Don LaFontaine, the man responsible for providing the voiceovers for thousands upon thousands of movie trailers, passed away on Labor Day 2008 at the age of 68 -- a great loss for movie fans everywhere.
Fellow voice personality Russ Leatherman, aka our very own Mr. Moviefone, had just come to know Don over the last few months, but LaFontaine's death still struck a chord.
In a fitting tribute, Mr. Moviefone reflects upon the life, loss and legacy of a movie legend, whose face and name you may not have known, but whose voice has probably made you laugh or cry or sent shivers down your spine through the years.
Voices. They're like signatures. Casey Kasem. Mel Blanc. Vin Scully. James Earl Jones. Heck, even me, Mr. Moviefone. But the granddaddy of them all, and my personal hero, has been silenced. The greatest movie trailer voice of all time, Don LaFontaine, passed away on Labor Day.
I did the last interview with him last week as I was guest hosting for Leeza Gibbons on her "Hollywood Confidential" radio show. Don didn't sound great, but I had no idea it would be the last time I'd get to talk with him.
Being famous movie voices, you might think that our paths would have crossed at some point over the years, that Don and I would have a long history together. Although I've admired him since my very first time behind a microphone (I stole my "Rated RRrrr" from him), I only started getting to know Don a few months ago as a radio station in Chicago put us on the air together as a birthday gift to me. He knew of me and I had always known of him but we had never spoken before. I'm really thankful we had a couple chances to visit before his passing. And I really loved what I got to know.
Being a well-known voice is weird. You're sort of in the business and sort of not. You're sort of famous and sort of not. And some famous voices suffer from a bit of a complex. But there's one question that we famous voices get from fans that lets you inside the character of the person behind the voice: "Will you record my voicemail?" Don's answer was yes. Because he appreciated the privilege and the absurdity that he could earn a great living by saying "In a world ..."
Going to the movies will literally never be the same. Don was an institution. We've lost the best voice in the best part of the movies: the trailers. Moviegoers will miss Don, and as a moviegoer and fellow voice guy, I'll especially miss him.
And from here on out, any time I say "Rated RRrrr," I'll put in a few extra "R-R-Rs" for Don.