Monday, June 25, 2012

Haim Israel Na'hamuni - נחמוני

Teddy Kollek (1911-2007)

The Olympic Games - London 2012

The High Priest's Breastplate (part 3)

Sangria for Tu Bishvat

Kosher Sangria Reprinted with permission from (courtesy of thejewishhostess).

Categories:Side Dish, Beverage, Vegan, Tu Bishvat


1 bottle dry red wine
1/4 cup brandy
1 bunch grapes
1 orange
1 apple
2 fresh figs
1/4 pineapple (optional)
strawberries (optional)
cinnamon sticks (optional)


1 pitcher

Pour the bottle of wine into the pitcher, add the brandy. Cut up the grapes, apple, and figs into really small pieces. Wash the outside of the orange, cut in half, and then slice thin half-wedges. Dump the fruit into the pitcher and give it a stir with a large wooden spoon.

Place in the refrigerator until ready to serve. The longer it stays in there, the more flavor it will ge

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Last Jews of Tunisia

Jews lived all over the Middle East and North Africa for thousands of years, and they lived among Arab Muslims for more than 1,000 years, but they’re almost extinct now in the Arab world. Arabs and Jews didn’t live well together, exactly, but they co-existed five times longer than the United States has existed. They weren’t always token minorities, either. Baghdad was almost a third Jewish during the first half of the 20th century. Morocco and Tunisia are the last holdouts. In Tunisia, only 1,500 remain.
What happened? What changed? Islam didn’t happen all of a sudden, nor did the arrival of Arabs in Mesopotamia, the Levant, and North Africa. Both have been firmly in place since the 7th century. A far more recent cascade of events transformed the region, and for the worse: the occupation of Arab lands by Nazi Germany and its puppet Vichy France, the Holocaust, post-Ottoman Arab Nationalism, Israel’s declaration of independence, and the Arab-Israeli conflict.
As a consequence of all that, rather than the Arab invasion or the rise of the Islamic religion, almost the entire Arab world is Judenrein now. And since the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic Republic regime in Iran, relations between Arabs and Jews are worse than they were at any time during the entire history of either.
Yet 1,500 Jews hang on in Tunisia. The ancien Ben Ali regime kept them safe, as has Tunisia’s relatively tolerant and cosmopolitan culture. But what will become of them now that Ben Ali is in exile and his government is overthrown?
I met with Haim Bittan, the chief rabbi of Tunis. My colleague Armin Rosen joined me, as did our fixer and translator Ahmed Medien.
“You should say something to the rabbi in Hebrew,” Ahmed told Armin. Armin is Jewish and speaks a bit of the language of Israel. “It will make him happy.”
The three of us met the rabbi and his assistant in an office behind an enormous synagogue in central Tunis. I wanted to take a picture of the synagogue, but the police wouldn’t let me. They’re worried someone might bomb it. I found one on Wikipedia, though.
Armin took Ahmed’s advice and greeted the rabbi and his assistant in Hebrew. Their faces lit up. It was an interesting moment. There were five of us in that room. Three Jews, one nominal Christian (me), and one nominal Muslim (Ahmed). For the first time since Armin arrived in the country, he wasn’t the token Jew in the room.
“How has the situation here changed for the Jews of Tunisia,” I said, “since the fall of Ben Ali?”
“Nothing has changed,” the rabbi said. “It’s the same situation since Ben Ali’s fall.”
“This is a country ruled by an Islamist government,” Armin said. “Do you feel that presents any problems for the Jewish community?
“There’s no problem between the government and the Jewish community,” the rabbi said.
“But I have seen photographs of Salafists with their black flag in front of the synagogue here intimidating people,” I said. “Was that a one-time event, or are you worried they might become increasingly dangerous?”
“They don’t bother me,” the rabbi said. “They lived with us before. That incident was their business, not ours.”
What kind of answers were these?
Ahmed, our Tunisian translator and fixer, had a question of his own for the rabbi.
“Does it bother you that some people want Islamic law in the constitution?” he said.
“There’s no problem at all,” the rabbi said, “because the constitution is not written.”
“He doesn’t want to answer,” Ahmed said quietly to Armin and me as he leaned back in his chair.
I’m not even sure why the rabbi agreed to be interviewed. He answered almost all of our questions this way, as did his assistant. They answered as though the entire Arab world would judge them for what they said and pounce if they uttered a peep of complaint. They reminded me of citizens of police states who are asked on the record what they think of the government.
I didn’t want to get them in trouble or give them the third degree, but I needed something other than packaged boilerplate answers, so I chose a question that couldn’t be easily dodged. The rabbi’s assistant wore a black yarmulke or kippah on the top of his head, which marked him out as an obvious Jew, and I addressed my question to him.
“Do you walk around, either of you, on the street wearing the kippah?”
He vigorously shook his head. “We don’t,” he said. “People might think we’re Zionists and we don’t want that, so we wear a hat.”
They had at least one problem then. They felt the need to be closeted, at least on the street. That’s never a good sign.
Christians don’t have to hide the fact that they’re Christian. Everyone in Tunisia who so much as glanced at me surely assumed I’m a Christian (that is, if they gave the matter any thought in the first place) since I look European. Nearly all were perfectly friendly.
They were perfectly friendly to Armin, as well. His complexion makes him look ethnically ambiguous. He could be Hispanic, Arab, Italian, Israeli. He could be many things. He received no more and no less hospitality than I did. But what if he walked around wearing a kippah or a necklace with a six-pointed star? The rabbi’s assistant wouldn’t dare.
It’s hard to say, though, how much trouble Armin actually would have faced had he done that. Israelis can and do visit Tunisia. They can do so on their own passports. They don’t have to use second passports from a country like Britain or the United States the way Israeli visitors to Lebanon do.
And here’s the thing: when you visit Tunisia you have to produce your passport a lot.  You have to produce your passport every time you check into a hotel. You have to produce your passport to rent a car. You have to show your passport to police officers and the national guard at checkpoints. (That happened to me a number times.) So Israelis—not just Jews, but Israelis—can and do wander around all over Tunisia and announce to the police and to the staff at hotels, airports, and car rental offices that they’re Israelis. And supposedly they don’t experience any problems.
I’m not sure what to make of it. I’d like to report that the Jews are doing just fine, but if that’s the case, why were the rabbi and his assistant so cagey? And why wouldn’t they go out in public looking like Jews? Ahmed didn’t even blink when Armin told him he’s Jewish, nor did he mind in the slightest that Armin and I have both been to Israel. Ahmed, though, is a well-educated tri-lingual professional, and his own views of the Arab-Israeli conflict are, shall we say, unconventional compared with those of his neighbors.
Armin asked the rabbi why Libya and Algeria are entirely free of Jews while Tunisia is not.
“Jews in Tunisia don’t have any problems living with other people,” the rabbi said. “In the other countries they did.”
And that’s all he had to say about that.
“But a lot of Tunisian Jews did leave and go to Israel,” I said. “Why did they leave while you stayed?”
“Only a few Tunisian Jews went to Israel,” he said, “but they went for economic reasons. Maybe they didn’t have a lot here and they wanted to go there for the economic opportunities. Those who had good lives here stayed.”
Such cautious answers! Move along, nothing to see.
He might have answered differently had I not been a reporter, but who knows? There’s always a chance he has internalized what he’s saying to keep his stress level down, but I don’t think so. I can’t psychoanalyze the man, but his tone of voice and body language suggested he was extremely reserved and not entirely sincere in what he was saying.
“What’s the Jewish community’s view on relations between Tunisia and Israel?” Armin said. Tunisia had low-level diplomatic relations with Israel during the 1990s, but Ben Ali severed those relations during the Second Intifada. “There’s talk of banning normalization with Israel in the constitution.”
“That’s a matter for the government to decide,” the rabbi said, “not the Jewish community here.”
“But the Jewish community surely has an opinion,” Armin said.
I understand that he has to be careful, but we wanted the truth even if we couldn’t quote him. “You can answer off the record,” I said. “I’ll turn my voice recorder off if you want.”
He didn’t want me to turn off the recorder, but he understood that I didn’t like his evasiveness so he gave me a better answer.
“If Tunisia normalized relations with Israel,” he said, “then the Muslims here might bother Jews. So we would rather Tunisia not have normal relations with Israel.”
That was an on-the-record response. So at least he was willing to acknowledge the potential for trouble for Tunisia’s Jews.
I don’t mean to suggest that they’re oppressed and that the chief rabbi of Tunis answered questions with a gun in his back. I do not believe they are oppressed. At least I’m unaware that they are oppressed. But it’s hard to be a minority anywhere in the world. And it has been so hard to be a Jew in the Arab world lately that there are almost none left.
The rabbi can’t be entirely wrong. Tunisia’s Jews are not prisoners. They’re free to leave if they like. They can visit Europe without any problems. They can visit Israel without any problems. Since they can visit Israel, they can make aliyah and receive citizenship automatically upon arrival. All a Tunisian Jew has to do if he wants to permanently relocate to Israel is buy a one-way ticket to Tel Aviv for 200 dollars. That’s less than an average month’s salary, so coming up with the money wouldn’t be hard.
Even if it’s more difficult to live as a Jew in Tunisia than the rabbi and his assistant let on, it’s possible to live there as a Jew. More than a thousand do so voluntarily. That’s something. Isn’t it?
I wanted to know if Tunisian Jews and Muslims socialize with each other or if they live entirely separate lives. Do they visit each other’s houses? Do they hang out in cafes?
The rabbi’s assistant answered by shaking his head.
It’s always a good idea to talk to minorities in the Middle East. They see things at a different angle from everyone else. The Jews I met in Tunisia, though, had no more to say about the revolution, the new government, or where Tunisia is heading than they did about their own circumstances. They were too cautious to say much of anything.
