Hard to believe that it has been 25 years since my dear friend Mel Blanc passed away at the age of 81 on July 10th, 1989. A quarter of a century since we lost "the man of a thousand voices".
I remember that day well. Mel had been hospitalized since May 19th and there were news reports in recent days that Mel was now in "serious" condition. On the evening of July 9th I spoke on the phone with Mel's wife Estelle....and the news was not good. Estelle told me that Mel had gone deeper into his coma - something that made my heart sink because I had no idea that he was in a coma - and that the doctors were going to try again tomorrow to try to bring him out of it. I offered words of ecouragemet to Estelle as we ended the phone conversation....but I now knew that the end was near.
The following day at work was not easy....every hour I would tune in to the network radio news, expecting to hear confirmation of the inevitable. I prayed throughout themorning and into the afternoon that Mel's health would somehow improve....and then something occurred to me - what if Mel came out of his coma but wasn't Mel any more? It was then that I started to pray for whatever was the best for Mel, knowing full well what that probably meant.
After I got home from work and had dinner I tuned in to CNN's Showbiz Today and about halfway through, I finally allowed myself to relax on the couch....until a few minutes later when I bolted upright as host Bill Tush announced the breaking news that "one of Hollywood's brightest lights has gone out." And right then, the sound went out and there was no graphic up on the screen as Tush continued to speak. It seemed like forever until the sound returned but it did within a few seconds....and it was then that it became clear that Mel had indeed died. After the report was over I immediately called Walt Mitchell, my best friend, to tell him the news of our dear friend's passing.
The rest of the evening is sort of a blur, except for a series of phone calls with friends about Mel....and seeing another CNN story about Mel's death. This report included a clip from the Warner Bros. cartoon Rabbit Seasoning....this is pretty much the clip they showed:
The "Pronoun trouble" line made me laugh and it was then that I realized that Mel would continue to make people laugh long after he was gone....and that was a very consoling thought. I also realized that Mel would not want me or anybody to be sad that he died....he would want us to celebrate his life. That was true then and it's still true now....so the sad part of this post is over.
Mel did so many wonderful things during his career....radio, cartoons, television, records, films and his numerous talks at colleges all over the country. One of my very favorite things was the hilarious "Si-Sy" routine with the great Jack Benny, who could never get through the routine without laughing.
Here's a news story about Mel at his high school class reunion where he talks about some of his famous voices.
Mel loved talking about about the characters and doing their voices....the video above was pretty much what you got if you spoke with him. One rearely had to ask Mel for a voice because if you mentioned a character, it would just naturally roll out of him in the conversation. It was a joy to see little kids come up to Mel to request their favorite voices because when they heard Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck or any other WB characters, their faces lit up like it was Christmas morning....and the look on Mel's face made it clear that he was having the time of his life!
We took many photos of Mel, Estelle and their son Noel over the years and here are just a few of my favorites;
Mel was a dear man and a terrific friend. We still miss him but we have so many wonderful memories of him that he will live forever in our hearts.