September 16, 2009
While largely unseen by the masses, the professional voice-over community is quick to set a shining example of solidarity, as evidenced by the enthusiastic turnout at the SAG Foundation’s recent garden party fundraiser announcing its upcoming Don LaFontaine Voice-Over Lab, a resource facility which will add an extensive voice-over component to the Foundation’s already successful Actors Center.
Inspired by the man who not only enjoyed a legendary voice-over career spanning over four decades (including over five thousand film trailers as well as his participation in a hilariously self-reflexive GEICO television campaign) but also gave freely of his time and expertise to mentor many of today’s top voice artists, the Don LaFontaine Voice-Over Lab has, even in its planning stages, tapped a tremendous amount of interest among the leaders of its intended community.
The September 2nd event was graciously hosted at the home of v/o heavy-hitter Joe Cipriano (Deal or No Deal, The Emmy Awards)and his wife Ann, a welcoming and well-appointed venue which easily lent itself to the demands of a charity event. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres were served in the garden by the large, shimmering swimming pool and live entertainment from Aejay’e Jackson and the Full Spectrum Band kept the mood soulful and celebratory. The pool’s clubhouse (which already does double-duty as Joe’s personal sound studio) served as an excellent display center for the numerous silent auction items generously donated by many of the party’s attendees. Among the prizes which went home to the highest bidders were round-trip tickets to Tokyo, a high-quality Neumann microphone and vintage voice-over scripts, framed and bearing Don LaFontaine’s own handwritten notes.
Over two hundred leading performers, producers, agents and well-wishers from the voice-over community attended the $150-donation-per-person event, showing their support for the livelihood of voice-over artists and the timeliness of the Don LaFontaine Voice-Over Lab. Housing a state-of-the-art sound studio with two recording booths as well as classroom space, the Lab will not only serve as a technical resource but a learning center as well, having already secured enthusiastic commitments for voice-over classes, seminars and demonstrations from many top experts in the field.
All contributions to the Lab help to continue the mission of the non-profit SAG Foundation, an organization governed separately from the Screen Actors Guild and funded solely by grants and donations, to assist, educate and inspire SAG members in their careers and to give back to the communities in which they live.
It may have been the warm and radiant Nita Whitaker LaFontaine, however, who most effectively summed up the caring spirit of the SAG Foundation event when she delivered a hauntingly beautiful rendition of one of her late husband’s favorite songs, “Alfie.”
Hearing her sing the question, Are we meant to take more than we give or are we meant to be kind?, it was clear to everyone in the hushed, rapt audience that kindness was definitely the answer.
An answer to which Don LaFontaine, would have surely, resoundingly, agreed.