Mel Blanc was a part of everyone’s childhood. There was a time you couldn’t get away from him. Warner Bros. cartoons were on TV every day (except sacred Sundays at one time), and there was Mel as the voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck (my favourite), Sylvester, Porky, Foghorn Leghorn, and the list goes on. You could hear him as Barney Rubble on The Flintstones. And, at night, a local station ran old-time radio shows and there was Mel again as Jack Benny’s violin teacher (as well as a broken-down pre-Chrysler product), a “happy” postman delivering to George and Gracie, and a Mexican talking to a hayseed named Judy Canova.
Today would have been Mel’s 101st birthday.
Mel was a Mason, and I’ve documented his comments about Masonry and the Shrine from his autobiography at THIS post. But I’ve stumbled across another reference to his life as a Shriner in a recent hunt through old newspapers. This one is from The News of Van Nuys, California dated January 20, 1970. Besides Blanc’s name, I’m sure you’ll recognise one other, maybe a third if you’re a fan of 1960s sitcoms.
Entertainers Shrine Unit to Be Led by Mel Blanc
Mel Blanc, “the man of 1000 Voices,” who is known throughout the world for his movie, radio and television work, has been elected president of the Show Business Shrine Club of Al Malaikah Temple.
Blanc and other officers and directors will be installed at a dinner-dance to be held on Friday beginning at 7 p.m. in the Empire Room of Sportsmen’s Lodge, 12533 Ventura Blvd. Music and entertainment will be supplied by Manny Harmon and his orchestra.
Other new officers are Bart Conrad, first vice president; Bernie B. Lane, second vice president; Don De Fore, third vice president, and Eugene L. Zola, secretary-treasurer.
Newly elected directors are Ernest Borgnine, Tom Frandsen, Manny Harmon, John F. Golden, George B. Hunt, Paul Miller, Ralph L. Blink, Milt Canfield, William F. Hertz, Leonard D. Hess, Ben S. Levy, Theo Nowak Jr., Joe Popkin, Arthur H. Rockwell and Max Salit. Levy is chaplain, Max Kleckner is publicity chairman.
Blanc has gained international recognition by circling the world with humor for many years in a variety of performing arts — first on radio, then via animated cartoons in motion picture theaters, followed by recordings and television.
Even after more than three decades, Blanc’s voices Bugs Bunny, Sylvester Cat and Speedy Gonzales (plus a string of other distinctive characters) stall are delighting an estimated 30,000,000 daily throughout the world.
Born in San Francisco 59 years ago, Blanc was reared in Portland. Ore. He started in show business, he says, “entertaining students and teachers, getting big laughs and lousy grades.” In his early teens, he created the cackle later to become Woody Woodpecker.
Blanc and his wife Estelle, who costarred with him on his early radio shows, live in Pacific Palisades. Their son Noel is president of Mel Blanc Associates.
Borgnine is an Oscar-winner who is still gainfully employed at age 93 (any comment about his rather rowdy short marriage to Ethel Merman is best left unsaid). And Don De Fore wasted his talents in such inane laugh-tracked filled comedies like Hazel and Ozzie and Harriet. But De Fore had the lead in a great 1950s TV comedy pilot which cynically looked at the television business. It was too ahead of its time. He was a 33° member of the Scottish Rite, says his obit.
So though Mel has been dead for almost 20 years, he still lives on in the wonderful characters he helped bring to life. And, we hope, in his work with other Masons who put on a fez to help children in need.