September 1st, 2009 marks the first anniversary of Don LaFontaine’s passing.
To commemorate this day, I’d like to reflect on what has happened over the course of this year and also share some wonderful news about a project that is being worked on in his honor.
DLF, you are missed!
What a Career, What a Man, What a Privilege
If you are a voice actor, a moviegoer, or someone who watches programming on TV, at some point in your life (unless you were born yesterday), you’ve been engaged by one of the finest voice over artists the world has ever known.
For our industry, Don LaFontaine was the one man who embodied voice over, a giant among us, with iconic status that because of his humility, he struggled to grasp. His voice, and more importantly, how he used it, changed the way that people interact with the unseen narrator.
Don LaFontaine’s legacy is vast and touches hundreds of thousands, especially the working voice actor and rank in file.
When he died last year, I wrote a tribute to Don LaFontaine, but today we celebrate his life and his legacy.
There was an enormous outpouring of community grief that brought the industry closer together.
“I met Don a few years ago at a voice workshop in Vancouver, Canada. I was in way over my head in a room with the city’s top working pros. I’m in over my head just contributing this memory! I was nervous and choking all over the place standing at a mic with THE MAN sitting behind several panes of glass and hanging on every nuance of sound that came out of my shaking larynx. After a laying a quick ‘What was that?’ glare at me, he realized in a second that I was new and nervous. At that moment he became so kind, helpful, and encouraging. I had a feeling like: If this man says I can do this stuff, then I can! He made me feel like a million bucks! More importantly, when he spoke of his family, it was clear that there was so much love in his heart for them. A really nifty, funny, generous, loving dude! It was indeed a privilege Sir.”
— Sean Sullivan
“When I walked into the room to be introduced to Don at VOICE 2007, I extended my hand to him for a handshake. He smiled at me, held out his arms, shook his head and then gave me a big bear hug instead! It was at that moment I truly felt for the first time his generous and loving spirit. He was highly successful – but he was still “one of us.” I will always remember that moment. He was also extremely gracious after we interviewed him on stage and he took extra time out of his tight schedule to speak to each and every person in the audience and pose for a photo with them. He didn’t have to do that – but he did it because he really wanted to. He was an incredible human being and I (like so many others) will always miss him….”
— Penny Abshire
“I remember that huge line of VO talent waiting to see Don at VOICE 2007 and how gracious he was, talking with everyone and giving everyone his full attention before the picture and handshake. When it was my turn… first I thanked him for all he’s done and said that he was the tip of the spear – if VO was an army, he was the four star general – blazing the path for the rest of us in this industry he helped define. I said ‘You’re the four star general – I’m a staff sergeant, I will never move to NYC or LA, but I’m able to make my living, raise my kids and pay my mortgage doing voice work… where I want to live – in New Hampshire!’ After we had our picture taken I started to walk away – I heard from behind me ‘Hey, SARGE!’ I turned around, to see Don LaFontaine saluting me – ‘Keep up the good work, you’re doing great!’ he said and smiled, then turned his attention to the next VO in line. Thinking of that moment gives me a lift every time. What a genuine, amazing and real guy he was. What a great memory he gave me that day. Thanks for letting me share.”
— Moe Egan
“Don LaFontaine was one of the most charismatic individuals, that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. He took the time to meet every last one of us, at Voice 2007. I keep our picture on my studio monitor as inspiration. I remember getting the email that Don was in the hospital. I thought, no worries it’s Don LaFontaine! He’ll be fine, he is an immortal legend! I don’t think any of us realized what Don was up against. I remember the day Don passed away. I had just finished playing baseball, and we were at the bar having wings and beer. The email came to my phone, and I was in disbelief! It felt like I had lost a family member. I excused myself from the male bonding feast and went home to share the sad news with my family. I have since become friends with one of Don’s close friends, Mr. Don Morrow. In between training and recording at Don’s studio, he shared stories of the two of them and the history they had. Don also gave me a picture of the two of them that I will cherish forever.”
— Shawn Maroney
Don the Crusader
Don LaFontaine championed many endeavors over the years including taking the first step to validate voice talent working from home recording studios instead of unnecessary travel and was also a political figure in the sense that he was a proud union member and put his backing behind Unite 4 Strength in support of a merger unifying the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
Don was giving of his time, expertise, and also was very generous with his friendship, extending himself through social networks such as Facebook and Voiceover Universe. He gave freely of himself which was one of his most endearing qualities.
In March of this year, Don was posthumously awarded an AMEE award by AFTRA, at the AFTRA Media and Entertainment Excellence Awards.
In early summer, an award was named in honor of Don at the Promax|BDA Awards called the Don LaFontaine Legacy Award.
Just recently, the SAG Foundation (Screen Actors Guild) announced that there would be a Don LaFontaine Lab built in his honor.
The Don LaFontaine Voice Over Lab
The Don LaFontaine Voice Over Lab at the SAG Foundation Actors Center will provide voice actors with two working state of the art recording studios plus a classroom and learning center for voice over workshops and seminars. This center will carry on Don’s legacy of giving back, inspiring and encouraging new talent for years to come.
On Wednesday of this week, I will attend a fundraiser for the DLF Lab hosted by Ann and Joe Cipriano at their home and I hope to see some of you there! While I am in Los Angeles, I’ll be taking notes and hopefully some pictures to share with you with respect to this particular event.
If you would like to make a donation to the Don LaFontaine Lab, you can do so here:
How Has Don LaFontaine Affected You?
I look forward to reading more of your stories!
P.S. If you are reading this in your email and want to see what others have said in the comments, or for that matter, comment too, click here to get to the article online.