Thursday, January 25, 2007

Joe Barbera Day

Eric S., Dennis V. and Willie I.Left: Eric Semones, Dennis Venizelos and Willie Ito. Photos by Bob Foster.

Last night at Warners in Burbank, a big memorial for the recently departed Joe Barbera unfolded in the big theatre on the lot...

The place was filled with hundreds of Joe's former employees, gathered together to see Mr. Barbera off.

Carleton Clay, who'd been Joe's personal assistant for the last several years, was master of ceremonies of the proceedings, and L.A County Supervisor Mike Antonovich was on hand to proclaim January 24th as "Joe Barbera Day" in L.A. County.

But the heart of the evening was the talent that came together to celebrate Joe Barbera's life: writers, inkers and painters, actors, designers, animators, designers, board artists. They jammed the front lobby and told stories about the old days. Then inside the theater, in person and on video tape, they remembered who Joe was and what he meant to the industry. His loyalties, his passions, his love of just getting up every morning and being able to do what he loved.

It's why he kept vital for so long," one exec remembered. Warner Animation head Sander Schwartz noted how the first Tom and Jerry came out in 1940 (with a nomination for an Academy Award the same year), and that Joe worked on his last T & J last year.

Animation executive Margaret Loesch told how she first met Joe in 1975 when she was a television executive. Joe was at the network to pitch new shows. She was young and nervous, and told a lame joke. And Joe gave her a look and said: "Let me tell the jokes, kid." Thereafter she did.

Stan Freberg recalled the direction he got from Barbera at MGM, when Freberg's assignment was to vocalize oil swirling around an engine block. Two of his directors related how he was personable but made clear he had the last word on their work. Casey Kasem got up and said that the biggest deal in his life was playing the "countdown, but being Shaggy on Scooby Doo was number two "and rising."

But I think what impressed me the most was the advice Joe gave Margaret L. when she asked him: "What can I learn from you?" and he replied:

"The ability to handle disappointment."

That, in a nutshell, is what anyone in Hollywood who claims a grip on sanity has to learn.

Thanks, Joe. For everything.

Below: Mrs. Eisenberg, Donna Zeller and Jerry Eisenberg.

Jerry Eisenberg and two others


Anonymous said...

The lady in the center of the photo is definitely Donna Zeller, and I believe Mrs. Eisenberg is the one on the left.

Steve Hulett said...

Thanks much. We suspected, but had no i.d. from the photographer. But we decided to put the photo up anyway.

Anonymous said...

As a former H-B employee, I would like to have had an opportunity to attend. How were people notified? It was neither posted on this blog nor in a union email announcement. Was it by invitation only? Were the organizers afraid of being overwhelmed by a riot of rabid Joe Barbera fans?

Steve Hulett said...

Warners was in charge of the invitations (which were mailed out) and who got to come. The company had monitors at the parking garage on Olive to check off invited guests as they arrived.

I have no idea who was on the big Time-Warner list and who wasn't. Hundreds of people were there, so I'm guessing the list was large.

Anonymous said...

I was contacted by Warners reps asking for contact info for a few former H-B people. I suggested to them that they let us publicize the event on our blog/email list.

They said they'd consider it, but that they were worried about getting too many people. And that was the last I heard from them.

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