Perhaps the Christians could help. They have fewer reasons to be wary than Jews. Christians are having a hard time in lots of Arab countries, but in most places they live in a multicultural paradise by comparison.
Tunisia’s Christians, though, aren’t Tunisians. They’re foreigners. The number of Christian Tunisians is apparently almost zero. Nearly all are Europeans and sub-Saharan black Africans. There are quite a few churches around—and they’re full on Sundays, too—but you won’t find many Arabs inside.
Armin and I spoke to Father John MacWilliam, a Catholic priest and missionary with the White Fathers movement. He’s from Great Britain and spent years in the inferno of Algeria before moving to Tunis.
“Is it true that most Christians here aren’t Tunisians?” I said.
“I’m British,” he said, “and I’m Christian, but most Tunisians, 99% or more, are Muslims, at least officially. If you go to any church on Sunday, all the people are foreigners.”
“There isn’t even a little community of indigenous Christians here,” I said, “like the Copts in Egypt? What happened to them?”
“By the 15th century there were no indigenous Christians living in this part of North Africa,” he said.
They all converted to Islam. Judaism, though, kept a toe hold in the country, a toe hold it still has. Most Tunisian Jews are the descendents of Berbers, the indigenous inhabitants of North Africa before Arabs invaded in the 7th and 8th centuries. Two-thirds of Tunisia’s Jews live on the southern island of Djerba, a part of the country that is still more Berber and less Arabized. (Djerba, by the way, is the famous island of Homer’s Lotus Eaters in the Odyssey.)
Father MacWilliam moved to Tunis from Algeria, where he lived for thirteen years.
“Were you driven out?” I said, but he shook his head. “No? You were there during all that trouble? I know a lot of Christians were killed.”
By “trouble” I was referring, of course, to the Algerian civil war in the 1990s when radical Islamists waged a ferocious terror insurgency that killed more than 100,000 people.
“It was a black decade,” he said. “How many hundreds of thousands of people were killed, I don’t know, but only a very small proportion were Christians. In the Catholic church there were 19 altogether killed. Most people know about the six monks in Tibhirine. Four of my congregation in Tizuzu were killed. There were others. It was difficult, but in other ways it was enriching because we were there helping. I opened libraries and supported university students. A lot of foreigners left, a lot of embassies closed, a lot of companies left. The Catholic church didn’t leave. We stayed. When things get difficult you don’t leave your friends.”
Westerners who live in Arab countries are often treated better than locals. They’re given a certain amount of latitude and liberty that governments sometimes think would be dangerous if enjoyed by everyone else. I’ve never worried that secret police would arrest me, for instance, if I insulted the president at a cafe. I don’t want to be tailed or spied on in my hotel room, of course, but if they bug my phone, at the end of the day, what are they going to do? The worst an Arab police state will do to me is arrest me, interrogate me, throw me out of the country, and put me on a blacklist. Citizens in oppressive Middle Eastern countries worry the police will show up at their house with a blowtorch and pliers, that their children will go missing, that they’ll be tortured to death.
The people I need to worry about most in the Middle East are criminals and terrorists. Foreigners were right to leave Algeria during the 1990s. They were singled out for destruction along with liberals, artists, feminists, intellectuals, cosmopolitans, teachers—basically anyone who didn’t precisely fit the description of an ultra-conservative Salafist nutjob. So it’s rather extraordinary that only 19 Christians were killed during that time.
My hat is off to Father MacWilliam. When things get difficult you don’t leave your friends. That’s what he said. But if I was in Algeria while Salafists were hacking thousands of people to death with machetes, I would have left. Almost anyone would have left. Maybe MacWilliam is a better person than I am. Maybe he’s nuts. Maybe he’s both. Either way, he grit his teeth and stayed through an unspeakable bloodbath.
Tunisia must feel like Switzerland by comparison. Christians in Tunisia have it pretty good. They have a few restrictions placed on them, but they can basically do whatever they want, partly because as foreigners and they’re subject to less social pressure. What if they weren’t foreigners, though? What if they were Tunisians? Would they be second-class citizens like the Christians of Egypt?
Probably not. The Jews aren’t. They clearly face a great deal of social pressure, but 1,500 live there by choice. And they’re equal under the law, at least on paper. Those facts right there are extraordinary even if the Jews do have to hunker down nervously amongst themselves.
The question is: how long can they last? Will they still be there in 100 years? Perhaps Father MacWilliam could safely address that question more directly than the rabbi.
“People here talk a lot about the religious extremists who are against the liberal values of other parts of the society,” he said. “But we have religious freedom. Religious freedom is important to Tunisians. This is a country with a long history as a civilization. Tunisians are proud of the fact that it’s a country with a multitude of civilizations. And since independence it has developed human rights. On the issue of women’s rights, for instance, Tunisia is more advanced than other Arab countries.”
It’s true. Women and men have been equal under the law in Tunisia for decades. Ninety-five percent of Egyptian girls reportedly have their clitoris removed when they’re young, but female genital mutilation doesn’t even exist in Tunisia. Wikipedia has a page that lists the percentage of FGM incidence by country and Tunisia doesn’t even appear next to an asterisk.
Ahmed, my fixer, told me a Salafist group brought Egypt’s notorious Jew-hating creepjob Wagdy Ghoneim to Tunis. The man proposed Tunisia start cutting off little girls’ clitorises and the entire country freaked out. Human rights activists sued him just for bringing it up.
But what about the Jews? I had an awfully hard time getting straight answers. How are things really going these days? I asked Father MacWilliam about it directly. He, at least, eschewed sugar-coating.
“I don’t know the Jewish community here,” he said. “There are Tunisian Jewish families who have been here for centuries. Their synagogue, of course, is protected. It functions, but I think they keep a fairly low profile. There’s an amalgam of what is Jewish and what is Israeli. Many Arabs assume that anyone who’s Jewish is also Israeli and Zionist and is oppressing the Palestinians and so on. That doesn’t make it easy for somebody who’s Jewish to openly be known as Jewish. They are probably a more oppressed minority.”
But how oppressed are the Jews, really? It’s so hard to say. I can’t very well report that they’re oppressed when I have no more evidence for that than you’re reading here in this article. I also can’t say they’re perfectly fine because they say they’re perfectly fine. Not when the rabbi and his assistant were so reluctant to say anything. I’ve been in this business a long time. I know how people behave in interviews when they’re nervous. And those two were nervous.
I did meet one Tunisian Jew, though, who spoke a little more freely. His name is Jacob Lellouche and he owns a kosher restaurant called Mamie Lily (after his grandmother) in the posh Tunis suburb of La Goulette.
Ahmed took me and Armin there for dinner. Armin and I were both surprised to discover that we were the only non-Muslims having kosher Jewish food for dinner that night. Nearly all Lellouche’s customers are Muslims. Why? “Because Tunisia’s Jews are used to eating this food at home,” Lellouche said. The place was packed, too. We had to wait almost an hour for a table.
Armin asked if his restaurant business has changed since the revolution. Has it gotten better or worse?
“My clients here are the same,” Lellouche said. “A lot of Tunisians come here, and some people come from France also. But this isn’t a touristic place.”
“So,” Armin said, “is there some appreciation then among Muslim Tunisians for the country’s Jewish culture?”
“I’m not only the owner of this restaurant,” Lellouche said. “After the revolution I created the first cultural Jewish association. It’s called Dar al-Dekra, the house of memory. Ninety percent of the association’s members are Tunisian Muslims. The civil society sustains the Jewish community. An Arab Tunisian association whose name translates to ‘I’m Free and I Work for My Country’ is here tonight to write a communiqué, a press release.”
Lellouche says his business is doing okay. That’s good, especially with the post-revolutionary economic depression. But how are Jews faring in general after the fall of Ben Ali? Are they doing better or worse?
“I wouldn’t say better,” he said. “We have to live our lives and make our place in this country. That’s all. We have to keep our culture in Tunisia’s memory. We are its guardians. Our association will create the first Jewish museum in Tunisia.”
He says he believes Jews will always remain in Tunisia. Not only are the Jews not enjoying their last days in the country, there won’t ever be any last days. Maybe he really believes that. Maybe he only wants to believe it. Maybe it’s even true, but we shouldn’t assume it. Muslim-Jewish relations are in the abyss. What will happen if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict heats up again or if the mushrooming Salafists go on a rampage like they did next-door in Algeria?
“Was it possible,” Armin said, “to have an organization like yours before the revolution?”
“It was difficult,” Lellouche said, “because Mr. Ben Ali, our last president, instrumentalized the Jewish community. He wanted to project an image of tolerance and say to France and America that the Jews still live here because he wants them to live here. But I don’t think that was true. We don’t have problems with the society, though perhaps there is some trouble now with the Salafists.”
Salafists haven’t threatened Lellouche or his restaurant, but mobs of them have been wrecking havoc in several parts of the country since the revolution, and they rhetorically declared war on “the Jews” a number of times.
“Last week,” Lellouche said, “they held a demonstration in Tunis on Habib Bourguiba Avenue. They called for the killing of Jews.”
“Were they referring to Israel, to you, or to both?” I said.
“This is the third time they called for the murder of Jews,” he said. “The first time, we thought they were speaking about Zionists. And the second time, we thought they were speaking about Zionists. After the third time, though, it was clear that they meant the Jews.”

