Sep 9, 2008

Like it was a one-man opera

There are two things about Don LaFontaine's voice, I think, that make him important beyond the world of marketing and movies.

One, his voice cut through everything. It wasn't distracted by movie magic, explosions and stunt doubles. He boiled everything down -- like pundits, journalists, partisans and Americans with TV-tuned attention spans -- but he lost nothing, doing it. In fact, he made it clearer and more interesting.

Two, his voice always carried the awareness of its own ridiculousness. Everything he said sounded serious, but also silly. LaFontaine knew that, and embraced the parodies, appearing in a GEICO commercial making fun of himself and allowing the trailer of the "The Simpson's Movie" to play on the preposterousness of his voice-overs.

LaFontaine died last week, Sept. 1. I knew who he was only vaguely, but I saw his obit and started digging up old profiles. I found myself wishing he was narrating the Democratic and Republican conventions.

I wanted him to replace CNN's entire team. I wanted him to steal the lines of all the political people, all the partisans and pundits, all the hacks and even all the voters, voicing the whole affair like it was a one-man opera.

This is madness, I know.

Column: Don LaFontaine: An unlikely political hero