Tuesday, April 29, 2014
R.I.P. Tony the Tiger
For a guy with the voice of God, Lee was the most humble, unassuming person you’ve ever met. Much of his time was devoted to charitable causes and paying it forward. Just a few months ago I spoke at the class he was teaching in voice over at Cal State Lutheran Thousand Oaks. Watching him coach those kids and bring out their best I found myself more impressed with what he said rather than how amazing he sounded saying it.
I always got the sense that Lee really enjoyed life. No one laughed more (a laugh that could shake a room), no one threw himself into every project the way Lee did, and no one appreciated his good fortune as much as Lee.
The voice over world is pretty cutthroat. When someone gets a coveted assignment it’s not unusual for his competition to quickly join in a chorus of “that son of a bitch… how did he get it?... You gotta be kidding me. Him?” And yet when Lee won the role as Tony the Tiger, all of his colleagues were genuinely happy for him. Talent-wise they knew he deserved it, and he was such a nice guy they just couldn’t hate him. I’m sure that was very frustrating.
Prior to his successful voice over work, Lee worked in radio for many years. He was part of the famous (or infamous) CKLW 20/20 news team in the late ‘60s – maybe the most over-the-top outrageous radio newscast ever. Later he worked at stations in Phoenix, San Diego, New York, and Los Angeles.
Here’s an example of Lee’s work, taken from a KRIZ, Phoenix reunion.
Later he became the voice of World Championship Wrestling, logging hundreds of thousands of miles commuting weekly to Atlanta. I’m surprised there’s not a statue of him at the Delta terminal.
But for the last twenty or so years he lived on the beach in Oxnard, California, programmed an oldies station for baby boomers in Ventura, wore Hawaiian shirts, voiced national commercials, taught college, and brightened the lives of everyone who knew him.
R.I.P. Lee. You will live in my heart and ears forever.