Tuesday, January 24, 2012

R.I.P. Dick Tufeld

One of the great all-time voices has been silenced. Dick Tufeld passed away. For many years in the 50’s & 60’s he was the voice of Disney, a gazillion movie trailers, two gazillion variety shows, and the Academy Awards. He would always finish the closing announcements and say, “This is Dick Tufeld speaking.” I’m sure many people thought “Speaking” was his last name and “Tufeld” his middle.

You might know him as the voice of the robot in LOST IN SPACE. No one ever made more money saying, “Danger! Danger!”

He was a longtime friend of the family. Only once did I impose upon his talent. Back in college a friend and I tried to put together a syndicated radio series – one hour profiles of singing stars. Forget that we had no idea how to market or distribute these. But we put together a demo. I wrote the script. We needed someone to voice it. This was a program we had hoped to sell to major stations of the day like KMPC Los Angeles and WNEW New York. We couldn’t just grab some skeesix who worked at Shakey’s and whose sum total of broadcast experience was, “Number twelve, your pizza’s ready!”

So I called Dick. Asked if he’d do it as a favor. We had no money to offer but promised him a partnership. Even at the time he had to know he his chances of making a dime were the same as being hit by a meteor. But he agreed to do it anyway.

I booked a session in a recording studio, Dick arrived (on time), scanned the script, said “Okay, let’s try one.” For the next two hours he voiced the copy. And not only was he effortlessly magnificent, he could not have been more professional. He would ask if we wanted something a different way. He would do multiple takes until he was satisfied. Did we have any notes?   As if some 19 year-old pisher is going to tell Dick Tufeld how to read a line. 

Trust me, a lot of big time voice-over guys would have blown in, said, rushed through the script in one take, and split before the engineer could hit the “stop” button on the tape recorder. Not Dick. He treated this and us as if it were the General Motors campaign.

The project went nowhere. But years later when I was doing BIG WAVE DAVE’S we needed a voice-over for one line. I called Dick. He did it. It took two minutes, and we paid him a thousand dollars. I told him it was the profits on syndicated show.  Watch out for meteors. 

In a very transient business he worked for over half a century. Why? Because he was the best at what he did, and equally important over time -- he was the best person at what he did.

The only thing more beautiful than his voice was the man himself.  I will miss him.  The next time God needs an introduction it will be Dick Tufeld Speaking.

40 comments:

David Schwartz said...

One of the things I like best about the internet is it gives people a chance to hear about talented performers who we may not have known. Even at 6 years old I knew the voice of the Robot on "Lost in Space" was special. Now it's nice to hear that the man behind the voice had a long and successful career and that his talent was also accompanied by integrity and generosity.

LouOCNY said...

So who is going to warn Will Robinson of danger now??

Mr. Hollywood said...

Dick Tufeld, one of the great voices. Who could forget his voice on THE HOLLYWOOD PALACE.

RIP

Ray Barrington said...

On his blog, Mark Evanier notes that he hired Tufeld to do a line on the "Garfield" cartoon Evanier worked on ... and billed him as Dick Tufeld Speaking.

RCP said...

Sounds like a great guy.

John Weber said...

So sorry to hear this...I could alsways identify Dick's voice, even without his trademark signoff...that voice and that man will be missed...

Roger Carroll said...

Dick and I were both ABC staff announcers even before ABC-TV. I was 18 Dick was 22. Dick was an outstanding talent and a good guy. My condolences to his family rc

Norm said...

I was working at NBC in the late 70's-early 80's and recall overhearing a conversation where someone said: "Well, Tufeld thinks it's a great idea." He was very respected in the industry.

Anonymous said...

For me, he was THE voice of Disney. I grew up listening to that man. Really was a part of my childhood. Whenever he spoke for disney, he made you feel something special was about to happen. Great to know his personality marched his amazing voice. Thanks for sharing that, ken!

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Bless him. Thanks for the wonderful post.

YEKIMI said...

The only good thing about the 1998 movie of "Lost In Space" is the fact that they brought him back to be the voice of the Robot. Man, if I had a voice like his, I'd probably still be in radio. R.I.P.

Anonymous said...

Ken...Thank you so much for the loving tribute you gave our Dad..Don't know if you remember..We actually worked together at KMPC doing phone sports updates a very long time ago...Dad was a major fan of both yours and David's work...You're right...Dad was a great announcer..one of the best...but..he was even a better Dad...and he was so funny..maybe the funniest guy I ever met..and remember I used to represent Kelsey..Thanks for your beautiful comments....My very best wishes to you and your family...Bruce Tufeld (one of Dick's sons)

John said...

