Friends Remember How The 'King Of Voice Overs'
Don LaFontaine Shaped Their Lives And Careers
August 17, 2012
On Aug. 25, 2012 in Chicago, That's Voiceover - the elegant annual voice over training and networking event - will honor the late voice over legend Don LaFontaine in a special tribute featuring inspired moments from his life and legacy. Below, in advance of that event, are memories of how Don helped shape lives and voice over careers. (For special $110 discount ticket to That's Voiceover, click here and enter promo code: VOXTRA.)
By John Florian
You know about Don LaFontaine, certainly the most well-known of all voice actors - the King of Voice Overs - who passed away in 2008. Yet for all his royal talent, this king was about his followers, friends and colleagues.
My brief encounter with Don was at VOICE 2007 - an industry conference in Las Vegas, where he met voice actors in a receiving line. We shook hands, exchanged smiles, and I told him of my plan to launch VoiceOverXtra - a news and training website for voice actors. He liked the idea, encouraged me to do it, and suggested I stay in touch. Wow. I felt empowered and much more confident.
And this is typical of how Don affected friends and colleagues.
In advance of a special tribute to Don at That's VoiceOver, the high-energy voice over education and networking event in Chicago on Aug. 25, VoiceOverXtra invited several of Don's friends to share their memories of how he affected their lives and careers.
You are invited to share your thoughts and memories, too, as a COMMENT to this article.PAUL PAPE:
'Keep Giving ... Work Hard'
I've been asked this question quite a bit since Don died, and there is always one answer that comes to mind for each of those categories. Here's what I personally feel Don taught me:
Life. When you think you have nothing left to give, keep giving. It will come back to you and in ways you could never imagine.
Voice Overs. Talent is not everything. It's what you do with your voice that counts. If you can get that and are willing to work hard, there's room for everyone in this business.
'Find Your Voice'
Don always said in interviews and to voice over hopefuls, "Find your voice."
My personal experience with this concept goes back to 2005. Don and I were in New York City in June of that year for a Secrets of Voice Over Success seminar and it was a particularly difficult time for me, professionally. I had just found out that I was dropped by a very big client, which resulted in the sudden loss of nearly half of my income.
It was depressing and a very uncertain time.
Don knew how I was feeling and he called me on my cell to invite me up to his hotel room for a chat before the seminar that night.
He had a beautiful suite at the Michelangelo Hotel and he met me at the door with a big bear hug. He knew how down I was about recent events, and upon taking a seat in the living room, he said, "Joey, don't worry about this. You're too good to not work."
I didn't share the same enthusiasm for my situation. In fact, I said to him that it crossed my mind that the ride may be over, styles change and all that.
He simply said, "Find your voice."
He went on to point out that the voice in which I was speaking to him at the moment in his hotel room was vastly different from the high-energy comedy performance I was known for at Fox, CBS, and so many other networks and shows.
He told me to explore that voice.
Well, I did that when I got back to Los Angeles and found out that NBC was looking for a new Drama promo voice. I had never done dramas or tapped in to that lower register in my voice before because I relied on the tried-and-true comedy sound.
So I went about creating a new demo using my lower register on a series of drama promos. And when I was done and played it for friends and my agents, no one could have guessed it was me.
But it was me, truly me, just a different version of me - a different attitude, a different voice.
I ended up getting the NBC gig off of that demo, and voiced the promos for all of their dramas until 2007.
This opened up new opportunities for me - and funny enough, a few years, later the job I had originally lost which had caused such worry, came back to me.
About a year into the NBC job, I was with Don at a party and he was retelling this story from his perspective - the sudden loss of half my income and our meeting at his hotel suite which inspired me to find my voice.
After telling the story, he leaned over to me and said, "Joey, you're a bigger man than me. If that had happened to me I think I might have rolled up into the fetal position and not come out."
Of course, Don LaFontaine wouldn't have done that at all. He would have done what I did and probably more.
I do know this: His concern and his words of encouragement at a low point in my career helped me so much more than I can tell you.
'Sharing His Joyful Being'
Voice Actor / Coach / Author
Co-producer, That's VoiceOver
That's like asking an angel what it was like to get her first pair of wings. I met Don by phone when I called to talk to him about contributing a chapter about his career to my book, Secrets of Voice-Over Success. My good friend Cedering Fox arranged the introduction.
Of course, I knew of Don's legendary status and was in awe of his career and his talent. But Don didn't know me at all, and couldn't know how serious a person I was or whether this book would ever see the light of day.
And yet, he embraced me immediately, sight unseen, and invited me to send my framework of interview questions. The very next morning I received a fully edited chapter of his life.
Here was a legendary figure who didn't know me from a hole in the wall who had devoted a part of himself on faith alone, for nothing in return except what we all get from giving.
That's one of those life lessons that flip your point of view before you know it.
Publishing Secrets of Voice-Over Success changed my life in more ways than I can count, and Don's participation and the way he participated, is a huge part of what made it successful. Whenever and wherever we had a book signing or speaking engagement, no matter which coast, Don was there by my side sharing his joyful being and urging me forward.
He appreciated the fact that I was of mixed heritage, like his own children, and I will never be able to fully express what that very personal connection meant for me. So yes, my life has changed for having known him and even more for having let him in.
Don's message for us all applies as much to voice acting as it does to all of life's pursuits:
Honor the opportunity to bring your best self to everything you do. Become a giver and you'll never have to find time for it.
These are not his words to me, but in a sense they are words he channeled into our relationship.
'Every Day Is Precious'
President, TGMD Talent Agency
I learned that every day is precious. I learned that humor is preferred. I learned it takes one to know one.
I think about DLF at least three times a day. I smile. I miss him.
(Don's wife) Nita's book, Finding My Voice, is very tender and dear, and I feel like I am blessed to have known and shared time on this planet with both of them.
Also See Part 2, featuring Bill Ratner, Cedering Fox and Rudy Gaskins
Note: Special Discount Offer: For a half-price, $110 ticket to attend That's VoiceOver, please click here and enter promo code: VOXTRA.
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