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Leon Uris

Leon Marcus Uris (August 3, 1924 – June 21, 2003) was an American novelist, known for his historical fiction and the deep research that went into his novels. His two bestselling books were Exodus (published in 1958) and Trinity (published in 1976).[


Leon Uris was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Jewish-American parents Wolf William and Anna (Blumberg) Uris. His father, a Polish-born immigrant, was a paperhanger, then a storekeeper. His mother was first-generation Russian American.[2] William spent a year in Palestine after World War I before entering the United States. He derived his surname from Yerushalmi, meaning "man of Jerusalem". (His brother Aron, Leon's uncle, took the name Yerushalmi) "He was basically a failure", Uris later said of his father. "I think his personality was formed by the harsh realities of being a Jew in Czarist Russia. I think failure formed his character, made him bitter."[3]
At age six, Uris reportedly wrote an operetta inspired by the death of his dog. Uris attended schools in Norfolk, Virginia and Baltimore, but never graduated from high school, and failed English three times. When Uris was seventeen and in his senior year of high school, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and Uris enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He served in the South Pacific, where he was stationed in New Zealand, and fought as a radioman in combat on Guadalcanal and Tarawa[4] from 1942 through 1945. While recuperating from malaria in San Francisco, he met Betty Beck, a Marine sergeant; they married in 1945.
Coming out of the service, he worked for a newspaper, writing in his spare time. Esquire magazine, in 1950, bought an article, and he began to devote himself to writing more seriously. Drawing on his experiences in Guadalcanal and Tarawa he produced the best-selling, Battle Cry, a novel depicting the toughness and courage of U.S. Marines in the Pacific. He then went to Warner Brothers in Hollywood helping to write the movie, which was extremely popular with the public, if not the critics.[4] He went on to write The Angry Hills, a novel set in war-time Greece.
His best-known work may be Exodus, which was published in 1958. Most sources indicate Uris, motivated by an intense interest in Israel, financed his research for the novel by selling the film rights in advance to MGM and by writing newspaper articles about the Sinai campaign.[5][6][7] It is said that the book involved two years of research, and involved thousands of interviews.[8] Exodus illustrated the history of Palestine from the late 19th century through the founding of the state of Israel in 1948. It was a worldwide best-seller, translated into a dozen languages, and was made into a feature film in 1960, starring Paul Newman, directed by Otto Preminger, as well as into a short-lived Broadway musical (12 previews, 19 performances) in 1971.[9] Uris' novel Topaz was adapted for the screen and directed by Alfred Hitchcock.[10]
Uris' subsequent works included: Mila 18, about the Warsaw ghetto uprising; Armageddon: A Novel of Berlin, a chronicle which ends with the lifting of the Berlin Blockade in 1949; Trinity, about Irish nationalism and the sequel, Redemption, covering the early 20th century and World War I; QB VII, about the role of a Polish doctor in a German concentration camp; and The Haj, with insights into the history of the Middle East. He wrote the screenplays for Battle Cry and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

