet him.
    This industry has grown largely in part because of Don LaFontaine. Many talents were inspired by him and his voice. He gave freely to the Voice Community with insight, advice and support. This is a tremendous loss…

  4. The Advertising & VO community has lost a hero and a gentleman. If there is a God in Heaven, He is surely considering letting Don handle His trailers now….Rest in peace, Don.
    I am sorry I never got to meet him in person. He was a great inspiration. Don will not go quietly into the night but resonate for years to come. Peace and love to his family.
    With deepest sympathy,
    Jenn Thayer

  5. Don LaFontaine was the real deal. He reached out to people in the industry that were up and coming and always gave back without an air of any kind. He was reachable and always tried to help when he could.
    The voice over industry will never be the same without him.
    But, heaven’s movie theaters will sound much better now!
    My sincere condolences to his wife and children.

  6. A legend is gone. Thank you Stephanie for posting this tribute to a man who was not only the best in our craft, but one who shared his experience and wisdom with others. He has touched and helped so many of us. Though I did not have the pleasure of meeting him in person, he took the time in his busy schedule to give advice and words of encouragement to me and others via email and I will treasure them forever. Please pray for his family.
    —Richard Willis

  7. Our world has a big empty space in in right now. Don will truly be missed. He has always been an idol to me and to many others I’m sure. He just seemed so genuine – and that’s hard to fake. In the countless interview clips and other videos that we can see Don on, he always seemed to be excited about his work. I think that is part of why he captivated us in all that he did.
    I wish that I had the opportunity to meet him before his passing to thank him for all that he has given our community. I know that I will pull up some clips of Don every now and then for inspiration.
    Stephanie…thanks for your tribute to Don here, nice job!
    Don… we’ll miss you.
    Tom Conklin

  8. Beautifully written, thank you for sharing. I am very new to the industry and have much to learn but with icons such as Don LaFontaine, it is clear what an enjoyable and supportive industry it is. Condolences to friends and family for this tragic loss. May Don’s legend live forever.

  9. My prayers go out to the family. We all know how difficult it can be to lose someone close to you. And as a voice over artist myself, Mr. Lafontaine is definitely someone you could look up to and aspire towards. He is now and always will be seen as a legend. Thank you Mr. Lafontaine for all that you’ve done for this profession.
    Cyril Smith

  10. Thank you for that wonderful tribute, Stephanie. I’ve never met the man myself, but I’ve only heard wonderful things about his generosity, his humor and his boundless talent. My heart goes out to his family and friends. He will be greatly missed.

  11. Thank you Stephanie for these beautiful words.
    I am very sad that we have lost such a legend, who was also a kind and funny man.
    It’s a great loss.
    My heart goes to his family. May he rest in peace.

  12. I was so shocked to hear the news on the radio last night. I recently read that he was sick, but was getting better. It’s hard to believe that great, powerful voice has been silenced. He was simply the best. As I type this, I just heard him on the TV here in my office. I guess that means that although he has departed, we will hear him for quite some time to come… Rest in peace, Don.
    Chet Kelley

  13. Thank you Stephanie for this heartfelt tribute. Don LaFontaine was our “Rock Star”, an amazing human being, and the epitome of “voiceover community”. I am so grateful to have met him last year, too. We have lost a treasured member of our voice over family. My condolences to Nita and his children.
    All The Best,
    Bobbin Beam

  14. This must have been as tough an article for you to write as it is for most of us to read who had not yet heard the news.
    Whether male or female, he inspired many of us to launch our voice-over careers, to revisit our careers with renewed enthusiasm and vigor, and to pursue excellence within our careers while having loads of fun along the way.
    The Grand Maven in our trade as well as one of its pioneers, he brought intrigue, passion and substance to any copy in his hand. Even if we knew not his name, we knew his voice.
    We thank you Stephanie for your heartfelt tribute.
    We thank you Don for inspiring millions with the spoken word.
    –Matt Clark

  15. My heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to Don’s family. It was an honor to have known him and a pleasure to have recorded that wonderful voice. He will be deeply missed.
    Allen Roth-retired
    Outlaw Sound

  16. To Nita, Paul and all of Don’s wonderful family,
    I have no words that can possibly comfort you in your loss, except to say “we are with you in grief, in prayers and here for you in any way we can”.
    “Stunned” is the only word to describe this news.
    I am grieving, as if one of my own family has left us. And indeed that is true.
    My deepest regards and sympathy to you all.
    DC Goode
    In Memoriam:
    Don was one (of a few) that inspired me to come back to voice work after a long hiatus and continued to inspire thru my re-building process. Thank you Don.
    I heard him say that he did not like being referred to as “The voice of God”. That humility (one of his many trademarks) is why he was such a true success in this life and will be in the next.
    Until we meet again Don; “we will miss you” is an incredible understatement.

