Don LaFontaine, also known as “Voice of God”, “King of the Big Screen”, and “Thunder Throat”, was my first inspiration. Long before I knew his name, I dreamt of a day in which I might sound like him–as if the ability could manifest itself. Who among us male voice actors hasn’t tried it at least once? I know I did…several times…and not always in private, either. Some of my friends would laugh. Most would cringe. But I would forever continue trying to get “that sound” that only Don could get.
Several years ago, I owned and operated a small video production company. I wanted to improve the marketability of my services and thought, what better way than to have Don’s voice in my demo? So I emailed him and hoped for the best. In my letter, I introduced myself, gave him a little bit of my history, and explained what I’d hoped he might be able to do. And then I forgot about it.
Three months later, much to my surprise, I got a response from Don. He said he forwarded my email to his agent with “instructions to cut me a good deal”. Wow! Not only did he respond directly (as opposed to someone on his staff), but he was offering to hook me up from the get-go! I was humbled.
A few days later I received an email from his agent at Tisherman who asked me for a script. Really?!? Wow–this might actually happen! But there was one problem: I hadn’t yet written the script. Honestly, I never really expected anything to come of my request…I mean seriously — we’re talking about THE biggest name in voice. I was just some stranger trying to make my tiny company appear larger than it really was. So, I hashed out a script as quickly as I could and sent it right over, after which I got the quote: $8,250 — and it would be worth every penny.
But I didn’t have $8,250, and suddenly felt a little dumb for having started a process that I clearly couldn’t finish. I responded accordingly, and apologized for wasting his time. But then, his agent wrote back with “Don wants to do this…just gimmie a number.” Again I was humbled. I responded with an embarrassingly smaller amount — citing that my wife and I had just gotten married, and we had blown a good bit of our savings on the honeymoon and a really good wedding photographer. I even included one of our awesome wedding photos just to take the edge off my humiliation.
Unbeknownst to me, the agent forwarded our little email conversation to Don, and a few days later I received an email directly from Don’s private email account. It was very short:
… a wedding gift.
All the best,
And attached to the email was an audio file; he read my script and sent it to me free of charge. To this day, I don’t believe I’ve ever experienced such generosity from anyone who wasn’t my mom or dad. And from someone so HUGE… I still sometimes have trouble wrapping my head around it. To hear this amazing gift, check out my old demo:
Whenever I offered to do anything in return, his response was always the same: “Go and do something nice for someone else who may need it. That’s how you can repay me.” Humbled. Again, and again, and again…
Trying to somehow repay him for his generosity, Don let me and my team rebuild his old website — adding some animation, custom music, updated movie trailers and promos, photos, and a lot of other stuff too. We also created and managed a new monthly email campaign: if you were on his email list, you’d receive monthly emails that he’d write and we’d blast out to his thousands of fans. Sometimes he would offer to pay — citing that I had “long since paid him back” — but I never had any intentions on taking payment. We did everything for free. I was (and still am) honored to be a part of anything with which that man was involved.
And then there was the personal stuff. Don and I became good friends during those years, and I got all kinds of advice on life, love, business, you name it. I would ask questions about his interracial marriage and multi-racial children (a commonality we shared) and he would give me his personal insight on this somewhat rare domestic occurrence. Sometimes he would explain the ways in which he would put his wife Nita first; never letting his massive success eclipse his family life. And then every once on a while he’d surprise me with personalized voice overs. Once, he even narrated a little something for me to give to my wife on Valentine’s Day, and following the sound byte was the very song he said that he and Nita always danced to.
Forever positive, that guy made me feel like anything was possible. I feel very honored and blessed to have enjoyed our short but unforgettable friendship.
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