Personal life

Uris was married three times: to Betty Beck, with whom he had three children, from 1945 through their divorce in 1968; Marjorie Edwards in 1969, who committed suicide by gunshot a year later. [11] His third wife was Jill Peabody, with whom he had two children. They married in 1970, when she was 22 years old and he was 45; the couple divorced in 1989.
Leon Uris died of renal failure at his Long Island home on Shelter Island in 2003, aged 78.[4] His papers can be found at the Ransom Center, University of Texas in Austin. The collection includes all of Uris's novels, with the exception of The Haj and Mitla Pass, as well as manuscripts for the screenplay, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.[10]

Selected titles

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Mameloshen - Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish

All Winnipeg Local talent performing the best known Yiddish Songs

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I Am Issur

by Marnie Winston-Macauley 

Kirk Douglas stood up for Israel and the Jewish people. That's what makes him a “Star of David.”

The “Stars of David” section will tell the “I’m Spartacus!” stories throughout the year to give recognition to those people of conviction and courage and to inspire others to stand up for the Jewish People and Israel during these trying times.

“Are you now or have you ever been ...”

Say this to most Americans over the age of 50, and you’ll see a little shiver, and a fleeting flash of shame.

“Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party of the United States?" was the infamous question that paralyzed Hollywood from the late 1940s to 1960. Not because celluloid city was a cauldron of “reds” spying on audiences with listening devices in 15 cent popcorn buckets. But because of its connection to McCarthyism, named for Red Menace demagogue, Senator Joseph McCarthy, who liked his hooch stirred and his victims shaken. Playing off hysteria that the cold war would turn “hot,” he built fear, as Americans built bomb shelters and drilled schoolchildren to jump under wooden desks.

McCarthy and his cohorts focused on flushing out Commies. Hollywood, with its Jewish, liberal bent, was ripe. Unconstitutional questioning turned into “naming names,” turning in friends. Civil liberties were stripped to innuendo, mistakes, lack of evidence. Taking the First or Fifth Amendment meant you were a “red.” America lost its conscience and failing to play had a consequence: Annihilation of your career; your life.

Over 300 were vilified. Since Jews were American film, we were hit hardest: from Danny Kaye to Edward G. Robinson. Big names eventually came back, something not so easy for writers forced to go abroad or to use pseudonyms. One of the first 10 (known as the Hollywood Ten) to refuse to answer was writer Dalton Trumby, who even won an Oscar writing as “Sam Johnson.”

The divide and conquer strategy worked in a terror-ridden town, caught between their own bomb shelters, or the possibility of waiting tables at Schraffts, as the witch hunts grew rabidly paranoid under McCarthy’s watchful (or wonky) eye, that saw red all around .

1960: The chiseled and talented Kirk Douglas was having a run that would make our A-listers gasp in awe. Issur Danielovitch, born December 10, 1916, to uneducated Russian (now Belarus)-Jewish parents, Herschel "Harry" Danielovitch and Bryna, settled with the family (Issur and six sisters) in Amsterdam, New York. His character honed by poverty, a loving mama who was a natural storyteller, his Jewishness and scars from being ridiculed as a Jew.

He had to get out of there. He worked his way through St. Lawrence University and got a special scholarship to The American Academy of Dramatics (1941). He did it all: singing telegraph boy to waiting tables at Schraffts. At the Academy he met fellow Jew, Lauren Bacall, and his first wife.

During WWII, he was in the Navy. Following injuries in 1944, he was medically discharged with the rank of lieutenant (j.g.).

With Bacall’s help, he got the lead, then raves in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. In 1948, he made his first of seven films with “other tough guy” Burt Lancaster. Three years after stepping on a sound stage, he was in Oscar territory for his gripping performance as an opportunistic boxer in Champion (1949), The Bad and the Beautiful, about blacklisting (1952), and as Vincent van Gogh in Lust for Life. He’d made it out.

In 1955, he formed one of Hollywood's first independent film companies, Bryna, (named after his mother), and managed by second wife Anne, whom he married in 1954. Not thrilled with the dying studio system, he could make the films he wanted, including Paths of Glory, The Vikings, Lonely are the Brave and the film that would forever change Hollywood history.

It’s 1960, and producer/actor Kirk Douglas had a piece of the sky. Fame, talent, praise, riches, and four sons. All he need do was keep doing what he was doing, and close the vault.

Instead, he opened it – and broke the back of the black list. He hired Dalton Trumbo, the most “notorious” of the Hollywood Ten, to write the screenplay for Spartacus. What pseudonym would they use on the credits? Director Stanley Kubrik volunteered. Douglas thought, “Enough!” And Spartacus was written by..... Dalton Trumbo who cried, when he finally re-claimed his name.

And the sky didn’t fall, noted Douglas.

The blacklist did. President-elect, JFK, saw the film. It was officially over, but unofficially, many remained scarred. Thirty years later, Douglas was formally recognized for this extraordinary risk. “I Am Spartacus!” became iconic.

Douglas’s career soared with 80 films, including Lonely Are the Brave (1962), In Harm's Way (1965), Cast a Giant Shadow (1966), and The Arrangement (1969).

But ... there was a “part” he felt he hadn’t played. The merging of Issur the Jew, and Kirk, the Hollywood cardinal.

There it is, again and again, in the thousands of pages. His relationship to Judaism, especially when parts of his sky fell. His tragic helicopter accident (1991) in which he alone survived, his 1996 stroke, the loss of son Eric in 2004. We also learn of his second Bar Mitzvah at 83, his continued study; his wife’s conversion. His best-selling books starting with the autobiographical, The Ragman’s Son, the couple’s unstinting generosity toward Israel, Jews, all people – seniors, Alzheimer patients, and children alike. His humanitarianism, as well as film awards are staggering.

“We were very poor -- but my mother said, ‘A beggar must give something to another beggar who is worse off than he.’ And that has stuck with me.” – Kirk Douglas

Long before the crash and his second Bar Mitzvah, Kirk Douglas's behavior was shaped by his Jewish sensibilities: freedom, compassion, empathy, morality, family, justice, brotherhood, learning, Tzedakah have been his leitmotif.

Last year, Douglas crafted what many thought impossible: at 92, following his stroke a one-man autobiographical show “Before I Forget.” After his final performance, son Michael presented him with an ice cream cone.

An intensely meaningful gesture because more than 85 years earlier, young Issur “debuted” in a kindergarten play. His father, Harry, usually distant, attended. After, without a word, he bought his son an ice cream cone. That “review” meant more to him than any Oscar could. Not unlike sweets to celebrate the first day of cheder (Jewish school), that simple cone symbolized the sweetness of success, triumph, and 3,300 years of struggle, risk, and survival. And 85 years later Issur’s son returned the favor, placing another link in the chain.