For the yutes of the 1960s, aside from the Disney ties, Dick's ABC association also hooked him up with Warner Bros., as the announcer on The Bugs Bunny Show (which also landed him a rare speaking part in a Road Runner cartoon), and for some of ABC's other prime-time animated shows -- here's Tufield with George Jetson and Astro, touting the wonders of Scotch Magic Mending Tape during the closing sponsor tag of "The Jetsons" from 1963.

donnie said...

My dad was a movie trailer producer at Disney in the early to mid '60s, and worked with Dick a lot. Dick invited dad & me to a Rams game once. Nice guy.

cadavra said...

With the recent passing of Art Gilmore, are there now any of the legendary voiceover men left?

Bob Summers said...

Wow! Now he belongs to the ages, like Danny Dark, Ernie Anderson, Jane Barbe, etc.

D. McEwan said...

What a great story. That's the mark of a really kind man. (Every American with ears knows what a great talent he was.)

When I was 17 and a high school senior, we had a Talent Variety Show to raise money for District Scholarship Fund, which encompassed our entire, 4-high-school district. I asked "Sweet Dick" Whittington, then, as you know Ken, one of the brightest lights of Los Angeles radio (and another great voice), if he would Emcee it as a personal favor for me. There was zero money for him in it. He did it, and was great.

The fund, opreated by the school, district, gave out 1 large scholarship, and 4 smaller ones. I got the large one, and I've always assumed that my having landed a name emcee for no money was a factor. It enabled me to avoid Junior College and go to a Cal State University instead.

PS. My brother does a spookily spot-on Dick Tufeld impression.

Mike Doran said...

What I'll always remember is the Sci-Fi channel's Irwin Allen tribute special, in which Dick Tufeld was interviewed on camera - in addition to announcing the show.
As is often the case, his regular speaking voice was slightly different than his "announcer" voice, so when he did one of his transitions on-camera ("Stay tuned for more of The Fantasy World Of Irwin Allen!") - well, that was just a knockout.

And let's face it - ABC's daytime soaps just never were the same after Dick Tufeld stopped doing the promos ("Love In The Afternoon!").

Let's all hope that they remember to include him in the In Memoriam segments at every award show he qualifies for. People should know.

Kirk said...

LOST IN SPACE started out as a straightforward science-fiction show, but soon evolved (some ardent sci-fi fans might say deteriorated) into a comedy. As such, Dick Tufield, as the robot, usually played straight man to Jonathin Harris' Doctor Smith. However, I remember an episode where Tufield himself made me laugh out loud. The robot visits the "antimatter universe" and meets an alternative version of himself. This robot's apparently a criminal, as he's in jail, where starts singing, "Swing High, Sweet Chariot" Tufied, perhaps not surprisingly, actually had a rather pleasant singing voice, though it's hilarious hearing it coming from a robot.

YibbleGuy said...

Beautiful tribute, Ken. I never even knew the name associated with all that great voice work, but after reading your description of him, I feel as if I knew the man himself.

Frank said...

Thanks for your memories Ken.

Steve Morris said...

Amen. The man was brilliant. "speaking"-- hilarious. It's great to hear that he was such a good person, in addition to being such a talented one.

P.S. As I'm posting this, the random word generated is "Tupro." Tufeld, pro.

YEKIMI said...

As an aside, there are a few websites where you can get instructions how to build your own Lost In Space Robot. If only it came with Dick's voice. As a Science Fiction geek, I'd love me one of them.

http://www.b9robot.com/

Craig Edwards said...

One of the greatest voices ever. The silliest episodes of Lost in Space are worth re-re-re-watching to hear that voice. Thank you for letting us know more about the man behind it.

Brian said...

Thanks for the post, Ken. If it wasn't for you, all I would know of Mr. Tufeld's death was the 15 second blurb on the news. Instead, I got to read about him from somebody who knew him and even read a post by his son. That's what I'm talking about.

Nancy Wolfson said...

Thank you for this heartfelt tribute and for sharing your personal experience, Mr. Levine. I had the rare opportunity of being his voiceover agent for a short time in a precious bygone season when we directed these icons in person. He was a legend of my youth, a gracious co-champion in my early career, and one of the nicest guys in the Magical Lobby of our talent agency. Bless his patient heart for doing "DANGER, WILL ROBINSON" a bazillion times at all our goofy parties. He leaves behind the rare legacy of a couple of generations of folks in this business who get to say not just "I knew him" or "I worked with him" but "he helped me out when I was a young pischer."

