Monday, June 27, 2005

R.I.P. Piglet and Tigger, too!

In one of those bizarre celebrity death juxtapositions -- remember and Johnny Cash and John Ritter? -- the voices of Tigger and Piglet, Paul Winchell and John Fiedler, died one after another over the weekend.

Voice actor Winchell -- whose repertoire included Gargamel and Dick Dastardly -- has to rank as one of the most interesting polymaths of the past 100 years. In addition to being the last of the great variety show ventriloquists -- his dummies Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff are in the Smithonian -- Winchell invented the first artificial heart and held patents for a number of other artificial organs. His interest in animation was not limited to two-dimensional A.D.D.-afflicted tigers.

Text-messagers will be interested to know that the shorthand TTFN -- Ta-Ta For Now -- originated with Winchell via Tigger. He also tried to feed Africa before Bob Gedolf. With Ed Asner, Richard Dreyfus, John Ritter and Dr. Henry Heimlich (yes, that one), he developed a scheme whereby Africans would farm tilapia for food and profit. It was a very literal interpretation of the old aphorism "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him how to raise fish and you feed him forever" and it never got the funding he had hoped for. (Although I am unsure why he didn't use some of the $17.8-million he got in a settlement over the deletion of the tapes of “Winchell-Mahoney Time" to try out the tilapia theory of development himself...)

Winchell was also a Grammy winner -- for "The Most Wonderful Thing about Tiggers," of course, a song that I remember singing gleefully as a young bouncy thing myself.

Though long estranged from him, Winchell's daughter April seems to be keeping some of her father's spirit of eclecticism alive: she is a Disney cartoon voice actor (Clarabelle Cow, Cruella de Vil), a Los Angeles shock jock, keeps a website where she blogs, sells dog-shit pens and collects strange covers of Smells Like Teen Spirit, and allegedly had sex with Kevin Spacey in the back of a Honda Civic. Of Paul Winchell, she blogs: "My father was a very troubled and unhappy man. If there is another place after this one, it is my hope that he now has the peace that eluded him on earth."

1 comment:

Apsaro said...

< and allegedly had sex with Kevin Spacey in the back of a Honda Civic. >

Not allegedly at all: they actually were lovers. She told the whole story on the radio:

(go to July 20, 2006)

...on her weblog:

(Sexual secrets revealed, Friday July 11, 2003)

... and again very recently on another blog where she was almost forced to intervene about her past relationship with Kevin Spacey:

There's an "official" gay rumor that keeps Spacey hot in the tabs, but many well-informed people know that in real life he's secretly attracted to women... :-)

Stay wired!