  17. I am new to the voice over community. I have heard others speak of Don with such admiration and respect. I was looking forward to meeting him at a scheduled V.O. workshop in November. I was excited to meet the man behind that voice. My best to his family.

  18. Thank you for sharing those beautiful words and thoughts with us, Stephanie. Don is the king! I wish I’d had a chance to meet him, but my joyous moment came when Mr. LaFontaine accepted my networking request through a voiceover forum.
    I light a candle to Don, and send love and blessings to his spirit, his family and his colleagues.
    Bless…and rest in peace…..

  19. Don was one of the nicest celebrities I ever interviewed. I do a Internet Radio show with a small audience of around 50k listeners a month. I loved Don’s work so I emailed him one day asking for a interview and truth be told never expecting to hear back from him. With in two hours he got back to me and said he would love to do the interview, I was blown away. RIP Don
    Brent Bradley
    Interview –

  20. So very sad to hear the news of Don’s passing. He was an inspiration to me and many others. My thoughts and prayers go out to Nita and the kids and all those who knew him as a friend or worked with him. Don will be missed….

  21. I had the opportunity to meet Don back in 1996 when he contracted me to build his limousine.
    Don was gracious, kind, funny and even invited me to his house the night the limousine was completed and delivered.
    My deepest condolences go out to the entire family. You will be missed.
    /Michael A Trusio

  22. Nita- My thoughts and prayers are with you and the children. I read the sad news of Don’s passing here in Buenos Aires. I will remember Don as someone who always had a kind word for me and a gruff “shut up!” for Jack and Duchess yapping in the kitchen (followed by a gentle touch to both of them). May you find peace and strength in the days and weeks to come. Ed Pope

  23. Stephanie,
    What you wrote above was simply beautiful.
    Even though I’ve had a day for this news to sink in and I’ve written my sympathies in a number of online vo communities today, it pains me every time I think about it. I am so sorrowful for his family and friends. He will be so missed in our community as well.
    Caryn Clark

  24. Stephanie-
    I’m sure I speak for all who read your touching account of Mr. LaFontaine’s passing when I say thank you so much for your beautiful words for a beautiful man who inspired and continues to inspire a world of voice over talents.
    My thoughts and condolences go out to his family.
    Ed Mace

  25. Don was the reason I got into voiceover. The last email I wrote to him was back on August 11 to ask how he was feeling and to tell him get well. In his reply, he was as usual, nothing but class and grace, but you could tell he had to keep it short. I will miss my idol and my mentor. The voiceover world just got a little quieter today. May God be with you Don and watch over Nita and the girls. Rest peacefully my friend.
    With a very heavy heart,
    Robert Page

  26. Stephanie,
    Thank you for the lovely and loving tribute to the gigantic talent that was Don LaFontaine. But, as you note, as great as he was as a voice actor, he was by all accounts an even greater human being. My prayers today and in the days to come are and will continue to be focused on Nita and the children that they might experience the “peace that passes understanding” during this time of great grief.
    Be well,

  27. Wow, Stephanie, what a profound and heartfelt tribute to your personal hero (and the idol of many of us here now). I wish I could’ve met Don – the closest I came was wishing him well through this very blog comment box. Thanks for bringing us a piece of the Don and making us feel all that much closer to the superstar that was Don La Fontaine.
    -Elie Hirschman

  28. I have been in total shock over the passing of the greatest vo talent ever! I have learned more from listening to his work over the years than from any other source. His incredible diction, his ability to cut through the soundtrack behind him and still command the audio was amazing!! Ironically, I was just enjoying his web-site when I heard the sad news. Our industry has suffered a great loss!
    I can tell you… my microphone is at half stand in his honor. :(((
    Bob Marini

  29. Dearest Family,
    Don and Anita were my friends, although I had not seen them in quite awhile, I thought of them often. I had the pleasure of helping them bring their second daughter Elyse into the world, seems like just yesterday when time flies so very fast. One thing for sure was his love and devotion to his lovely wife and his children. There was no greater love. So I will say goodbye to a friend but I will always find joy that I was included in his life and his memory will always live on in the lives he touched rest in Peace Dear Friend, Rest in Peace.
    Rev. Dr. Peggie Roach Spiritual Holistic Health

  30. Don raised the bar for us less successful practitioners of the voice over art. At the same time his interviews and comments made us all believe it was attainable. I’ll bet most of us wanted to be like Don. He’ll be missed terribly, and I’m sad to say that some of the “chill factor” will be gone from Movie Trailers forever.
    My condolences to his family and friends!