Barbara Schwab said...

What baby boomer or almost baby boomer didn't grow up with "Lost in Space ?"
What a show.. taking us to new heights, unleashing our imaginations ... starting the sci-fi phenomenon !
WELL, my friend Craig told me a few months ago that his dad was really ill. I prayed for my friend's peace and solice.
We continued to teach school together,hang out,share funny stories,text.. regularly !
My friend Craig is a superdad ! My grandson and I watched him and his wife coach their kids little league teams into the finals.I knew that Craig had to learn by example ! They say that a true testament to a man's life is how he raises his children. Mr. Dick Tufeld, you raised scholars . Kind,caring,generous,humble... a reflection of who you were !
I did not know that my friend was the son of a Hollywood Legend until your final orbit on Sunday, when I recieved THIS BLOGSPOT [I am a first time blogger] You touched so many in so many different ways Mr. Dick Tufeld. For those that didn't know you personally, and those that did .. you left everlasting impressions in our hearts .. Soar !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Barbara Schwab said...

solace [ from what I have learned about Dick, he wouldn't mind me correcting myself and Laughing Out Loud !]

jbryant said...

Third season episodes of LOST IN SPACE always ended with Tufeld saying, "Stay tuned for scenes from next week's exciting adventure!" My little sister (who was about five at the time) would never let us change the channel until after the "'Citing scenes! 'Citing scenes!" as she called them. I still use the phrase when watching TV with my girlfriend.

Bill White said...

Great tribute for a great guy, Ken.

R.I.P., B9...

Paul Duca said...

Here is the link to Ken's post with the notice of purchasing your own Robot...complete with 500 voice tracks recorded by Tufeld himself:


http://kenlevine.blogspot.com/2009/12/what-to-get-person-who-has-everything.html

Tom Quigley said...

Anyone who has any Disney films on DVD from the 50's and 60's can still hear Dick's voice on some of the trailers they include. I guess among industry announcers back then, the three most well known voices (and most heard, no doubt) were Dick's, Art Gilmore's and Ernie Anderson's.

Never a LOST IN SPACE fan, my favorite announcement of his was always "And now your host, Walt Disney."

wv: mizatin -- kosher party dress fabric

Tom Reeder said...

Before major league baseball came to the west coast, radio stations out here would broadcast a "game of the day". It was a re-creation of an actual game in progress; this was accomplished by having an announcer in, say, Los Angeles rip and read the teletype account of the game and embellish it with descriptions from his imagination.

Dick was that guy early in his career, and he told me about days when the teletype machine would inevitably break down. To cover, Dick would announce: "He fouls it off, it's back up here in the seats." On one occasion, Dick said, the batter fouled off quite a few pitches in a row before the engineer got the machine working again.

His worst day came when the teletype quit working. After a lot of foul balls, Dick finally informed the audience that the game was in a rain delay. (It may have actually been 90 degrees and sunny in Cincinnati or wherever.) They went to other programming -- Roger Carroll's show, maybe? -- and never went back to the game.

Dick truly was a great guy; my condolences to Bruce and Craig and the rest of the family.

jbryant said...

Ken: As you may know, James Farentino has also died.

Anonymous said...

When life was great:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JJ9Ei-2C5Y&feature=youtube_gdata_player

AlaskaRay said...

Wonderful tribute Ken. Like you, I always appreciated him doing those tracks for us, and for a couple of college kids, I think the show was pretty good (though perhaps not quite as good as we needed to get it on a big station in a market like LA). I still have a bunch of cassettes with the interviews we did for other planned shows. I think I sent you, a couple years ago, a copy of the interview we did with Dionne Warwick at her home with a 7 year old Whitney Houston running around in the background.

Dick was a kind and gracious man and we will all miss him.

Ray

Pete Grossman said...

Just sorry to hear you've lost a friend. Condolences to those whose lives he touched.

cadavra said...

Another favorite Tufeld LOST IN SPACE moment: When the family hears noises behind a rock, one of them asks, "Do you think it could be aliens?" The Robot deadpans, "On this planet, WE are the aliens."

Jeffrey Leonard said...

Actually Dick never did the announcing for the Academy Awards. He DID do it for the Emmys several times though.

Cody said...

Ken,

Lynn wanted me to pass along her thanks for your kind words about her father. She said it was really very sweet.