And whether he knew it or not, Issur was always a part of that chain. By the time Issur Danielovitch was a child, he had already tasted the sourness of injustice. He had learned that being a Jew would forever require the decision to either lose himself in the crowd – or make moral, Jewish choices. Even if some are messy or risky and can turn you from a Hollywood star back to a Hollywood waiter.

No doubt all of these choices contributed to the character of a man who is not only one of our “Stars of David,” but one who can say… who would say …

“I am Issur.”

Friday, June 15, 2012

Mel Blanc: The Man of a Thousand Voices

Melvin Jerome "Mel" Blanc (May 30, 1908 – July 10, 1989) was an American voice actor and comedian. Although he began his nearly six-decade-long career performing in radio commercials, Blanc is best remembered for his work with Warner Bros. during the "Golden Age of American animation" as the voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Marvin the Martian, Pepé Le Pew, Speedy Gonzales, the Tasmanian Devil, and many of the other characters from the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies theatrical cartoons. He later worked for Hanna-Barbera's television cartoons, most notably as the voice of Barney Rubble in The Flintstones and Mr. Spacely in The Jetsons. Having earned the nickname “The Man of a Thousand Voices,” Blanc is regarded as one of the most influential people in the voice-acting industry.[1]
At the time of his death, it was estimated that 20 million people heard his voice every day.[2]


Early life

Blanc was born Melvin Jerome Blank in San Francisco, California, to Jewish parents Frederick and Eva Blank. The youngest of two children, he grew up in the neighborhood of Western Addition in San Francisco, and later in Portland, Oregon, attending Lincoln High School. Growing up, he had a fondness for voices and dialect, which he started to do as early as the age of 10. He claimed that when he was 16, he changed the spelling from "Blank" to "Blanc" because a teacher told him that he would amount to nothing and be, like his name, a "blank". Blanc joined The Order of DeMolay as a young man, and was eventually inducted into its Hall of Fame.[3] He dropped out of high school in the ninth grade and split his time between leading an orchestra, becoming the youngest conductor in the country at the time at 17, and performing shtick in vaudeville shows around Washington, Oregon, and northern California.


Radio work

Blanc began his radio career in 1927 as a voice actor on the KGW program The Hoot Owls, where his ability to provide voices for multiple characters first attracted attention. He moved to Los Angeles in 1932, where he met Estelle Rosenbaum, whom he married a year later, before returning to Portland. He moved to KEX in 1933 to produce and co-host his Cobweb And Nuts show with his wife Estelle, which debuted on June 15. The program played Monday through Saturday from 11:00 pm to midnight, and by the time the show ended two years later, it appeared from 10:30 pm to 11:00 pm.
With his wife's encouragement, Blanc returned to Los Angeles and joined Warner Bros.-owned KFWB in Hollywood, California, in 1935. He joined The Johnny Murray Show, but the following year switched to CBS Radio and The Joe Penner Show. Blanc was a regular on the NBC Red Network show The Jack Benny Program in various roles, including voicing Benny's Maxwell automobile (in desperate need of a tune-up), violin teacher Professor LeBlanc, Polly the Parrot, Benny's pet polar bear Carmichael, the tormented department store clerk, and the train announcer (see below).
One of Blanc's most memorable characters from Benny's radio (and later TV) programs was "Sy, the Little Mexican", who spoke one word at a time. The famous "Sí" routine was so effective that no matter how many times it was performed, the laughter was always there, thanks to the comedic timing of Blanc and Benny.[4]
At times, sharp-eyed audience members (and later, TV viewers) could see Benny struggling to keep a straight face; Blanc's absolute dead-pan delivery was a formidable challenge for him. Benny's daughter, Joan, recalls that Mel Blanc was one of her father's closest friends in real life, because "nobody else on the show could make him laugh the way Mel could."
Another famous Blanc shtick on Jack's show was the train depot announcer who inevitably intoned, sidelong, "Train leaving on Track Five for Anaheim, Azusa, and Cucamonga". Part of the joke was the Angeleno studio audience's awareness that no such train existed connecting those then-small towns (years before Disneyland opened). To the wider audience, the primary joke was the pregnant pause that evolved over time between "Cuc.." and "...amonga"; eventually, minutes would pass while the skit went on as the audience awaited the inevitable conclusion of the word. (At least once, a completely different skit followed before the inevitable “...amonga” finally appeared.)
Benny's writers would regularly try to "stump" Blanc by asking him to perform supposedly impossible vocal effects and characterizations, such as an "English horse whinny" and a goldfish. For the latter, Mel walked up to the microphone and pursed his lips several times, making no noise.
By 1946, Blanc appeared on over 15 radio programs in supporting roles. His success on The Jack Benny Program led to his own radio show on the CBS Radio Network, The Mel Blanc Show, which ran from September 3, 1946, to June 24, 1947. Blanc played himself as the hapless owner of a fix-it shop, as well as his young cousin Zookie (who sounded quite a bit like Porky Pig). Many episodes required Mel to impersonate an exotic foreigner or other stranger in town, ostensibly for carrying out a minor deception on his girlfriend's father, but of course simply as a vehicle for him to show off his talents. Other regular characters were played by Mary Jane Croft, Joseph Kearns, Hans Conried, Alan Reed, Earle Ross, Jim Backus, Bea Benaderet and The Sportsmen Quartet, who would supply a song and sing the Colgate Tooth Powder commercials. (Blanc would later work with Reed and Benaderet on The Flintstones.) Shows usually adhered to a predictable formula, involving a date with his girl Betty Colby (Mary Jane Croft) and trying to either impress her father or at least avoid angering him. However, Mr. Colby (Joseph Kearns) usually had occasion to deliver his trademark line, "Mel Blanc, I'm going to break every bone in your body!" The show was the inspiration for the real Mel Blanc Fix-It Shop, a small hardware store in Venice, so his parents can have something to do. It garnered a lot of publicity, due to the long line of people wanting to meet Blanc.
Blanc appeared frequently on The Great Gildersleeve, uncredited, often voicing two or more supporting characters in a single episode: deliverymen in "Planting a Tree" and "Father's Day Chair" also "Gus", a petty crook in the latter; a radio station manager and a policeman in "Mystery Singer", and many others.
Blanc also appeared on such other national radio programs as The Abbott and Costello Show, the Happy Postman on Burns and Allen, and as August Moon on Point Sublime. During World War II, he appeared as Private Sad Sack on various radio shows, most notably G.I. Journal. The character of Sad Sack was a bumbling Army private with an even worse stutter than Porky Pig. ("I'm Lieutena-eh-Lieutena-eh-Capta-eh-Majo-eh-Colone-eh-p-p-Private Sad Sack.")
Blanc also had hit recordings throughout the 1940s and 1950s, including his biggest hit song, "Big Bear Lake." Due to the immense popularity of Blanc and the song, the city of Big Bear Lake, California made Blanc an honorary mayor for 33 years.
For his contribution to radio, Mel Blanc has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6385 Hollywood Boulevard.