  31. Ironic that his first trailer as an independent was Godfather Part II; to most Voice actors, he WAS ‘The Don’.
    God finally needed his voice back, and we are the poorer for it. Our industry won’t see his like again. He showed us how to do it right; with class, humor, dignity, and humility.
    Farewell, Don.

  32. Stephanie…. I’ve been reading a lot about the life of Don LaFontaine recently and the tribute you’ve written will be un-surpassed. Exceptionally written; Thank you.
    I’m sorry to say that I’ve never met Don but my first impression of him and his AMAZING voice was on an interview with one of those news programs on NBC about 10-15 years ago. For some reason I can remember that segment like it was yesterday; the tease going into commercials was: “you know this man….meet him, when we come back” (or something along those lines). The scene was that of a middle-aged man sitting on a stool reading a piece of paper. When they came out of spots…showing this man…still sitting on the stool….that’s when they started the audio clips. AMAZING. The interviewer said: “Meet Don LaFontaine”; and they kept rolling the audio clips. Then they went into the interview. I was nailed, screwed AND glued to the chair.
    I suppose a lot of us have their own little story..but I gotta tell ya; if I can achieve 1/100th of what Don did, I’d be a happy man.
    Thank you, Don.
    May the road rise up to meet you. The silence is deafening.

  33. There has been a dark cloud over all the VO talent coming thru our studios this week. Every single voice artist I know has been effected by Don’s passing. Lots of wonderful stories and heart felt condolences. I had the pleasure of knowing & working with Don over the last 25 years and only when another dear friend, Steve Susskind, passed and Don gave the eulogy have I been as saddened. Don was a great talent but more importantly a great human being. Thank you for being you… the world has lost a special talent and man. I wish we could do just one more take.

  34. To Nita & family:
    A man is remembered by the deeds done on earth. And though those deeds done on earth, are the “seeds” one must account for on Judgement Day. God will openly welcome Don, with the most important Voice Over in Life, and that is—-“Well done, Good and Faithful Soldier”

  35. The silence from the vacuum created by the loss of this giant is deafening. Your article is the first I had seen, as we all sat around in stunned amazement.
    Several days ago, I saw a very short piece written by Don warning us to take care of our instrument. I was touched and still could not comprehend that he might leave us.
    We are very small players in the whole universe of Voice Talent, but someone will take up the torch and go beyond where Don showed us was possible to reach….
    We are saddened by his passing, exhilarated to be part of this industry and warmed by his gentle wit and humor.
    In a world…without Don, well it’s just a little quieter and a little sadder but better somehow because he was here.

  36. Stephanie,
    I really didn’t know him, and don’t know if somehow I’m related but your eulogy of him was impressive.
    It’s nice that folks do things like that for those who have passed. It makes their lives memorable that he touched people spiritually, so a little bit of him lives on in them.
    Sincerely yours,
    Robert Fontaine

  37. In a world where everyone wears hula skirts, Aloha shirts and lives in grass shacks, I was able to work with Don – just one time in my 15 or so years as a producer in Hawaii. He came in to our studio at the behest of Universal Studios (or one of those big movie guys) to do an ISDN hook-up for a movie trailer they needed “yesterday”.
    To see him for the first time was a shock. I don’t know why, but somehow I’ve found that voice people rarely “look” like their voice – or at least the picture you have in your mind of what they SHOULD look like.
    Anyway, he was in the studio for all of about 20 minutes – including set up time, and BS time – with us and with the studio on the phone – and when it was all over, the guy at Universal Studios said “Thanks a lot, Don – we’re really sorry to have to ask you to interrupt your Hawaii vacation to do this, but it had to be done.”
    To which Don answered “Hey! I understand, no problem. . . besides, you guys just PAID for my Hawaii vacation!”
    In a world without Don La Fontaine – we are all the poorer. . .


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