A little joy left the world last week. My dear friend Stan Freberg passed away one week ago on Tuesday, April 7, 2015.
Stan made his creative mark on the world first as a cartoon voice actor, then a puppeteer, a radio man, a comedian, a movie actor, a television actor, and an ad man pioneering the use of humor in commercials. I have written about Stan’s career before, and I highly encourage you to CLICK HERE to read more about the creative impact he had on society. Chances are that you will remember something of his work even if you didn’t realize he was the guy behind it.
The private Stan was my friend. My pal. We first met just after his first wife passed away. I was privileged to have spent many hours with Stan and his second bride, Hunter. We talked about all kinds of things. He loved to tell his stories of working with Walt Disney, spending time with the Beatles, opening for Frank Sinatra, aspects of his boyhood growing up with a Baptist pastor for a dad, and just talking about normal everyday things. He was charming, witty, and embarrassingly kind – proof of which was his common opening comment to me whenever we met, “You know, you draw Mickey Mouse better than Walt Disney, and I knew Walt!”
Last November, many people gathered at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood where famous friends fêted Stan with praise upon praise for his marvelous career while a packed audience soaked up this treasure. Speakers in person and on video included Leonard Maltin, Al Yankovic, Eric Goldberg, Micky Dolenz, Harry Shearer, Matthew Weiner, Penn Jillette, Tom Hanks, and Steven Spielberg. In hindsight, in a strange way, Stan was able to attend his own eulogy. He sat there beaming from ear to ear at all the kind words and memories. (Photos can be seen here from that event.)
A few months back I had a special day with Stan. It was fitting that we spent some of that time together just drawing. He loved his old Beany & Cecil puppet television show, and enjoyed sketching Cecil for fans. His hands may have lost some of their dexterity, but the creative spark still twinkled in his eye. And the conversation, as always, was lively with much laughter filling the room. Stan always could dish out the funny, but he was also quick to appreciate a zinger when tossed right back to him like a comedy hot potato. Stan may have been 88, but humor kept him young.
Stan made the world laugh. What a pleasure it was to be able to make Stan laugh in return.