Animation voice work during the Golden Age of Hollywood

Private Snafu - Spies.ogv
Private Snafu: 'Spies', voiced by Blanc in 1943
In March 1937, Mel Blanc joined Leon Schlesinger Productions, which made animated cartoons distributed by Warner Bros. Blanc liked to tell the story about how he got turned down at the Schlesinger studio by music director Norman Spencer, who was in charge of cartoon voices, saying that they had all the voices they needed, as he went to him once every two weeks for two years straight. Then Spencer died, and sound man Treg Brown took charge of cartoon voices, while Carl Stalling took over as music director. Brown introduced Blanc to animation directors Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, Friz Freleng, and Frank Tashlin, who loved his voices. The first cartoon Blanc worked on was Picador Porky as the voice of a drunken bull. He replaced Joe Dougherty as Porky Pig's voice in Porky's Duck Hunt, which marked the debut of Daffy Duck, also voiced by Blanc.
Blanc soon became noted for voicing a wide variety of cartoon characters from Looney Tunes, adding Bugs Bunny, Tweety Bird, Pepé Le Pew and many others. His natural voice was that of Sylvester the Cat, but without the lispy spray. (Blanc's voice can be heard in an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies that also featured frequent Blanc vocal foil Bea Benaderet; in his small appearance, Blanc plays a vexed cab-driver.)
In his later years, Blanc claimed that a handful of late 1930s and early 1940s Warner cartoons that each featured a rabbit clearly a precursor of Bugs Bunny all actually dealt with a single character named Happy Rabbit. No use of this name by other Termite Terrace personnel, then or later, has ever been documented, however. Happy Rabbit was noted for his laugh which became more famous as the laugh of Woody Woodpecker (of which Blanc was the original voice) until he won an exclusive contract with Warner Bros. which meant he couldn't do Woody's voice anymore as the Woody Woodpecker cartoons were produced by Walter Lantz Productions and distributed by Universal Pictures. Blanc later recorded "The Woody Woodpecker Song" for Capitol Records.
Though his best-known character was a carrot-chomping rabbit, munching on the carrots interrupted the dialogue. Various substitutes, such as celery, were tried, but none of them sounded like a carrot. So for the sake of expedience, he would munch and then spit the carrot bits into a spittoon rather than swallowing them, and continue with the dialogue. One oft-repeated story is that he was allergic to carrots and had to spit them out to minimize any allergic reaction; but his autobiography makes no such claim; in fact, in a 1984 interview with Tim Lawson, co-author of The Magic Behind The Voices: A Who's Who of Cartoon Voice Actors (University Press of Mississippi, 2004), Blanc emphatically denied being allergic to carrots. In a Straight Dope column, a Blanc confidante confirmed that Blanc only spit out the carrots because of time constraints, and not because of allergies or general dislike.[5]
Blanc said his most challenging job was voicing Yosemite Sam; it was rough on the throat because of Sam’s sheer volume and raspiness. (Foghorn Leghorn's voice was similarly raucous, but to a lesser degree.) Late in life, he reprised several of his classic voices for Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but deferred to Joe Alaskey to do Yosemite Sam's and Foghorn Leghorn's voices.
Throughout his career, Blanc was well aware of his talents and protected the rights to them contractually and legally. He, and later his estate, did not hesitate to take civil action when those rights were violated. Voice actors usually got no screen credits at all, but Blanc was a notable exception; by 1944, his contract stipulated a credit reading "Voice characterization(s) by Mel Blanc." Blanc asked for and received this screen credit from studio boss Leon Schlesinger when Leon objected to giving Blanc a raise in pay.[6] Other frequent Warner voice artists, such as Arthur Q. Bryan (Elmer Fudd), Stan Freberg (Pete Puma among many other characters), June Foray (Granny and Witch Hazel) and Bea Benaderet (many female voices), remained uncredited on-screen. However, Freberg did receive screen credit for Three Little Bops, a musical spoof of The Three Little Pigs, directed by Friz Freleng. Freberg is a frequent contributor to the various Golden Collection projects that showcase the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies. Blanc, himself, is often spoken of with reverence by younger voice specialists in those DVD collections.
Blanc's screen credit was noticed by radio show producers, who gave him more radio work as a result. It wouldn't be until the early '60s that the other voice actors and actresses became credited on Warner Brothers theatrical cartoons.

Benny/Bugs crossover

The Warner cartoons were filled with references to the popular media of film and radio, including references to The Jack Benny Program, whose various gags frequently found their way into Warner scripts voiced by Blanc. For example:
  • Bugs was known for repeating Benny's catchphrase, "Now cut that out!"
  • The "Anaheim, Azusa and Cuc...amonga" joke was once used by Daffy Duck in the cartoon Daffy Duck Slept Here.
  • The joke resurfaced once again with more subtlety in Mississippi Hare as the announcer aboard the steamer Southern Star called out destinations in "Memphis, Vicksburg, Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Cuc...amonga."
  • Frank Nelson's "Yeeeeees?" would be invoked by minor characters from time to time.
  • Blanc's imitations of sputtering cars, squawking parrots, whinnying horses, etc., would be invoked frequently in both series.
  • On the March 28, 1954 episode of Benny's radio program, Benny encounters Bugs Bunny in a dream.
The ultimate clash of the mythos occurred with the 1959 release of the Warner Bros. cartoon The Mouse that Jack Built. Directed by Robert McKimson, the cartoon features the cast of the Benny radio and TV program drawn as mice. Blanc was credited as the voice of the Maxwell, and besides Benny, co-stars Mary Livingstone, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, and Don Wilson all reprised their Benny show roles.

Voice work for Hanna-Barbera and others

In 1960, after the expiration of his exclusive contract with Warner Bros., although Blanc continued his voice work for Warner Bros., he also went to Hanna-Barbera and continued to voice various characters, his most famous being Barney Rubble from The Flintstones (whose dopey laugh is similar to Foghorn Leghorn's booming chuckle) and Mr. Spacely from The Jetsons (similar to Yosemite Sam, but not as raucous). Daws Butler and Don Messick were Hanna-Barbera's top voice men when Blanc began providing voices for the company.
Blanc did those voices plus others for such ensemble cartoons as Wacky Races and The Perils of Penelope Pitstop for Hanna-Barbera in the late '60s. Blanc shared the spotlight with his two professional rivals and personal friends, Butler and Messick: In a short called Lippy the Lion, Butler was Lippy, while Blanc was his hyena sidekick, Hardy Har-Har, and Don Messick was usually the guest villain or other supporting characters. In the short Ricochet Rabbit, Messick was the voice of the gun slinging rabbit, while Blanc was his sidekick, Deputy Droop-a-Long Coyote.
Blanc also worked with Chuck Jones, who by this time was directing shorts with his own company Sib Tower 12 (later MGM Animation), doing vocal effects in the Tom and Jerry series from 1963 to 1967.
In addition, Blanc was the first person to play Toucan Sam in Froot Loops commercials, using a slightly cartoonish version of his natural voice. (The ad agency later decided to give Sam an upper-crust English accent and replaced Blanc with Paul Frees.)
Blanc reprised some of his Warner Bros. characters when the studio contracted to make new theatrical cartoons in the mid-to-late 1960s. For these, Blanc voiced Daffy Duck and Speedy Gonzales, the characters who received the most frequent use in these shorts (later, newly introduced characters such as Cool Cat and Merlin the Magic Mouse were voiced by Larry Storch). Blanc also continued to voice the Looney Tunes characters on the bridging sequences for The Bugs Bunny Show and in numerous animated advertisements.

