WHAT A GREAT TOWN
No, that’s way too weak. This is a magical city. A little further down I will give you a small but emblematic example you would never have known about, of SM specialness.
Santa Monica is beyond special, really, it is unique, for its history, its institutions both worldly and spiritual throughout the last century, its place in the birth of the film and aviation industries, the future of railroads and shipping, health and fitness, worldwide popularization of the California beach lifestyle, its current Silicon Beach importance in the tech world, so many reasons but I say, mostly because of the people who live here. Who have always lived here, live here now, want to stay, and for those like souls who want to come.
IT’S NOT THE BEACH
Though that is a great part of our identity; there are other excellent beaches in California. Malibu has its worldwide cachet, Santa Barbara is wonderful. But not like Santa Monica.
What makes us special? It sure isn’t the buildings, is it? The distinctive, charming ones we had are being gobbled up and replaced with tall wide soulless boxes. It’s not our cutting-edge benevolent, really progressive small City government, though our current (s)elected leaders have deluded themselves into thinking so. Quite the opposite, their “vision” for our city is rapidly eliminating many of the reasons exceptional people have been drawn here for so long. Killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.
But enough about what’s wrong.
IT’S THE PEOPLE
I’ve lived here almost 33 years and have met a lot of locals, and I keep getting delightfully surprised, by what some folks are up to without fanfare, by people’s histories you would never guess, even people I’ve known for years.
I’m going to tell you about a 35-year SM resident who has a fascinating showbiz history but is known to most as that spirited, tall, beautiful, funny irrepressible redhead who taught music to the kids at SMASH and led their little kid Holiday choir for years, was always around and later at Samohi to lend a hand with whatever was needed — Nicole’s mom — and the wife of an infamous local columnist.
What many don’t know about Diane Michelle/Dian Andrews is her singing career that took her on four tours of Japan, a five-year residency at the elegant art deco Observation Bar on the Queen Mary, a year at Las Vegas’ newly-launched much ballyhooed New York, New York, providing one of the singing voices for Disney’s (now gone) Bear Country Jamboree vocal trio, and so many games, commercials and cartoon character voices, including more than two decades on the Simpsons and as Daisy Duck for Disney. She’s also an accomplished painter, a published/performed playwright, book author and illustrator, and working on an album of her original material.
And she was the visionary organizer of this historic event, a tribute to Daws (pronounced Doss) Butler 30 years after his passing. Crucial to the event was another local figure who does so much under the radar and recently allowed Diane to stage the tribute this past Sunday evening at his Ruskin Group Theatre, at the airport. That would, of course, be Mike Myers, also chair of our Arts Commission, who is responsible for a very long string of outstanding local productions, and a whole lot of community involvement along with John Ruskin.
ONLY 21 WERE THERE
Which made it a huge success, because this was a very select crowd. Only invited were former students of the great voice master Daws Butler, and 12 showed up, one from out of state. Two of his sons were there, Charles and David, but his 101-year-old wife since 1943, Myrtis, wasn’t up to it. Since these classes, held weekly in his garage studio in Beverly Hills, ended more than 30 years ago, that’s a remarkable turnout.
Never heard of Daws? Don’t even know what voice over is? You’re not alone. Though many have heard of Mel Blanc, because he got in early with Warner Bros. and became the voices of Bugs, Daffy, Porky, Tweety and Sylvester and pretty much every male cartoon character from that era.
Down the street at Hanna-Barbera, the no less talented and versatile Daws was king. Yogi Bear, Elroy Jetson and Cogswell, Quick Draw McGraw and Baba Looey, Cap’n Crunch, Snagglepuss, Huckleberry Hound and Augie Doggie, Chilly Willy and Smedley, Peter Potamus, Wally Gator, Beany of Beany & Cecil, and many many more. He did Tex Avery, Jay Ward and Walter Lantz cartoons, Tom & Jerrys, and recorded with satirist Stan Freberg (their first record, “St. George and the Dragonet,” was the first comedy record to sell more than a million copies) and June Foray.
But physically present in the room Sunday were also Winnie the Pooh’s Kanga and Owl, Goofy and Pluto and Daisy Duck (x2), Bart and other characters from the Simpsons, Snaggle Rock, Land Before Time, South Park, The Little Mermaid, and the voices you know so well from thousands of movie trailers and promos, commercials and cartoons. So it was actually getting pretty crowded, a packed house.
It was an absolute delight and exceeded everyone’s expectations. Each student introduced the next in a character voice, often several. Because Daws rarely talked about himself, most of the stories told were heard by all for the first time, and they were doozies. The common thread, from everyone, was how much they loved the man, his legendary generosity and loving heart, and help in career and in life that he offered to all, in that class in the garage, charging $10. At under five feet, Daws may have been the world’s shortest giant of a man.
It was captured on iPhone and will be submitted to the SAG Foundation. Daws Butler and this unique priceless event honoring him deserve immortalization. Heavens to Murgatroyd, how about a long overdue star on the Walk of Fame, hm?
QUOTES OF THE WEEK: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” — Proverbs 27:17.
“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.” — Benjamin Disraeli
“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” — Winston Churchill
“A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” — Oprah Winfrey
“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” — Isaac Newton
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 32 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org