The Arty Semite

Listening in Portland to the Voice of Bugs Bunny

By Michael Kaminer

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Courtesy of Noel Blanc

He was a Portland Jew who dropped out of high school to find fame and fortune in New York. And while he never became a household name, his alter egos — Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Pepé Le Pew, and Barney Rubble, among hundreds of others — became part of pop culture lore.

Now, voice actor Mel Blanc is the subject of a new exhibit at the Oregon Jewish Museum in Portland. “That’s All, Folks: The Mel Blanc Story,” which runs through September 11, “is a sunny exhibition about a genuine local celebrity who also seems to have been a genuinely nice guy,” reports the Portland Oregonian. “It abounds in photographic, documentary and voice-recorded memories of Blanc’s life and times in Portland and Hollywood (he died in 1989), including recorded reminiscences by other top voice actors, photos of Blanc with the likes of Jack Benny, and animations and other material from those Warner Bros. cartoon days.”

According to the Oregon Jewish Museum’s web site, Blanc — né Melvin Jerome Blank in San Francisco — was the first voice artist in Hollywood to receive screen credit, and is considered by many “the first and best voice actor.” In 1988, a year before Blanc’s death, a Los Angeles Times profile contended that 20 million people heard his voice every day, around the world.

Blanc, the Oregonian notes, was not the only Portland Jew to make it big after blowing off Lincoln High School. “A few years earlier [Lincoln] had matriculated another Jewish kid who moved to New York and became the artist Mark Rothko. Apparently some of Blanc’s teachers didn’t appreciate his special talents as much as the rest of the world would.”


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