Car accident and aftermath

On January 24, 1961, Blanc was involved in a near-fatal car accident on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Hit head-on, Blanc suffered a triple skull fracture that left him in a coma for three weeks, along with fractures of both legs and the pelvis.
The accident prompted over 15,000 get-well cards from anxious fans, including some addressed only to "Bugs Bunny, Hollywood, USA", according to Blanc's autobiography. One newspaper falsely reported that he had died. After his recovery, Blanc reported in TV interviews, and later in his autobiography, that a clever doctor had helped him to come out of his coma by talking as-if to Bugs Bunny, after futile efforts to talk directly to Blanc. The doctor got him to talk as his characters, before Blanc finally got out of his coma and talking as himself. Although he had no actual recollection of this, Blanc's wife and son swore to him that when the doctor was inspired to ask him, "How are you today, Bugs Bunny?", Blanc answered in Bugs' voice. Blanc thus credited Bugs with saving his life.[7]
Blanc returned home from the UCLA Medical Center on March 17 to the cheers of more than 150 friends and neighbors. On March 22, he filed a US$500,000 lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles. His accident, one of 26 in the preceding two years at the intersection, resulted in the city funding restructuring curves at the location.
Years later, Blanc revealed that during his recovery, his son Noel "ghosted" several Warner Brothers cartoons' voice tracks for him. At the time of the accident, Blanc was also serving as the voice of Barney Rubble in The Flintstones. His absence from the show would be relatively brief; Daws Butler provided the voice of Rubble for a few episodes, after which the show's producers set up recording equipment in Blanc's hospital room and later, at his house to allow him to work from his residence. Some of the recordings were made while he was in full-body cast while he lay flat on his back, with the other Flintstones co-stars gathered around him.[8][9] He also returned to The Jack Benny Program to film the program's 1961 Christmas show, moving around via crutches and a wheelchair.
During that time, Warner Bros. considered having Stan Freberg to do the voice of Bugs Bunny, while Blanc recovers from his injuries; Freberg refused, out of respect to Blanc.

Later career

In the 1970s, Blanc did a series of college lectures across the United States on the side, which broke attendance records of any college lectures in the country. He would also collaborate on a special with the Boston-based Shriners Burns Institute called Ounce of Prevention. It would become a 30-minute TV special that aired worldwide.
Contrary to popular belief, Blanc was not one of hundreds of individuals that George Lucas auditioned to provide the voice for the character of C-3PO in the original Star Wars film. That distinction instead fell to fellow voice actor Stan Freberg, and it was Freberg who ultimately suggested that the producers use mime actor Anthony Daniels' own voice in the role.[10]
After spending most of two seasons voicing the robot Twiki in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Blanc's last original character, in the early 1980s, was Heathcliff, who spoke a little like Bugs Bunny. Blanc continued to voice his famous characters in commercials and TV specials for most of the decade, although he increasingly left the "yelling" characters like Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn and The Tasmanian Devil to other voice actors, as performing these were too hard on his throat. One of his last recording sessions was for a new animated theatrical version of The Jetsons.[11]
In the early 1980s, he would appear on commercials for American Express.
In 1983, six years before his death, he was asked by comedian Rick Moranis to voice the father of Bob and Doug MacKenzie in the film Strange Brew, which he did.
Blanc voiced all his well known Looney Tunes characters (save for Yosemite Sam and Foghorn Leghorn, both of whom were voiced by Joe Alaskey) in the 1988 live-action/animated comedy-mystery film Who Framed Roger Rabbit making this project one of the final times he voiced these characters as he died only a year after the film's release. The Looney Tunes characters (along with many other characters) were "borrowed" from their respective owners to appear in this film by Disney making Who Framed Roger Rabbit one of only a few times Blanc worked for Disney.


Mel Blanc's gravesite marker.
As part of Bugs Bunny's 50th anniversary, Mel Blanc had filmed an Oldsmobile commercial with his son, Noel Blanc. At the end of shooting, Noel noticed that his dad had a heavy cough. They drove to the doctor, who said that Mel could either stay in the hospital overnight, "just to be safe", or that they could take an inhaler home. Mel Blanc chose the former, and while at the hospital, due to the fact that someone had forgot to put bed rails on his hospital bed, he fell out of bed and broke his femur, which released fat emboli into his brain, causing a stroke. He had died within 48 hours on July 10, 1989 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California.
Blanc's death was considered a significant loss to the cartoon industry because of his skill, expressive range, and sheer volume of continuing characters he portrayed, which are currently taken up by several other voice talents. Indeed, as movie critic Leonard Maltin once pointed out, "It is astounding to realize that Tweety Bird and Yosemite Sam are the same man!"
Animator Darrell Van Citters did a memorable drawing entitled "Speechless," which showed a spotlight on a microphone, as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Foghorn Leghorn, Speedy Gonzales, Pepe Le Pew, Tweety, Sylvester, and Yosemite Sam bowed their head somberly in a moment of silence. It was printed on some newspapers around the world.
That range was partially aided by recording technology; for instance, Blanc's standard Daffy Duck voice is essentially his Sylvester voice played a few percent faster than it was recorded to give it a higher pitch, as well as pronouncing "s" with a "th" sound.[12] Blanc would later develop the skill to reproduce such "sped-up" voices himself live as necessary. Other Blanc character voices that were given this special treatment included Porky Pig, Henery Hawk, and Speedy Gonzales.
After his death, Blanc's voice continued to be heard in newly released properties such as Woody's laugh in games such as Woody Woodpecker: Escape from Buzz Buzzard Park. In particular, a recording of his Dino the Dinosaur from the 1960s Flintstones series was used without a screen credit in the 1994 live-action theatrical film based upon the series. This resulted in legal action against the film studio by the Blanc estate, which claimed his recordings were used without permission or proper credit. The credit was later added to the home release of the movie. Less problematic was the retention of older recordings of Blanc as Uncle Orville and a pet bird in the 1994 update of the Carousel of Progress attraction at Walt Disney World, despite cast changes in other roles. Blanc's distinctive voice can still be heard in the Audio-Animatronic presentation. In addition, Blanc's archive recordings of the Maxwell are used for the AMC Gremlin in the 2003 film Looney Tunes: Back in Action and his recordings of Daffy Duck's Rhapsody, and an untitled Road Runner cartoon will be used in three new Looney Tunes cartoons, including I Tawt I Taw A Puddy Tat, which was released with Happy Feet 2 on November 18, 2011, and Daffy's Rhapsody.


Blanc is regarded as one of, if not the, most prolific voice actor(s) in the history of the industry. He was the first voice actor to get credit in the ending credits and ushered in a new era for voice actors, where they were regarded as a significant part of the creative process, rather than easy-to-replace finishing touches.


Blanc trained his son, Noel, in the field of voice characterization. Although the younger Blanc has performed his father's characters (particularly Porky Pig) on some programs, he has chosen not to become a full-time voice artist. Noel appeared in the booth as a celebrity guest for the 2002 and 2003 Chevrolet Monte Carlo 400 NASCAR Races featuring the Looney Tunes characters in themed paint schemes for Chevrolet drivers and did the voices of the characters. Noel is a regular featured guest on radio shows throughout the United States and Canada. Noel's wife, Katherine Blanc, is an artist and book author.

