With four months to go until the end of 2008, the entertainment world has been hit pretty hard in death pool terms. Heath Ledger, George Carlin, Bernie Mac, Isaac Hayes, Sydney Pollack ... those are just five top-notch performers who have left us - at times, quite suddenly. And now, Don LaFontaine.
Don LaFontaine? You may be wondering, "Who the crap is Don LaFontaine?" Well, son, I'll tell you who he was. Don LaFontaine is - or was - one of the most prolific voiceover artists in Hollywood. When you go to the cinema to catch a film and end up watching about a hundred trailers in the process, a good chunk of them will be narrated by Don LaFontaine. He was the voice behind more than 5,000 trailers during his career, from The Godfather, Part II to Borat, and in the process made the phrase "In a world ...," well, world famous. You know, as in "In a world where money was king ..." or "In a world where love had a price ..." or "In a world where big-ass lizards ate anything ...". (One wonders why he didn't copyright those three words a la Michael Buffer and "Let's get ready to rumble".) Other people do voiceovers on trailers, of course, but LaFontaine's was one of the very few that was instantly familiar to audiences - even if they never knew what his name was.
LaFontaine also gave voice to 350,000 commercials (!) and worked directly with many broadcast and cable networks, including the Big Four. It was a GEICO commercial, however, that gave LaFontaine his biggest full-on exposure, as people could finally put a face with the voice. ("This spot has changed my life," he wrote on his Web site. "There goes any anonymity I might have had.")
LaFontaine, who was 68, died yesterday in Los Angeles of complications of a collapsed lung, he apparently had been dealing with lung problems since last year. Nevertheless, it's likely are that he can be heard on trailers that have yet to be released; if so, let's hope the producers don't scrap his work. And let's hope that LaFontaine takes his rightful place among the other fallen performers in next year's Oscar memorial reel. In a world that he entertained for more than 40 years, it's only fair.