Animation records

Mel Blanc holds a few very important records in the field of animation (none of which are currently recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records), the most famous being, of course, the "1000 Voices" he was said to have performed. Not as notable are two records of longevity: his original characterization of Daffy Duck (for over 52 years) is the longest time any animated character has been performed by his or her original voice contributor. He also voiced Porky Pig for exactly the same amount of time as Daffy — since the same cartoon (Porky's Duck Hunt) — through to his death, though Porky was not originally voiced by Blanc. Blanc was also the original voice of almost every character he voiced, leaving him as the clear runaway for the record of "Most Characters Originally Voiced By One Actor," and he almost certainly provided voices in more cartoons than any other voice actor. And to top that off, he is also in 3rd place to his own 52-year record of his original characterization of Daffy, by voicing Bugs Bunny for almost 49 years from the date of his debut (July 27, 1940). The runner-up is Clarence Nash, who voiced Donald Duck for 51 years.

Selected list of cartoon characters

List of noteworthy radio characters

Besides voicing characters on his own radio show (which ran from 1946–47) Blanc was a regular on such comedy classics as The Jack Benny Show, Burns & Allen, and Abbott & Costello, providing both voices and sound effects ranging from people to animals to backfiring cars.
  • The Happy Postman (Burns & Allen)
  • Professor LeBlanc (The Jack Benny Program)
  • Mr. Technicolovich (Abbott & Costello)
  • Sy the Mexican (Jack Benny, radio & TV)
  • Himself (The Mel Blanc Show)
  • Zookie (The Mel Blanc Show)
  • Polly the Parrot (The Jack Benny Program)
  • Carmichael the Polar Bear (The Jack Benny Program)
  • Chuck the Plumber (The Jack Benny Program)
  • Train Station Announcer (The Jack Benny Program; "Train now departing on Track Five for Ana-heim, A-zuza, and Cuc-a-monga!!")
  • Christmas sales clerk (The Jack Benny Program; in most holiday episodes of the radio and TV version, Blanc would appear as a sales clerk in a department store who's driven insane by Jack's style of shopping and returning gifts.)
  • The Maxwell (The Jack Benny Program)

Other credits

  • Mel Blanc was hired to perform the voice of Gideon the Cat in Walt Disney's Pinocchio. However, it was eventually decided for Gideon to be mute (just like Dopey, whose whimsical, Harpo Marx-style persona made him one of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' most comic and popular characters), and all of Blanc's recorded dialogue in this film had been deleted, save for one military hiccup, which was heard three times in the film (he was still paid for all of the unused dialogue so if you consider his salary against the actual used "hiccup", he holds the record for highest paid—per word—voice-over actor). This and Who Framed Roger Rabbit are the only known work he ever did for Disney animation. He was, however, heard on occasional radio projects featuring Disney characters, such as The Mickey Mouse Theater of the Air.
  • In 1949, Mel appeared in the film Neptune's Daughter with Esther Williams, Red Skelton and Ricardo Montalban.
  • Blanc was one of three regular panelists in the 1955 game show Musical Chairs. Occasionally, he was asked to sing in the style of a popular singer.
  • In 1959 Blanc played the role of Trinkle the dog catcher on the sitcom Dennis the Menace, episode titled " Miss Cathcart's Friend".
  • Appeared in the 1964 movie Kiss Me Stupid as The Dentist
  • Blanc once called into the game show Press Your Luck during the end credits when host Peter Tomarken mistakenly gave the answer to the question "Which cartoon character uses the phrase 'Sufferin' succotash'?" as Daffy Duck. Blanc informed him that the correct answer was Sylvester. (In reality, both characters have used the phrase, although it is more commonly associated with Sylvester.) Blanc spoke to Tomarken in Sylvester's voice to explain the error, as well in the voices of Speedy Gonzales and Porky Pig. Tomarken apologized for the error and promised that all three contestants would be allowed to return to play the game again.
  • Blanc was the voice of Bob and Doug McKenzie's father in the movie Strange Brew.
  • In 1970, Blanc narrated an educational film that was commissioned by the City of Dallas called How Motor Cars and Other Living Things Can Find Happiness in the Dallas Freeway System. He also did the sound effects for the animated car.
  • In 1971, he appeared as himself in one of the American Express "Do you know me?" credit card TV commercials. The ad campaign centered on famous people whose faces were nonetheless usually not recognized by the public.
  • Blanc appeared in a public service announcement for the Shriners Burns Institute on the dangers of burns on children.
  • He also provided the voice of Quintro the Puppet in Snow White and the Three Stooges.
  • Blanc did virtually all of his famous Looney Tunes characters' voices in NFL Films' The Son of Football Follies
  • In addition to hundreds of credited vocal roles, Blanc also provided many brief incidental voices and vocal effects for TV sitcoms, almost never receiving screen credit. Two noted examples were regularly providing the voice of the raven cuckoo clock in The Munsters' and voicing a parrot (who even spoke in the courtroom) in the Perry Mason episode "The Case of the Perjured Parrot."
  • In his autobiography, That's Not All, Folks!, Blanc confessed to a minor bit of deception regarding his nickname, "The Man of a Thousand Voices," stating that by his estimate, he had provided only 850 voices.[7]
  • Blanc performed his Speedy Gonzales character in Pat Boone's 1962 hit record of "Speedy Gonzales".
  • Blanc also made many records for Capitol Records, including his Warner Brothers characters and such other characters as Woody Woodpecker, with his most famous Capitol album being Party Panic and in 1950 had a hit single (also in the UK) as Sylvester and Tweety-Pie in "I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat". He also performed on records with other artists including Spike Jones and His City Slickers and The Sportsmen.
  • During 1977–1978, Blanc was an active CB Radio operator. He often used the CB handles Bugs or Daffy and talked over the air in the Los Angeles area using his many voices. He appeared in an interview with clips of him having fun talking to children on his home CB radio station in the NBC Knowledge Series television episode about CB radio in 1978.
  • He was also the voice of the cuckoo & the parrot in the Coco Wheats Commercials
  • Blanc's voice over sound effects were used in many animated films such as Paramount's Gulliver's Travels (as an uncredited voice over as King Bombo's shout of joy) to animated shorts from The Pink Panther to most recently in Jetix's "Pucca", in Gremlins 2 The New Batch some of the gremlin laughter and their hiccups were recycled from his recordings, also several monster growls and his bird screeches were also frequently used in several films and animation.
  • Blanc supplies Charlie Brown's grunting in the 1979 special You're the Greatest, Charlie Brown as he tries to lift the barbell which is the same grunting Daffy Duck made in the 1965 Warner Bros. cartoon Tease for Two when Daffy tries lifting a rock. The same grunt was also heard in the 1980 film Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don't Come Back!) by Linus van Pelt.
  • Portland's Mayor Sam Adams, with the help of the Oregon Cartoon Institute, officially declared June 29th to be Mel Blanc Day in Portland, Oregon.

Homages and tributes